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Equality Act at an impasse, Trans kids in sports may be sticking point

All kids deserve the opportunity to play school sports with their friends

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Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) speaks at the reintroduction of the Equality Act at the U.S. Capitol on May 2, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – With the Equality Act remaining at an impasse in the U.S. Senate, one sticking point for potential supporters is whether or not the legislation will address the hot button issue of transgender kids participating in sports, as one prominent LGBTQ legal group says it will draw a red line on the issue in any negotiations on the bill.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said his organization “will certainly hold firm” on protecting transgender kids from all forms of school-based discrimination, including in sports, which he noted is already law in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County.

“There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about this issue, so this may well turn out to be an area where more discussion will show there is little if any real disagreement.,” Minter said. “For example, current law already allows for reasonable regulations, such as those adopted by the NCAA, to ensure both inclusion and fairness in elite competition. Nothing in the Equality Act would change that.”

After the court ruling in Bostock, which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination is an illegal form of sex discrimination under the law, transgender legal advocates have argued — and won in court — the ban on sex discrimination in schools under Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 requires them to allow transgender students to compete consistent with their gender identity.

Moreover, U.S. government discrimination on the basis of sex is subject to heightened scrutiny under legal jurisprudence, which in theory after Bostock would apply to schools prohibiting transgender athletes from participating in sports.

Amid a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation throughout the country targeting transgender kids in sports — most recently in Oklahoma, where the state House approved legislation essentially barring them from participation — legal advocates have already declared they will look to the courts for the legal protections afforded under Bostock to challenge any new laws.

Transgender advocates are pointing to the policy of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which allows transgender athletes to participate consistent with their gender identity provided they meet certain sex-based characteristics, such as testosterone suppression treatment for transgender women to compete in women’s sports.

Although the NCAA had held out on commenting on anti-transgender state legislation, the organization last week issued a statement affirming its commitment to transgender athletes and hinting it would move events from states with those measures in place.

Other transgender groups echoed the sentiment that current law already protects transgender students and the NCAA’s policy could provide a model for schools writ-large, although they stopped short of saying they would draw the line on the issue in negotiations on the Equality Act.

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, pointed to both existing law and the NCAA in response to an inquiry from the Blade on talks about the legislation.

“NCTE is committed to protecting transgender youth from discrimination in every aspect of education, including school sports,” Heng-Lehtinen said. “The Bostock decision also reinforces that anti-transgender discrimination is illegal. Notably, the NCAA already has policies to allow for transgender student-athletes to compete, and nothing in the Equality Act would change that.”

NCTE didn’t respond Wednesday to a follow-up inquiry on whether that means the transgender sports issue would be a red line in talks over the Equality Act.

Andy Marra, executive director of the New York-based Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, said in response to an inquiry the need for allowing transgender athletes to compete consistent with their gender identity will become apparent as talks continue.

“For a decade now, the NCAA has maintained an inclusive policy that allows for transgender athletes to participate fully in sports. We are confident that as we continue to clarify this issue, it will become clear that not only is discrimination against transgender students both harmful and wrong, it is also already illegal.”

If advocates hold firm on the issue of transgender athletes in sports, it may well mean the Equality Act will have no chance of winning the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

A recent PBS Newshour poll found two-thirds of Americans oppose anti-transgender laws proposed in the states, including measures prohibiting students from participating in sports.

That opposition to anti-trans sports bills is seen across party lines, with 69 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents saying they opposed the measures. However, Americans are most closely divided when it comes to the actual issue of transgender participation in sports.

“For grade school, 50 percent of people said transgender children should be allowed to play on teams that match their gender identity, while 44 percent said they should not. In middle school, the split was 49 percent for, and 47 percent against,” writes Matt Loffman, PBS NewsHour’s deputy senior politics producer. “In high school, 47 percent were for and 48 percent against. And in college, 49 percent were in favor and 45 percent opposed.”

Seeming to pick up on that hesitation, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — who had co-sponsored the Equality Act in the previous Congress, but not now — has articulated the sports issue as a point of contention she wanted to address as a condition for renewed support of the Equality Act. Collins was among the senators who voted for an amendment proposed as a part of Biden’s COVID relief package that would have zeroed out Title II funding for schools allowing transgender athletes to participate in sports.

Joining Republicans in voting for the amendment was Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who remains the lone Democratic hold out on the Equality Act as a Democratic insider says he’s facing a deluge of calls in opposition to the legislation. Some insiders are looking to Sen. Shelley Capito (R-W.Va.), an unlikely Republican who may be a surprise supporter of the Equality Act, to lock up support from Manchin.

Transgender advocates may have good reason to be concerned negotiators on the Equality Act may buckle on the transgender sports issue. After all, when the Blade asked Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the lead co-sponsor of the Equality Act, during an interview upon introduction of the bill in February whether he’d be willing to make accommodations for the issue, he hedged as opposed to ruling it out.

“In terms of the dialogue that is held between the two chambers and with the Republican colleagues, that dialogue will happen in close consultation with the civil rights groups that have enormous expertise and working to make sure that no modification or clarification is anything that undermines the opportunity of LGBTQ Americans to thrive in our society,” Merkley said.

Many key negotiators on the Equality Act are staying silent on the transgender sports issue as they continue to keep their cards close to their vest on talks. The Human Rights Campaign, for example, didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment for this article.

Merkley said in a statement to the Blade provided by his office in response to an inquiry for this article that he remains committed to transgender athletes in his efforts to pass the Equality Act.

“All kids deserve the opportunity to play school sports with their friends,” Merkley said. “That experience of forming camaraderie, being part of a team, and discovering something you love is so valuable, and no kid should be turned away. Every child deserves equal dignity, respect, and opportunity, and that’s why I’m working hard in the Senate to pass the Equality Act.”

Merkley said his focus is finding the 60 votes in the Senate needed to end a filibuster on the legislation and get the measure to the desk of President Biden, who campaigned on signing the legislation into law within his first 100 days in office.

“I am deeply committed to working on a bipartisan basis to find the necessary votes to pass this landmark law and replicate the bipartisan success of the 2013 Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” Merkley said. “Those conversations are ongoing. I am gathering feedback and working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle — and with civil rights organizations — to find a path forward that will bring senators together behind a vision of full equality for LGBTQ Americans.”

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California

Governor Newsom launches resources website: ready.ca.gov 

With the unofficial start of summer, Newsom today is highlighting how the state is preparing for summer emergencies, extreme heat, and fires

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Governor Newsom with emergency managers at Cal OES. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – With seasonal challenges on the horizon as temperatures increase and Californians head outside, Governor Gavin Newsom visited the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) today to announce ready.ca.gov – a new, one-stop shop for Californians to prepare for emergencies and extreme weather.

The new website is part of Listos California, which is a state effort that connects communities with resources before, during and after emergencies. 

During his visit to Cal OES, the Governor was briefed by emergency managers on the administration’s preparedness for summer and peak wildfire season, including progress made in building forest resilience to catastrophic wildfires, firefighter staffing levels and firefighting fleet readiness, and the administration’s Extreme Temperature Response Plan that was developed to coordinate an all-hands response by government to mitigate the state’s most deadly natural weather event.

“California is prepared for summer and peak wildfire season — with a surge in firefighters and equipment, better forest management, and one of the most tried and tested emergency management systems in the world. Make sure your family is prepared too. Visit ready.ca.gov — a new resource to help keep Californians safe this weekend and all summer long,” said
Governor Newsom.

Combined with a comprehensive suite of translated messaging and materials, Listos California at Cal OES continues to uplift life-saving messages through interactive, community-based tactics, including peer-to-peer phone banking efforts, in-person events, and door-to-door engagements. 

Preparing for Memorial Day weekend & summer

Extreme heat preparation: Listos California recently kicked off its summer season campaign efforts, beginning with its Wildfire Awareness Campaign in rural communities. Community leaders are encouraged to sign up for local emergency alerts and share these resources with family, friends and neighbors to build resiliency and help communities stay safe this summer.

Snowmelt & swift water preparedness: California’s waterways can conceal dangers below the surface. With a melting snowpack, the volume and speed of the water are creating hazardous conditions. Across the Administration, state departments and agencies are promoting swift water safety and drowning prevention messaging in honor of the summer season. Water safety messages in more than a dozen languages can be found at Listos California.

Wildfire & emergency preparedness: CAL FIRE has worked to reduce the risk of fires all year round, including increased fire prevention efforts, better firefighting technology and resources, and community preparedness initiatives. In 2023, there was a 93.87% reduction in structures destroyed compared to 2022. Potential mega-fires were kept small, protecting communities and limiting smoke impacts and CAL FIRE met its 100,000-acre goal for fuel reduction activities for the fourth straight year. Through the Ready for Wildfire initiative, Californians can learn the necessary steps to prepare their homes to be better prepared if a wildfire strikes.

Roadway safety: Heading into Memorial Day, the California Highway Patrol is initiating a statewide Maximum Enforcement Period from Friday to Monday to address the expected surge in holiday travelers on California roads. In 2023 over the holiday weekend, 46 people were killed in crashes and more than 1,100 arrested for driving under the influence throughout the state.

ready.ca.gov

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West Hollywood

WeHo City kicks off WeHo Pride with José Sarria Drag Pageant

The City kicked off WeHo Pride festivities with the annual Harvey Milk Day events celebrating the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community

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City of West Hollywood kicks off WeHo Pride with José Sarria Drag Pageant for Harvey Milk Day. (Photo: Mike Pingel/WEHO TIMES)

By Mike Pingel | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood kicked off WeHo Pride festivities with the annual Harvey Milk Day events celebrating the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community.

Organized by the City of West Hollywood and West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle and is co-sponsored by the Imperial Court and by Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath, Third District, the second annual José Sarria Drag Pageant took place on Wednesday, May 22, 2024, West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center Respite Deck.

West Hollywood Harvey Milk Day 2024 – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES
West Hollywood Harvey Milk Day 2024 – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

José Sarria was the first openly gay person to run for office in the United States, helped pave the way for Harvey Milk’s successful run for office, was a well-known drag performer under the name the Window Norton, and founded the International Imperial Court System, which is one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ organizations in the world. The Drag Pageant competition will be hosted by West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle, and several drag icons will be honored. Judges will include Queen Mother Karina Samala and Emperor Eugene Maysky of the Imperial Court, Landon Cider, Anil Patel, Nyx, and Kyra Jete.

West Hollywood Harvey Milk Day 2024 – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

Pageant contestants included Queen Angelina, Bilella Fierce, Cruella Brazil, Bych Nastee, and Linda Recessionista. They were judged on presentation, talent and personality.

Pickle announced the winner at the end of the pageantry. And that winner is… Queen Angelina!

West Hollywood Harvey Milk Day 2024 – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

In addition to the Drag Pageant, the event will include a voter registration table, a Harvey Milk photo opportunity, and typewriter poetry provided by Pride Poets. Pride Poets is a cohort of LGBTQ poets who create custom poetry for the public on typewriters. Pride Poets was founded by former West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace for the City’s LGBTQ Arts Festival in 2019. The participation of Pride Poets in this event is funded by a City of West Hollywood Arts Grant.

West Hollywood Harvey Milk Day 2024 – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

WeHo Pride Weekend will take place from Friday, May 31, 2024 to Sunday, June 2, 2024 and, in addition to the WeHo Pride Parade, will include the free WeHo Pride Street Fair; WeHo Pride Presents Friday Night at OUTLOUD; the OUTLOUD Music Festival; the Women’s Freedom Festival; the Dyke March; and more.

The WeHo Pride Arts Festival will take place from Friday, June 14, 2024 to Sunday, June 16, 2024. WeHo Pride celebrations will include a diverse array of LGBTQ community group programming from May 22 to June 30 as part of visibility, expression, and celebration.

The WeHo Pride Arts Festival is organized by the City’s Arts Division. The City of West Hollywood is committed to providing accessible arts programming for residents and visitors and the City’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Urban Art Program (permanent public art), Summer Sounds, Winter Sounds, the WeHo Reads literary series, Free Theatre in the Parks, Arts Grants for Nonprofit Arts Organizations, Library Exhibits and Programming, the City Poet Laureate Program, Drag Laureate, Drag Story Hour, Human Rights Speakers Series and the WeHo Pride Arts Festival Weekend. For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/arts.

For nearly four decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to one of the largest Pride celebrations in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world traditionally make West Hollywood their regular destination during Pride season.

OUTLOUD Music Festival information is posted at www.weareoutloud.com.

Additional information about WeHo Pride 2024 is posted at www.wehopride.com.

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Mike Pingel

Mike Pingel has written six books, Channel Surfing: Charlie’s Angels & Angelic Heaven: A Fan’s Guide to Charlie’s Angels, Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman, The Brady Bunch: Super Groovy after all these years; Works of Pingel and most recently, Betty White: Rules the World. Pingel owns and runs CharliesAngels.com website and was Farrah Fawcett personal assistant. He also works as an actor and as a freelance publicist.

His official website is www.mikepingel.com

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

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U.S. Federal Courts

Guilty plea in Grindr cyberstalking, sextortion & id theft of gay men

He targeted young gay men on Grindr to obtain their sexually explicit photographs & videos consensually & used them to extort money or sex

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Joseph P. Kinneary United States Courthouse in Columbus, Ohio is home to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Photo Credit: The Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Omoruyi O. Uwadiae, 28, of Chicago, offered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, May 22 to cyberstalking, sextortion and identity theft crimes. His scheme involved dozens of victims in multiple states, including Ohio, Colorado and Washington.

According to his plea documents, Uwadiae admitted to obtaining sexually explicit photographs and videos from potential victims and then using the content to threaten them. Uwadiae threatened to distribute the explicit material widely on the internet and specifically to victims’ friends, family members, employers and others.

The defendant demanded money from some victims. From others, he demanded they meet him, have sex with him, or make damaging admissions such as admissions that they were racist. On multiple occasions, Uwadiae carried through with his threats. He sent sexually explicit photographs and videos to the victims’ friends, family members (including at least one victim’s mother, at least one victim’s brother, and at least one victim’s sister), employers and acquaintances, and also posted sexually explicit photographs and videos widely on the internet.

Multiple victims had not publicly disclosed their sexual orientation, which Uwadiae’s actions disclosed, contrary to their wishes. The defendant also used victims’ identifications to create false accounts on social media and post personal information about the victims online.

Uwadiae targeted young gay men on Grindr and other online sites. He would obtain their sexually explicit photographs and videos consensually and then use them to extort. In some cases, he posted their nude images on Male General without their consent and then demanded money or other things of value to take down the images. Male General is a blog marketed to gay men containing, among other things, boards where users can post images and text.

For example, one victim was a student at The Ohio State University who communicated with Uwadiae on Grindr. Uwadiae ultimately demanded that the victim either pay him $200 or have sex with him. When the victim did not comply, Uwadiae created false social media accounts using true photos of the victim, stating, “this guy is gay, see pics for evidence.” The victim had not disclosed his sexual orientation to his family and had told Uwadiae he was concerned that his family would react negatively if they learned he was bisexual.

Uwadiae was charged in the Southern District of Ohio in April.

As part of his plea, Uwadiae pleaded guilty to 22 total counts. He pleaded guilty to eight counts of cyberstalking (punishable by up to five years in prison), seven counts of making interstate communications with the intent to extort (up to two years in prison) and seven counts of unlawfully using a means of identification (up to five years in prison).

Kenneth L. Parker, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, announced the guilty plea offered today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King. The case was investigated by the FBI and the Columbus, Ohio Police Department.

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California Politics

LGBTQ leaders launch SoCal Freedom to Marry Prop 8 Repeal

California voters will vote to take the defunct ban on same-sex marriage out of the state constitution in November

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Speakers at Thursday's press conference included: Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California; Eddie Martinez, Executive Director of Latino Equity Alliance & Huntington Park Council Member; Mario Trujillo, Mayor of Downey; Terra Russell-Slavin, Esq., Chief Impact Officer of Los Angeles LGBT Center; Mark Gonzalez, LACDP Chair Em. and Bamby Salcedo, President & Chief Executive Officer of TransLatin@ Coalition. (Photo Credit: Click Strategies)

By Rob Salerno | LOS ANGELES – Leaders of a coalition of LGBTQ advocacy groups hosted a rally at the Mi Centro LGBT Community Centre in Los Angeles Thursday to launch the Southern California referendum campaign to repeal the discriminatory definition of marriage in the state constitution in November.

“California is a beacon of equality. Our state should always protect fundamental civil rights for all people and fight discrimination wherever it exists,” Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California, told the launch rally. “The bottom line is that your freedom to marry is on the ballot in November. Let’s show the rest of the country that Californians stand up for freedom and equality.”

California voters narrowly affirmed Proposition 8, which added a ban on same-sex marriage to the state constitution, in 2008. The ban was eventually struck down under the due process clause of the US Constitution in decisions between 2010 and 2013, but the unenforceable ban remains in the state constitution.

But many observers are nervous that the extremely right-wing Supreme Court could reverse previous rulings that supported same-sex marriage, which could enable the ban to snap back into effect. These fears became acute when the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision reversed decades of precedent by ending the right to abortion. 

In a separate concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas openly suggested that the ruling implied that the Supreme Court should overturn previous decisions legalizing same-sex marriage and intercourse.

“We know that there is a well-funded, well-organized group of extremist people who want to chip away the gains we have gotten over the last few years,” Bamby Salcedo, President & Chief Executive Officer of TransLatin@ Coalition told the rally. “This freedom to marry initiative isn’t just for gay or lesbian people. It’s for all of us.”

Terra Russell-Slavin, Chief Impact Officer of Los Angeles LGBT Center, recalled how her organization campaigned the last time marriage equality was put to voters.

“We’re having many of the same conversations today we had in 2008, but this time, with Californians who are on the right side of history. With the majority of Angelenos and Californias who understand that we share a special bond as caretakers of our community. That’s what makes us family, and that’s what will make us win in November,” Russell-Slavin said. 

Speakers at the rally acknowledged that equality activists have had to do more outreach to minority communities in the years since Proposition 8 passed. 

Eddie Martinez, a Huntington Park city councilor and executive director of the Latino Equity Alliance, reflected on how queer Latinos reached out to parents, neighbors, and community leaders to build common cause after exit polling revealed that Latinos mostly supported the marriage ban.

“Latine LGBT activists and organizations knew it was time to be united and to educate our community about marriage equality,” he said. “We went to communities that voted up to 60% [for Prop 8] to have one-on-one conversations on marriage equality and other issues of importance to the Latine community, such as immigration and workers’ rights. Our fight was intersectional.” 

State legislators unanimously agreed to put a repeal question before voters last summer. 

Last week, the state Democratic Party announced it is supporting passage of the Freedom to Marry ballot measure.

California isn’t the only state considering a freedom to marry ballot question in November. Voters in Hawaii and Colorado will also be deciding on propositions to repeal their constitution’s marriage bans. 

“This is going to set the precedence for others to understand the importance of including these initiatives in their state constitutions,” Salcedo says. “We invite you to talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, around your dinner table, to bring this issue to light because this is important to all of our communities.”

LGBTQ leaders launch SoCal Freedom to Marry campaign for Prop 8 Repeal

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Louisiana

Louisiana Legislature passes ‘Don’t Say Gay or trans’ bill  

Horton’s bill also prohibits “covering the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity” during any extracurricular and athletics events

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State Rep. Dodie Horton, (R-Haughton), debates her bill on the House floor. (Photo credit: Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)

By Piper Hutchinson | BATON ROUGE, La. – Discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in Louisiana’s K-12 public schools could soon be restricted after the state Senate approved a far-reaching anti-LGBTQ+ bill Thursday. 

Senators sent House Bill 122 by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haugton, which limits discussion of gender and sexuality in public schools, to Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, who is expected to sign it into law. It passed on a 28-7 vote, with Democratic Sens. Katrina Jackson-Andrews of Monroe and Regina Barrow of Baton Rouge joining Republicans in support of the bill.

The Legislature approved the same bill last year. Then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed it, and Republicans were unable to overturn his action 

Horton’s bill restricts discussion of gender and sexuality in schools, except for topics in approved curricula. This would allow discussion of a romantic relationship in a book but not mentions of a teacher’s family, for example. Horton said in committee her bill would also block discussion of heterosexuality and cisgender identity. Cisgender refers to anyone whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth. 

The measure is similar to a Florida law referred to by critics as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Horton’s proposal is much broader and would apply to K-12 grades, whereas Florida’s law applies only to early-grade students. 

Florida recently settled a lawsuit over the law filed by civil rights activists. As part of the agreement, students and teachers are permitted to discuss gender and sexuality as long as it is not part of classroom instruction. 

Horton said she didn’t believe teachers should discuss their “lifestyle choices” with students. 

“Having sexualized personal discussions between educators and students in our classrooms are not appropriate, and they can rob our children of their innocence while imposing suggested influence over their developing young minds,” Horton said when her bill came up in committee. 

When asked whether the bill would have a negative impact on LGBTQ+ students, Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, who was tasked with carrying the bill in the Senate, said that was not the intent of the proposal. 

“It’s good to have a safe place where parents can have some confidence, for instance, if there is an LGBTQ employee, I think letting parents know ‘OK, I’m fine with that person, because I know they can’t talk to my child about their sexual orientation, no more than I would want a promiscuous male or female teacher to talk to my child about their sexual partners,’” Mizell said. 

Horton’s bill would not just apply to classroom instruction. It also prohibits “covering the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity” during any extracurricular and athletics events, meaning it could potentially hinder student chapters of the Gay-Straight Alliance and other LGBTQ+ student organizations. 

The Senate rejected a series of amendments Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, proposed that would have restricted the bill’s limitations to only K-8 grades, defined the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” excluded extracurricular activities, and limited the effect to only classroom instruction rather than discussion between teachers and students. Jackson-Andrews also sided with Republicans in rejecting the amendments. 

A separate proposal, House Bill 121 by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, is slated to be discussed by the Senate next week. It prohibits the use of transgender and nonbinary youth’s chosen names and pronouns in public K-12 schools without parental permission. 

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Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor in chief for summer 2022.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished by permission.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence.

Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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The White House

Biden hosts Kenyan president, unclear whether anti-LGBTQ+ bill raised

Jake Sullivan reiterated administration’s opposition to Family Protection Bill

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Kenyan President William Ruto and U.S. President Joe Biden speak at joint press conference at the White House on May 23, 2024.

WASHINGTON — The Biden-Harris administration has not publicly said whether it raised LGBTQ+ rights with Kenyan President William Ruto during his visit to the White House.

Kenya is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Opposition MP Peter Kaluma last year introduced the Family Protection Bill. The measure, among other things, would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” and would ban Pride marches and other LGBTQ+-specific events in the country. Advocates have told the Washington Blade the bill would also expel LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers who have sought refuge in Kenya.

A senior administration official on Wednesday did not directly respond to the Blade’s question about whether President Joe Biden would speak to Ruto about the Family Protection Bill — neither he, nor Ruto discussed it on Thursday during a joint press conference at the White House. The official, however, did reiterate the administration’s opposition to the bill and other laws around the world that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

A reporter on Wednesday asked National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during the daily press briefing about whether Biden would discuss with Ruto any concerns over “some authoritarian moves” in Kenya. (The International Criminal Court in 2011 charged Ruto and five others with crimes against humanity in relation to violence that surrounded Kenya’s 2007 presidential election. The ICC dismissed the case against Ruto in 2016, although the prosecutor said widespread witness tampering had taken place.)

“We’ve seen robust and vigorous democracy in Kenya in recent years,” Sullivan said. “But, of course, we will continue to express our view about the ongoing need to nurture democratic institutions across the board: an independent judiciary; a non-corrupt economy; credible, free, and fair elections.”

Sullivan added “these kinds of principles are things the president will share, but he’s not here to lecture President Ruto.”

“President Ruto, in fact, is somebody who just was in Atlanta speaking about these issues,” he said. “We will invest in Kenya’s democratic institutions, in its civil society, in all walks of Kenyan life to help make sure that the basic foundations of Kenyan democracy remain strong.”

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman in March 2023 sparked criticism when she told reporters in Kenya’s Kajiado County that “every country has to make their own decisions about LGBTQ rights.”

Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of the White House’s overall foreign policy. A State Department spokesperson in response to Whitman’s comments told the Blade that “our position on the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is clear.”

“A person’s ability to exercise their rights should never be limited based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics,” said the spokesperson. “Governments should protect and promote respect for human rights for each and every human being, without discrimination, and they should abide by their human rights obligations and commitments.”

The White House on Thursday released a “Kenya State Visit to the United States” fact sheet that broadly notes the promotion of human rights and efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

• Promoting Human Rights: The United States and Kenya affirm their commitment to upholding the human rights of all. Together they stand with people around the world defending their rights against the forces of autocracy. Kenya and the United States commit to bilateral dialogues that reinforce commitments to human rights, as well as a series of security and human rights technical engagements with counterparts in the Kenyan military, police, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs aimed at strengthening collaboration on security sector governance, atrocity prevention, and women, peace and security in Kenya and regionally.

• Continuing the Fight against HIV/AIDS: The United States and Kenya are developing a “Sustainability Roadmap” to integrate HIV service delivery into primary health care, ensuring quality and impact are retained. With more than $7 billion in support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) spanning two decades, Kenya has successfully responded to the HIV epidemic and strives to end HIV as a public health threat in Kenya by 2027. These efforts improve holistic health services for the 1.3 million Kenyans currently receiving antiretroviral therapy and millions more benefiting from HIV prevention programs, while allowing for greater domestic resources to be put toward the HIV response, allowing PEFPAR support to decrease over time.

Biden and Ruto on Thursday also issued a joint statement that, among other things, affirms the two countries’ “commitment to upholding the human rights of all.”

“Our partnership is anchored in democracy and driven by people,” reads the statement. “Together we share the belief that democracy requires ongoing work, and thrives when we commit to continually strengthen our democratic institutions.”

“This historic state visit is about the Kenyan and American people and their hopes for an inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous future for all,” it adds.

The White House said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Democratic National Committee Deputy National Finance Chair Claire Lucas and her partner, Judy Dlugacz, are among those who attended Thursday’s state dinner at the White House. Ruto on Friday is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department.

Ugandan officials sanctioned after Anti-Homosexuality Act signed

The U.S. has sanctioned officials in Uganda, which borders Kenya, after the country’s president in May 2023 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The White House also issued a business advisory against Uganda and removed the country from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which allows sub-Saharan countries to trade duty-free with the U.S.

Sullivan, Whitman and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo are among the officials who joined Biden and Ruto at a meeting with CEOs that took place at the White House on Wednesday. Ruto earlier this week visited Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta.

The company announced it will invest $175 million in Kenya.

Coca-Cola on its website notes it has received a 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index each year since 2006. The company also highlights it has supported the LGBTQ Victory Fund, the Trevor Project, and other “LGBTQI-focused organizations and programs in our communities.”

“Coca Cola is proud of its history of supporting and including the LGBTQI community in the workplace, in its advertising and in communities throughout the world,” says Coca-Cola. “From supporting LGBTQI pride parades to running rainbow-colored billboards, Coca Cola has demonstrated its commitment to protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.”

Health GAP Executive Director Asia Russell in a statement to the Blade said Ruto “is choosing to align with anti-gender extremists and is allowing queer Kenyans to be put at extreme risk.” She also criticized Biden for welcoming Ruto to the White House.

“Biden is campaigning as an LGBTQ+ champion, but he is ruling out the red carpet for someone who is explicitly siding with the extremists,” said Russell. “It’s doublespeak on the part of the White House.”

Brody Levesque, Christopher Kane, and Sam Kisika contributed to this story.

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Ohio

Ohio Supreme Court allows hold to continue on trans care ban

“The state’s claim that this was an ‘emergency’ because it could not enforce an unconstitutional statute was utterly absurd”

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An advocate for the trans community protests outside the Senate Chamber while inside lawmakers debated and passed HB 68 that bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth and bars transgender kids from participating on sports teams, December 13, 2023, at the Statehouse in Columbus. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)

By Megan Henry | COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Supreme Court of Ohio rejected a request by the state to narrow a temporary restraining order against Ohio’s gender-affirming care ban for trans youth.      

Wednesday’s decision allows the case to continue in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, where a trial is scheduled for July 15. 

“This decision was correct,” Freda Levenson, ACLU of Ohio’s legal director, said in a statement.

“The state’s request was egregious. The scope of the temporary restraining order was necessary and appropriate to prevent the constitutional violations and other irreparable harm that would immediately occur if HB 68 were permitted to take effect. Our legal battle will continue until this cruel restriction is permanently overturned.”

The ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on March 26 against the portion of House Bill 68 that prohibits gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The lawsuit said HB 68 violates four sections of the Ohio Constitution — the single-subject rule, the Health Care provision, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Due Course of Law provision.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two families whose 12-year-old transgender daughters would lose access to gender-affirming health care. 

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook issued the temporary restraining order on all of HB 68 on April 16. In addition to preventing transgender youth from starting hormone therapy and puberty blockers, the bill also prevents trans athletes from playing middle and high school sports. 

On April 22, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed an emergency motion with the Ohio Supreme Court to try to stop the restraining order — arguing Holbrook “acted beyond the scope of his powers.” He also said the injunction is illegal since it applies to all of Ohio, not just the two plaintiffs. 

“The state’s claim that this was an ‘emergency’ because it could not enforce an unconstitutional statute was utterly absurd,” Harper Seldin, American Civil Liberties Union’s senior staff attorney, said in a statement.

“Far from creating an emergency, the challenged temporary injunction merely maintains the status quo in Ohio – that trans youth be permitted to access life-saving medical care with support from parents and doctors.”

HB 68 was supposed to take effect April 24. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed HB 68, but lawmakers voted to override his veto. 

In two separate concurring opinions, Republican Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine and Democratic Ohio Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner took shots at one another.

“Although we deny the relief requested today, this case raises an important issue: Is it appropriate for one judge in a single county to issue a statewide injunction that goes beyond what is necessary to provide interim relief to the parties in the case,” Justice DeWine questioned.

“The other concurring opinion in this case offers a full-throated defense of universal injunctions and fulminates against this court ever taking up the issue. Unlike the other concurring justice, I will reserve judgment until we are presented with a case that properly presents the issue and we have had the benefit of adversarial briefing. … This court should address the propriety of the issuance of universal injunctions for the purpose of granting interim relief in an appropriate case.”

Justice DeWine was joined by Justices Patrick Fischer and Joseph Deters in his concurrence.

In her own concurrence, Justice Brunner took issue with Justice DeWine’s citation of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“A stay is not an injunction. The Ohio Constitution, unlike the federal Constitution, has a single-subject rule for legislation that results in multi-subject legislative acts being facially unconstitutional,” Brunner wrote. “The very nature of a facial constitutional violation is that the offending law violates the Constitution in every circumstance.”

Brunner wrote that if a law that is facially unconstitutional may not be applied to an individual, then it may not be applied to anyone else.

“Similarly, a temporary restraining order based on a substantial likelihood that a law is facially unconstitutional may not be limited to just the parties in the case. Moreover, when the court hearing such a challenge has jurisdiction over the state as a party-defendant, it has the power to enjoin the state from applying the law, regardless of the law’s subject matter.”

Brunner then explained why she chose to write her own concurrence in the first place.

“My colleague’s concurring opinion is more akin to a political statement than a legal one, which is why I have written this opinion,” Brunner concluded.

Gender-affirming care is supported by every major medical organization in the United States. Children’s hospitals across Ohio, the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, and the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians all opposed HB 68.

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Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on X.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Ohio Capital Journal and is republished with permission.

The Ohio Capital Journal is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to connecting Ohioans to their state government and its impact on their lives. The Capital Journal combines Ohio state government coverage with incisive investigative journalism, reporting on the consequences of policy, political insight and principled commentary.

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

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New Hampshire

New Hampshire lawmakers roll back existing trans protections

New Hampshire’s Senate passed HB396, repealing some discrimination protections for transgender people that the state passed in 2018

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New Hampshire State House in Concord. (Photo Credit: State of New Hampshire)

By Erin Reed | CONCORD, N.H. – In 2018, New Hampshire passed a non-discrimination law that included transgender people through an all-Republican legislature. On Wednesday, the state legislature repealed some of those protections, clarifying that such protections do not apply to bathrooms, sports, locker rooms, corrections centers, and mental health treatment centers.

The state is one of the first to roll back existing protections for transgender people and now allows for private bans of transgender people in bathrooms, locker rooms, sports, and more. The bill now heads to Governor Sununu’s desk and is the fourth anti-LGBTQ+ bill passed this year in New Hampshire.

The bill repealing protections is House Bill 396, and it was the subject of a contentious 192-184 vote earlier this year before passing the Senate yesterday. It states that though transgender people are still part of the “law against discrimination,” those protections are removed in “limited circumstances in which classification of persons based on biological sex is proper because such classification serves the compelling state interests of protecting the privacy rights and physical safety of such persons and others,” seemingly arguing that transgender people are inherently unsafe. It then outlines the specific places where discrimination against transgender people is now legal in New Hampshire:

  • Bathrooms
  • Locker rooms
  • Athletic or sporting events
  • Prisons, houses of correction, and juvenile detention centers
  • Mental health hospitals
  • Treatment centers

You can see the full bill here:

Importantly, the bill legalizes this kind of discrimination by private entities, meaning that all bathrooms in New Hampshire, including those run by private businesses, may exclude transgender people at the discretion of whoever is in charge of those bathrooms.

This could create a very confusing landscape for transgender people, who will have to research the policies of every private entity each time they wish to use a bathroom. Other similar bathroom bans have typically only applied to schools or public buildings. While the bill does not mandate that private entities exclude transgender people from bathrooms, it explicitly allows them to do so.

The State of New Hampshire added transgender people to its nondiscrimination law in 2018. Governor Sununu, who signed that law, stated, “Discrimination – in any form – is unacceptable and runs contrary to New Hampshire’s Live Free or Die spirit. If we really want to be the Live Free or Die state, we must ensure that New Hampshire is a place where every person, regardless of their background, has an equal and full opportunity to pursue their dreams and to make a better life for themselves and their families.”

At the time, Christian organizations criticized him for “failing to stand by Christian principles.” Shanon McGinley of the state conservative think tank Cornerstone Action said in response to the protections in 2018, “We MUST strengthen the Christian base of the NH legislature to improve our chance of winning critical votes in the next legislative session.”

It would appear that those strategies were successful. Whereas the nondiscrimination protections passed with large majorities in 2018, many of those protections were successfully reversed yesterday. Though it is unclear if Governor Sununu will sign the bill on his desk, he has recently supported anti-trans measures, such as signing a letter opposing President Biden’s Title IX protections.

New Hampshire has been a particularly rough state for transgender people this year when it comes to legislation. Just last week, the state passed three anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including a “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill, a sports ban that includes provisions for potential genital inspections, and a ban on surgery and referrals for transgender youth. Likewise, a Medicaid ban on some transgender care is currently pending a final vote in the Senate. Should all four bills be signed into law by the governor, New Hampshire will become one of the riskiest states in the Northeast for transgender people of any age.

Courtney Reed, Policy Advocate at the ACLU of New Hampshire, said of the bill’s passage, “Today is another grim day in New Hampshire. Nobody wins when we try to make discrimination law. HB 396 undermines the right to equal protection under the law for transgender people – and we urge Governor Sununu to veto this dangerous bill once it reaches his desk, keeping in tradition that the Granite State respects the rights of LGBTQ+ people.” 

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

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

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Southern California

Triple A: Memorial Day travelers get a break at the pump

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.15, which is nine cents lower than a week ago

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Triple A Auto Club/Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Gas prices continued downward for a fifth straight week, giving some Southern California Memorial Day travelers the chance to fill up for about $4.50 a gallon or even less in a few areas, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.15, which is nine cents lower than a week ago. The average national price is $3.61, which is one cent higher than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.11 per gallon, which is ten cents less than last week, 27 cents less than last month, and 25 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.13, which is ten cents lower than last week, 23 cents lower than last month, and 29 cents higher than this time last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.16, which is five cents lower than last week, 17 cents lower than last month, and 30 cents higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.02, which is ten cents lower than last week, 28 cents lower than last month and 25 cents higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.17 average price is five cents less than last week, 15 cents less than last month, and 36 cents higher than a year ago today.

“With an all-time record number of Southern California travelers expected for this Memorial Day getaway weekend, the gas price drops are providing some welcome relief,” said Auto Club Spokesperson Doug Shupe. “Those travelers who are planning out-of-state trips should expect to pay even less when they fuel up for their return, since California continues to be the only U.S. state with a gas price average above $5 a gallon.”

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on May 23, averages are:

052324 FINAL CHART CA

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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

Meet Fabian, an artist, an advocate and Founder/Executive Director of the Homeboy Art Academy. Fabian and his team are bringing hope and healing through art thanks to the support of LA County’s Creative Recovery Grant, which is funded by the American Rescue Plan.

LA County is using $1.9 billion in American Rescue Plan funding to address LA County’s most urgent inequities. Visit LACountyandYou.com to see more stories from people who have received support to help themselves, their families and business get equitably back on their feet.

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

LA County Rent Relief Program is Now Open 

Following a successful initial launch, the Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program is set to open for a second round of applications. Landlords affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can apply to receive up to $30,000 per rental unit to cover past-due rent and other eligible expenses incurred since April 1, 2022.

The application window is open through Tuesday, June 4, 2024, at 4:59 p.m. To learn more about the eligibility criteria, and to receive a direct link to the application when it goes live, visit the LA County Rent Relief Program website at lacountyrentrelief.com.

At Your Service

Supporting Young Learners

LA County Library is excited to introduce the new Summer Stars tutoring program, which offers free in-person tutoring for students in grades 1-6. This initiative aims to provide extra support in reading and math to help young learners excel.

The Summer Stars tutoring program features two 4-week sessions:

  • Session 1: Reading, June 18 – July 11, 2024
  • Session 2: Math, July 16 – August 8, 2024

Sessions run from Tuesday to Thursday each week. Appointments are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and space is limited.

For more information and to complete an interest form, visit LACountyLibrary.org/summer-stars.

Out and About

Tribute to Veterans and Military Families

Join Los Angeles County this weekend for a special day in support of those who’ve served. The event includes a ceremony honoring veterans, resource fair, equipment displays, food trucks, live music, and lots of family fun!

Admission and parking are FREE.

Saturday, May 25, 2024 | 10 A.M. to 1 P.M.

Arcadia County Park
405 S Santa Anita Ave, Arcadia, California 91006

Photo Finish

(Photo Credit: Los Angeles County/Mayra Beltran Vasquez)

Join in on all the fun at the LA County Fair. Don’t miss out – this is the final weekend of the 2024 season!

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

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