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Caribbean LGBTQ group launches volcano relief fund effort

A Caribbean advocacy group has launched a fund to help LGBTQ people who have been impacted by the eruption of a volcano on the island of St. Vincent.

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Red Root is providing food and other relief supplies to people displaced by the eruption of La Soufrière volcano on the island of St. Vincent. (Photo courtesy of Phylicia Alexander/Red Root)

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent and the Grenadines – A Caribbean advocacy group has launched a fund to help LGBTQ people who have been impacted by the eruption of a volcano on the island of St. Vincent.

The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality, which is based in St. Lucia, has created a fund to support members of the LGBTQ community and people with HIV/AIDS who have been affected by the eruption of La Soufrière that began on April 9.

The fund hopes to raise $80,000.

“We will provide immediate assistance to LGBTQ+ evacuees affected by the volcanic eruption and already battling with COVID-19 and discrimination in a region where they are criminalized,” said ECADE in a fundraising appeal. “Our relief assistance will include food packages, clean water, hygiene kits, sanitary products, clothing, heavy-duty face masks, relocation and housing support.”

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Chapter of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Partnership (VincyCHAP) and Red Root will manage the distribution of ECADE’s donations supplies on the island.

“Of particular concern is the situation of LGBTQ+ evacuees in a region where they are criminalized,” said ECADE Executive Director Kenita Placide in a press release that announced the fund. “LGBTQ+ evacuees and PLHIV (people living with HIV) may fall though the cracks or feel forced to hide their status, sexuality and/or gender identity to access help or avoid discrimination.”

“We will do everything in our power to provide safe and affirming assistance for LGBTQ+ people and PLHIV in addition to women and children who face their own set of risks in disasters,” added Placide.

Vincentian groups expand outreach

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a country of 32 islands in the Lesser Antilles that are located between St. Lucia, Grenada and Barbados. It is among the handful of nations in the Western Hemisphere in which consensual same-sex sexual activity remains criminalized.

The eruption has forced more than 15,000 people to evacuate their homes.

The U.N. on Tuesday noted more than 12,000 Vincentians are currently living in government-run shelters or private homes. The U.N. on the same day also launched a fund that hopes to raise $29.2 million to help St. Vincent and the Grenadines and neighboring countries help those who the volcano has directly impacted.

VincyCHAP Executive Director Sean Frederick on Tuesday spoke with the Washington Blade from the Vincentian capital of Kingstown, which is roughly 20 miles south of the volcano.

He said officials have used water from rivers to clean the ash from the streets in Kingstown. Frederick told the Blade the city is “congested” with people who have come to buy food, go the bank and collect remittances from abroad.

“There has already started to be a shortage of a number of things,” he said.

VincyCHAP and Red Root, which specifically works with children and Vincentians who identify as women, are both working to distribute food to people who have been displaced.

Red Root Executive Director Phylicia Alexander on Monday spoke with the Blade while she was on her way to a supermarket to buy food for some of her clients.

“Right now, I have a long list of persons who are waiting on me to get stuff to eat,” she said.

Alexander told the Blade that ECADE sent some food to Red Root from St. Lucia, but it was gone “in a day.”

“That’s not enough,” she said.

Frederick said VincyCHAP has been able to distribute food baskets and hygiene kits with support from ECADE and a grant the London-based Soho House gave to the organization last year. Frederick told the Blade that VincyCHAP has not been in contact with many of the LGBTQ Vincentians who were living in the area around the volcano, but “we believe they are in shelters and are safe.”

VincyCHAP Executive Director Sean Frederick, right, hands a food basket to one of his organization’s clients. (Photo courtesy of Sean Frederick)

The eruption is expected to continue for weeks, if not months.

“We are facing a serious situation here in St. Vincent,” Frederick told the Blade on Thursday. “Of course we are focusing on our clientele, which is the LGBT community, youth and those other persons who are vulnerable in communities that we serve, but there are extended families and other members of community who we would really, really like to reach out to because of the need.”

Red Root, like VincyCHAP, is also working to assist Vincentians with whom the organization typically does not work. Alexander told the Blade she hopes to raise funds that would allow Red Root to continue to pay the rent on its office — EC$1,740 ($643.84) a month — through the crisis.

“It’s in a safe space,” she said. “We have a counseling room and everything.”

“It’s just to keep the office running and continue the work that we are doing,” added Alexander.

Frederick encouraged Blade readers who may want to support VincyCHAP to make donations to the ECADE fund. Alexander said Red Root is accepting donations through its Paywsif account or through a Paypal page that Alicia Wallace of Equality Bahamas has created. 

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NBC Universal cancels Golden Globe awards broadcast for 2022

NBC Universal announced the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes awards ceremony

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Screenshot NBC coverage of the Golden Globes from previous years on YouTube

BURBANK – In the wake of an in-depth investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization responsible for the Golden Globes by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed a lack of racial diversity among its voting members and various other ethical concerns, NBC Universal announced Monday the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony.

This past February ahead of the HFPA’s 78th Annual Golden Globes ceremony, HFPA board chair Meher Tatna told Variety magazine that the organization that the organization of international journalists which covers the film, television, and entertainment industry has not had any Black members in at least 20 years.

Actor Sterling K. Brown,  a Golden Globe winner and two-time nominee, posted to Instagram; 

Criticism of the HFPA, which puts on the Globes and has been denounced for a lack of diversity and for ethical impropriates, reached such a pitch this week that actor and superstar celebrity Tom Cruise returned his three Globes to the press association’s headquarters, according to a person who was granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision, the Associated Press reported.

“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” a spokesperson for NBC said in a statement.

“As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes,” the spokesperson added. “Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

NBC’s decision comes as Vogue reported that the backlash to the HFPA came swiftly and decisively. Some of Hollywood’s biggest studios, including Netflix, Amazon, and WarnerMedia, announced they were severing ties with the organization until efforts were made to increase diversity and stamp out corruption, while a group of more than 100 of the industry’s biggest PR firms released a statement in March in which they pledged to boycott the ceremony for the foreseeable future. 

The HFPA did not immediately respond to inquiries by media outlets requesting comment about NBC’s decision.

In February, the organization said it was “fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them.”

“We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” it said.

HFPA also announced a full timetable through this summer for implementing promised reform initiatives in response to NBC’s decision.

“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority,” the HFPA board said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”

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Coronavirus

LA County expected to hit herd immunity by mid summer

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity among adults and the older teenagers by mid- to late July, public health officials announced Monday. Over the weekend LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that appointments are no longer needed for Angelenos to get COVID-19 vaccinations at any site run by the city.

Garcetti’s move is intended to give people who don’t have the time or technological resources to navigate online booking platforms a chance to get the shot.

The percentage of the population the County needs to vaccinate to achieve community immunity is unknown, however Public Health officials estimate it’s probably around 80%. Currently, 400,000 shots each week are getting into the arms of L.A. County residents, and there are over 2 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one shot.

At this rate, Public Health expects the County will reach this level of community immunity in mid- to late July and that assumes the County continues to at least have 400,000 people vaccinated each week. That would include both first doses that people need as well as their second doses.

This news came as Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that attendance numbers at all grade levels in the District have been considerably lower than expected as extensive safety measures have failed to lure back the vast majority of families in the final weeks of school.

Only 7% of high school students, about 30% of elementary school children and 12% of middle school students have returned to campuses.

As of May 7, more than 8,492,810 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,146,142 were first doses and 3,346,668 were second doses.

On Monday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for people 16 years old and older.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement released Monday by the White House, President Joe Biden the FDA’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said.

Los Angeles County will offer the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms the FDA recommendation, which can happen as early as Wednesday. All adolescents 12-17 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

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Health

HHS takes steps to reverse Anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare policy

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule”

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HHS the Hubert H. Humphrey Building (Photo: GSA)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday morning that the Biden-Harris Administration will interpret and enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in BAGLY v. HHS, Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule.”

The Trump-era policy undermines the ACA’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex — including pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping — as well as protections for patients with limited-English proficiency and those living with chronic illnesses, including HIV. Because the issues in BAGLY v. HHS are broader than what the Administration announced today, the Court scheduled a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss for June 3rd at 2:30 PM EST.

In reaction to the HHS announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Monday:

“Today, the Biden Administration has taken essential and potentially life-saving action to affirm that all people in America have the right to quality, affordable health care – no matter who they are or whom they love.  During this time of pandemic and always, it is vital that the most vulnerable have access to care, including LGBTQ Americans, who have long suffered injustice and discrimination that has left them dangerously exposed to health risks.
 
“The Trump Administration’s decision to greenlight anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care in the middle of a pandemic was an act of senseless and staggering cruelty, made in blatant defiance of our values and a Supreme Court ruling made just a month prior.  
 
“Congressional Democrats together with the Biden Administration are proud to uphold the equal right of every American to access the care that they need to pursue a life of dignity and health.  We must now build on this progress and enact the House-passed Equality Act to fully ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our nation.”

In addition to Equality California, co-plaintiffs in BAGLY v. HHS include Darren Lazor, The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY), Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality California, Fenway Health, and Transgender Emergency Fund.

Lazor is a transgender man near Cleveland, Ohio, who experienced numerous counts of discrimination from healthcare providers on the basis of his gender identity from 2012 to 2017. He is a member of Equality California. Plaintiffs are represented by National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Transgender Law Center (TLC), the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School and law firm Hogan Lovells.

The lawsuit asserts that the new rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act by being contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Notably, it was published on June 19,  just days after the June 15, 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that it is unlawful sex discrimination to fire employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The lawsuit also asserts that the new rule will embolden discrimination and harm LGBTQ+ patients and people seeking reproductive health care, further stigmatize abortion and other pregnancy-related care, harm patients with limited-English proficiency, especially immigrants, and harm people with chronic illnesses, including those living with HIV. The rule will also create confusion about the scope of protections against discrimination under federal law. 

Trans people, like plaintiff Darren Lazor, already face disproportionate discrimination in health care settings, including mistreatment by insurers and humiliation and harassment by doctors – problems that are exacerbated for trans people of color and trans people living in rural regions and the U.S. South. In seeking to deny trans people access to the healthcare they need, the Trump Administration had placed trans people, and especially Black trans women, in danger through deliberately harmful governmental action.

“We are thrilled by the news that the Biden-Harris Administration will take initial steps to reverse President Trump’s dangerous, discriminatory Rollback Rule, which undermined healthcare nondiscrimination protections critical to the LGBTQ+ community, and trans people in particular,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur.

“As the world recovers from a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that every American have access to quality, affordable healthcare without fear of harassment and discrimination. We remain hopeful that under Secretary Becerra and Assistant Secretary Levine’s leadership, HHS will continue to take further steps to rescind the Trump-era regulation and address the harms that it has caused,” he added.

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