Connect with us

National

Texas Middle School teacher defaces LGBTQ themed chalk drawings with ‘Heteros Rules’ phrase

The teacher then threatened to pour a drink on the chalk art

Published

on

Screenshot of KPRC NBC 2 news report on chalk drawing controversy

SUGAR LAND, TX. – Parents of Middle Schoolers in a Fort Bend County, Texas school are demanding answers after a teacher berated students for a series of chalk drawings on sidewalks on school grounds which featured LGBTQ Pride flags and Trans flags.

According to KPRC NBC News 2, the teacher allegedly defaced the student’s drawings scrawling “Heteros Rule” and then telling students to erase their drawings also told students that the symbols and words were inappropriate.

Sartartia Middle School in Sugar Land’s principal Cholly Oglesby sent an email to parents writing;

“We have been made aware of an unfortunate incident involving some of our students who reported an interaction with a teacher, which the students stated left them feeling disrespected and marginalized. Keeping in mind that the safety, health, and social and emotional well-being of our students and staff are always our top priority, we were extremely disheartened to hear about these allegations from members of the Sartartia Middle School community as well as some of our feeder pattern high schools.

“It is my sincere goal to always maintain an atmosphere of honor, inclusion, support and respect on our campus.

“Diversity in our community is to be met with a sense of mutual acknowledgment, understanding and tolerance. I insist that campus leaders, classroom teachers and students exhibit and model this type of behavior without exception. We are exploring opportunities to have a campus-wide event to dialog and foster better understanding, respect, and a healthy co-existence for all members of the Sartartia Middle School community.

KPRC NBC News 2 spoke with several parents. One parent, who did not want to be identified, said her daughter was among several students who experienced the incident.

The student and parent said the supervising teacher told the students to erase the pride flags, and when the students refused, the parent said the teacher acted inappropriately.

“The teacher then threatened to pour a drink on the chalk art, and finally grabbed some chalk and wrote ‘HETEROS RULE’ over the pride flags,” the parent said.

The school district in a statement said, “We are aware of a reported incident involving some of our students at Sartartia Middle School who report an interaction with a teacher, which the students stated left them feeling disrespected and marginalized. We are following our protocols and procedures and are conducting an investigation.

“Keeping in mind that the safety, health, and social and emotional well-being of our students and staff are always our top priority, we were extremely disheartened to hear about these allegations from members of the school community.

“The District requires that an atmosphere of honor, inclusion, support and respect be fostered on all our campuses.

As the issue involves a personnel matter, we cannot comment further.”

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Congress

Netanyahu mocks gay pro-Palestinian protesters

Israeli prime minister spoke to joint session of Congress

Published

on

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress on July 24, 2024. (Screen capture via NBC News)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday mocked gay pro-Palestinian protesters in a speech that he delivered to a joint session of Congress.

“Some of these protesters hold up signs proclaiming ‘Gays for Gaza,'” said Netanyahu. “They might as well hold up signs saying ‘Chickens for KFC.'”

Netanyahu spoke to Congress less than a year after Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched from the Gaza Strip a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel.

The Israeli government says Hamas militants killed roughly 1,200 people on Oct. 7, 2023, including at least 260 partygoers and others at the Nova Music Festival. Dozens of people who were taken hostage on Oct. 7 remain alive in Gaza. 

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says nearly 38,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began.

The International Criminal Court on May 20 announced it plans to issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders — Yehya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh. Karim Khan, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, said the five men have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza and Israel.

Outright International and the National LGBTQ Task Force are among the groups that have publicly called for a ceasefire. ACT UP, the Audre Lorde Project, and No Pride in Genocide have organized protests against the war since Oct. 7.  

Activists march in a No Pride in Genocide march from Dupont Circle to the Human Rights Campaign on Feb. 14, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Gay U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), center, speaks with March on Israel attendees in D.C. on Nov. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Gay U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), lesbian U.S. Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are among the lawmakers who refused to attend Netanyahu’s speech. 

Thousands of people have protested Netanyahu since he arrived in D.C. on Monday. 

The Associated Press reported police on Wednesday used pepper spray to disperse protesters near the Capitol after they became “violent” and “failed to obey” orders to move away from a police line. Protesters, according to the AP, also vandalized a Christopher Columbus moment in front of Union Station and set a Netanyahu effigy on fire.

Netanyahu in his speech said Iran is “funding and promoting anti-Israel protests in America.”

“When the tyrants of Tehran, who hang gays from cranes and murder women for not covering their hair, are praising, promoting, and funding you, you have officially become Tehran’s useful idiots,” he said. 

Continue Reading

The White House

Harris becomes the de facto 2024 Democratic Party nominee for president

Advocacy groups praise vice president, President Biden

Published

on

Vice President Kamala Harris (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Less than three days after President Joe Biden announced his decision to step off the ticket and endorsed Kamala Harris to run in his stead, the vice president had emerged as her party’s de facto pick to take on the Republican nominee Donald Trump in November.

According to data from the Associated Press, by Monday 2,868 of the nearly 4,000 delegates who represent Democratic voters had endorsed Harris, well exceeding the 50 percent threshold necessary for her to lock up the nomination, which will be made official during the Democratic National Convention next month. The first ballots will be cast between Aug. 1 and Aug. 7.

“When I announced my campaign for president, I said I intended to go out and earn this nomination,” the vice president said in a statement Monday. “Tonight, I am proud to have secured the broad support needed to become our party’s nominee,” she said, adding, “I look forward to formally accepting the nomination soon.”

Virtually all prominent Democrats whose names were floated as potential rivals quickly lined up behind Harris, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was tapped to co-chair the campaign, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet member, who is considered a top contender to be her running-mate for vice president.

As of midday Wednesday, endorsements had come from over 90 percent of House Democrats, including Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) as well as from every Democratic governor and every Democratic U.S. senator except for Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) (who was just convicted on charges related to an international bribery scheme and announced plans to resign from Congress.)

Also supporting Harris are major organizations that are allied with the party (limited, of course, to those permitted under FEC rules to endorse political candidates). Among them are major labor unions like SEIU and IBEW, advocacy shops like Emily’s List and Gen Z for Change, and civil rights groups like UnidosUS and the Human Rights Campaign.

And in a signal of the popularity of a reconfigured Democratic ticket led by the vice president, her campaign announced that a record breaking sum in excess of $100 million was raised between Saturday afternoon and Tuesday morning with mostly small-dollar contributions from 1.1 million supporters, 60 percent of whom were first-time donors.

The journey toward Harris’s nomination began with the president’s shaky performance against Trump during the televised CNN debate on June 27, which led to a chorus of calls for the 81-year-old to step aside as polls showed he had no clear path to winning the race.

By and large, the Democratic donors, celebrities, and elected officials who pushed for a new ticket did so despite their admiration and affinity for Biden and respect for his record as president. Within the party and beyond, his decision to walk away was celebrated as a patriotic sacrifice of personal ambition for the good of the country.

After Biden backed Harris, she visited campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Del., on Monday, where she delivered remarks about how she will parlay her experience as a prosecutor who went after “predators” and “fraudsters” into her work arguing the case against Trump and ultimately defeating him in November.

Harris also reaffirmed her loyalty to and kinship with Biden while reassuring campaign staff, who had just weathered — by far (at least, so far) — the rockiest period of the 2024 cycle.

“I know it’s been a rollercoaster, and we’re all filled with so many mixed emotions about this,” she said, adding, “I just have to say: I love Joe Biden.”

The president, who was isolating and recovering from COVID-19 at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., called in to the event with words of support and encouragement for the team and for Harris, to whom he said, “I’m watching you, kid,” and “I love ya.”

The next day, Harris headlined a rally in the key battleground state of Wisconsin, where the reception she received was widely described as palpably energetic and enthusiastic, especially when compared to similar campaign affairs prior to the vice president’s emergence this week as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Putting aside voters’ apparent enthusiasm for her candidacy, the massive uptick in fundraising dollars, the rapid coalescence of support for her nomination from virtually the entire Democratic Party along with the various affiliated interests and entities, and the deftness with which she navigated an especially fraught conflict of which she was in the very center both personally and politically, any lingering questions about whether Harris has the full suite of skills and attributes of a top-tier candidate for national political office may have dissipated with her performances in these and other recent public appearances.

If, in fact, they persist, concerns about Harris’s ability to rise to the occasion largely stem from her 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign, which folded ahead of the Iowa caucuses amid criticism that the California Democrat failed to articulate a cohesive and authentic message about her reasons for running and her vision for America.

As San Francisco Chronicle Washington Correspondent Shira Stein said during Jake Tapper’s CNN program on Tuesday, Harris has sharpened her skills as a politician over the past four years as she has served as vice president.

The political landscape has also shifted in ways that seem more broadly favorable to her candidacy in 2024. For example, voters might be more receptive to a nominee who built her career as a smart-on-crime prosecutor now that conversations about justice in policing are less salient than they were in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder while concerns about public safety are now more ascendant.

The 2020 campaign aside, to the extent that Harris may have other handicaps — missteps while in office, controversial elements of her prosecutorial record, her perceived shortcomings as a candidate — they are, largely, already known, Stein said. “She’s been in political life for quite a long time.”

Far less clear is what the polls will look like over the months ahead as Harris reintroduces herself to voters and the dust settles from recent events that have caused tremendous upheaval in the 2024 race, including Biden’s departure from the ticket.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with members of staff at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ groups and leaders back Harris while thanking Biden

In written statements and public remarks over the past few days, LGBTQ leaders and organizations highlighted Biden and Harris’s records advancing rights and protections for the community, touted their administration’s legacy as the most pro-LGBTQ in history. (Washington Blade editor and co-owner Kevin Naff published an op-ed Wednesday titled, “Joe Biden, our fiercest ally“.)

They voiced confidence in Harris’s vision for building on that progress over the next four years and chronicled the ways in which she — in her roles as San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general, U.S. senator, and vice president — had a hand in many of the major milestones in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights that were won over the past few decades, from the legalization of same-sex marriage to ending the so-called “gay and trans panic defense.”

Several who spoke out to support Harris noted that she would be the first Black woman and the first South Asian presidential nominee to lead a major party ticket, having previously broken barriers throughout her career in elected office.

“We are deeply grateful to President Biden for his more than 50 years of public service and his longtime support for the LGBTQ+ community,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said. “Today’s announcement reflects what President Biden has done his entire career and will be core to his legacy: Putting the needs of Americans and his country above his own.”

“We owe the Biden-Harris team a debt of gratitude for leading the country out of a state of chaos and constant crisis under former President Trump,” she said. “And the Human Rights Campaign endorses the tough, formidable, and experienced Vice President Kamala Harris for president. Vice President Harris has the support of millions of Americans, as primary voters have already made the decision to put her on the ticket.” 

Robinson said, “Vice President Kamala Harris is a trailblazer and has been a champion for LGBTQ+ equality for decades: from leading the fight in San Francisco against hate crimes and her work in California to end the so-called gay and transgender ‘panic defense’ to her early support for marriage equality and her leadership serving as our vice president.” 

“Convicted felon Donald Trump has already shown that he aims to destroy democracy and divide the country in his quest for power,” she said. “Vice President Kamala Harris is a true champion of unity and accountability – and will fight for a country where no one is above the law and ‘justice for all’ means something.”

HRC, Robinson wrote, “could not be prouder to endorse Vice President Kamala Harris and commit to channeling our resources and supporters to work to elect the first Black and South Asian woman president of the United States.”

LGBTQ+ Victory Institute President Annise Parker said her organization “commends President Joe Biden on leading the most progressive and inclusive presidential term in American history” under which “LGBTQ+ people have received a record number of federal appointments, including cabinet members, judges and around 14 percent of political appointments.”

“His dedication to supporting LGBTQ+ communities and championing pro-equality legislation and executive action has created the most inclusive and affirming administration our country has ever seen,” Parker said. “And, despite attacks on LGBTQ+ liberties in state governments nationwide, the Biden administration has reinforced its dedication to LGBTQ+ equality through action.”

“We are sincerely grateful for President Biden’s leadership, partnership and service to our nation,” she said. “We know we have a trusted ally in Vice President Kamala Harris who works tirelessly toward full LGBTQ+ equality.”

Noting how Harris’s identity would make her nomination historic for the party and the country, Parker said she “is an enthusiastic supporter of pro-equality policies and LGBTQ+ communities” and added that “the record-breaking LGBTQ+ inclusivity of the Biden/Harris administration will continue under Harris’ leadership” while “the possibility that someone like Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg could be her running mate is monumental.”

“The prospect of a Harris/Buttigieg ticket would be a watershed moment in our decades-long efforts to make all levels of government more inclusive and could be the most historic Presidential ticket ever in our nation,” she said.

National LGBTQ+ Task Force Action Fund Executive Director Kierra Johnson said: “We are grateful for President Biden’s decades of service and allyship to LGBTQ communities — and for everything his administration has done to move our community forward. 

“At this critical moment for our democracy and our freedoms, we have both hope and excitement for Vice President Kamala Harris and what she can do for our country. We fully expect a continued commitment to always putting our communities first.

We now recommit to moving forward in the democratic process, the upcoming convention and the November elections.

The Task Force action fund calls on LGBTQ+ people and our allies to take action and engage in the political process. Only through a show of voting power in the Nov. 5 election will we begin building the democracy we deserve.”

Gay U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who on Saturday became the 36th Democrat on Capitol Hill to call for Biden to exit the race, urged the president to hand “the torch to Vice President Harris as the Democratic Party presidential nominee.”

“It has become clear to me that the demands of a modern campaign are now best met by the Vice President, who can seamlessly transition into the role of our party’s standard bearer,” he wrote.

Another gay Democrat in the California delegation, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia, told Lesley Marin of CBS News on Monday that “we’re going to unite behind Vice President Harris,” noting “the incredible record that she’s been a partner of,” which has included “lowering the price of insulin, infrastructure, investments in climate change, [and] her incredible work in protecting women’s right to choose.”

“At the same time, she’s a prosecutor,” Garcia said. “Look at her work as attorney general. She’s going to prosecute the case against Donald Trump.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), the openly gay chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, also spoke in support of Harris during an interview with CBS News Sunday, arguing that “She’s ready to win Wisconsin,” which is “one of those pivotal states” along with Michigan and Pennsylvania that “are on the top of the list” for Democrats to win in November.

Harris has “the energy to run around the state and do all the campaigning and show that contrast with” the Republican nominee who is “old” and “tired,” the congressman said, using an argument against Trump that has been rolled out by a number of Democrats following Biden’s withdrawal from the race on Sunday.

The vice president will be especially effective in relaying to voters how Trump’s appointment of three conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court during his first term led to a decision revoking constitutional protections for abortion that were in place since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, Pocan said. As a result, he added, “now we are in 1849 law in Wisconsin” with respect to reproductive rights.

An ally both politically and personally

In a written statement to the Blade, Harris for President Senior Spokesperson Kevin Munoz said, “Vice President Harris has been a steadfast ally and fighter for LGBTQ+ Americans since her early days in office.”

He added, “Like President Biden, she’s never shied away from fighting for us, as demonstrated by her record throughout her time in public service, as well as being a part of the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in history. Vice President Harris has had the LBGTQ+ community’s back, and this November, we’ll have hers.”

High-profile LGBTQ officials serving in the Biden-Harris government include Buttigieg, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, and Ben LaBolt and Karine Jean-Pierre, who respectively serve as communications director and press secretary for the White House.

Two gay men who were on her staff prior to her election as vice president spoke with the Blade for a story in June that accompanied the newspaper’s exclusive interview with Harris. Munoz and Sergio Gonzales, senior advisor to Harris and the campaign, were among the six LGBTQ aides and officials who participated in a three-part profile series last year (during which time the operation in Wilmington was far leaner than it is now.)

Those who are close with the vice president (or those who follow her speeches closely) understand she has deep ties to the community and treasured relationships with LGBTQ friends and colleagues like Jim Rivaldo, a political consultant who helped elect gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk before leading Harris to victory in her first district attorney’s race in 2003.

As vice president, Harris not only shared in the credit for her administration’s pro-LGBTQ wins while maximizing representation from the community in positions of power and influence in American government, but she also found ways to signal her support through other personal, individual means.

For example, Harris in 2022 became the first sitting VP to host a Pride month celebration at the vice presidential residence at the Naval Observatory, which became an annual tradition under her tenure.

Rosenberg Foundation President Tim Silard, who worked under Harris when she was San Francisco district attorney, shared a statement with the Blade by text voicing his support for her candidacy.

“Vice President Harris will be the most outstanding President in my lifetime,” he said. “She has been an unwavering champion of the LGBTQ community, fighting to make all of our families safer and expanding civil rights and our opportunities to thrive.”

Silard added, “I know she will take on bullies at home and abroad and bring our nation together in new and exciting ways. I could not be prouder to support her and will do anything I can to help elect her.”

Vice President Kamala Harris makes an appearance with second gentleman Doug Emhoff at the main stage of the 2022 Capital Pride Festival. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
Continue Reading

National

Trans experiences with the internet range from ‘harrowing’ to ‘powerful’

New survey provides insights into the stakes of web use for LGBTQ adults

Published

on

(Image courtesy of LGBT Tech)

Alex, 29, would not have met their friends without the internet. While living in a small city surrounded by farmland, finding community was not always easy.

Alex tried out one of those apps for adults seeking to make friends. It turned out to be a remarkable success. “I’ve made my friend group as a direct result of using the internet,” they said, explaining that even though all the friends are trans, due to their diverse interests, “we would have been hard-pressed to have ever really run into each other by happenstance.”

Making friends online is also safer for Alex. Before they pursued HRT and surgery and looked more “visibly queer,” they were in scary situations. “I’ve had pickup trucks chase me while driving, people call out slurs while driving by me, and I’ve been shot at,” they said. 

Having the internet available for appointments, work, and social activities is fundamental to their life.

But the web was not always such a friendly place for Alex. “There’s so much hate and falsehoods out there about trans people,” they said. “It’s why it takes so long for some of us to learn about who we are.”

This dissonance is widespread within the LGBTQ community. A recent report—”ctrl+alt+lgbt: Digital Access, Usage, and Experiences of the LGBTQ+ Community”—by LGBT Tech and Data for Progress provides insight into that phenomenon. 

Shae Gardner, director of policy at LGBT Tech, explained that most of the research about the LGBTQ community’s internet use historically has focused on youth. The project aimed to fill the gap. From surveys with 1,300 people across the country, the report found that while the internet is a foundational space for LGBTQ community building and self-expression, it also comes with a high risk for bullying and harassment.  

These findings intensify when looking specifically at the data for underrepresented groups within the LGBTQ population like the transgender community, who are by far the group that faces the most harassment online, per the Anti-Defamation League. Gardner explained that the survey was over-sampled for transgender individuals intentionally. “We really wanted to understand that specific experience,” Gardner said.

The Blade interviewed five trans people about their experiences to gain insight into how different community members felt while navigating the web and specifically identified sources who do not have public platforms and therefore do not face heightened public scrutiny. Due to concern for backlash, all sources for this story spoke on condition of anonymity with gender-ambiguous names and they/them pronouns.

Four out of five of the people interviewed emphasized that the internet is a vital resource for accessing healthcare. 

Riley, 24, explained, “I have such immense dread about transitioning because I don’t want to have to interact with doctors around my identity. I feel like I don’t have access to providers who are able to understand me.”

The internet, for many, provides a safe location to access health information and care without the judgment of doctors. Kai, 23, and Cameron, 27, both shared that the internet was an important place for them to learn specifics around trans healthcare and seek out trans-friendly providers. Alex agreed and added that they have made it so all of their doctors’ appointments through tele-health.

These experiences are consistent with the larger trans community. LGBT Tech’s survey found that 70% of transgender adults use the internet to find LGBTQ-friendly healthcare. By comparison, only 41% of cisgender LGBTQ adults use the internet to find the same friendly care.

All the sources interviewed said they sought LGBTQ community online with varying degrees of success. 

Jordan, 24, said that not only is social media a good way to stay connected with people they know, but it also helps them find a broader community. “It’s nice to follow other trans and queer people whose experiences can inspire me or make me feel seen.”

Cameron emphasized that the internet provides connections to activities and communities around town. “Social media has facilitated my in-person queer and trans community,” they explained. “I learn a lot about what queer events are happening around town via social media. I have a wonderful community playing queer sports that I wouldn’t have found without the internet.”

Kai shared that it hasn’t been a successful pursuit for them: “I wish it did more than it does.” 

Per Trans Tech’s survey, transgender adults “often” use social media to connect with existing LGBTQ friends and family 41% of the time (as opposed to “sometimes” “rarely” or “never”). This is 21% more than the LGBTQ community at large. The survey also reveals that transgender adults are 20% more likely to “often” use social media to connect with new LGBTQ community than the LGBTQ community at large.

Everyone but Cameron has experienced some form of direct bullying or harassment for being transgender, either online or in person. The survey found that 83% of transgender adults have faced bullying online. By comparison, 59% of the cisgender LGBTQ community faced bullying online. 

“Technology is only as good as its application. And this is the other side of the dual-edged sword,” said Gardner. 

Gardner explained that the online and in-person harassment was mirrored. “The experiences of anti-LGBTQ bullying were very high, both for LGBTQ+ individuals and especially for trans individuals, but those numbers were nearly equitable to the experiences that that they have in the real world with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying,” she said. The survey found that 82% of transgender adults faced bullying in person.

The survey found despite the comparable levels of harassment and high levels of misinformation (93% of transgender adults saw anti-LGBTQ misinformation online), respondents overwhelmingly felt safe online—67% of trans adults and 76% of cisgender LGBTQ adults. 

When she compared this phenomenon to her life, Gardner wasn’t surprised. “The harassment that I have faced online has certainly felt less immediately threatening than what I’ve faced in person. The mental toll it takes is significant, but I would argue individuals probably have an easier time getting away from it.”

That doesn’t stop Gardner from noting, “We need to be fighting [harassment] in both places.” 

She explained that, “when we are staring down the barrel of record-setting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation yet again, it is so integral to keep fighting for digital spaces to be as safe as possible.”

Regardless of its safety, it is a space that is a constant for many. “I use the internet constantly,” said Alex. “I use the internet a lot at work since I have a desk job,” said Jordan.

When reflecting on the internet, Riley summed up the tensions they experience. “It can be harrowing often but simultaneously it’s where I feel a sense of community and access.”

(This story is part of the Digital Equity Local Voices Fellowship lab through News is Out. The lab initiative is made possible with support from Comcast NBCUniversal.)

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

Founder of now-defunct D.C. LGBTQ group pleads guilty to wire fraud

Reduced charge says Ruby Corado stole at least $150,000 in COVID-relief funds

Published

on

Ruby Corado in El Salvador (Photo via Facebook)

Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of the now-defunct LGBTQ community services organization Casa Ruby, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single charge of wire fraud as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The charge to which she pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for D.C. says she diverted at least $150,000 “in taxpayer-backed emergency COVID relief funds to private off-shore bank accounts for her personal use,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Court records show that U.S. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 10, 2025.

Corado’s guilty plea came a little over six weeks after prosecutors on May 31 filed a one-count criminal information charge of wire fraud against her that replaced an earlier criminal complaint charging her with bank fraud, money laundering, monetary transactions in criminally derived proceeds, and failure to file a required report of a foreign bank account.

The earlier complaint was filed at the time the FBI arrested Corado on March 5 of this year at a hotel in Laurel, Md., shortly after she returned to the U.S. from El Salvador. The initial complaint, like the new criminal information that replaced it, accused Corado of diverting at least $150,000 of federal pandemic relief funds to her own bank accounts in El Salvador. The charges say the funds were intended for use by Casa Ruby to support indigent LGBTQ clients in need of housing and other support services.

At the request of Corado’s court-appointed attorney and against the wishes of federal prosecutors, who said Corado would be a flight risk, another judge agreed to release Corado into the custody of her niece in Rockville, Md., under a home detention order. The release order came seven days after Corado had been held in jail since the time of her arrest on March 5.

In addition to a prison sentence, the charge of wire fraud also includes a possible penalty of financial forfeiture for which Corado could be required to pay restitution to the government. The plea agreement filed in court includes this statement to Corado’s attorney: “Specifically, your client agrees to the entry of a forfeiture money judgment in an amount ordered by the court, which is equal to the value of any property which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense in Count One of the Information in which your client is pleading guilty.”

However, legal observers have said that under a plea agreement like the one offered to Corado, prosecutors most likely will ask the judge for a lesser sentence. Corado’s attorney is also expected to point out that this is a nonviolent, first-time offense for Corado, which merits a lesser sentence.

Corado has denied wrongdoing in her operation of Casa Ruby in response to a separate civil complaint filed against her and Casa Ruby by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General. That complaint is still pending in D.C. Superior Court.

In its July 17 statement the U.S. Attorney’s office refers to court documents showing that Corado, “on behalf of Casa Ruby, received more than $1.3 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.” The statement adds, “Instead of using the funds as she promised, Corado stole at least $150,000 by transferring the money to bank accounts in El Salvador, which she hid from the IRS.”

The statement says that in 2022, “when financial irregularities at Casa Ruby became public, Corado sold her home in Prince George’s County and fled to El Salvador.” It says FBI agents arrested her at the hotel in Laurel, Md. on March 5 “after she unexpectedly returned to the United States.”

Continue Reading

National

FBI investigates failed assassination attempt on Donald Trump

LGBTQ groups have condemned the shooting that took place in Pa.

Published

on

(Screen capture via CNN)

Authorities are investigating a failed assassination attempt against former President Donald Trump at a rally Saturday in Butler, Pa., where a bullet pierced the ear of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

One attendee was killed, along with the suspected shooter. Two others were critically injured in the attack.

The gunman was identified as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks, a registered Republican from Bethel Park, Pa., who gave to Democratic donation platform ActBlue in January 2021.

“I want to thank The U.S. Secret Service, and all of law enforcement, for their rapid response on the shooting that just took place in Butler, Pennsylvania,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social.

Former first lady Melania Trump wrote on Sunday that “When I watched that violent bullet strike my husband, Donald, I realized my life, and Barron’s life, were on the brink of devastating change.”

“A monster who recognized my husband as an inhuman political machine attempted to ring out Donald’s passion — his laughter, ingenuity, love of music, and inspiration,” she wrote.

President Joe Biden was scheduled to receive a briefing on Sunday at the White House with homeland security and law enforcement officials while the Republican-led House Oversight and Accountability Committee said it would be investigating the assassination attempt and had asked U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle to testify at a hearing on July 22.

“I’ve been thoroughly briefed by all the agencies in the federal government as to the situation, based on what we know now,” Biden said in remarks from Rehoboth Beach, Del., just after the assassination attempt on Saturday night.

“I have tried to get a hold of Donald,” the president said, “He’s with his doctors.” (The two would talk later on Saturday.)

“There is no place in America for this kind of violence,” Biden said. “It’s sick. It’s sick. It’s one of the reasons why we have to unite this country. We cannot allow for this to be happening. We cannot be like this. We cannot condone this.” 

“We are shocked by tonight’s apparent assassination attempt on President Trump in Pennsylvania and relieved that he is safe and in good condition,” Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran said on X.

“Our prayers are with President Trump, his family, and our country while we wait to learn further details,” he said. “We are also praying for the family of the innocent bystander who was killed. Our movement will not be deterred.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said on X, “Political violence has no place in America. The attack at today’s rally in PA is an affront to our democracy, and our thoughts are with the former president and all those affected. As a nation, we must unite to condemn political violence in all its forms.”

Congressional leaders from both parties issued statements condemning political violence.

Continue Reading

Congress

Garcia discusses why he’s standing behind Biden

HRC: ‘We are proud to stand by our endorsement’ of the president

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) (YouTube/MSNBC screen capture)

After congressional Democrats emerged from closed-door meetings on Tuesday, House and Senate leaders reassured the media of their continued support for President Joe Biden in his bid for reelection.

As lawmakers returned from the July 4 break this week, a handful of Democrats publicly urged the president to step aside, following a debate performance last month that worsened concerns regarding the candidate’s age, signs of a potential decline in his mental acuity, and questions over his ability to bring the vigor necessary to lead the ticket.

However, speaking with the Washington Blade on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) shared his thoughts on why “it is time to move forward” from Biden’s debate performance and “focus on attacking Donald Trump and the dangers that he poses.”

The congressman was clear that colleagues who have a different opinion should feel free to express their concerns — and, to that end, he said leadership has “been incredible in hearing members who have sought out input” from them.

“The president had a rough debate, and I think he recognizes that, and I think we all recognize that it was not a great moment,” he said. “I respect the people that have had those concerns and the conversation that’s happened since, so, I get that.”

“Personally, I’ve known from day one that Joe Biden is going to be our nominee,” Garcia said. “He reinforced that with everyone, and it is time to move forward. I’ve been behind the president and the vice president. I continue to be.”

Every day the Democratic Party continues having these conversations internally, “we’re not out there defeating Donald Trump,” the congressman added. “I think for some folks it’s going to take some time for them to feel comfortable, and that’s OK [but] I’m ready to go. I’m fired up and ready to go.”

Garcia, who’s gay, serves as a vice-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, alongside some LGBTQ Democratic members who agree with his position, like Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), and others who do not, like Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.), who have called for Biden to step aside.

When it comes to LGBTQ voters, “from our perspective, I think we’ve just got to understand that we have the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in the history of politics in front of us, and we have Donald Trump on the other side,” Garcia said. “Those are our choices.”

“You don’t have to love every choice you make, but we have to understand the stakes, and we have to understand that there is a binary choice,” he said. “Every person that’s not voting, or not voting for Joe Biden, is certainly empowering Donald Trump. That’s the reality of the moment we’re in.”

Asked how the Biden-Harris campaign can outrun the speculation about the president’s age and the calls from some Democrats for him to step aside, Garcia said “the president has to continue what he’s been doing for the last couple of days. And I think what you’ve seen in the last few days is a fighting Joe Biden.”

“Joe Biden is proving that if he’s going to get punched in the nose, he’s going to punch back twice as hard,” the congressman said. “And I think that is where the campaign is headed, and what needs to continue to happen.”

Weathering the moment in which “the president did have this really bad debate night,” Garcia said, has “also invigorated the campaign and him” with Biden and his team realizing “this is serious, we have a real challenge, here. And let’s get this done.”

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ rights organization and a group that has made major investments in Biden’s reelection effort, also reaffirmed her support for the president in a statement to the Blade on Tuesday.

“Donald Trump and his Project 2025 agenda pose an existential threat to our rights, freedom, and democracy itself,” she said. “Our job remains the same: defeat him. Biden-Harris is the ticket to do it and we are proud to stand by our endorsement.”

Asked for comment, a GLAAD spokesperson said “as a [501]C3 nonprofit org, we focus on voter and reporter info and resources, to inform about elevate facts on the candidates’ records and statements about LGBTQ people.”

The spokesperson referred the Blade to a statement by the group’s president, Sarah Kate Ellis, which was issued shortly after Biden’s televised debate against Trump.

“Media must do their job to ask questions of candidates about their records and plans for and against LGBTQ people. Our community is enduring an onslaught of attacks on our lives and fundamental freedoms. Everything from our marriages to our ability to have children to keeping schools safe for LGBTQ youth is on the ballot.

“The candidates’ records are very clear, and voters need to be informed about this history to make the best decisions. Reporters and moderators must challenge candidate rhetoric for facts about abortion, immigration, inflation, and the security of each person’s vote.

“CNN failed to find time in 90 minutes to ask about Project 2025, the fascist fever dream that is laying a path for anti-LGBTQ zealots to weaponize the government to fully eliminate abortion access and LGBTQ people from equal access in American life.

“Accurate information is essential for voters to choose a leader who values the truth, decency, and who will work to ensure freedom and equality for all Americans.”

The GLAAD accountability project includes detailed entries for Trump and Biden, detailing the candidates’ records on and rhetoric concerning LGBTQ matters.

Continue Reading

Congress

House Republicans propose steep cuts in federal AIDS budget

Advocacy groups say move would eliminate ‘Ending HIV Epidemic’ initiative

Published

on

The Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative was launched during the administration of President Donald Trump. (Public domain photo)

The Republican-controlled U.S. House Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies approved a spending bill on June 26 that calls for cutting at least $419 million from federal AIDS programs that AIDS activists say would have a devastating impact on efforts to greatly reduce the number of new HIV infections by 2030.

The subcommittee’s proposed bill, which includes billions of dollars in cuts in a wide range of other federal health, education, and human services related programs, is scheduled to be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee on July 10. Officials with AIDS advocacy groups say they are hopeful that the full committee, like last year, will refuse to approve the proposed cuts in the AIDS budget.

The proposed GOP cuts would eliminate $214 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s HIV prevention programs, $190 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, and $15 million from the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Minority HIV/AIDS Program.

Activists say the impact of those cuts would kill the federal government’s Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, which among other things, calls for reducing the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75 percent by 2025 and by 90 percent by 2030. The activists point out that ironically the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative was launched during the administration of President Donald Trump.

 “Instead of providing new investments in ending HIV by increasing funding for testing, prevention programs, such as PrEP, and life-saving care and treatment, House Republicans are again choosing to go through a worthless exercise of cutting programs that the American people depend on and will never pass,” said Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV + Hepatitis Policy Institute.

“While we vigorously fight these cuts, we look forward to working with the entire Congress in a bipartisan fashion on spending bills that can actually become law,” Schmid said in a statement.

 Schmid noted that the bill also includes provisions known as “policy riders” that would take away rights and protections from women, such as access to birth control and abortion, and for minorities, including LGBTQ people.

According to a statement released by the office of U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who is the ranking minority member of the House Appropriations Committee, one of the policy riders would “block the Biden administration’s policies to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.’  The statement says another policy rider would “prevent policies or programs intended to promote diversity, equality, or inclusion.”

Most political observers believe the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate would also kill the GOP proposed policy riders and cuts in the AIDS budget if the full Republican-controlled House were to approve the budget bill passed by the appropriations subcommittee.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who serves as chair of the full House Appropriations Committee, released a statement on June 27 defending the  subcommittee’s bill and its proposed spending cuts. “The bill provides appropriate and fiscally responsible funding to ensure these departments can continue to perform their core missions while also acknowledging the fiscal realities facing our nation,” he said.

“Importantly, the bill pushes back on the Biden administration’s out-of-touch progressive policy agenda, preventing this White House from finalizing or implementing controversial rules or executive orders,” Cole said in his statement. “It also preserves long standing bipartisan policy provisions protecting the right to life.”

Continue Reading

The White House

HRC slams White House over position opposing gender affirming surgeries for minors

‘Biden administration is flat wrong on this’

Published

on

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson issued a strong rebuke on Tuesday of the Biden-Harris administration’s position opposing gender affirming surgeries for minors.

The New York Times reported on June 28 that the White House, which broadly supports making medical interventions available for transgender youth, had expressed opposition to surgeries for patients under 18, having previously declined to take a specific position on the question.

“Health care decisions for young people belong between a patient, their family, and their health care provider. Trans youth are no exception,” Robinson responded. 

“The Biden administration is flat wrong on this. It’s wrong on the science and wrong on the substance. It’s also inconsistent with other steps the administration has taken to support transgender youth. The Biden administration, and every elected official, need to leave these decisions to families, doctors and patients—where they belong,” she added. “Although transgender young people make up an extremely small percentage of youth in this country, the care they receive is based on decades of clinical research and is backed by every major medical association in the U.S. representing over 1.3 million doctors.”

Robinson said the “administration has committed to fight any ban on healthcare for transgender youth and must continue this without hesitation—the entire community is watching.” 

“No parent should ever be put in the position where they and their doctor agree on one course of action, supported by the overwhelming majority of medical experts, but the government forbids it,” she added.

HRC is a prominent backer of Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign, having pledged $15 million to support efforts in six battleground states. The organization has a strong relationship with the White House, with the president and first lady headlining last year’s National Dinner.

A White House spokesperson declined to respond to Robinson’s statement.

Campaign for Southern Equality President Allison Scott also issued a statement.

“This is a cowardly statement from an administration that promised to support transgender people. It is a troubling concession to the right-wing assault on transgender Americans, falling for their false narratives about surgical care and betraying a commitment to equality and trust in the medical community,” said Scott.

“Let’s be very, very clear: Government has no business inserting itself into private medical decisions that should be exclusively between patients, their providers, and the patients’ parent or guardian,” Scott added.

“It is dangerous to begin endorsing categorical bans or limits on healthcare, and there is no justification for restricting transgender youth’s access to the very same care that many cisgender youth receive every year — that’s literally the definition of discrimination,” Scott concluded. “We demand the Biden administration retract this thoughtless statement and work to undo its damage.” 

Continue Reading

State Department

State Department hosts meeting on LGBTQ rights and foreign policy

Event took place before Pride Month reception

Published

on

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department Pride event on June 27, 2024. (Screen capture via Forbes Breaking News YouTube)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday hosted a group of LGBTQ activists and politicians from around the world at the State Department.

The event — described as a “Convening on U.S. Foreign Policy: National Security, Inclusive Development, and the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons” — took place before the State Department’s annual Pride Month reception. Participants included:

• Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights

• U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield

• U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai

• U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti

• Suzanne Goldberg, senior advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Civil Security, Democracy, and Human Rights

• Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya

• U.S. Agency for International Development Senior LGBTQI+ Coordinator Jay Gilliam

• USAID Counselor Clinton D. White

• National Security Council Senior Director for Democracy and Human Rights Kelly Razzouk

• Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Adm. Rachel Levine

• National Security Council Human Rights Director Jess Huber

• U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ilze Brandt Kehris

• Icelandic Ambassador to the U.S. Bergdís Ellertsdóttir

• Council for Global Equality Co-Executive Director Mark Bromley

• Outright International Senior Advisor for Global Intersex Rights Kimberly Zieselman

• Essy Adhiambo, executive director of the Institute for Equality and Non Discrimination in Kenya

• Pau González, co-chair of Hombres Trans Panamá and PFLAG-Panamá

“Forty-five years ago, thousands gathered in D.C. in what became the first national march for LGBTQI+, demanding their voices be heard,” said Thomas-Greenfield in a post to her X account that showed her speaking at the event. “We must continue to carry forward the spirit of these pioneers and fight for equal rights and dignity for all.”

President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.

“LGBTQI+ rights are human rights,” said Blinken. “Our government has a responsibility to defend them, to promote them — here and everywhere.”

Blinken noted consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in 64 countries, with the death penalty in 11 of them.

He specifically highlighted Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government’s “smearing scapegoating, stigmatizing LGBTQI+ persons — vilifying them with degrading labels, denying them equal rights, normalizing violence against them.” (Gay U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman this month marched in the annual Budapest Pride parade.)

Blinken noted Iraqi MPs earlier this year “passed legislation that punishes same-sex relations with up to 15 years in prison.” He also pointed out that Indonesian lawmakers approved a new criminal code banning extramarital sex.

“In a nation where same-sex couples cannot marry, these laws effectively make all same-sex conduct illegal and they undermine privacy for all Indonesians,” said Blinken.

“We’re defending and promoting LGBTQI+ rights around the world,” he said.

Blinken noted seven countries — Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Namibia, Singapore, the Cook Islands — have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations over the last two years. He also highlighted Greece, Liechtenstein, and Thailand this year extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, and other countries are banning so-called “conversion therapy.”

“These achievements are possible because of incredibly courageous human rights defenders and government partners on the ground, but I believe America’s support is indispensable,” said Blinken. “When we engage — sometimes publicly, sometimes privately, sometimes both — when we share our own knowledge and experience, we can and we do achieve change.”

Blinken also announced the U.S. now considers sexual orientation and gender identity are part of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that took effect in 1976.

“This is one of the key treaties committing nations to upholding universal rights,” he said. 

“In our regular reporting to the council on human rights, we will continue to include incidents of discrimination or abuse committed against LGBTQI+ persons, now with the clear framework of this well-supported interpretation,” added Blinken. “That will further empower our efforts.”

Blinken reiterated this point and the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad when he spoke at the State Department’s Pride Month event.

“Defending, promoting LGBTQI+ rights globally is the right thing to do, but beyond that, it’s the smart and necessary thing to do for our country, for our national security, for our well-being,” he said.

Continue Reading

Congress

Members of Congress introduce resolution to condemn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Joyce Beatty spearheaded condemnation

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 20 members of Congress on Thursday introduced a resolution that condemns Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Gay California Congressman Mark Takano and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) spearheaded the resolution that U.S. Reps. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mark Pocan (D-Wash.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) co-sponsored.

“The House of Representatives condemns the government of Uganda’s criminalization and draconian punishments regarding consensual same-sex sexual conduct and so-called ‘’promotion of homosexuality,’” reads the resolution.

The resolution, among other things, also calls upon the Ugandan government to repeal the law.

“It is difficult to overstate the gross inhumanity of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act,” said Takano in a press release.

President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

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

The Ugandan Constitutional Court in April refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” A group of Ugandan LGBTQ activists appealed the ruling.

“Instead of focusing on rooting out corruption or ending extrajudicial killings, the Ugandan Parliament, president, and Constitutional Court have chosen to mark LGBTQ+ Ugandans as less than human,” said Takano. “Congress must not be silent in the face of such systematic, state-sponsored discrimination.”

“To all those LGBTQ+ people and your allies in Uganda — we see you,” added the California Democrat. “We and the Biden administration will not allow this terrible violation of basic dignity to go unchallenged.” 

Continue Reading

Popular