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Pride Month Florida Day 2-DeSantis yanks LGBTQ funding

“He promised me that he’d always support those impacted by the Pulse shooting. Today he vetoed mental health services- I will never forget”

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Brandon Wolf (L) speaking with Florida Governor DeSantis (R) at PULSE Memorial 2019 (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wolf)

TALLAHASSEE, FL. – Angered LGBTQ advocacy groups and allies are blasting Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for stripping all funding for LGBTQ programs from the state budget Wednesday. These actions following his signing a bill Tuesday- an education bill amended to include a previous stand alone bill, specifically targeting transgender girls and young women, banning them from playing on female sports teams.

DeSantis vetoed funding for LGBTQ programs from the state budget including money earmarked for mental health programming to support survivors of the Pulse Massacre, to house homeless LGBTQ children, and for Orlando’s LGBTQ Community Center. 

This action by the Governor occurred on the second day of Pride Month stripped funding for mental health support from survivors of the Pulse Massacre just days before the 5 year remembrance. The 2016 mass shooting was one of the worst in United States history, and targeted Central Florida’s LGBTQ and LatinX Communities, claiming the lives of 49 people.

“Let’s be clear about what this is: Governor DeSantis has declared war on Florida’s LGBTQ community.” said Brandon Wolf, Media Relations Manager for Equality Florida and Survivor of the Pulse Massacre. “Before the 2019 Remembrance Ceremony, Governor DeSantis stood on hallowed ground, steps from where I escaped the building in 2016, and promised me that he would always support those of us impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting. Today, almost two years later to date, he vetoed mental health services for us. I will never forget.”

Florida Democratic State Representative Anna V. Eskamani, whose House District 47 is central Orlando and Orange County angrily decried DeSantis on Twitter writing;

“Yesterday @GovRonDeSantis signed into law a bill attacking trans-kids. Now on the 2nd day of #Pride month he VETOES two #LGBTQ programs, one for homeless youth and the other for Pulse survivors’ mental health. He’s a homophobic & transphobic man who should not be in office.”

Eskamani added; BTW — he also vetoed $80,000 for human trafficking prevention and $100,000 for a nonprofit focused on getting more girls of color into STEM.

Graphic courtesy of Equality Florida

In a statement, Dr. George A. Wallace, Executive Director of the LGBT+ Center Orlando said, “I am disappointed once again that Governor Ron DeSantis has vetoed funding for the LGBTQ community, specifically those affected by the Pulse tragedy. Some of Central Florida’s most vulnerable citizens rely on The Center Orlando to provide lifesaving services, such as case management, navigation, and critical mental health counseling. The OUAC directly serves those impacted by the 2016 Pulse tragedy. We now must pivot to find funding to continue serving Orlando’s LGBTQ community at the same level as we had planned for the upcoming fiscal year. Yesterday marked the first day of Pride Month and Governor DeSantis has once again proved that he is one of the most homophobic and transphobic Governors in the United States.”

In a year of a record budget surplus of 6.6 billion dollars because of the American Rescue Plan, DeSantis’ cruel budget cuts also target homeless LGBTQ youth.

“This money would have helped LGBTQ+ youth facing homelessness, bullying, isolation from their families, physical and sexual abuse, and drug abuse.” said Heather Wilkie, Executive Director of the Zebra Coalition, a network of organizations which provide direct services to LGBTQ+ youth ages 13 – 24. “We were planning to expand our housing capacity from 11 to 35 beds for homeless youth and were honored for the support of so many of our state legislators. Now we’re unsure where the money will come from.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Suspended prosecutor files suit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

“What’s happening here is, he’s trying to throw out a free and fair election,” Warren said on CNN early Wednesday

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (L) Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren (R) (Screenshot/YouTube WFTX-TV, Fox 4 News Cape Coral)

FORT MYERS, Fl. – Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, an elected Florida prosecutor removed from office by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for signing a national pledge to not prosecute women and doctors for violating Florida abortion statues or families seeking treatments for transgender minors, filed suit Wednesday in United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Governor DeSantis’ office issued a statement two weeks ago saying: “We are suspending Soros-backed 13th circuit state attorney Andrew Warren for neglecting his duties as he pledges not to uphold the laws of the state.”

DeSantis’s move, per a clause in the state’s constitution, would have the effect of removing Warren from office. 

“DeSantis’s Order does not identify any actual conduct by Warren related to his official duties involving alleged criminal activity for seeking gender-affirming healthcare or abortion,” the lawsuit said. “DeSantis’s Order does not identify any other conduct by Warren or other reason sufficient to justify a suspension.”

“What’s happening here is, he’s trying to throw out a free and fair election,” Warren said on CNN early Wednesday. “Even my 8-year-old understands this.”

Warren described the pledge circulated by prosecutors around the country as “a value statement,” not a definitive decision on how he might handle any particular case. He also noted that Florida’s new ban on abortions after 15 weeks of gestation has been ruled unconstitutional and that the state doesn’t even have a law against hormone treatments for transgender minors.

“The First Amendment protects the right of elected officials to speak out on matters of public controversy, and in fact, it does so because it’s so important that the voters who choose these elected officials know where they stand on these issues,” Jean-Jacques Cabou, a lawyer for Warren, said in a phone interview with Fox affiliate WFTX-TV, Fox 4 News Cape Coral.

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Utah

Prosecutors announce hate crime charges in attack on gay teenage couple

A 17-year-old was charged with assault, the 19-year-old was charged with criminal mischief & both youths with hate crime enhancements

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Christian Peacock (L) and Jacob Metcalf (Screenshot via KUTV 2 CBS Salt Lake City

SANDY, Ut. – Christian Peacock and his boyfriend Jacob Metcalf were standing at the end of Peacock’s driveway in this suburban Salt Lake City town hugging and quietly chatting in “a long goodbye for the night,” two weeks ago when a Nissan-Infinity sedan with five young male occupants rolled by slowing down and one of them yelled “Fuck you, faggots.”

Minutes later the Infinity returned and one of the young males got out and continued act aggressively using homophobic epithets and then when Christian Peacock stepped in to protect his boyfriend, he was punched sending him to hospital that left him with a mild concussion and brain swelling.

Earlier this week the Salt Lake City Tribune reported that a 17-year-old boy has been charged with allegedly punching Peacock sending him to hospital.

Sgt. Greg Moffitt with the Sandy Police Department told media outlets that the 17-year-old suspect’s friend, Hayden Perry Stowell, 19, also faces charges, after he went back and allegedly vandalized the LGBTQ Pride flags displayed in front of the Peacock home in retaliation for his friend’s arrest.

Prosecutors have added hate crime enhancements added to both of their other court charges.

The Tribune reported that the 17-year-old was charged in juvenile court with assault, a third-degree felony; and initiating a riot, a second-degree felony.

Stowell has been charged in 3rd District Court with retaliation against a witness, a third-degree felony; and criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor.

The charging documents for the 17-year-old say he told police he approached the couple and “clearly targeted” them due to their sexual orientation, the Tribune reported.

He allegedly also told officers that he didn’t like that Peacock and Metcalf were displaying physical affection openly in their driveway. The 17-year-old refused to identify anyone who was in the car with him at the time of the attack, the charges state.

A witness later identified Stowell as also one of the occupants of the car during the attack on Peacock.

Peacock’s boyfriend had recorded portions of the incident which was later posted to social media. According to the Tribune, Jocelynn, 19, Peacock’s sister grabbed her phone and started taking pictures of the alleged assailant and the others in the car. She also chased the car down the street and captured the license plate number. She then shared both on her Instagram and Snapchat pages.

One of her friends recognized the car and knew the person who drove it and gave Jocelynn the kid’s address. Jocelynn went there and spoke to the mother of that boy.

“Do you know what your son has done?” she asked, according to Peacock and Metcalf, who went with her.

The Salt Lake Tribune and other media outlets in the Salt Lake region generally do not identify minors who have been charged with crimes, unless they have been charged and bound over for trial in adult court.

The case could become a test of the state’s new hate crime law, which hasn’t been used extensively since it was put in place in 2019 after a Latino father and son were attacked at their tire shop, the Tribune noted.

A community group had put up Pride flags to show support for Peacock and his boyfriend Metcalf in their neighborhood but surveillance footage taken two weeks after the attack — shows Stowell, the suspected vandal, outside the victim’s home, according to the Sandy Police Department.

Stowell allegedly pulled out the flags, which were found “strewn about” the front yard and the street, police said, and at least one flagpole was broken, the Tribune reported adding that Stowell allegedly “ripped down the pride flags” 12 hours after his 17-year-old friend was booked into juvenile detention in connection with the July 30 assault, charging documents state, noting that the suspected vandal’s “only clear purpose” was to “further intimidate and harass” the victim’s family.

Both the teenage victim and his sister have been “struggling with anxiety and fear since the assault on July 30, 2022,” charging documents note, “and with the continued intimidation they felt by the damage to their flags.”

An attorney for the Peacock and Metcalf families sent KUTV 2News a statement Tuesday afternoon:

“There can be no place in Utah for hate crimes. We appreciate the swift and continuing efforts of the Sandy Police Department, Sim Gill, and the District Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute the hate crimes that targeted our family. We also thank our friends and neighbors in Sandy, including Mayor Monica Zoltanski, for standing by us and making clear that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Sandy.”

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Massachusetts

Boston Children’s Hospital targeted by anti-LGBTQ+ violent threats

Anti-LGBTQ LibsofTikTok, which has often promoted the “groomer” label attacking the LGBTQ community, spread the lies about Children’s 

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Screenshot/YouTube WBZ CBS 4 Boston

BOSTON – Anti-LGBTQ+ far right extremists are targeting Boston Children’s Hospital threatening its employees and medical staff after falsehoods and disinformation spread online recently about the healthcare facility’s treatment of transgender youth.

In a statement posted online, a spokesperson for Boston Children’s wrote: “In response to commentary last week critical of our Gender Multispeciality Service (GeMS) Program, Boston Children’s Hospital has been the target of a large volume of hostile internet activity, phone calls, and harassing emails including threats of violence on our clinicians and staff fueled by misinformation and a lack of understanding and respect for our transgender community.”

The statement notes that the false information, with special attention being cast on the lies that Boston Children’s was performing hysterectomies (transgender gender care related) on minors. The age of consent for that gender-affirming procedure is 18.

“We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms, and we reject the false narratives upon which they are based,” the hospital continued. “We are working with law enforcement to protect our clinicians, staff, patients, families, and the broader Boston Children’s Hospital community and hold the offenders accountable. We will continue to take all appropriate measures to protect our people.”

Journalist Martha Bebinger with WBUR,  Boston’s NPR news station, noted the campaign started last week with criticism of a video posted on the hospital’s website about hysterectomies. Several conservative social media accounts shared posts about the video on Twitter. The hospital performs hysterectomies on patients 18 and older, but not on children as some of the posts claimed.

The social media account LibsofTikTok, which has often promoted “groomer” discourse that falsely linked LGBTQ teachers and parents to pedophilia, began to make a variety of false claims. One allegation included the lie about Children’s offering gender-affirming hysterectomies to children under 18 years old.

Surgeons at Boston Children’s have said they would consider performing other procedures, including phalloplasty, or penis construction, on 17-year-old male transgender patients. But hospital staff say that hasn’t happened because no 17-year-old has met required legal and other criteria.

Conservative journalist and anti-LGBTQ+ activist Christopher Rufo, who has helped incite white Christian nationalist right-wing uproar over the critical race theory being taught in the nations’ secondary schools and also fabricated a story that queer theory was also being taught to kindergarteners up through high school, took aim at Boston Children’s in a tweet Wednesday.

Then adding to the far-right extremist pile-on, Media Matters for America reported Wednesday that anti-Trans pundit Matt Walsh also attacked the hospital.

Christina Buttons, a Nashville-based radical anti-LGBTQ far-right journalist for the Canadian anti-LGBTQ conservative publication, the Post Millennial, which features other transphobic writers, attacked NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny on Twitter over her reporting on Boston Children’s.

A spokesperson for Twitter told the Blade Wednesday afternoon that the company support team was looking into the reports of harassment.

NBC’s Brandy Zadrozny reported: Anti-trans activists also targeted the individual doctors who appeared in the YouTube videos from Boston Children’s Hospital, leaving vulgar and harassing comments on their social media accounts and flooding their online pages with negative reviews. Some hospital staff have since made their social media profiles private.

This isn’t the first time that far-right activists have targeted doctors and medical institutions — or even Boston Children’s Hospital.

Lee Leveille, co-director of Health Liberation Now, a trans rights advocacy group that investigates the effects of policy on trans health, said the hospital was also a target in May 2021 for providing gender-affirming care amid a similar wave of targeted harassment on medical facilities.

“The original organized network that jump started the clinic protests has been slowing down a bit and is more decentralized,” Leveille said over email. “Local pockets will still operate here and there, but they’re less connected to a central organized push than the original ones. Now we’re seeing new faces rallying the cause — including the likes of Matt Walsh and Libs of TikTok.”

A spokesperson for the Boston Police said the department is aware of the threats and is working with Boston Children’s staff.

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