Biden to nominate LGBTQ synagogue rabbi to religious freedom commission
Sharon Kleinbaum joined NYC’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1992
WASHINGTON — President Biden on Friday announced he plans to nominate the chief rabbi of an LGBTQ synagogue in New York City to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum joined Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1992.
“She was installed as CBST’s first rabbi in 1992, arriving at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership,” reads a bio that announced Biden’s intention to nominate Kleinbaum to the commission. “She guided the congregation through a period of loss and change, while addressing social issues and building a strong and deeply spiritual community. Under her leadership as senior rabbi, CBST has become a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.”
Kleinbaum is married to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
The commission seeks to defend religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world. The president and Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress nominate members.
NYC grand jury indicts Donald Trump
Former commander-in-chief is first former president indicted
NEW YORK — A New York grand jury on Thursday voted to bring criminal charges sought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office against former President Donald Trump in connection with his alleged orchestration near the end of the 2016 presidential race of a hush money payment to an adult film actress.
The contents of the indictment triggered by the grand jury’s decision will almost certainly be kept under seal, however. And it is not clear when the charges will be filed, nor when an arrest and arraignment might come, or even whether Trump will surrender himself.
The uncertainty also extends to the consequences of America’s first-ever indictment of a former president, the prospect of which had already roused Trump’s allies in Congress to accuse prosecutors of politically motivated misconduct while prompting the former president’s supporters to heed his call for protests.
The New York Times reported on March 9 that Trump’s attorneys had received the signal from prosecutors that they were considering criminal charges, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.
Republican members in House leadership, meanwhile, signed on to a letter issued by Trump ally and chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), which demands testimony and documents from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on his office’s case against the former president.
The move closely followed Trump’s Truth Social post previewing the coming indictment in which he wrote that charges would be filed on March 21 and urged his supporters to “protest, take our nation back!” The message recalls Trump’s Dec. 19, 2020, tweet promoting the “wild” protests in D.C. that were scheduled for Jan. 6, 2021.
Evidence from court testimony in the criminal cases against several defendants who were charged with crimes including seditious conspiracy for their involvement in the deadly insurrection on the U.S. Capitol that day has shown that tweet was a major factor in the instigation of the riots.
In a notice to senators’ offices on March 20, the Senate sergeant at arms said U.S. Capitol Police are taking security precautions, because “while law enforcement is not tracking any specific, credible threats against the Capitol or state offices, there is potential for demonstration activity.”
Trump’s former longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen is a key witness for the government, reportedly meeting with prosecutors 20 times to testify to his involvement in facilitating the payment to Daniels under Trump’s instruction.
In 2018, Cohen was charged with violating campaign finance laws and other crimes stemming from his involvement in the scheme, testifying under oath that he routed – “in coordination with” and “at the direction of” Trump, who was then “a candidate for federal office” – $130,000 to Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election to secure her agreement not to disclose that she and Trump had extramarital sex in 2006.
Cohen was convicted and then disbarred before serving 13.5 months of his 5-year prison sentence.
However, after his two-hour testimony before the grand jury on March 20, Trump ally Robert Costello publicly challenged Cohen’s testimony and credibility. He told reporters that Cohen, to whom Costello had once been a legal advisor, was lying about the former president’s involvement in the payment and had previously claimed credit for conceiving of and executing the payment to Daniels.
The Federal Election Commission opened an inquiry into the matter but dropped the probe following a split 2-2 vote along party lines by the bipartisan agency’s commissioners. A former FEC official previously told the Washington Blade that its investigations are almost always dropped, even in cases for which there is clear and substantial evidence that campaign finance laws were violated.
Trump faces more legal jeopardy amid the Justice Department’s ongoing separate probes into his role in the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol and potentially criminal mishandling of classified documents.
According to reports last week, there were new developments in the case presented to members of a special grand jury that was convened in connection with charges brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over allegations that Trump unlawfully interfered in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
Trump in a lengthy statement described the New York indictment as “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.”
Former President Donald Trump speaks out for the first time since his historic indictment. “This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.” @NewsNation pic.twitter.com/Uqme7aP78I
— Kellie Meyer (@KellieMeyerNews) March 30, 2023
No one is above the law, even those who can't spell the word "indicted." pic.twitter.com/MwtUAiaa25— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) March 30, 2023
Calif. Senate leader moves to end LGBTQ+ related travel bans
The legislation being introduced as legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and trans kids in particular has escalated
SACRAMENTO – Calif. State Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) is introducing legislation that would lift California’s travel ban to other states and create in its place a program to encourage acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.
The legislation being introduced as legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and trans kids in particular has escalated in the past two recent years nationwide.
Atkins’ Senate Bill 447 legislation would end the ban and replace it with an advertising campaign in those states that promotes acceptance and inclusion for the LGBTQ community. The proposed measure will would create a donation-driven fund that could be used to create inclusive messaging, discourage discrimination, and help members of the LGBTQ+ community feel less isolated. Called the BRIDGE Project – Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equality – the legislation would help California champion compassion and help build bridges to unite and unify communities.
When asked by reporters, Atkins, who is a lesbian said; “I think polarization is not working. We need to adjust our strategy. We know what we need to do, but we need to be able to be there to do it.”
“When I was a teenager growing up in rural Virginia, the idea of being accepted as a lesbian was a foreign concept. Times have changed, but for so many in the LGBTQ+ community, the feelings of isolation and fear remain. Lifting the travel ban and putting a program in its place that would infuse inclusive, non-partisan messages in other states is a way that California can help build a bridge of inclusion and acceptance,” she said.
“At a time when LGBTQ+ rights and protections are being rescinded, and the very words we use are being weaponized, putting understanding and kindness at the forefront is more important than ever. The goal here is to speak to people’s hearts and open minds. That’s a pursuit that would have made teen Toni – that southwestern Virginia girl afraid to be herself back then – so proud,” Atkins added.
California’s current law on the matter – AB 1887 – restricts state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions from using taxpayer funds to travel to states that have adopted discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Currently, the law is applicable to 23 states.
Matthew Bajko, the Assistant Editor of the Bay Area Reporter, the LGBTQ newspaper in San Francisco, reported Atkins’ SB SB 447 legislation comes as the City of San Francisco leaders are also expected to lift the city’s similar travel ban policy.
During a press briefing with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Atkins was asked several times if the original travel ban was a failure. She denied that.
“I think AB 1887 was successful,” she said, referring to the bill authored by gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), adding that leaders in states like North Carolina and Georgia initially did change laws or institute bans, such as the moving the NCAA men’s basketball tournament games out of the Tar Heel State in 2016. “It was effective in what we were trying to do. I think we sent a message loud and clear.”
While the law originally sent a clear, early, and effective message that California would not engage with states that allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, a new approach is needed for California to have a positive impact, Atkins noted in a statement released by her office.
As the years have passed, the travel ban has had the unintended impact of further isolating members of the LGBTQ+ community in those states, and hampering Californians from being able to conduct research, business, and engage with all people from those states. Examples include California’s public university systems experiencing challenges with being able to conduct academic research on LGBTQ+ or other equity issues in some of the very places where that work is most needed and jeopardizing opportunities for intercollegiate athletes to compete in games that could determine postseason eligibility.
The shift in direction also will help further position California as a national leader of inclusivity and beacon of hope and support for those who have been isolated by state-sponsored discrimination elsewhere.
This year alone, an unprecedented 434 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country to date, targeting a host of issues, including civil rights, healthcare, schools, and free speech, according to an interactive report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
In 2022, state legislatures around the country introduced 315 anti-equality bills, 29 of which were signed into law, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign. Much of those discriminatory efforts were focused on LGBTQ+ youth, especially transgender and non-binary youth.
According to the 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by The Trevor Project, 42 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and 94 percent reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health.
Contrasting rollbacks at the national level, the California Legislature has passed hundreds of bills and resolutions to advance LGBTQ+ rights and protections. This year alone, more than a dozen bills covering a host of issues related to the LGBTQ+ community have been introduced to date, along with several budget requests.
The Associated Press/KTLA 5 reported Thursday that Marc Stein, a history professor at San Francisco State University who is gay and does research on queer history, said he would want to hear from LGBTQ communities in other states before deciding whether he supports lifting the travel ban.
But Stein said he would like to see an exception made for social justice research. Shortly after California’s travel ban took place, he said he had trouble booking a trip to North Carolina shortly after the travel ban took effect so he could research the case of a transgender woman who had been arrested for sodomy in the 1960s.
Stein said the university eventually found a way to fund his research, but said the barrier remains for other researchers, particularly students studying for advanced degrees.
“I think Ph.D. students in California are being discouraged from pursuing research projects that would require extensive trips to the list of states which is now almost half the country,” he said.
Rep. Maxwell Frost demands action on LGBTQ rights, gun control
Frost spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act which he categorized as a “bigoted law made by bigoted people”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) during an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade on March 24 called for President Joe Biden to “speak out about” the wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country.
The congressman said the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education “should be heavily involved in investigating what’s going on in Florida and in all these states where these bills are being passed.” Frost added that Biden is “the perfect person” to warn voters about the consequences of extreme anti-equality policies; noting the pro-worker, pro-union “Joe from Scranton” frequently promotes his working-class roots.
“That [message] coming out of his mouth, the story of these policies impact everyone, I think would have a really big impact,” the congressman said.
Frost, 26, in 2022 became the first Gen Zer elected to Congress.
He represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District that includes Pulse, a gay nightclub in which a gunman killed 49 people on June 12, 2016.
Frost co-organized the March for Our Lives, which took place in D.C. on March 24, 2018, less than two months after a gunman killed 17 people in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. His gun control advocacy efforts began when he became a volunteer for the Newtown Action Alliance, a group that formed in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
DeSantis ‘a dictator’
Frost during the interview spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act — more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — which he categorized as a “bigoted law made by bigoted people.”
The law aims to regulate classroom discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade. It also prohibits public schools from using confidentiality forms in the case of a student disclosing sensitive information that includes their gender identity and sexual orientation and requires personnel to inform their parents if they were to ask for the information.
“They’re starting to change our education system because they want to try to counteract the inherent progressive and, you know, decent values that young people have,” explained Frost.
While Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis focuses on preparing legislation that otherwise helps “take away” history, Frost notes the governor does not put forth measures that seek to improve his state.
“He’s not focusing on raising wages, ensuring people have a livable planet, ensuring that we end gun violence, the rocketing housing prices,” Frost said. “And these things impact everybody.”
The congressman was weary of the overall repercussions that the “Don’t Say Gay” law would have on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ people across Florida, and he went as far as saying it could result in deaths. Frost further pointed out the number of hate crimes in his state has increased since DeSantis took office.
“This is going to have real impacts to LGBTQ+ students, parents, etc. Just people in the district and across Florida, that can result — that will result and is resulting in — trauma and people being hurt and hate crimes, and we probably will see death from it,” said Frost.
“This [governor] is a dictator,” he concluded.
State lawmakers and other members of Congress have introduced Florida-style ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws.
Republican Louisiana Congresswoman Julia Letlow introduced a Parental Bill of Rights Act in March that looks “to ensure the rights of parents are honored and protected in the nation’s public schools.” Frost maintains, however, that these types of bills only serve to spread bigotry and hate “under the guise of parental rights.”
Frost perceives what he contends is the extremist overhaul of the country’s educational system as a “long-term plan” from Republican politicians. A plan that, in his view, goes back to the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson in a statement to the Blade said Biden “has been outspoken in his support of LGBTQI+ Americans and he’ll continue to speak out against vicious political attacks against them.”
Biden earlier this month during an interview with Kal Penn for “The Daily Show” described efforts to restrict the rights of transgender people in Florida and elsewhere as “close to sinful.”
Four LGBTQ advocacy groups earlier this month filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four families with trans children who are challenging the Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine’s ban on gender affirming healthcare for minors.
Patterson in her statement stressed Biden “is grateful for the leadership of Congressman Frost and other leaders who share his commitment to supporting LGBTQI+ Americans and speaking out against dangerous policies that seek to vilify our fellow Americans.”
Frost survived gun violence in 2016
Frost spoke with the Blade a day after Capitol Police arrested Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, was killed in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.
Officers arrested Manuel Oliver after he and his wife, Patricia Oliver, challenged U.S. Reps. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) during a joint House Oversight and Judiciary Committee hearing on gun control.
The two Republican congressmen asked officers to remove the Olivers from the hearing.
Frost, a vocal gun control supporter who survived a gun violence incident in 2016, told the Blade the hearing was full of “lies.”
“Folks were in town and people came out [because of my recently introduced gun bill]; glad they came to the hearing. And they sat through all of those lies,” Frost said. “And I think when you hear those lies, sometimes you just want to say something.”
The Oliver family spoke out against Fallon’s defense of guns, saying how guns were the very thing that took their son away. Fallon then insisted that they be taken out of the hearing.
Frost later said the “real story” was the fact that there were “two parents who lost their son who was in high school, because he was shot to death and died in a pool of his own blood.”
Frost, who’s vice chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, recently introduced a gun control bill that, according to a press release, “would bring together those most impacted by gun violence with leaders across federal agencies to advance policy, collect and report data, expand state and local outreach, and maximize existing programs and services related to preventing gun violence.”
Frost introduced the bill alongside U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
Frost opposes oil drilling project
The congressman also spoke about Biden’s controversial Willow Project, an oil drilling venture that will take place in Alaska. Climate activists are among those who strongly oppose the plan.
“A lot of times in life, but also a lot in politics, you have to hold multiple truths,” Frost emphasized. “And there’s a lot of truths to hold at the same time. The president approving this project is directly against, I believe his values, but also [the] campaign promises that he had made.”
The Trump administration originally approved the Willow Project in 2020, and up to 600 million barrels of oil are located in the area in which the drilling will take place.
The Biden-Harris White House felt it could not do much since Houston-based ConocoPhillips has the existing and valid leases for the area.
Even so, Frost emphasized that although the current administration is in favor of drastically cutting emissions, it also recognizes the fact that “at least for the next decade or two we’ll need a reliance on oil and fossil fuels as we transition, which is another truth.” He did stress, nonetheless, that he does not “subscribe” to the idea that society needs “more capacity to scale back emissions over the next few decades.”
“And we’re also here to tell the administration that, you know, there’s a lot more that can be done, there’s more projects pending,” Frost said. “We’d love to see them do the right thing on that. So, we’re talking with the administration directly. We’re working with organizations, especially like youth organizations, that are really thinking through the climate crisis.”
Additional reporting from Christopher Kane and Michael K. Lavers
Rep. Frost talks gun control on anniversary of March for Our Lives
“10 years ago I became an Organizer because of Sandyhook. 3 years later, I’d become a survivor myself. That same year, Pulse”
Editor’s note: The full interview with Congressman Frost will be published next week.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), after a week of making headlines for his gun violence prevention advocacy, sat down with the Washington Blade for an exclusive interview on Friday, which marks the five-year anniversary of the founding of March for Our Lives.
The 26-year-old freshman Congressman, who before his election was national organizing director for the student-led gun control group, had just introduced his first piece of legislation Tuesday with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn. that would establish an Office of Gun Violence Prevention within the U.S. Department of Justice.
The proposal’s aim, in part, is to better facilitate the implementation of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act by establishing a singular office to coordinate that work.
And on Thursday, Frost captured and tweeted a video of a confrontation between U.S. Capitol Police and Patricia and Manuel Oliver, gun control advocates who lost their son Joaquin in the 2018 Parkland, Florida high school shooting.
Manuel and Patricia Oliver were just kicked out of this committee hearing on gun violence. Patricia said one thing and the chair escalated the entire situation. Then, Police arrested Manuel Oliver who lost his son in the Parkland shooting.— Maxwell Alejandro Frost (@MaxwellFrostFL) March 23, 2023
His son was shot to death.
Here is @manueloliver00 being arrested for speaking out at a committee hearing. His son, Jaoquin, was shot to death in Parkland, Fl.— Maxwell Alejandro Frost (@MaxwellFrostFL) March 23, 2023
MANNY IS A HERO. He didn’t deserve this. The Republican Chair of this committee just called him a narcissist. Disgraceful. pic.twitter.com/6jccYvesHb
The couple had been removed by police from the House Oversight and House Judiciary Committees’ gun rights hearing at the request of GOP Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Pat Fallon (Texas).
Frost, who was in attendance, told the Blade the conflict started when Patricia Oliver “just stood up and she said, ‘you took my son’ and she sat down,” but “instead of moving on, the Chair [Fallon] escalated things.”
The Congressman said hearing itself was “a sham” convened for the purpose of attacking the Biden administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the entity within the U.S. Justice Department that investigates violations of laws governing the manufacture, possession, and use of guns.
“The real story here,” said the Congressman, “is the fact that there were two parents who lost their son who was in high school, because he was shot to death and died in a pool of his own blood, and now they’re going to spend the rest of their lives fighting for a world where it doesn’t happen to anybody else.”
Frost noted the Olivers were joined at the hearing by other families, activists, and organizers – all of whom were gathered in Washington, D.C. to advance the mission established by the group of teenaged Parkland survivors who founded March for Our Lives five years ago.
Among these student activists were Cameron Kasky, who identifies as queer, and X González, who is bisexual and uses they/them pronouns.
Frost has repeatedly said he ran for Congress because of his involvement in the gun violence prevention advocacy movement, which began with his volunteering on behalf of the Newtown Action Alliance, a group formed in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The Congressman told NPR the 2016 shooting at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando “where 49 angels were murdered right here because they’re queer” marked one of the most significant moments of his life.
That same year and in that same city, Frost himself survived a gun violence incident.
During his congressional campaign, on the heels of last year’s elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Frost tweeted: “10 years ago I became an Organizer because of Sandyhook. 3 years later, I’d become a survivor myself. That same year, Pulse. Now I’m running for Congress and 15 lives were taken at another Elementary school. I will not stop until the endless shootings do.”
SPLC condemns passage of Georgia anti-trans healthcare bill
Southern Poverty Law Center urged Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to veto S.B. 140, calling on him to not “give into pressure from his party”
ATLANTA – The Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund published a statement Tuesday condemning the Republican controlled Georgia legislature’s passage of S.B. 140, a bill that will criminalize gender-affirming health care for minors.
The statement, issued by Beth Littrell, senior supervising attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s LGBTQ and Special Litigation Practice Group, urges Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to veto S.B. 140, calling on him to not “give into pressure from his party” when “the health and wellbeing of young people are at risk” through the denial of “safe, effective medical treatment to transgender youth — based only on prejudice and political pandering.”
Kemp should “leave personal healthcare decisions in the capable hands of parents, children, and their doctors,” Littrell’s statement continues. “We hope the Governor will elevate himself and the State of Georgia above this cynical partisan attack on transgender youth, medical autonomy, and parental rights.”
S.B. 140 specifically prohibits “sex reassignment surgeries, or any other surgical procedures, that are performed for the purpose of altering primary or secondary sexual characteristics” when they are “performed on a minor for the treatment of gender dysphoria.”
“Limited exceptions” are made for the treatment of conditions other than gender dysphoria, if deemed medically necessary by the physician or healthcare practitioner, and for the treatment of patients with “a medically verifiable disorder of sex development.”
The mainstream medical societies with relevant clinical expertise have repeatedly spoken out against legislation that limits access to or criminalizes, as in the case of Georgia’s bill, guideline directed interventions for the treatment of trans and gender nonconforming youth.
On March 16, far-right GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who represents Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, called for the state legislature to make the bill more restrictive.
Specifically, in a tweet she urged the lawmakers to amended S.B. 140 such that treatment of gender dysphoria minor patients with puberty blockers would be criminalized alongside the other interventions covered in the bill and also to remove the covered exceptions.
Wiener introduces legislation to protect LGBTQ+ foster youth
SB 407 ensures LGBTQ foster youth are raised in supportive environments by creating standard documentation for their needs
SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 407, legislation to improve foster care conditions for LGBTQ youth. Nearly one third of foster youth identify as LGBTQ.
SB 407 ensures LGBTQ foster youth are raised in supportive environments by creating standard documentation for their needs, adding more follow-up from the Department of Social Services, and requiring LGBTQ youth’s needs be specifically considered in at-home assessments – including clarifying that conduct that poses risk to the health and safety of LGBTQ youth is a valid reason to deny a family the right to host a foster youth.
“Every child deserves to be one hundred percent supported at home,” said Wiener. “SB 407 ensures that foster youth receive this essential support by specifically requiring LGBTQ acceptance be considered in the resource family approval (RFA) process, creating standard documentation for the assessment of LGBTQ youth needs, and ensuring more frequent follow-up. These youth are at high risk for homelessness, criminal justice involvement, and mental health issues, and we must do everything in our power to ensure they have a safe home in the state of California.”
According to the California Child Welfare Indicators Project, there are 53,371 youth in foster care in California as of October 1, 2022. Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are overrepresented in foster care, with at least three studies estimating about 30 percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ.
The degree of support for their identity an LGBTQ child receives at home is a strong predictor of their mental health outcomes. According to the Trevor Project, teens who perceived parental support regarding gender identity were 93% less likely to attempt suicide than youth who did not perceive parents as supportive.
Data collected since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic show LGBTQ youth are facing a crisis of mental health. Forty-two percent of LGBTQ+ youth—and 52 percent of trans youth—said they seriously considered suicide in 2021. This crisis may be related to the recent surge of anti-LGBTQ hatred in many states in recent years, which most LGBTQ youth are exposed to online. This year alone, more than 420 bills have been introduced in states across the country.
In 2019, California passed AB 175 (Gipson), which expanded the foster youth bill of rights to include rights to be referred to by the youth’s preferred name and pronoun and maintain privacy of the child’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Under existing law, foster youth also have the right to have caregivers and child welfare personnel that have received instruction on cultural competency and best practices for providing care for LGBTQ+ youth in out-of-home care.
However, while the foster youth bill of rights is strong, it has not translated into the RFA process or into considerations made when approving caregivers. LGBTQ foster youth are still being placed in homes with families that discriminate against or are hostile toward them based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
SB 407 will strengthen the resource family approval (RFA) process for LGBTQ foster youth by:
- Requiring explicit consideration of LGBTQ youth in home and environmental assessments;
- Creating standard documentation by the Department of Social Services for these assessments to include LGBTQ youth needs;
- Reviewing county-approved resource families to evaluate if they are meeting the needs of LGBTQ youth and investigating related incidents as needed;
- Ensuring that resource families have the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to support LGBTQ youth; and
- Clarifying existing law that conduct that poses risk to the health and safety of LGBTQ youth is a valid reason for denial of a resource family.
SB 407 is sponsored by Equality California and the California Alliance of Child and Family Services.
“According to the Trevor Project, teens who have parental support regarding their gender identity were 93% less likely to attempt suicide than youth who did not perceive parents as supportive. Supportive and affirming homes for LGBTQ+ foster youth saves lives. The CA Alliance is excited to partner with Senator Wiener on SB 407 to ensure that all LGBTQ+ foster youth have affirming families and feel safe, supported, and cared for.” –Christine Stoner-Mertz, CEO of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services
“LGBTQ+ foster youth experience violence and other stressors unique to the LGBTQ+ community, including homophobia or transphobia,” said Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California. “SB 407 protects LGBTQ+ foster youth from being placed in non-affirming homes by creating standard guidelines and criteria that carefully screens potential families. LGBTQ+ foster youth need a healthy environment that supports and embraces them as they explore their identity.”
Chasten Buttigieg speaks out against Pence’s homophobic remarks
The Transportation Secretary, asked on Monday whether they are owed an apology from Pence, said, “I’ll let others speak to that”
NEW YORK – Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, said former Vice President Mike Pence has not apologized for homophobic and misogynistic remarks about the couple that he made at a dinner in Washington, DC last weekend.
“I spoke up because we all have an obligation to hold people accountable for when they say something wrong, especially when it’s misogynistic, especially when it’s homophobic,” Chasten Buttigieg said during an appearance Thursday on ABC’s The View.
Also on Thursday, the Associated Press reported Pence doubled down on his remarks after a Republican Party dinner in New Hampshire, telling reporters, “The only thing I can figure is Pete Buttigieg not only can’t do his job, but he can’t take a joke.”
Last Saturday, Pence had joked that following the birth of the Buttigieg twins in 2021, the Transportation Secretary took “maternity leave” and then the country suffered “postpartum depression” over issues with airlines and air travel.
The former Vice President delivered the remarks — which were first reported by the Washington Blade — during the annual Gridiron Club dinner, which he headlined along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D).
Per tradition, speakers at the dinner are expected to poke fun at political figures, including guests in attendance, but Pence’s comments quickly drew outrage for their homophobia and misogyny.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the matter in a comment shared with the Blade on Monday, “The former vice president’s homophobic joke about Secretary Buttigieg was offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline.”
The Buttigiegs have been public about the “terrifying” ordeal they suffered following the premature births of their twins. The newborns developed serious Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections (RSV) — which required one to be hospitalized, put on a ventilator, and transferred to a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids for treatment.
“An honest question for you, @Mike_Pence, after your attempted joke this weekend,” Chasten Buttigieg tweeted on Monday, “If your grandchild was born prematurely and placed on a ventilator at two months old – their tiny fingers wrapped around yours as the monitors beep in the background – where would you be?”
The Transportation Secretary, asked on Monday whether they are owed an apology from Pence, said, “I’ll let others speak to that.”
During Thursday’s interview, Chasten Buttigieg called out the hypocrisy of Pence’s putative identity as a “family values Republican,” telling the talk show’s hosts, “I don’t think he’s practicing what he preaches here.”
“But also,” he added, “it’s a bigger conversation about the work that women do in families — taking a swipe at all women and all families and expecting that women would stay home and raise children is a misogynistic view.”
Rachel Maddow: Trump inciting fears of another potential January 6
“He’s trying to make it so that there is a threat of uncontrollable political violence in this country that is triggered”
NEW YORK – Speaking by phone on Saturday morning with MSNBC’s weekend anchor and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, MSNBC journalist and anchor Rachel Maddow reflected on the plea by former President Donald Trump, in a social media post, to ‘protest’ his impending arrest.
In a post on the Trump owned TRUTH social, the former president implied that his indictment and arrest on corruption charges in New York were imminent and that his followers should stage protests to “Take our nation back” employing the same rhetoric he used that eventually led to the Capitol insurrection. He had called for his followers to protest the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election by Congress meeting on January 6, 2021.
NBC News reported Friday that the New York Police Department (NYPD) and New York State Court Officers, along with Homeland Security, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service were quietly preparing for potential demonstrations from Trump’s supporters and counterprotests from those opposed to the former president opponents and the potential of the two groups violently clashing each other.
A spokesperson for Trump told CNN Saturday that the former president has not received a notification from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office regarding any potential indictment, but was “rightfully highlighting his innocence” in his post.
Trump is under criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in connection to a hush money payment his former personal attorney Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election, CNBC reported noting Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, spoke on the heels of the report by NBC News that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are preparing for the possibility that Trump will be indicted as early as next week.
Maddow told Capehart:
“[…] I don’t think we’ve had a clear view of what his legal defense is going to be, but his overall defense is going to be to try to raise the civic cost of indicting him. He is trying to bring intimidation and pressure to bear against the prosecutors who are considering right now whether to indict him. And he’s hoping to create fear that there’ll be another January 6 type event or, you know, his followers are going to show up another FBI office or, you know, something else that he could he could cause to happen by asking his followers to go into the streets in his defense.”
Capehart responded noting: “I’m glad you brought that up. And I love that phrasing, raise the the civic cost of indicting him. And I’m just wondering, the it’s hard not to recall January 6th when you read a post like the one he put out this morning. And I want you to talk further. How concerned are you and should people be concerned that that Trump supporters will see this as a call to action?”
In answer Maddow said: “Well, he’s trying to make it that.
“Getting arrested, getting indicted, even going to jail isn’t the end of the line. It isn’t the end of the world. But Trump is trying to make it that. He’s trying to make it so that there is a threat of uncontrollable political violence in this country that is triggered, that would be triggered by any, any act of the legal system against him. It’s his effort. There’s nothing intrinsic about him getting in trouble as a potentially publicly corrupt, public, corrupt figure that should cause violence. But he’s trying to make sure that it does. And the question is, whether his followers do.”
Capehart then asked: “And, you know, to that point, you anticipated the next question I was going to ask you, given this long history of public officials up and down, up and down the roster being arrested and some of them viewing viewing it as a good thing, using the number of times they’ve been indicted as a punchline in in campaign speeches. Is this good for Trump politically because he is right now a declared candidate for president?”
“Yes. I mean, I think that he’s banking on it being something that helps him. But he is playing with a fire that he doesn’t know how to contain and that nobody knows how to contain,” Maddow said adding: “Right. I mean, I think it is a little unnerving that his first political campaign appearance for his 2024 run is in Waco, Right. We’re at the 30th anniversary of the Waco standoff, Right. You’re talking about trying to trying to engender militant consciousness among Americans about the need to fight the federal government with violence. Well, Waco was a nice place to try to do that from. That’s a nice resonant place to try to do that from.
I mean, him being indicted on, you know, on a charge related to campaign finance tax and business fraud, again, doesn’t have to be the end of the world for him and could potentially be a positive for him. But if he’s asking for a militant racially, racially tinged violent response from his followers, that’s something that won’t be good for him. You know, January 6 is not good for Trump’s political legacy, for all the other things that it is, for all the other things that means for our country. It didn’t make him more electable for coming back as another term as president.
And so he’s he’s trying to start something that I don’t think he can, I don’t think he can take responsibility for how it will finish. And so I just I don’t I just don’t think it’s wise on his part. Just in political strategy, for him to be calling for what he’s calling for.”
LGBTQ groups challenge Fla. healthcare ban for trans youth
The healthcare ban is among anti-LGBTQ laws passed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his conservative allies in the state legislature
Attorneys from a coalition of three LGBTQ groups and a public interest law firm announced on Thursday their plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of Florida parents challenging the state’s ban on healthcare interventions for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors.
Plaintiffs are represented by Southern Legal Counsel, Inc., the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). A spokesperson for NCLR told the Washington Blade they plan to file the complaint “in the next week or so.”
The ban on guideline-directed, medically necessary healthcare for trans youth went into effect Thursday. The rule has been opposed by major medical associations with relevant clinical expertise including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
These organizations’ clinical practice guidelines and recommendations for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minor patients are backed by hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on the safety, efficacy, and medical necessity of these interventions.
“This policy came about through a political process with a predetermined conclusion, and it stands in direct contrast to the overwhelming weight of the evidence and science,” said Simone Chriss, Director of Transgender Rights Initiative, Southern Legal Counsel, in a press release announcing the lawsuit.
“There is an unbelievable degree of hypocrisy when a state that holds itself out as being deeply concerned with protecting ‘parents’ rights’ strips parents of their right to ensure their children receive appropriate medical care,” Chriss said.
“Our daughter is a happy, confident child but denying her access to the medical care recommended by her doctors would completely disrupt her life,” one parent-plaintiff said in the press release. “I’m devastated by what this will mean for her physical and mental health.”
The healthcare ban is among a bevy of anti-LGBTQ laws passed in recent years by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his conservative allies in the state legislature. Other examples include last year’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bars classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity, and the 2021 law that prohibits transgender women and girls from participating in school sports.
The ACLU is tracking 10 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration by Florida lawmakers during this legislative session. Among these is a proposal that would allow the state to take children from their parents for facilitating access to gender affirming healthcare and require courts to “vacate, stay, or modify the child custody determination to the extent necessary to protect the child from the provision of such prescriptions or procedures.”
Republican leader Gallagher introduces ‘outing’ bill in Sacramento
“Legislation ‘outing’ transgender students against their will does not protect them it puts them in potentially life-threatening danger”
SACRAMENTO – Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (Yuba City) alongside Assemblymember Bill Essayli (Riverside) introduced legislation that would require that any teacher, counselor, or employee of a school notifies the parents of any student that identifies at school as a gender that does not align with their assigned birth gender.
The text of Assembly Bill 1314 reads:
Existing law authorizes a minor who is 12 years of age or older to consent to mental health treatment or counseling services, notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, if, in the opinion of the attending professional person, the minor is mature enough to participate intelligently in those services, or to outpatient mental health treatment or counseling services if the foregoing is true and the minor would present a danger of serious physical or mental harm to self or to others without the mental health treatment or counseling or residential shelter services, or is the alleged victim of incest or child abuse. Existing law requires the mental health treatment or counseling of a minor authorized by these provisions to include involvement of the minor’s parent or guardian unless, in the opinion of the professional person who is treating or counseling the minor, the involvement would be inappropriate.
This bill would, notwithstanding the consent provisions described above, provide that a parent or guardian has the right to be notified in writing within 3 days from the date any teacher, counselor, or employee of the school becomes aware that a pupil is identifying at school as a gender that does not align with the child’s sex on their birth certificate, other official records, or sex assigned at birth, using sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, or using facilities that do not align with the child’s sex on their birth certificate, other official records, or sex assigned at birth. The bill would state legislative intent related to these provisions. By imposing additional duties on public school officials, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
Echoing arguments that have risen in state houses across the United States by Republicans, especially in Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas, Gallagher in a response to State Senator Scott Wiener who tweeted his outrage over the bill tweeted: “No Senator this bill simply stops an outrageous policy of transitioning kids at school in secret without their parents knowledge or consent.”
A DeSantis-style bill was just introduced in CA to require teachers/counselors to inform parents if a kid id’s as a gender not on birth certificate.— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) March 13, 2023
Even if the kid isn’t ready to come out to their parents. Even if ratting the kid out risks violence at home.
Nope, not in CA.
In a statement issued by his office, Assemblyman Essayli said, “This legislation seeks to protect parental rights, ensuring that parents know what is going on with their child at school, instead of having the teacher replace the parent in discussing important personal matters.”
Essayli told media outlets that the legislation was specifically designed to assert the freedom of teachers to openly communicate with parents regarding their children’s gender transition decisions, and that it was based on a Jurupa Valley educator’s firing over her predisposition toward full disclosure.
In response to the introduction of the measure, the California Legislative LGBTQ+ Caucus said in a statement released Monday afternoon:
“The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus is united in ensuring that our children are protected and safe. But legislation that aims to ‘out’ transgender and non-binary students against their will does not protect them — it puts them in potentially life-threatening danger, subjecting them to trauma and violence. Additionally, the Trevor Project cites family conflict around youths’ LGBTQ identities as a driving factor contributing to LGBTQ youth homelessness.
“Teachers should not be forced into the inappropriate position of revealing a student’s personal information about their gender identity with anyone. Data indicates that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide, with suicidality highest among transgender youth. Anyone putting forward a bill that would only increase those numbers is not seeking to protect children. Period.”
Equality California also issued a statement:
“We want LGBTQ+ students to feel safe talking to their parents about their gender and sexuality, but AB 1314 ignores the reality that not all trans youth have that option. Trans people are more likely to face family rejection and even abuse at home based on their gender identity, which leads to overrepresentation in foster care, juvenile detention and among unhoused youth. For many trans kids, school is the only place they feel safe to be their true, authentic selves. Forced ‘outing’ bills like AB 1314 seek to strip that sense of safety and dignity away.
“Conversations between children and their parents about gender identity should happen on their terms — at a time and place they feel is appropriate — not because politicians say so. We should be encouraging and supporting parents to have open and honest conversations with their children, not forcing teachers to serve as the school’s ‘gender police’, tracking down students using a different name or pronoun at school and outing them at home.”
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