Connect with us

National

HRC’s head tweets he’s staying- says review of Cuomo report clears him

“I have the support of too many of our employees, board members and stakeholders to walk away quietly into the night,” David said.

Published

on

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, weeks after being ensnared in the damning report on sexual misconduct allegations forcing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tor resign, stayed firm Sunday and refused to resign, saying the independent review on his role in the affair has concluded and found no wrongdoing.

“I have the support of too many of our employees, board members and stakeholders to walk away quietly into the night,” David said. “I am not resigning.”

David posted the statement on Twitter in the afternoon on Sunday in the middle of Labor Day weekend, saying he refuses to resign event though the two board co-chairs members have privately asked him to “consider resigning” because his entanglement in the scandal has become a “distraction.”

The board chairs came to this determination, David said, based on concern from two funders and “a handful of employees” who’ve contacted them by email in recent weeks.

“The idea that this is a distraction is simply not right,” David said. “I have not been distracted, nor have my HRC colleagues who are fighting for human rights. “

David, who has said from the beginning he has committed no wrongdoing and won’r resign as Human Rights Campaign stays firm in his decision not to resign, even though other activists caught up in the scandal — Tina Tchen, president of “Time’s Up,” and Roberta Kaplan, board member of the same organization — made the decision to step down.

The Human Rights Campaign and David had agreed to an independent review on his involvement in the Cuomo that would be conducted by Sidley Austin LLP and last no longer than 30 days. David says although the review is confidential, he wants the findings made public to exonerate him more fully.

“The distraction would be calling for my resignation without providing the results of the review,” David said. “Keeping the review behind lock and key would be an injustice to me, and more importantly to our employees, supports and all members the HRC community.”

Neither Sidley nor the Human Rights Campaign immediately responded to the Blade’s request for comment.

Legal experts had doubted the validity of a review Sidley Austin on the basis it was among the legal firms agreeing in 2019 to help with the Human Rights Campaign entering into litigation to advance LGBTQ rights, an agreement David spearheaded upon taking the helm of the organization.

The findings from New York Attorney Letitia James on Cuomo names David nearly a dozen times. Among other things, the report indicated after his tenure as counselor to Cuomo, he kept the personnel file of an employee accusing the governor of sexual misconduct, then assisted in returning that file to Cuomo staffers seeking to leak it to the media in an attempt to discredit her.

(Editor’s Note: A representative has disputed the characterization of material David kept as a personnel file, saying it was memorandum on an internal employment matter David kept because he, in part, worked on it. David has said he was legally required to return to the material.)

Further, the report finds David allegedly said he would help find individuals to sign their names to a draft op-ed that sought to discredit the survivor but went unpublished, although he wouldn’t sign the document himself. Also, the report indicates David was involved in the discussions about secretly calling and recording a call between a former staffer and another survivor in a separate effort to smear her.

In response, David said he agreed to help with only one version of the letter that was more positive in nature and his part of the discussion about recording a survivor was limited to his role as counselor.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Mississippi

Venezuelan man with AIDS dies while in ICE custody

Pablo Sánchez Gotopo passed away at Miss. hospital on Oct. 1

Published

on

Pablo Sanchez Gotopo, who was living with HIV/AIDS, died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Mississippi on Oct. 1, 2021. (Courtesy photo)

FLOWOOD, Miss. — A Venezuelan man with AIDS died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on Oct. 1.

An ICE press release notes Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, 40, died at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood, Miss., which is a suburb of Jackson, the state capital. The press release notes the “preliminary cause of death was from complications with acute respiratory failure, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), pneumonia, acute kidney failure, anemia and COVID-19.”

ICE said U.S. Border Patrol took Sánchez into custody near Del Rio, Texas, on May 17. He arrived at the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss., four days later.

“Upon arrival to an ICE facility, all detainees are medically screened and administered a COVID-19 test by ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) personnel,” said ICE in its press release. “Sánchez’s test results came back negative.”

The press release notes Sánchez on July 28 received another COVID-19 test after he “began showing symptoms of COVID-19.” ICE said he tested negative, but Adams County Detention Center personnel transferred him to a Natchez hospital “for additional advanced medical care.”

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff in its New Orleans Field Office, according to the press release, “coordinated with hospital staff to arrange family visitation” after Sánchez’s “health condition deteriorated.” Sánchez was transferred to Merit Health River Oaks on Sept. 25.

“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” says the press release.

Venezuela’s political and economic crises have prompted more than 10,000 people with HIV to leave the country, according to the New York-based Aid for AIDS International.

Activists and health care service providers in Venezuela with whom the Los Angeles Blade has spoken in recent years have said people with HIV/AIDS in the country have died because of a lack of antiretroviral drugs. Andrés Cardona, director of Fundación Ancla, a group in the Colombian city of Medellín that works with migrants and other vulnerable groups, told the Blade last month that many Venezuelans with HIV would have died if they hadn’t come to Colombia.

The Blade has not been able to verify a Venezuelan activist’s claim that Sánchez was gay. It is also not known why Sánchez decided to leave Venezuela and travel to the U.S.

ICE detainee with HIV described Miss. detention center as ‘not safe’

Activists and members of Congress continue to demand ICE release people with HIV/AIDS in their custody amid reports they don’t have adequate access to medications and other necessary medical treatment.

Two trans women with HIV—Victoria Arellano from Mexico and Roxsana Hernández from Honduras—died in ICE custody in 2007 and 2018 respectively. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman with HIV who fled El Salvador, died in 2019, three days after ICE released her from a privately-run detention center.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center. The detainee said there was no social distancing at the privately-run facility and personnel were not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“It’s not safe,” they told the Blade.

The entrance to the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, a Natchez resident who supports ICE detainees and their families, on Wednesday told the Blade that she was able to visit the Adams County Detention Center and other ICE facilities in the Miss Lou Region of Mississippi and Louisiana from November 2019 until the suspension of in-person visitation in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Medical neglect and refusal of medical care has always been an issue in the detention center at Adams County,” said Grant-Gibson. “After the facilities were closed to public visitation, those problems increased.”

Grant-Gibson told the Blade she “worked with a number of families and received phone calls from a number of detainees, and I was told again and again that detainees were being refused the opportunity to visit the infirmary.”

“When they did visit the infirmary, they were given virtually no treatment for the issues they were presenting with,” said Grant-Gibson.

ICE in its press release that announced Sánchez’s death said fatalities among its detainees, “statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.” ICE also noted it spends more than $315 million a year “on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.”

“ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) ensures the provision of necessary medical care services as required by ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards and based on the medical needs of the detainee,” notes the ICE press release. “Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay. All ICE detainees receive medical, dental, and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care.”

An ICE spokesperson on Wednesday pointed the Blade to its Performance-Based Detention Standards from 2011, which includes policies for the treatment of detainees with HIV/AIDS.

A detainee “may request HIV testing at any time during detention” and ICE detention centers “shall develop a written plan to ensure the highest degree of confidentiality regarding HIV status and medical condition.” The policy also states that “staff training must emphasize the need for confidentiality, and procedures must be in place to limit access to health records to only authorized individuals and only when necessary.”

“The accurate diagnosis and medical management of HIV infection among detainees shall be promoted,” reads the policy. “An HIV diagnosis may be made only by a licensed health care provider, based on a medical history, current clinical evaluation of signs and symptoms and laboratory studies.”

Continue Reading

North Carolina

North Carolina’s capital city passes non-discrimination LGBTQ ordinance

Statewide polling shows that 67% of people in North Carolina support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination

Published

on

Raleigh, North Carolina (Photo Credit: City of Raleigh)

RALEIGH – The Raleigh City Council unanimously voted to join a new LGBTQ-inclusive Wake County, North Carolina, non-discrimination ordinance Tuesday, the day after the ordinance was unanimously voted and adopted by the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

This makes Raleigh the fifteenth jurisdiction in North Carolina to advance a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance in 2021.

The ordinance will apply only to the unincorporated areas of the county outside of city or town limits when it goes into effect on Feb. 1, 2022, unless a Wake County municipality’s governing body such as the Raleigh City Council independently adopts it.

All five of North Carolina’s top 5 cities have now passed LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances – including Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham, and Winston-Salem.

“We’re so pleased to see Raleigh take this historic step to expand nondiscrimination. Nearly 30 percent of the state’s population is now covered by LGBTQ inclusive ordinances, and this represents a great change for the city of Raleigh and the state of North Carolina. Raleigh has taken a big step forward to protect LGBTQ people, especially for folks with multiple layers of marginalization, and this only grows momentum for the non-discrimination on the local, state, and federal level,” Kendra R. Johnson, Executive Director of Equality NC, said in a statement.

“No one should be discriminated against because of who they are,” said Matt Calabria, Chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “Through this ordinance, we’re showing our residents and the world that equality, fairness, and inclusion are core values in our community.”

“I’m proud to see the Raleigh City Council come together to take action and ensure our city is a place where all people feel protected, respected, and safe. As an LGBTQ person myself, it’s so meaningful to know that my city is striving for inclusivity and dignity for everyone, and as an out elected official I’m grateful to work with colleagues committed to doing the right thing,” Jonathan Melton, of the Raleigh City Council, said.

The ordinance allows a person who believes a business or organization has discriminated against them to file a complaint with the County Manager’s Office for investigation. If the complaint falls within the county’s jurisdiction and is factually validated, the county will offer a conciliation process to help resolve the dispute.

Protected classes covered under the ordinance include: race, natural hair or hairstyles, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, pregnancy, marital or familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ancestry, National Guard or veteran status, religious belief or non-belief, age or disability.

“This is an important step to strengthen our business community,” said Adrienne Cole, president and CEO of the Raleigh Chamber. “We embrace all efforts and initiatives around diversity, equity, and inclusivity, as does our business community. The Chamber is proud to support this work, and we will continue our support through our Triangle Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Alliance.”

“Wake County is also proud to note that Equality NC has endorsed this ordinance. It furthers the board’s goal to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion,” a spokesperson said Wednesday.

The nondiscrimination ordinance that protects residents and visitors from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, natural hairstyle, and other characteristics in employment and public accommodations.

Polling shows that 67% of people in North Carolina support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. Studies have shown that 1 in 3 LGBTQ people – including 3 in 5 transgender people – have experienced discrimination in the past year.

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

U.S. Justice Dept. seeks Supreme Court review on Texas abortion ban

“Women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution”

Published

on

U.S. Supreme Court (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Justice Department lawyers filed an emergency appeal Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined a lower court ruling that blocked enforcement of the Texas anti-abortion law.

The Justice Department is seeking the high court’s review in order to block the law while legal litigation continues over the controversial law that bans abortion after six weeks, a point at which many women are unaware they are pregnant.

The Biden administration wants to block the law’s enforcement while a lower Federal court in Austin, Texas, addresses the underlying constitutional questions raised in the challenge to the law.

Last week in a late night filing the Justice Department petitioned the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse its ruling that allows the controversial Texas abortion ban law known as SB8 temporarily reinstated.

In its brief Justice Department attorneys argued that if the law is upheld, states could violate any right provided they left enforcement up to private citizens and not the state itself. “If Texas’s scheme is permissible, no constitutional right is safe from state-sanctioned sabotage of this kind,” the Justice Department stated then added, “A stay would prolong [the law’s] substantial harm to the United States’ sovereign interests and would disserve the public interest.”

In a late Friday evening ruling two weeks ago, a three Judge panel of the U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily overturned an injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman that had blocked Senate Bill 8, the Texas abortion ban, from being enforced.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit released a one-paragraph order last Thursday allowing the law to remain in effect after the appeal by the Justice Department.

In its appeal the lawyers for the Justice Department argued that the law “is plainly unconstitutional under this court’s precedents […] And Texas’s insistence that no party can bring a suit challenging S.B. 8 amounts to an assertion that the federal courts are powerless to halt the state’s ongoing nullification of federal law. That proposition is as breathtaking as it is dangerous.”

Because the case was filed on the high court’s emergency docket, the justices are likely to move swiftly legal experts say – possibly within a matter of days – to take it up. 

Writing in his 113 page order, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman, who blocked enforcement of S.B. 8 labeled the law an “offensive deprivation of such an important right” referring to women’s reproductive rights then added;

“A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established,” Pitman wrote. “Fully aware that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, (Texas) contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme to do just that.”

Pitman also took aim at the provisions in the law that allows any private individual to sue abortion providers or those who aid and abet procedures that violate the law. Successful litigants can collect $10,000 under the law’s provisions.

“The State created a private cause of action by which individuals with no personal interest in, or connection to, a person seeking an abortion would be incentivized to use the state’s judicial system, judges, and court officials to interfere with the right to an abortion,” he wrote.

Pitman then called out the Republican lawmakers who drafted the measure: “There can be no doubt that S.B. 8 was a deliberate attempt by lawmakers, notably its author, State Senator Bryan Hughes, to “find another way” around resistance to enforcement of laws criminalizing abortion.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular