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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.

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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.

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U.S. State Department

Former State Department spokesperson named UN ambassador’s deputy

Ned Price is gay

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Former State Department spokesperson Ned Price, center, speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Institute's International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Dec. 3, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield has announced former State Department spokesperson Ned Price will manage her D.C. office.

Thomas-Greenfield in a statement to Politico on Feb. 16 said Price’s “judgment and expertise will be a tremendous asset to me and the entire USUN team.” Price, who is gay, in a post to his personal X account acknowledged his appointment.

“I am grateful to (U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield), (Secretary of State Antony Blinken) and my colleagues across the administration for the opportunity to help promote America’s interests and values in the U.N. and broader multilateral system together with our allies and partners,” wrote Price.

Price on Jan. 20, 2021, became the first openly gay State Department spokesperson. He stepped down in March 2023 in order to become a senior advisor to Blinken.

Price was previously a senior communications official for the National Security Council and worked at the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Oklahoma

Oklahoma non-binary high schooler dies after physical altercation

The school district has been previously targeted by the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs of TikTok’s creator Chaya Raichik

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16-year-old non-binary Nex (Dagny) Benedict died from injuries suffered in a physical altercation at Owasso High School on February 7th, 2024. (Family Photo)

OWASSO, Okla. – Located in Tulsa County on U.S. Highway 169 six miles north of Tulsa’s city limits, this city of 39,328 persons is grappling with conflict and accusations after Nex (Dagny) Benedict, a 16-year-old Owasso High School non-binary sophomore, died after a physical fight in a restroom at the school.

However, according to school officials there was no notification or staff awareness of the fight until the young student had been taken to hospital and later died. The Owasso Police Department is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the student’s death.

According to the local newspaper, the Owasso Reporter:

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, around 3:30 p.m., police were called to Bailey Medical Center by the parent of a 16-year-old Owasso High School student who allegedly had a physical altercation at the campus earlier that day, according to the police report.

It states that no initial report of the fight was made to police prior to their admission to Bailey, although information was taken by a school resource officer at the hospital.

On Thursday evening, police were made aware that the student was rushed back to the hospital where they were pronounced dead from a medical episode, the report states.

Editor’s note. The following report is from KJRH-TV News 2 which does use pronouns other than those used by non-binary persons. Those have been placed in brackets for clarity.

KJRH-TV News 2 in neighboring Tulsa reported that a person knowledgeable of the events leading to the teen’s death, who claimed to be the mother of the victim’s best friend, told the station regarding the teen’s death:

“I think complications from brain trauma, head trauma, is what caused it,” she said.

The woman wouldn’t say the victim’s name but said [she] was a sophomore. She said the victim was outgoing and loyal once they got comfortable and was not afraid to be outspoken. The woman said three older girls were beating on the victim and her daughter in the girl’s bathroom.

“I know at one point, one of the girls was pretty much repeatedly beating [their] head across the floor,” she said. That’s when [they said] a teacher walked in and broke it up.

“[They] couldn’t walk to the nurses’ station on [their] own, and staff didn’t call the ambulance, which amazes me,” she said.

The woman told 2 News the victim’s grandmother, who [they] primarily lived with, brought [them] to the hospital after the fight. She said the victim was released that evening but was brought back the next day and died.

KJRH-TV News 2 reached out multiple times along with other media outlets to Owasso Public Schools. A School district spokesperson responded saying there would be no comment “because this is an active police investigation.”

The Owasso Police Department also declined to comment except for noting investigators still don’t know if the fight was related to the teen’s death or if a separate medical issue was the cause. OPD said they’re waiting on the corner-medical examiner’s report before releasing more information.

Owasso Public Schools released this statement about the student’s death:

“The Owasso Police Department has notified district leaders of the death of an Owasso High School student. The student’s name and cause of death have not yet been made public. As this is an active police investigation, we will have no additional comment at this time. Further inquiries should be directed to the Owasso Police Department.”

“The district will have additional counselors at the school to provide support to students and staff beginning on Friday.”

On Feb. 15, after a service was held at Mowery Funeral Service Chapel, Benedict was buried at Ridgelawn Cemetery in Collinsville.

LGBTQ+ advocates and others are angered by the death, the misgendering in local media and the fact that the school district, which has been previously targeted by the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs of TikTok’s creator Chaya Raichik, seems unable to grapple with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying.

Raichik was named to sit on an Oklahoma committee reviewing school library content by far-right leaning State Superintendent of schools Ryan Walters.

In 2022, Raichik targeted a now former Owasso 8th grade teacher for speaking out in support of LGBTQ+ students who lacked acceptance from their parents. That teacher, Tyler Wrynn, was labeled a ‘groomer’ and a predator in social media posts.

According to LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, Raichik’s endless targeting only seems to encourage more violence against LGBTQ+ youth.

Lance Preston, the CEO of the Indianapolis-based Rainbow Youth Project, which has been working to assist queer youth in the state, posted a video expressing his frustration and anger over this death and the other anti-LGBTQ+ violence.

 

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District of Columbia

After queer safe space pled for help, community rallied to rescue

“AYA gives us a place to feel community, it is so rare to find a queer space where I can have fun and feel safe”

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As You Are bar in March 2022 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Less than a week after the D.C. LGBTQ café and bar As You Are located in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill issued a GoFundMe appeal on Feb. 5 seeking emergency financial support to prevent it from closing, the popular business reached its goal of $150,000 to get out of debt.

And as of Sunday night, the fundraising appeal had pulled in $171,471 from more than 3,000 individual donations, according to As You Are’s GoFundMe site.

In comments posted on the GoFundMe site, many of the donors said they were motivated to contribute to As You Are because they view it as a special, safe space that offers a welcoming, accepting place for them and their LGBTQ friends or family members.

In their GoFundMe message, As You Are co-owners Jo McDaniel and Rachel “Coach” Pike describe how they view their business as offering community center type programming beyond just a bar and café.

“AYA is a café, bar and dance floor that hosts diverse programming nearly every night of the week, including social sport leagues, Queer youth socials, weekly karaoke, book clubs, open mics, Queer author events, dance parties and much more,” the two said in their message.

“We have faced some particularly tall and costly hurdles that have set us back significantly since the beginning,” the two said in their GoFundMe message. “As we are tapping every resource we can imagine with creativity and open minds we need urgent assistance,” they said. 

“Rach and Jo are truly loved, and AYA is so important to so many people and everyone knew that,” said gay D.C. civic activist Mike Silverstein, who is one of the GoFundMe donors. “The response was absolutely amazing,” Silverstein said. “From every part of our community. People put everything aside, worked together and focused on saving a space that means so much.”

As You Are opened for business in March 2022. McDaniel and Pike have said the financial problems were caused, in part, by a delay in their planned opening due to complications associated with getting their required occupancy permit from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The two said negotiations with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which demanded certain soundproofing structures be installed for the interior walls of their building, also added to the delay and increased costs.

Like other bars and restaurants across the city, McDaniel and Pike said their rent became a financial burden during a slow period for business last summer. They told the Washington Blade their landlord declined a request to renegotiate the lease to make an allowance based on sales. The two told the Washington Post that their rent is $27,000 per month, which they had to begin paying before they were able to open for business, and they spent $40,000 on soundproofing the walls, all of which contributed to a debt of about $150,000.

McDaniel and Pike, who spoke to the Blade at the time they launched their GoFundMe appeal, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the success of their fundraising and their future plans for As You Are. They told the Post now that they are no longer in debt, they plan to take up several offers of financial advice and they’re looking into possibly buying a property rather than renting. They said they also plan to apply for D.C. government business grants now that they have caught up on back tax payments.

Among those who posted comments on the As You Are GoFundMe site after making a contribution was Megan Mowery, who wrote, “AYA gives us a place to feel community, it is so rare to find a queer space where I can have fun and feel safe.” Mowrey added, “The programming AYA puts on absolutely has something for everyone. I love you AYA!!!”

Helena Chaves, another donor, stated in a GoFundMe post, “As You Are has been a monumental addition to the LGBTQIA+ community in Washington, D.C. They hold so many events and fundraisers, provide beautiful accommodations for us disabled folk, and have protocols in place to diminish harassment in the space.” 

Among the larger donors shown on the As You Are GoFundMe site is the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride festival and parade, which donated $2,500. 

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New York

Exorcism of “any remaining evil spirits” after trans funeral urged

Gentili is the first out trans person & outspoken sex worker to have their funeral services at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick’s

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Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan celebrating a Mass inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in Mid-town Manhattan. (Photo Credit: Archdiocese of New York)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Outraged reaction is building from some Catholics over the funeral services for Cecilia Gentili, a history-making trans activist, which were held at New York City’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday.

It is believed that Gentili is the first out transgender person and outspoken sex worker to have their funeral services at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick’s, which has historically not been a friendly institution to the LGBTQ+ community.

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported the pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City said the church has offered a Mass of Reparation after a controversial irreverent funeral service was held. Over 1400 mourners came to memorialize and honor Gentili at St. Patrick’s in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. It is the seat of the Archbishop of New York as well as a parish church.

CNA went on to misgender Gentili reporting that [Gentili] was a major fundraiser for transgender causes and was a man who identified as a woman.

CNA also noted that the queer organizers reportedly did not disclose to St. Patrick’s that Gentili, who died Feb. 6 at age 52, was a [biological man] who identified as a woman.

“I kept it under wraps,” Ceyeye Doroshow, the Gentili’s funeral services organizer, told The New York Times, CNA pointed out.

Throughout the liturgy, the presider, Father Edward Dougherty, referred to Gentili with feminine pronouns and described the trans-identifying man as “our sister,” CNA reported adding; Additionally, during the prayers of the faithful, the reader prayed for so-called gender-affirming health care, while attendees frequently and approvingly referred to Gentili as the “mother of whores.”

This past Saturday, Rev. Enrique Salvo, the Pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, issued a statement:

“Thanks to so many who have let us know they share our outrage over the scandalous behavior at a funeral here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral earlier this week. The Cathedral only knew that family and friends were requesting a funeral Mass for a Catholic, and had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way. That such a scandal occurred at “America’s Parish Church” makes it worse; that it took place as Lent was beginning, the annual forty–day struggle with the forces of sin and darkness, is a potent reminder of how much we need the prayer, reparation, repentance, grace, and mercy to which this holy season invites us. 

“At the Cardinal’s directive, we have offered an appropriate Mass of Reparation.”

New York journalist Joe Jervis reported the far-right Catholic site LifeSiteNews has launched a petition calling on Cardinal Timothy Dolan to hold an exorcism of “any remaining evil spirits” still hanging around St. Patrick’s since the funeral.

Online, the CatholicVote community of religious extremists posted to X (formerly Twitter):

Vehemently extremist anti-LGBTQ+ Catholic League head Bill Donohue raged:

“Gentili is a man who falsely claimed to be a woman. He was an illegal alien, a drug addict, prostitute, trans activist and atheist.

At the service, many of those in attendance dressed as hookers, danced in the aisles, sang “Ave Cecilia” when “Ave Maria” was sung, and shouted, “St. Cecilia, Mother Of All Whores.”

The presiding priest, Fr. Edward Dougherty, falsely declared Gentili to be a woman, referring to him as “our sister.” Fr. James Martin, an LGBT advocate, was delighted with the event, saying the trans activists are “as much a part of the church as anyone else.”

“Many are wondering how this profane service could have happened. It happened because it was held under false pretenses,” Donohue angrily posted.

Her funeral service was both somber and celebratory of Gentili’s lasting impact on the LGBTQ+ community in New York City and across the country, with mourners chanting “Cecilia” in her honor.

Related

Gentili was a legendary organizer, author, advocate, performer, and community icon. As the founder of Transgender Equity consulting and a beloved mother to countless queer, trans, and immigrant individuals in New York City, her legacy endures on both systemic and personal levels.

The vibrant ceremony included a performance from actor Billy Porter and speeches from chosen family, including trans activists Ceyenne Doroshow, Liaam Winslet, and Gentili’s partner, Peter Scotto. Notably, celebrities in attendance included, Sara Ramirez, Indya Moore, Peppermint, Raquel Willis, Ryan McGinley, and more.

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New York

Libs of TikTok angered over Kleenex® & Disney Pride sponsorship

Why do companies need to find every possible avenue to force this agenda? Because Satan wants evil to be normalized, & this agenda is evil

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(Screenshot/YouTube Kleenex® Thailand)

BROOKLYN, N.Y – Perpetually outraged Libs of TikTok’s far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremist creator Chaya Raichik expressed anger over a partnership between Kleenex® Brand and the Disney corporation for their Thailand Pride sponsorship.

Thailand Pride had occurred seven months previously in June of 2023, although apparently Raichik was just now made aware of that fact.

Both the Walt Disney Company and Kleenex® Brand’s parent company Kimberly-Clark foster a safe and welcoming environment for their LGBTQ+ employees as noted by the annual Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI).

Also leading the charge, the Independent Journal Review, a right-wing American news and opinion website based in Alexandria, Virginia which reported:

Disney seems to constantly believe it needs to be involved with the LGBTQ crowd, this time partnering up with Kleenex® to feature rainbow versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse on tissue containers. The new collection was launched in a [Thai] commercial that featured footage from ‘pride’ parades where both men and women can be seen dressed scantily in public.

The IJR then noted:

Why is this the case? Why do these companies need to find every possible avenue they can to force this agenda on consumers — even if it hurts their business as it did with Bud Light Because Satan wants evil to be normalized, and this agenda is evil.

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Congress

House members raise objections to anti-LGBTQ+ guest chaplain

Hibbs has previously argued that homosexuality & the acceptance of LGBTQ people is evidence that “humanity is living in the ‘last days'”

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Anti-LGBTQ+ Christian nationalist minister Jack Hibbs (left) with anti-LGBTQ+ propagandist extremist Charlie Kirk. (Screenshot/YouTube Charlie Kirk podcast)

WASHINGTON – A group of 26 House Democrats sent a letter on Thursday to Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Rev. Dr. Margaret Grun Kibben, the House chaplain, raising objections to Johnson’s sponsorship of anti-LGBTQ pastor Jack Gibbs as the lower chamber’s guest chaplain.

“Hibbs is a radical Christian Nationalist who helped fuel the January 6th insurrection and has a long record of spewing hateful vitriol toward non-Christians, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter asks Johnson and Kibben for an explanation of “the process by which Pastor Hibbs was recommended, vetted, and approved,” along with answers to other questions raised by the members.

A nationally syndicated TV and radio host, Hibbs is the senior and founding pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, California, a city located in the western end of San Bernadino County. On its website, the church claims that more than 10,000 adult congregants attend its Sunday service each week.

Among the letter’s signatories were the out chair and three vice chairs of the Congressional Equality Caucus, U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (Wis.), Robert Garcia (Calif.), Mark Takano (Calif.), and Becca Balint (Vt.).

The members argued portions of the opening prayer delivered by Hibbs on the House floor on Jan. 30, 2024 that concerned “holy fear” and a call for “repentance” for “national sins” were references to his anti-LGBTQ theology that also maligns Jews, Muslims, and those who do not share his Christian nationalist worldview.

The letter chronicles evidence of Hibbs’ extreme statements and positions, among them:

  • Last year, Hibbs launched a campaign that would require schools to forcibly out transgender students, and a month later published a video on his YouTube channel in which he called transgender people a “sexually perverted cult” in “violation of the word and will of God” who are enacting Satan’s “anti-God, anti-Christian plan.”
  • Hibbs characterized same-sex marriage as the crucifixion of God’s word, during remarks to his congregation following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recognition of the nationwide constitutional right to marriage equality in 2015.
  • During public remarks in 2021 and 2022, Hibbs argued that homosexuality and the acceptance of LGBTQ people is evidence that “humanity is living in the ‘last days.'” He has supported conversion therapy and rallied opposition to a California law targeting anti-LGBTQ bullying in schools.
  • Preaching that God was backing the Trump administration, Hibbs attended the rally on the Ellipse that preceded the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 and subsequently defended the rioters during a radio interview.

The lawmakers also cited procedural objections to Johnson’s selection of Hibbs as a guest chaplain, writing: “Hibbs is not from the district of Speaker Johnson (i.e. the sponsoring member), Speaker Johnson did not deliver a welcoming speech, the prayer was not delivered on the last legislative day of the week, and Hibbs was Speaker Johnson’s second sponsored Guest Chaplain in the span of just a couple months, even though Members are limited to one request per Congress.”

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Kansas

Trans kids treatment again up for discussion at Kansas Statehouse

Gender-affirming care for youths is supported by health care organizations including American Medical Association

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Kansas lawmakers have introduced several bills restricting gender-affirming care for Kansas minors. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

By Rachel Mipro | TOPEKA, Kan. – The state’s LGBTQ+ community was rocked in 2023 when lawmakers pushed through a wide-ranging anti-trans law that has led to a ban on gender marker changes on drivers’ licenses. Now Republican lawmakers and the state’s top law enforcement officer are reviving their campaign against transgender youth.

Kansas made news last year when it became the 20th state to pass a transgender student athlete ban into law in April, after lawmakers overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto. The GOP-dominated Legislature also adopted Senate Bill 180 last year through veto override.

That legislation, which continues to be the subject of litigation, has led to a temporary restraining order blocking Kelly’s administration from making gender marker changes on identity cards and driver’s licenses.
Lawmakers are now returning to legislation that failed last session, such as gender-affirming care restrictions.

Rep. Ron Bryce, a Coffeyville Republican, requested the introduction of House Bill 2791, which would ban any organization that receives state funds from recommending gender-affirming care for transgender Kansans under the age of 18. The state’s medical assistance program would be blocked from providing coverage for gender-affirming care for these minors, among other provisions.

Gender-affirming care for youths is supported by health care organizations including American Medical Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which say banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors is damaging and not rooted in science.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, requested the introduction of House Bill 2792, which would ban gender reassignment for those under the age of 18. The bill does not have a scheduled hearing yet.

Bryce also introduced House Bill 2793, which was heard Thursday in a House health committee. The bill prohibits health care services for minors without parental consent. In Kansas, parental consent requirements already exist for medical and behavioral health care, but there are exceptions for emergency or crisis situations, such as physical abuse, emergency mental health crises or sexual abuse.

“I feel it’s important for us to make sure that we don’t go down the path of debasing parental rights when it comes to directing the care of our children,” Bryce said. “This bill provides assurance that consent of a parent or guardian is required for treatment of children in the vast majority of situations.”

Several medical health professionals spoke against the bill, calling it overbroad. Some said the bill could block anything from helping stop a child’s nosebleed to preventing teens struggling with drug addiction or coping with pregnancy from seeking care.

“Adolescents facing sensitive issues like substance use, sexually transmitted disease, or reproductive health may avoid seeking care if parental consent is required,” said Dena Hubbard, on behalf of the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Fear of judgment or repercussions may act as formidable barriers, resulting in avoidance or delay in seeking necessary medical attention.”

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach has also promoted this take on parental rights, telling public school districts that they have to out transgender students to their parents despite no legal obligation to do so.

Kobach sent letters to six Kansas school districts in December, telling them not to “socially transition” students without parents’ knowledge. He issued a public statement on the matter in early February, after four districts refused to rewrite policies on the matter.

“A child changing his or her gender identity has major long-term medical and psychological ramifications,” Kobach said. “Parents should know, and have an opportunity to be involved in, such an important aspect of their well-being.”

Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, condemned the move as unlawful and cruel.

“Quite aside from its brazen disregard for the law or the Constitution, the type of forced outing Attorney General Kobach seeks to impose on school districts and students is cruel, dangerous, and a repudiation of our shared values,” Kubic said. “Kansas students should all be able to live freely and in peace as their authentic selves without the intrusion of a state Attorney General inventing reasons to refashion the law into an instrument of his own extremist views.”

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A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.

The preceding story was previously published by the Kansas Reflector and is republished with permission.

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The Kansas Reflector is a nonprofit news operation providing in-depth reporting, diverse opinions and daily coverage of state government and politics. This public service is free to readers and other news outlets. We are part of States Newsroom: the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization, with reporting from every capital.

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Maryland

Baltimore County police arrest suspect in rape of trans female

Baltimore County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is seeking information from anyone who may have been in contact with this subject

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Jalen Green, 22, has been charged with first-degree rape, first-degree assault, armed robbery, and firearm-related charges in addition to other offenses. (Booking photo via Baltimore County Police, Maryland)

PARKVILLE, Md. — Baltimore County Police announced Thursday they had arrested and charged a 22-year-old man with first-degree rape, first-degree assault, armed robbery, and firearm-related charges in addition to other offenses.

According to a statement released by police, Jalen Green was arrested in connection with a sexual assault that occurred in the 3000 block of Putty Hill Ave. in Parkville on Sunday, February 11, 2024, at approximately 3:30 p.m. 

Investigators say Green targeted a member of the transgender community utilizing a dating app.

WBAL 11 Baltimore reported:

According to the charging documents, the victim told officers that Green contacted her for sex in exchange for money. The victim told officers that Green pointed the gun at her and demanded money, the documents state.

Not having any cash, the victim said Green used her phone to send himself $100 in the Cash App and then stole two prescription bottles from the victim. According to police, Green then sexually assaulted the victim at gunpoint and recorded video on his cellphone.

The charging documents state that investigators recovered evidence from the scene, including DNA. A search warrant was being sought to recover potential evidence on Green’s cellphone, the documents state.

Investigators seek to hear from anyone who may have been in contact with Green.

The Baltimore County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is seeking information from anyone who may have been in contact with this subject. Detectives can be contacted at 410.887.2223.

If you are a survivor of a sexual assault, you can contact the Sexual Assault Hotline for crisis counseling by calling 410-828-6390. The Special Victims Unit also works with TurnAround who can be contacted by calling 410-377-8111.

Green is being held without bond at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

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West Virginia

West Va. House bill: librarians criminally liable for ‘obscene books’

The bill sponsor says he is protecting children from being groomed by child sex predators, although no evidence was presented

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Megan Tarbett, chairperson of the West Virginia Library Association speaking to the House Judiciary Committee this past week. (Photo Credit: State of West Virginia/Legislative Photo office.)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —  The West Virginia House of Delegates this past week passed House Bill 4654,  on an 85-12 vote, a measure that would remove criminal liability protections and legal shielding for schools, public libraries, and museums relating to distribution and display of books or other materials to a minor deemed obscene.

The bill has been sent to the state Senate for its consideration.

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel’s West Virginia state government and capital reporter Steven Allen Adams reported:

Del. Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, is the lead sponsor of the bill. Steele said his intention was to lift criminal liability protections in libraries so that the criminal laws about displaying obscene material to minors without their parent’s supervision would apply universally;

“What this bill does is remove an exemption from an existing crime,” Steele said. “What no one seems to want to talk about in here is that this is a crime everywhere except the public library or a school or a museum.” Steele believes he is protecting children from being groomed by child sex predators, though no evidence was presented that libraries are known grounds for pedophiles.

“What I hope the chilling effect of this legislation is is to remove the sanctuary for pedophilia that exists in our code,” Steele said. “I’m taking a vote to protect children from being groomed and targeted by pedophiles … and putting everyone in the same playing field. If it is a crime in the parking lot, it’s a crime in the building. Period.”

According to State Code 61-8A-2, any adult who knowingly and intentionally displays obscene matter to a minor could be charged with a felony, fined up to $25,000 and face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Over the past two years far-right extremist groups like Florida-based Moms for Liberty, have charged that LGBTQ+ books should be removed from schools and also placed in ‘Adults only’ material sections of public libraries, many arguing that LGBTQ+ subject material is inappropriate exposing minors to being “groomed” or are outright obscene.

These far right activists have successfully banned books in multiple jurisdictions and have also gotten legislation passed that effectively removes LGBTQ+ books from schools and public libraries.

Delegate Steele’s bill moves beyond book bans by actually criminalizing the presence of any book deemed “obscene.”

Megan Tarbett, chair of the West Virginia Library Association, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that all library systems in the state are different, but most have processes for the public to challenge books they find concerning.

Review processes sometimes involve library staff or the library boards, which can decide to either keep the book, move it to a more appropriate section, or remove the book, the Parkersburg News and Sentinel reported.

Tarbett also told lawmakers that many libraries have unattended child policies that limit where children can go on their own without supervision. And some libraries have age limits for when minors can apply for their own library cards.

Tarbett testified that there were approximately 5.2 million books borrowed from 171 libraries in West Virginia in 2023, with 1.2 million books in children’s literature. Most of those children’s books were checked out using a parent’s library card. However, Tarbett could only recall approximately 50 times when specific books were challenged.

Books are under profound attack in the United States, says PEN America, a left-of-center organization dedicated to promoting its conception of free speech and journalism. The organization notes in a statement:

“They are disappearing from library shelves, being challenged in droves, being decreed off limits by school boards, legislators, and prison authorities. And everywhere, it is the books that have long fought for a place on the shelf that are being targeted. Books by authors of color, by LGBTQ+ authors, by women. Books about racism, sexuality, gender, history.”

PEN America tracks all book bans in libraries and classrooms across the U.S. in its Index of School Book Bans, updated for the 2022-2023 school year.

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Texas teacher suspended after anti-LGBTQ+ Libs of TikTok attack

Student & parents defended the teacher. More than 1,500 people have signed an online petition to bring the him off of administrative leave

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LEWISVILLE, Texas – Students and some parents of the Hebron High School community are angry and defending a teacher who was suspended after anti-LGBTQ+ Libs of TikTok’s extremist creator Chaya Raichik, posted a video of him wearing a pink dress with matching boots and hat surrounded by students in the high school’s corridors.

Raichik wrote on her X (formerly Twitter) account: “UNREAL. This is an actual teacher in @LewisvilleISD named Rachmad Tjachyadi. I’m told he also sometimes shows up to teach dressed in full drag and has a fetish for wearing women’s clothing. How is this acceptable?!”

The Dallas Morning News reported that the Lewisville Independent School District received complaints after Libs of TikTok, which has more than 2.8 million followers and is known for spreading anti-LGBTQ sentiment, posted the video on Valentine’s Day.

Student and parents defended the faculty member, Rachmad Tjachyadi. More than 1,500 people have signed an online petition to bring the teacher off of administrative leave, adding that he was dressed up for spirit day, the Dallas paper also reported.

“He does not deserve to be defamed and lose his job,” the petition reads. “He has been an inspiration to many students, and has created a space where everyone can feel valued and safe.”

“It would be natural for our families to have questions about this situation, but because this is a personnel matter currently under review, there is no additional information the district can share,” principal Amy Boughton wrote in an email distributed to staff, students, and others in the Hebron High School community.

Tjachyadi has not responded to requests for comment.

“It is our standard procedure to place a staff member on leave when we review concerns shared with the campus,” Lewisville ISD spokesperson Amanda Brim told The Dallas Morning News.

The Los Angeles Blade, along with media partner Media Matters for America- a left-leaning 501 nonprofit organization and media watchdog group, has published over thirty articles covering Raichik and her attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.

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Recently, Raichik bitterly portrayed an in-depth investigative article by NBC News technology reporter David Ingram, detailing bomb threats and violent threats inspired by Raichik’s social media posts, as a “goal is to silence me by having me investigated and thrown in prison.”

In November of 2023, in a lengthy exposé, Media Matters researchers documented 25 institutions, events, and individuals who reported threats after being targeted by Libs of TikTok, and 8 who reported harassment — a total of at least 33 instances of threats or harassment, which was then independently reported on by NBC News.

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