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Kick Big Tobacco OUT of California Political Campaigns launches

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LOS ANGELES — The OUT Against Big Tobacco coalition supported by Equality California Institute launched a pledge last week urging California legislators and candidates to voluntarily refuse campaign contributions from the tobacco industry.

A total of sixteen legislators and candidates have taken the pledge thus far, with more expected to sign on as the 2022 campaign season gets underway.

The pledge was launched in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, a national day in recognition of tobacco users who are looking to quit tobacco for good. LGBTQ+ people are more than TWICE as likely to smoke as our non-LGBTQ+ peers, and nearly 30,000 LGBTQ+ people across the country die every year of tobacco-related causes.

Initial signers of OUT Against Big Tobacco’s pledge not to take tobacco industry campaign contributions include:

  • Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach)
  • Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine)
  • Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)
  • Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) 
  • Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas)
  • Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach)
  • Annie Cho, candidate for Assembly District 38
  • Supervisor Matt Haney, candidate for Assembly District 17
  • Daniel Hertzberg, candidate for Senate District 18
  • Mayor Christy Holstege, candidate for Assembly District 42
  • Bilal Mahmood, candidate for Assembly District 17
  • Mayor Lily Mei, candidate for Senate District 10
  • Caroline Menjivar, candidate for Senate District 18 
  • Andrea Rosenthal, candidate for Assembly District 36
  • Rick Chavez Zbur, candidate for Assembly District 50

“For decades, Big Tobacco has used their profits to place themselves as friends of our community. This year we are kicking them OUT; out of our Pride, out of our organizations, and out of our politics,” said Equality California Program Manager, Dr. Shannon Kozlovich. “We are calling all 2022 California State legislative candidates to stand with us and pledge to run tobacco free campaigns.

“The tobacco industry is killing our children, killing people of color, killing people that have underlying health conditions. We have to take a stand by not accepting tobacco contributions!” said Senator Lena Gonzalez.

In California’s 2020 Senate and Assembly election cycle, tobacco companies spent $6 million on campaign contributions, while spending millions more lobbying against legislation to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products — products disproportionately targeted towards LGBTQ+ people, people of color and our young people. 

“The tobacco industry serves no purpose other than to make people sick. Tobacco money is not essential for people to win” states Senator Scott Wiener. 

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California Politics

Newsom highlights blueprint investments in infrastructure & transportation

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 50% of emissions

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Governor Newsom speaks at Santa Clara Depot which serves Caltrain, the Altamont Corridor Express, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and Amtrak (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SANTA CLARA – Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday touted his California Blueprint’s major investments in transportation and infrastructure while visiting the Santa Clara Depot rail station, highlighting the plan’s $9.1 billion in funding for climate-friendly clean transit projects that will create thousands of jobs.

The Blueprint also includes $2.3 billion to support ports and goods movement throughout the state and an additional $6.1 billion to accelerate the state’s transition to zero-emission vehicles – creating a total package of $10 billion that will invest in affordable cars, clean trucks and buses. The Santa Clara Depot serves several transit agencies, including Caltrain, which is scheduled to complete electrification of its system in 2024. 

“These bold investments will deliver safer, faster and greener transportation options connecting communities across the state while creating thousands of jobs and tackling our largest source of harmful pollution and emissions,” said Governor Newsom. “With California on the frontlines of the intensifying climate crisis, the state is committed to building a clean transportation future that protects the health of our communities, environment and economy.”

Transportation is the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 50% of emissions when considering the production and deployment of fuels. California’s commitment to decarbonizing the transportation sector also advances the state’s affordability goals, increasing access to opportunity and amenities through a network of affordable, clean transportation options and pushing zero-emission vehicle innovation to continue driving down costs for everyone.  

The California Blueprint includes a proposed $9.1 billion package to advance clean transit initiatives that support the state’s climate and public health goals, promote equity and bolster the green economy, including $4.9 billion for transit and rail projects to improve connectivity, climate adaptation, bicycle and pedestrian safety and more locally driven initiatives. In addition, the Blueprint proposes a $4.2 billion investment in California’s High-Speed Rail project, which will eventually share the electrified Caltrain corridor, as well as funding for projects that encourage active modes of transportation and improve equity and safety, including converting underutilized highways into corridors that better serve residents. The Blueprint positions California to take advantage of additional federal infrastructure investments.

The California Blueprint also furthers the Administration’s ongoing work to support ports and build supply chain resilience, outlining a $2.3 billion package that includes $1.2 billion for port-related infrastructure projects that increase goods movement capacity and additional funding for zero-emission port equipment, drayage trucks and infrastructure. The Governor in October issued an executive order directing state agencies to help identify additional ways to alleviate congestion at California ports and announced a state-federal partnership to help kick-start infrastructure projects designed to improve goods movement. In addition, the Governor has launched a multi-agency Supply Chain Task Force working to find opportunities to lease state and privately-owned land for container storage space, Caltrans has issued temporary truck weight exemptions on State Highways to keep goods moving efficiently and the Department of Motor Vehicles has worked to nearly double its capacity to conduct commercial driving tests.

The Blueprint also builds on the California Comeback Plan’s $3.9 billion zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) package with an additional $6.1 billion in proposed investment to accelerate the transition. The additional funding will add thousands of affordable clean cars, zero-emission trucks and transit buses, support school transportation programs and electrify our school bus fleet, expand equitable access to ZEV charging infrastructure and fund equity-focused clean transportation community projects.

Governor Newsom in 2020 made a commitment to require that sales of all new passenger vehicles be zero-emission by 2035 and aggressively decarbonize heavy-duty vehicles such as trains, trucks and buses. The state has targeted emissions from the heavy-duty sector with bold action to reduce pollution in disproportionately impacted communities.

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California Politics

Intersex civil rights legislation killed after fails to advance

These irreversible genital reconstruction surgeries usually performed when intersex children are infants have lifelong consequences

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California capitol building (Blade file photo)

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced Tuesday that he will not be moving forward with Senate Bill 225: the Intersex Bodily Autonomy, Dignity and Choice Act. This civil rights legislation would ban medically unnecessary, irreversible genital surgeries on intersex infants and other young children.

Wiener has pursued this civil rights legislation that would provide children and their families with a chance to make informed decisions about major, life-altering genital reconstruction surgeries for three consecutive years.

He has been unable to pass the bill out of its first policy committee, the Senate Business & Professions Committee, due to lack of sufficient votes in the committee. SB 225 was co-sponsored by Equality California, interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the ACLU of California. 

“SB 225 was a basic civil rights law, standing for the important principle that people should be able to make decisions about their own lives, as opposed to having other people make those decisions for them. These irreversible genital reconstruction surgeries – usually performed when a child with variations in their genitalia are infants – have lifelong consequences. These consequences can include chronic pain, scarring, loss of sexual sensation, and more,” the Senator said in a media statement.

“SB 225 is vitally important civil rights legislation for intersex people and the larger LGBTQ community, and I’m disappointed and saddened that it does not appear to have a viable path forward at this time. For three years, we’ve worked to advance the legislation, and it’s become apparent that we continue to lack the votes to pass a meaningful bill — one that actually protects intersex people — through committee, he added.

“Pausing medically unnecessary genital surgeries until a child is old enough to participate in the decision isn’t a radical idea. Rather, it’s about basic human dignity.  In countries like Germany, Colombia, and Malta, these infant surgeries are banned. The United Nations and three former U.S. Surgeons General have called for these surgeries on babies to be banned. I’m fully committed to protecting the rights of everyone with variations in their genitialia, including intersex people. I’m not giving up, and I stand in solidarity with the intersex community in its fight for bodily autonomy, dignity and, choice,” Wiener said.

The California Medical Association, the politically influential professional organization representing nearly 50,000 physicians in the state of California, was opposed to the legislation and actively lobbied against it.

“We’re proud to stand with Senator Wiener and the intersex community in this important fight to safeguard the human rights of all Californians and are immensely grateful for his leadership on SB 225,” said Equality California Legislative Director Tami Martin. “We’re disappointed that there is not enough support to pass this bill out of committee this year, but our fight will continue until the work is done.”

One to two percent of people are born with variations in their genitalia and sex anatomy, some of whom identify as intersex. Parents of children with these variations are often offered medically unnecessary surgical interventions – such as major surgeries to cut a clitoris, create a vagina for penetrative sex, remove hormone-making organs, or move a working urinary opening – which are typically performed on children under two years old and often without a complete discussion of the various risks.

These surgeries may result in extreme scarring, chronic pain, chronic incontinence, loss of sexual sensation, post-traumatic stress disorder, incorrect gender assignment, and the need for additional surgeries to treat complications from the original surgery. SB 225 would allow parents to make a decision, in consultation with their child and medical professionals, once a person is old enough to participate in decision-making about whether or not a surgery to change sex anatomy is right for them. 

“While this particular bill did not become law, we are deeply grateful to our allies and proud of getting one step closer to protecting intersex bodily autonomy in California,” Alesdair Ittelson, Director of Law & Policy and Interim Executive Director of interACT said. “interACT will continue to demand self-determination instead of pathologization for intersex people and we are not deterred by the paternalistic approach of a rapidly shrinking number of individuals who stand in the way of protecting intersex human rights. Intersex people will prevail in their fight for control over their own bodies and we applaud all of those who supported SB 225.”

Becca Cramer-Mowder, Legislative Coordinator and Advocate with ACLU California Action, noted: “We are disappointed that California is not yet ready to lead on this important civil rights issue, and we will continue to work with intersex individuals and advocates to move the state forward towards recognizing the bodily autonomy of intersex Californians.” 

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California Politics

Anti-LGBTQ+ Devin Nunes officially resigns from Congress

He is slated to take over as chief executive officer for former president Donald Trump’s Trump Media & Technology group

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Former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) being questioned by Capitol Hill reporters during Trump impeachment hearings (Blade file screenshot)

WASHINGTON – In a letter Saturday to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-SF), Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who represents California’s 22nd Congressional District, officially resigned his seat in Congress.

“It has been the honor of my life to represent the people of California’s San Joaquin Valley for the last 19 years,” Nunes wrote. He is slated to take over as chief executive officer for former president Donald Trump’s Trump Media & Technology group, which is expected to launch expected to launch Truth Social later this month, a conservative right-wing alternative to Twitter and Facebook.

One of the former president’s ardent loyalists, Nunes has repeatedly been at the center of controversy during his entire career on the Hill. In addition to his support of Trump, he has been openly antagonistic towards the LGBTQ community.

In 2010, Nunes voted against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the law that prohibited gays from serving openly in the U.S. military. He also consistently received a “0” rating on LGBT issues from the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, which has a rating scale of 0 to 100.

He opposed legal recognition of same-sex marriage, and he also refused to back any LGBTQ+ legislation.

Over the years he has also been involved in a series of high-profile lawsuits, including a 2019 $435 million defamation lawsuit in which he claimed CNN libeled him by reporting he was digging up dirt on Joe Biden and Ukraine.

U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan dismissed the suit against CNN on a technical ground: She found California law applied to the case and Nunes had failed to request a retraction as required under the laws of the Golden State. Nunes’ lawyer had argued that the laws of Virginia or Washington, D.C., should apply, but the judge said it made the most sense to apply the laws of Nunes’ home state to the dispute, Politico reported.

In 2019, Nunes also sued Twitter over two parody accounts that he claimed harassed him, @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow. That lawsuit brought on merciless ribbing from late night show hosts and other comedians. The Late Show host Stephen Colbert mocked the Republican congressman explaining how Nunes’ lawyers arrived at the $250 million amount for the lawsuit: “You take the value of Devin Nunes’ reputation and you add $250 million dollars.”

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