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President Biden oks change to filibuster for voting rights

Biden and the Vice-President Kamala Harris address the urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote

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President Biden and Vice President Harris deliver voting rights speech in Atlanta via NBC News YouTube

ATLANTA – President Biden, after paying tribute to civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by leaving a wreath on his grave, brought the strength of his presidency to bear in a speech Tuesday in an effort to reform U.S. Senate rules to enact voting rights legislation.

“I’m making it clear, to protect our democracy, I support changing Senate rules whichever way they need to changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking basic voting rights,” Biden said.

Biden has indicated before he supports changes to longstanding rules the Senate requiring 60 votes to end a filibuster and proceed with debate on legislation, but the speech marks an elevation of viewpoint in a more formal way and increases the pressure on fellow Democrats like Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), who oppose such a change.

Based on his words, Biden’s position on filibuster reform appears limited to voting rights legislation, which like so much other legislation has passed in the House and has stalled out in the Senate. The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the White House seeking comment on why, if Biden supports changing the filibuster for voting rights, why hasn’t he made the case for other issues, such as police reform or LGBTQ civil rights.

A major reason cited by Biden to bring the force of his presidency down on this issue: The attack on U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 instigated by President Trump, who falsely claimed he won the 2020 election against Biden.

Biden conjured images of the long road in the civil rights journey in the United States and a “violet riot” at the Capitol that Biden said undermined the process.

The recently enacted voter law in Georgia, which makes mail-in voting illegal, limits hours and locations for ballot drop boxes and bars the delivery of food and water to persons waiting in line to vote, was another major focus for Biden, who pointed out Republican lawmakers in Georgia put it in place after he won the state in 2020 and Trump pressured officials there to find more votes for him.

As a result, Biden said the “threat to democracy is so grave” he supports changes to the filibuster, which came about in use in the Senate from senators seeking to block civili rights legislation.

“If that bare minimum is blocked, we have no choice but change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this,” Biden said.

Biden identified two bills in his speech: the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which seeks to rectify a U.S. Supreme Court decision undermining the Voting Rights Act and the Freedom of the Vote Act, which would dramatically reform voting process, including the expansion of voting by mail and early voting.

Joining Biden in Atlanta in favor of changing rules to advance voting rights was Vice President Kamala Harris, who said “nowhere — nowhere — does the Constitution give a minority the right to unilaterally block legislation.”

“Over the past few years, we have seen so many anti-voter laws, that there is a danger of becoming accustomed to these laws, a danger of adjusting to these laws as though they are normal, a danger of becoming complacent, complicit,” Harris said. “Anti-voter laws are not new in our nation, but we must not be deceived into thinking they are normal.”

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President Biden and Vice President Harris deliver voting rights speech in Atlanta: 

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Full text of the president’s remarks:

In our lives and the lives of our nation — the life of our nation, there are moments so stark that they divide all that came before from everything that followed.  They stop time.  They rip away the trivial from the essential.  And they force us to confront hard truths about ourselves, about our institutions, and about our democracy.

In the words of Scripture, they remind us to “hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate.”

Last week, [Vice] President Harris and I stood in the United States Capitol to observe one of those “before and after” moments in American history: January 6th insurrection on the citadel of our democracy.

Today, we come to Atlanta — the cradle of civil rights — to make clear what must come after that dreadful day when a dagger was literally held at the throat of American democracy.

We stand on the grounds that connect Clark Atlanta — Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and near Spelman College — the home of generations of advocates, activists, educators and preachers; young people, just like the students here, who have done so much to build a better America. 

We visited the sacred Ebenezer Baptist Church and paused to prayed at the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King, and spent time with their family.  And here in the district — as was pointed out — represented and reflected the life of beloved friend, John Lewis.

In their lifetimes, time stopped when a bomb blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and murdered four little girls.

They [Time] stopped when John and many others seeking justice were beaten and bloodied while crossing the bridge at Selma named after the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

They stopped — time stopped, and they forced the country to confront the hard truths and to act — to act to keep the promise of America alive: the promise that holds that we’re all created equal but, more importantly, deserve to be treated equally.  And from those moments of darkness and despair came light and hope.

Democrats, Republicans, and independents worked to pass the historic Civil Rights Act and the voting rights legislation.  And each successive generation continued that ongoing work.

But then the violent mob of January 6th, 2021, empowered and encouraged by a defeated former president, sought to win through violence what he had lost at the ballot box, to impose the will of the mob, to overturn a free and fair election, and, for the first time — the first time in American history, they — to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

They failed.  They failed.  (Applause.)  But democracy’s — but democracy’s visi- — victory was not certain, nor is democracy’s future.

That’s why we’re here today to stand against the forces in America that value power over principle, forces that attempted a coup — a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people — by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud, and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people.

They want chaos to reign.  We want the people to rule. 

But let me be clear: This is not about me or Vice President Harris or our party; it’s about all of us.  It’s about the people.  It’s about America.

Hear me plainly: The battle for the soul of America is not over.  We must stand strong and stand together to make sure January 6th marks not the end of democracy but the beginning of a renaissance of our democracy. 

You know, for the right to vote and to have that vote counted is democracy’s threshold liberty.  Without it, nothing is possible, but with it, anything is possible.

But while the denial of fair and free elections is un-democratic, it is not unprecedented.

Black Americans were denied full citizenship and voting rights until 1965.  Women were denied the right to vote until just 100 years ago.  The United States Supreme Court, in recent years, has weakened the Voting Rights Act.  And now the defeated former president and his supporters use the Big Lie about the 2020 election to fuel torrent and torment and anti-voting laws — new laws designed to suppress your vote, to subvert our elections.

Here in Georgia, for years, you’ve done the hard work of democracy: registering voters, educating voters, getting voters to the polls.  You’ve built a broad coalition of voters: Black, white, Latino, Asian American, urban, suburban, rural, working class, and middle class. 

And it’s worked: You’ve changed the state by bringing more people, legally, to the polls.  That’s how you won the historic elections of Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff. 

You did it — you did it the right way, the democratic way.

And what’s been the reaction of Republicans in Georgia?  Choose the wrong way, the undemocratic way.  To them, too many people voting in a democracy is a problem.  So they’re putting up obstacles.

For example, voting by mail is a safe and convenient way to get more people to vote, so they’re making it harder for you to vote by mail. 

The same way, I might add, in the 2020 Election, President Trump voted from behind the desk in the White House — in Florida. 

Dropping your ballots off to secure drop boxes — it’s safe, it’s convenient, and you get more people to vote.  So they’re limiting the number of drop boxes and the hours you can use them. 

Taking away the options has a predictable effect: longer lines at the polls, lines that can last for hours.  You’ve seen it with your own eyes.  People get tired and they get hungry.

When the Bible teaches us to feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty, the new Georgia law actually makes it illegal — think of this — I mean, it’s 2020, and now ’22, going into that election — it makes it illegal to bring your neighbors, your fellow voters food or water while they wait in line to vote.  What in the hell — heck are we talking about?

I mean, think about it.  (Applause.)  That’s not America.  That’s what it looks like when they suppress the right to vote. 

And here’s how they plan to subvert the election: The Georgia Republican Party, the state legislature has now given itself the power to make it easier for partisan actors — their cronies — to remove local election officials. 

Think about that.  What happened in the last election?  The former president and allies pursued, threatened, and intimidated state and local election officials.

Election workers — ordinary citizens — were subject to death threats, menacing phone calls, people stalking them in their homes.

Remember what the defeated former president said to the highest-ranking election official — a Republican — in this state?  He said, quote, “I just want to find 11,780 votes.” 

Pray God. He didn’t say that part. 

He didn’t say, “Count the votes.”  He said, “find votes” that he needed to win.

He failed because of the courageous officials — Democrats, Republicans — who did their duty and upheld the law. 

But with this new law in Georgia, his loyal- — his loyalists will be placed in charge of state elections. What is that going to mean?  Well, the chances for chaos and subversion are even greater as partisans seek the result they want — no matter what the voters have said, no matter what the count.  The votes of nearly 5 million Georgians will be up for grabs if that law holds.

It’s not just here in Georgia.  Last year alone, 19 states not proposed but enacted 34 laws attacking voting rights.  There were nearly 400 additional bills Republican members of state legislatures tried to pass.  And now, Republican legislators in several states have already announced plans to escalate the onslaught this year.

Their endgame?  To turn the will of the voters into a mere suggestion — something states can respect or ignore.

Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion.  It’s no longer about who gets to vote; it’s about making it harder to vote.  It’s about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.

It’s not hyperbole; this is a fact. 

Look, this matters to all of us.  The goal of the former president and his allies is to disenfranchise anyone who votes against them.  Simple as that.  The facts won’t matter; your vote won’t matter.  They’ll just decide what they want and then do it.

That’s the kind of power you see in totalitarian states, not in democracies. 

We must be vigilant.

And the world is watching.  I know the majority of the world leaders — the good and the bad ones, adversaries and allies alike.  They’re watching American democracy and seeing whether we can meet this moment.  And that’s not hyperbole.

When I showed up at the G7 with seven other world leaders — there were a total of nine present — Vice President Harris and I have spent our careers doing this work — I said, “America is back.”  And the response was, “For how long?”  “For how long?” 

As someone who’s worked in foreign policy my whole life, I never thought I would ever hear our allies say something like that.

Over the past year, we’ve directed federal agencies to promote access to voting, led by the Vice President.  We’ve appointed top civil rights advocates to help the U.S. Department of Justice, which has doubled its voting rights enforcement staff.

And today, we call on Congress to get done what history will judge: Pass the Freedom to Vote Act.  Pass it now — which would prevent voter suppression so that here in Georgia there’s full access to voting by mail, there are enough drop boxes during enough hours so that you can bring food and water as well to people waiting in line. 

The Freedom to Vote Act takes on election subversion to protect nonpartisan electors [election] officials, who are doing their job, from intimidation and interference.

It would get dark money out of politics, create fairer district maps and ending partisan gerrymandering. 

Look, it’s also time to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

I’ve been having these quiet conversations with the members of Congress for the last two months.  I’m tired of being quiet! 

Folks, it’ll restore the strength of the Voting Rights Act of ’65 — the one President Johnson signed after John Lewis was beaten, nearly killed on Bloody Sunday, only to have the Supreme Court weaken it multiple times over the past decade.

Restoring the Voting Rights Act would mean the Justice Department can stop discriminatory laws before they go into effect — before they go into effect.  
The Vice President and I have supported voting rights bills since day one of this administration.  But each and every time, Senate Republicans have blocked the way.  Republicans oppose even debating the issue.  You hear me?

I’ve been around the Senate a long time.  I was Vice President for eight years.  I’ve never seen a circumstance where not one single Republican has a voice that’s ready to speak for justice now.

When I was a senator, including when I headed up the Judiciary Committee, I helped reauthorize the Voting [Rights] Act three times.  We held hearings.  We debated.  We voted.  I was able to extend the Voting Rights Act for 25 years.

In 2006, the Voting Rights Act passed 390 to 33 in
the House of Representatives and 98 to 0 in the Senate with votes from 16 current sitting Republicans in this United States Senate.  Sixteen of them voted to extend it.

The last year I was chairman, as some of my friends sitting down here will tell you, Strom Thurmond voted to extend the Voting Rights Act.  Strom Thurmond.

But, folks, then it was signed into law, the last time, by President George W. Bush.

You know, when we got voting rights extended in the 1980s, as I’ve said, even Thurmond supported it.  Think about that.  The man who led the longest filibu- — one of the longest filibusters in history in the United States Senate in 1957 against the Voting Rights Act [Civil Rights Act].  The man who led and sided with the old Southern Bulls in the United States Senate to perpetuate segregation in this nation.  Even Strom Thurmond came to support voting rights.

But Republicans today can’t and won’t.  Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect America’s right to vote.  Not one.  Not one.

We have 50-50 in the United States Senate.  That means we have 51 presidents.  (Laughter.)  You all think I’m kidding. 

I’ve been pretty good at working with senators my whole career.  But, man, when you got 51 presidents, it gets harder.  Any one can change the outcome.

Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self.  It gives me no satisfaction in saying that, as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate.

But as an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to
our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote. 

Let the majority prevail.  And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.

You know, last year, if I’m not mistaken, the filibuster was used 154 times.  The filibuster has been used to generate compromise in the past and promote some bipartisanship.  But it’s also been used to obstruct — including and especially obstruct civil rights and voting rights.

And when it was used, senators traditionally used to have to stand and speak at their desks for however long it took, and sometimes it took hours.  And when they sat down, if no one immediately stood up, anyone could call for a vote or the debate ended.

But that doesn’t happen today.  Senators no longer even have to speak one word.  The filibuster is not used by Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart.

The filibuster has been weaponized and abused.

While the state legislatures’ assault on voting rights is simple — all you need in your House and Senate is a pure majority — in the United States Senate, it takes a supermajority: 60 votes, even to get a vote — instead of 50 — to protect the right to vote.

State legislatures can pass anti-voting laws with simple majorities.  If they can do that, then the United States Senate should be able to protect voting rights by a simple majority. 

Today I’m making it clear: To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed — (applause) — to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights. 

When it comes to protecting majority rule in America, the majority should rule in the United States Senate.  

I make this announcement with careful deliberation, recognizing the fundamental right to vote is the right from which all other rights flow.

And I make it with an appeal to my Republican colleagues, to those Republicans who believe in the rule of law: Restore the bipartisan tradition of voting rights. 

The people who restored it, who abided by it in the past were Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush.  They all supported the Voting Rights Act.

Don’t let the Republican Party morph into something else.  Restore the institution of the Senate the way it was designed to be.

Senate rules were just changed to raise the debt ceiling so we wouldn’t renege on our debt for the first time in our history and prevent an economic crisis.  That was done by a simple majority.

As Senator Warnock said a few weeks ago in a powerful speech: If we change the rules to protect the full faith and credit of the United States, we should be able to change the rules to protect the heart and soul of our democracy.  He was right.

In the days that followed John Lewis’s death, there was an outpouring of praise and support across the political spectrum.

But as we stand here today, it isn’t enough just to praise his memory.  We must translate eulogy into action.  We need to follow John Lewis’s footsteps.  We need to support the bill in his name.

Just a few days ago, we talked about — up in the Congress and in the White House — the event coming up shortly to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday.  And Americans of all stripes will praise him for the content of his character.

But as Dr. King’s family said before, it’s not enough to praise their father.  They even said: On this holiday, don’t celebrate his birthday unless you’re willing to support what he lived for and what he died for.  The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation’s history.

We will choose — the issue is: Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadows, justice over injustice? 

I know where I stand.  I will not yield.  I will not flinch.  I will defend the right to vote, our democracy against all enemies — foreign and, yes, domestic. 

And the question is: Where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?  Every senator — Democrat, Republican, and independent — will have to declare where they stand, not just for the moment, but for the ages.

Will you stand against voter suppression?  Yes or no?  That’s the question they’ll answer.  Will you stand against election subversion?  Yes or no?  Will you stand for democracy?  Yes or no?

And here’s one thing every senator and every American should remember: History has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters’ rights.  And it will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion.

So, I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered? 

At consequential moments in history, they present a choice: Do you want to be the si- — on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?  Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?  Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?

This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy. 

And if you do that, you will not be alone.  That’s because the struggle to protect voting rights has never been borne by one group alone.

We saw Freedom Riders of every race.  Leaders of every faith marching arm in arm.  And, yes, Democrats and Republicans in Congress of the United States and in the presidency.

I did not live the struggle of Douglass, Tubman, King, Lewis, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, and countless others — known and unknown.

I did not walk in the shoes of generations of students who walked these grounds.  But I walked other grounds.  Because I’m so damn old, I was there as well. 

You think I’m kidding, man. It seems like yesterday the first time I got arrested.  Anyway —

But their struggles here — they were the ones that opened my eyes as a high school student in the late — in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  They got me more engaged in the work of my life.

And what we’re talking about today is rooted in the very idea of America — the idea that Annell Ponder, who graduated from Clark Atlanta, captured in a single word.  She was a teacher and librarian who was also an unyielding champion of voting rights.

In 1963 — when I was just starting college at university — after registering voters in Mississippi, she was pulled off a bus, arrested, and jailed, where she was brutally beaten.

In her cell, next to her, was Fannie Lou Hamer, who described the beating this way, and I quote: “I could hear the sounds of [the] licks and [the] horrible screams…They beat her, I don’t know [for] how long.  And after a while, she began to pray, and asked God to have mercy on those people.”

Annell Ponder’s friends visited her the next day.  Her face was badly swollen.  She could hardly talk.

But she managed to whi- — whisper one word: “Freedom.”  “Freedom” — the only word she whispered.

After nearly 250 years since our founding, that singular idea still echoes.  But it’s up to all of us to make sure it never fades, especially the students here — your generation that just started voting — as there are those who are trying to take away that vi- — vote you just started to be able to exercise. 

But the giants we honor today were your age when they made clear who we must be as a nation.  Not a joke.  Think about it.  In the early ’60s, they were sitting where you’re sitting.  They were you.  And like them, you give me much hope for the future.

Before and after in our lives — and in the life of the nation — democracy is who we are, who we must be — now and forever.  So, let’s stand in this breach together.  Let’s love good, establish justice in the gate. 

And remember, as I said, there is one — this is one of those defining moments in American history: Each of those who vote will be remembered by class after class, in the ’50s and ’60s — the 2050s and ’60s.  Each one of the members of the Senate is going to be judged by history on where they stood before the vote and where they stood after the vote. 

There’s no escape.  So, let’s get back to work. 

As my fath- — my grandfather Finnegan used to say every time I walked out the door in Scranton, he’d say, “Joey, keep the faith.”  Then he’d say, “No, Joey, spread it.” 

Let’s spread the faith and get this done. 

May God bless you all.  And may God protect the sacred right to vote. Thank you.  I mean it.  Let’s go get this done.  Thank you. 

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California Politics

LGBTQ leaders launch SoCal Freedom to Marry Prop 8 Repeal

California voters will vote to take the defunct ban on same-sex marriage out of the state constitution in November

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Speakers at Thursday's press conference included: Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California; Eddie Martinez, Executive Director of Latino Equity Alliance & Huntington Park Council Member; Mario Trujillo, Mayor of Downey; Terra Russell-Slavin, Esq., Chief Impact Officer of Los Angeles LGBT Center; Mark Gonzalez, LACDP Chair Em. and Bamby Salcedo, President & Chief Executive Officer of TransLatin@ Coalition. (Photo Credit: Click Strategies)

By Rob Salerno | LOS ANGELES – Leaders of a coalition of LGBTQ advocacy groups hosted a rally at the Mi Centro LGBT Community Centre in Los Angeles Thursday to launch the Southern California referendum campaign to repeal the discriminatory definition of marriage in the state constitution in November.

“California is a beacon of equality. Our state should always protect fundamental civil rights for all people and fight discrimination wherever it exists,” Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California, told the launch rally. “The bottom line is that your freedom to marry is on the ballot in November. Let’s show the rest of the country that Californians stand up for freedom and equality.”

California voters narrowly affirmed Proposition 8, which added a ban on same-sex marriage to the state constitution, in 2008. The ban was eventually struck down under the due process clause of the US Constitution in decisions between 2010 and 2013, but the unenforceable ban remains in the state constitution.

But many observers are nervous that the extremely right-wing Supreme Court could reverse previous rulings that supported same-sex marriage, which could enable the ban to snap back into effect. These fears became acute when the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision reversed decades of precedent by ending the right to abortion. 

In a separate concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas openly suggested that the ruling implied that the Supreme Court should overturn previous decisions legalizing same-sex marriage and intercourse.

“We know that there is a well-funded, well-organized group of extremist people who want to chip away the gains we have gotten over the last few years,” Bamby Salcedo, President & Chief Executive Officer of TransLatin@ Coalition told the rally. “This freedom to marry initiative isn’t just for gay or lesbian people. It’s for all of us.”

Terra Russell-Slavin, Chief Impact Officer of Los Angeles LGBT Center, recalled how her organization campaigned the last time marriage equality was put to voters.

“We’re having many of the same conversations today we had in 2008, but this time, with Californians who are on the right side of history. With the majority of Angelenos and Californias who understand that we share a special bond as caretakers of our community. That’s what makes us family, and that’s what will make us win in November,” Russell-Slavin said. 

Speakers at the rally acknowledged that equality activists have had to do more outreach to minority communities in the years since Proposition 8 passed. 

Eddie Martinez, a Huntington Park city councilor and executive director of the Latino Equity Alliance, reflected on how queer Latinos reached out to parents, neighbors, and community leaders to build common cause after exit polling revealed that Latinos mostly supported the marriage ban.

“Latine LGBT activists and organizations knew it was time to be united and to educate our community about marriage equality,” he said. “We went to communities that voted up to 60% [for Prop 8] to have one-on-one conversations on marriage equality and other issues of importance to the Latine community, such as immigration and workers’ rights. Our fight was intersectional.” 

State legislators unanimously agreed to put a repeal question before voters last summer. 

Last week, the state Democratic Party announced it is supporting passage of the Freedom to Marry ballot measure.

California isn’t the only state considering a freedom to marry ballot question in November. Voters in Hawaii and Colorado will also be deciding on propositions to repeal their constitution’s marriage bans. 

“This is going to set the precedence for others to understand the importance of including these initiatives in their state constitutions,” Salcedo says. “We invite you to talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, around your dinner table, to bring this issue to light because this is important to all of our communities.”

LGBTQ leaders launch SoCal Freedom to Marry campaign for Prop 8 Repeal

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Political commentary & analysis

Urgent concerns arise when congressional staff face ethics investigations

Ultimately, how can we hold elected representatives to a higher standard such that they model good behavior for their employees

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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has a long established public record of vitriol and hate speech directed at LGBTQ+ people.(File photo Washington Blade/Michael Key)


WASHINGTON -Congressional staff tend to avoid engaging in conduct that could reflect poorly on the members they represent or that which would otherwise bring them out from behind the scenes and into the spotlight.

Last week, however, was the second time in which I broke a story about a chief of staff on Capitol Hill who found himself the subject of a complaint to the U.S. House Ethics Committee, the body whose primary responsibility is investigating reports of unethical and unlawful conduct by America’s elected representatives.

In the first, Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a report against Democratic Rep. Jake Auchincloss’s top aide because he had placed stickers over a transphobic sign that the far-right Georgia congresswoman had displayed outside her office. 

The second complaint came from an official with the Biden-Harris administration over an especially combative and anti-trans email that was sent by the highest-ranking deputy in a West Virginia Republican’s Congressional office.

The two cases are not otherwise analogous. As the emissaries of lawmakers who are responsible to their constituents, staff should be held accountable for out-of-bounds behavior like sending offensive emails to harass colleagues on Capitol Hill or in the federal government. 

By contrast, decorating a poster in the Longworth House Office Building without permission is hardly a crime that should be escalated to the Ethics Committee, particularly not when the poster is offensive to members of a marginalized community and was hung in the first place to provoke a colleague across the hall who has a trans daughter.

If a monthslong probe exploring whether a career Hill staffer had brought discredit upon the House of Representatives with his stickers was not absurd enough, it was kicked off by none other than Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has been guilty of that charge virtually every day since she was elected. (Recall, for instance, that she has called for violence against her political opponents, including by publishing a video on social media in which she said then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deserves the death penalty.)

A member of Congress wields a tremendous amount of power relative to even the seniormost Capitol Hill staff, a fact that was brought into sharp relief for Auchincloss’s chief of staff as he sought to defend himself against not just the committee’s investigation but also an affidavit by the Capitol Police in support of an arrest warrant along with threats and harassment so severe that his home was monitored by law enforcement.

The House Ethics Committee declined to comment when I reached out last week to confirm receipt of the complaint filed against the GOP staffer, just as they had refused to provide information about the status of the case initiated by Greene’s report.

The committee’s Senate counterpart is even more of a black box.

An article by the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan government accountability group, notes that in the recent indictment of New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, “the shocking details revealed by the allegations seemingly had no end.”

The evidence against him was sufficiently flagrant and longstanding, the article argues, to “beg the question: Is the Senate incapable of finding and rooting out potential corruption before it becomes a crime?”

Part of the problem, according to CLC, is that the Upper Chamber’s ethics committee provides no means by which a complaint can be seen through to its investigation and resolution. The public knows very little about what the committee does, perhaps because the committee does very little: a study in 2023 found that none of the 1,523 reports that were filed over a period of 15 years resulted in any formal disciplinary sanctions.

Obviously, full transparency is impossible when sensitive information must be kept confidential to protect the integrity of an investigation. However, and especially if we are going to continue seeing complaints against Congressional staff rather than the lawmakers they serve, the committees should provide more insight into their processes and decision making.

Measures could include safeguards designed to mitigate the risk of unfair outcomes when investigations are brought by members of Congress and target those who have far less power. A mechanism requiring the investigators to share more information about cases under their review, to the extent possible, would also be wise — because even when the alleged conduct by a staffer may warrant a complaint, time and resources might be better spent rooting out misconduct by members of Congress, which is almost always far more consequential. 

We should also contend with the question of whether ethics committees are ever the appropriate place to explore and adjudicate allegations against staffers, since members are fully capable of enforcing the rules in their offices. 

As demonstrated by the long and tortured process through which George Santos was finally booted from Congress, getting rid of an elected lawmaker is far more difficult than, say, firing a chief of staff. 

Ultimately, perhaps the right question is: how can we hold elected representatives to a higher standard such that they model good behavior for their employees as well as for their constituents and Congressional colleagues?

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Christopher Kane is the White House Correspondent and Capitol Hill reporter for the Washington and Los Angeles Blade newspapers.

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California Politics

Assemblyman Ward introduces AB 1955 to outlaw forced outing

“Across the country and here in California, LGBTQ+ young people are under attack from extremist politicians and school boards”

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Members of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, with Assemblymember Chris Ward speaking, at Equality California Advocacy Day 2023. (Photo Credit: Equality California)

SACRAMENTO – On Wednesday, the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, chair Sen. Susan Eggman, (D- San Joaquin County), and co-sponsor Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) introduced AB 1955: Support Academic Futures and Educators for Today’s Youth Act (SAFETY Act) to ensure all of the state’s students have a safe and supportive environment to learn, regardless of their gender identity.

The legislation introduced coincided with Harvey Milk Day, honoring the slain LGBTQ+ rights activist and politician. In 2009, the State of California established Milk’s birthday, May 22 as Harvey Milk Day. On this day, Californian’s remember his life, accomplishments, and the LGBTQ+ community’s continuing fight for recognition and equality under the law.

More than a dozen school districts in California have proposed and/or passed forced outing policies to require teachers to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender. 

Transgender, nonbinary, and other LGBTQ+ youth are at risk due to this recent growing trend of forced outing policies. These efforts have led to a measurable impact on the mental health of California’s LGBTQ+ students, and can lead to a rise in bullying, harassment, discrimination, and more.

Since July 2023, when the Chino Valley Unified School District school board passed their first forced outing policy, over 700 calls were made to the Rainbow Youth Project Crisis hotline by LGBTQ+ youth from the Chino area alone. Rainbow Youth CEO Lance Preston told the Blade in an interview last Fall: “That is how toxic even discussing these issues [forced outing] makes the environment for queer kids who live there.”

Among those opposed to the implementation of the forced outing policies is the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond and the State Attorney General Rob Bonta.

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond addressing the Chino Valley Unified School District school board, July 20, 2023.
(Photo by Kristi Hirst for the LA Blade)

Last summer the State Superintendent had traveled to Chino to state his opposition to the policy. Addressing the board, Thurmond cautioned the policy may “not only fall outside of the laws that respect privacy and safety for our students, but may put our students at risk because they may not be in homes where they can be safe.”

His words echoed a warning issued by California Attorney General Rob Bonta in a letter sent to Chino Valley Unified School’s Superintendent Norman Enfield and the Board. Bonta expressed serious concern over the proposed Parental Notification policy, emphasizing the potential infringements on students’ privacy rights and educational opportunities.

“By allowing for the disclosure of a student’s gender identity without their consent, Chino Valley Unified School District’s suggested Parental Notification policy would strip them of their freedom, violate their autonomy, and potentially put them in a harmful situation,” Bonta wrote. “Our schools should be protecting the rights of all students, especially those who are most vulnerable, and should be safeguarding students’ rights to fully participate in all educational and extracurricular opportunities.”

In October of 2023, San Bernardino California Superior Court Judge Michael Sachs issued a preliminary oral injunction against the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education’s mandatory gender identity disclosure policy, further halting the enforcement of the policy.

Chino Valley Unified joined several other Southern California school districts which passed similar policies. A Riverside County Superior Court judge denied a motion on Friday morning, Feb. 23, to issue an injunction seeking to stop the Temecula Valley Unified School District from enforcement of two controversial polices on transgender notification to parents or guardians and a ban on teaching of critical race theory.

Attorney General Rob Bonta listens intently to a member of the LGBTQ+ community in a August 2023 presentation. (Photo Credit: Office of the Attorney General)

School districts in San Diego County and Orange Counties have also passed similar policies.

The SAFETY Act will do three things one passed by the legislature and if signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, which is likely: Prohibit school districts from implementing forced outing policies, provide resources for parents and students to navigate conversations around gender and identity on their own terms, and ensure teachers or school staff are not retaliated against for refusing to forcibly out a student. 

Assemblymember Chris Ward who spoke with the Blade prior to the bill’s introduction stressed that the primary goal of AB 1955 is to take politics out of the classroom, have teachers teach not act as the gender police. “Nothing should ever prohibit the child-parent relationship nor dictate policies that are politically motivated,” he told the Blade.

“Had I not had a single supportive adult in my life, I never would have been able to find the strength to come out to my family, or to teach them what I had learned about who I am on my own,” said Kai, a Northern California-area LGBTQ+ youth. “Please don’t let another child endure the consequences of that support system being taken away due to forced outing policies. That’s why I support AB 1955.”

Equality California’s Executive Director Tony Hoang noted in response to the introduction of AB 1955:

“Across the country and here in California, LGBTQ+ young people are under attack from extremist politicians and school boards seeking to ban books, terrorize teachers, and make transgender youth afraid to be themselves at school. 

This critical legislation will provide resources for parents and families of LGBTQ+ students to support them as they have conversations on their own terms, protect LGBTQ+ students from isolation and bullying, and provide critical safeguards to prevent retaliation against teachers and school staff who foster a safe and supportive school environment for all students. 

Forced outing policies remove opportunities for LGBTQ+ students to build trust and seek out resources that best fit their coming out experience. LGBTQ+ youth and their families deserve to have these conversations at home and in a way that makes sure that students are safe and supported.”

“Under California law, schools are required to support and affirm LGBTQ+ students, which includes addressing students by the name and pronouns that match their identity and respecting their decisions about coming out,” said Becca Cramer-Mowder, legislative advocate at ACLU California Action. “By targeting transgender and nonbinary youth, forced outing policies violate state and federal anti-discrimination and privacy laws. The SAFETY Act strengthens existing protections that ensure that all California students are safe and treated fairly at school.”

Sen. Eggman, who cosponsored AB 1955, echoed Assemblymember Ward in a late afternoon phone call with the Blade Tuesday: “We need to take our time see what works best cooling down the forced outing momentum. The average parent just wants to have their kids safe. Our goal is not parental rights fight, schools should not be getting in between parents and kids- the goal is getting support so that all kids are safe.”

In a separate statement Eggman said:

“School campuses should be safe places for students to learn and grow as their authentic selves. The SAFETY Act is a critical piece of legislation that seeks to protect everyone on school campuses, especially LGBTQ+ students. When and how a person comes out is a conversation that should be reserved for a student and a parent, not arbitrarily forced on unsuspecting youth by a school administration.”

“Educating children works best with engaged parents and caring teachers working together to create a safe space for all children to learn,” said parent, former teacher, and Our Schools USA co-founder Kristi Hirst. “Forced outing policies harm children, condemn taxpayer dollars to be wasted on attorneys, and do nothing to improve public education in our state or across the country.”

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Political commentary & analysis

A new study doesn’t show trans surgery “increases suicide”

A new study made the rounds claiming that transgender surgeries increase suicide. A fact check shows this assertion is egregiously false

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Los Angeles Blade/EIM graphic

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – This weekend, multiple accounts and news stories were posted in far-right outlets claiming that a new study showed that “transgender surgeries dramatically increase the risk of suicide.”

The claim, based on a study published in a pseudoscience journal, as determined by Media Bias/Fact Check, was then amplified by leading anti-trans accounts on the Twitter platform, including Elon Musk himself. Upon further review, the article appears to have made critical errors that were quickly caught by expert researchers in the science of transgender care, including an egregious error in which the wrong control group was selected for the study.

The study, titled “Risk of Suicide and Self-Harm following Gender-Affirmation Surgery,” was published in the journal Cureus in April but was only recently discovered by anti-trans influencers. Importantly, Cureus is a journal known for pseudoscience and disinformation. A Media Bias/Fact Check review determined that the journal “may publish unverifiable information that is not always supported by evidence.”

The science journal watchdog organization Retraction Watch found that the journal “has retracted 56 papers” just two years after its inception. The journal is known for a poor-quality peer review process, and its motto is “peer review, not peer rejection.” Collectively, this increases the risk of major errors in publications from the journal.

The article looked at data from adults who had gender-affirming surgery and an emergency visit, comparing them with cisgender adults who had emergency visits. The study found that 3.5% of transgender adults who had surgery went to the emergency room for a suicide attempt, compared with 0.3% of cisgender controls.

The study concluded that those with gender-affirming surgery had a 12 times higher risk of suicide attempts than patients with no history of gender-affirming surgery. That number was then posted on social media and pasted into headlines proclaiming that gender-affirming surgery increases suicide rates.

Researchers into trans healthcare quickly noted a glaring error: the authors compared transgender people who have had surgery with cisgender people to determine that gender-affirming surgery raises suicide risks. To accurately assess whether transgender surgeries increase suicide risk, the correct control group would be transgender people who did not have surgery or, even more accurately, those who were denied surgery. It would be like judging the effectiveness of a new teaching method by comparing college students using the new method to those who never went to college, rather than to college students using the old method.

In fact, the study’s conclusions take on an entirely different light when considering what current research says about transgender suicide attempt rates. The Williams Institute released a study showing that 42% of transgender adults report having attempted suicide over their lifetimes.

The Journal of Interpersonal Violence put that number at 40%. A meta-analysis published in the Annals of General Psychiatry, which looked at 65 studies, found that the lifetime suicide attempt rate for transgender people is likely around 29%.

Even if one uses the lowest number from these studies, it is clear that transgender people who have had gender reassignment surgery actually have a 10 times lower rate of suicide attempts in this study. Of course, no causal claim can be made either way using this study because the study declined to include such a control group. If they had, one could expect very different headlines to emerge.

The comparison of transgender people who have had surgery with cisgender people rather than other transgender people is a relatively common mistake used to make incorrect claims about the effectiveness of transgender care.

Anti-transgender activists and politicians often cite, for instance, “the Swedish study” and incorrectly claim that it shows transgender care is ineffective, leading to a 19 times higher suicide rate. The study they cite, published in the journal PLOS One, used a similar control group of cisgender people. In that case, the control group selection was purposeful, used to evaluate health risks of transgender people compared to cisgender people. The author had to correct those misusing its findings, stating, “People who misuse the study always omit the fact that the study clearly states that it is not an evaluation of gender dysphoria treatment. If we look at the literature, we find that “several recent studies conclude that WPATH Standards of Care compliant treatment decreases gender dysphoria and improves mental health.”

Indeed, many studies show that transgender care saves lives and decreases suicidality. One study in the Annals of Plastic Surgery found that gender-affirming surgery “improved mental health outcomes” and “significantly reduced suicidal ideation.”

Another study in JAMA Surgery determined that suicidal ideation was lower among transgender people who had gender-affirming surgery compared to those who did not. They also found that “respondents who underwent all desired gender-affirming surgeries had significantly lower odds of past-year suicide attempts.”

Importantly, this study used the correct control group: transgender people who did not have all of their desired gender-affirming surgeries. A Cornell University review of gender affirming care looked at over 50 papers and determined that “gender transition is effective in treating gender dysphoria and can significantly improve the well-being of transgender individuals.”

Despite this, many anti-trans influencers and far-right media outlets amplified the incorrect claim that transgender surgery increases suicides. The Babylon Bee posted, “Risk of suicide increases 12x after ‘gender-affirming’ surgery … is anyone surprised?” Elon Musk then amplified the article, saying, “extremely concerning.” The post was viewed over 26 million times.

Anti-trans accounts such as Seth DillonChad Felix GreeneJonathan Kay, and Katy Faust also amplified the incorrect claim. Jordan Peterson used the study to claim that doctors were “butchers.” Far-right conservative media such as The Daily Wire and Breitbart made similar incorrect claims of increased suicide rates.

Disinformation around transgender care is easily weaponized by politicians relying on social media to justify their political decision-making processes. None of the posts about the study received any community notes on the Twitter platform, despite many being submitted to correct the error.

This is a serious failing of the Community Notes feature, which is supposed to correct misinformation. As a result, incorrect information about transgender care has been allowed to spread with little pushback, reaching tens of millions of people. Fact-checkers and those who run platforms should better protect their platforms against this kind of egregious disinformation.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Politics

HRC invests $15 million in six battleground states

“Trump has promised to not just undo all the progress made by the Biden-Harris administration; but to erase LGTBQ+ people from federal law”

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Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign will target a record-high 75 million pro-LGBTQ voters nationwide with a public education and mobilization campaign ahead of the 2024 elections, which includes a $15 million investment in six key battleground states, the group announced on Monday.

The initiative will focus on voters in states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Nevada with “hired staff, field efforts, events, paid advertising, mobilization, and grassroots engagement,” HRC wrote in a press release announcing the campaign, which is titled “We Show Up: Equality Wins.”

HRC defines Equality Voters as constituents who are “united by the advancement of LGBTQ+ equality, and are younger, more racially diverse, and more female than the general electorate.”

Among those who would vote for third-party candidates if the election were held today — 22 percent, or 16.5 million people — survey results show half would support President Joe Biden if they reach the understanding that their third-party vote would support Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.

Along with re-electing Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, HRC’s campaign will work “to defeat escalating anti-trans attacks” and “electing historic LGBTQ+ and pro-equality candidates down-the-ballot,” the group wrote.

HRC will support LGBTQ candidates in California, Texas, New York, and Delaware with the aim of helping to elect a pro-equality majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

“Trump and his MAGA allies are promising a hate-filled agenda that hurts everyone who doesn’t look and live like them,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said. “They think they can bully and scare us and take away our fundamental freedoms. But the LGBTQ+ community has won these hard fights before — and we refuse to go back.”

HRC noted “Trump has promised to not just undo all the progress made by the Biden-Harris administration; but to erase LGTBQ+ people from federal law, further dismantle access to health care for transgender people, and dictate curriculum for school children.” 

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California Politics

Influential lesbian political couple killed in San Diego car crash

Moore and Wood were married in a ceremony at Oakland’s Lake Merritt a month prior to same-sex marriage being legalized in California

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Oakland political leader Peggy Moore, left, and her wife, Hope Wood, were killed Friday night in a vehicle collision in Southern California. (Photo: Moore/Facebook)

By Cynthia Laird, News Editor | SAN DIEGO COUNTY – Oakland political leader Peggy Moore and her wife, Hope Wood, died late Friday night, May 10, following a head-on collision on State Route 76 in unincorporated San Diego County. The news brought a flood of tributes on social media, as friends and colleagues remembered the couple.

According to multiple media reports, Moore and Wood were passengers in a Jeep Gladiator that was traveling westbound on the highway at 11:17 p.m. when a Chrysler 300 that was driving east swerved into the westbound lanes, striking the Jeep.

In addition to Moore and Wood, the driver of the Jeep was killed as was the driver of the Chrysler, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. A third car, a Toyota Camry, which was behind the Jeep, was involved in a minor side-swipe, according to the reports. It is not known why the Chrysler veered into oncoming traffic.

Moore, 60, had long been involved in Oakland politics. She managed the successful 2014 mayoral campaign for Libby Schaaf and served as a senior adviser to her. In 2016, she unsuccessfully ran for the at-large seat on the Oakland City Council, facing lesbian incumbent Rebecca Kaplan. Moore also worked as an organizer for Barack Obama’s winning 2008 presidential campaign.

In a phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter Monday, Schaaf said that she was devastated by the loss of Moore and Wood. During her 2014 mayoral campaign, Schaaf said that she and Moore “spent all day, every day together for a year.”

“She molded me into the mayor I became — in the most beautiful ways our democracy needs more of,” Schaaf said. “She was centered in love.”

Schaaf said that she hosted a gathering at her home Saturday evening with her former campaign and City Hall staffers. “I was so shocked. I wanted to create a space to celebrate her and Hope,” she said. “It’s a devastating loss for me personally and for democracy.”

Schaaf added that Moore was the only member of her campaign team to come to work for her in City Hall as a senior adviser. Moore stayed until she launched her own City Council campaign, and then Schaaf said that she came back to City Hall for the last few months of Schaaf’s tenure. (Schaaf had been reelected in 2018 and left office in January 2023. She is currently running for state treasurer in 2026.)

Schaaf said that recently, Moore and Wood had been mostly living in Orange County to be closer to Wood’s family. Moore maintained an apartment in Oakland, Schaaf said. Moore had also been spending time with her family in Oklahoma City, which is where she celebrated her 60th birthday.

“I was on a Zoom call with her days ago,” Schaaf said.

Kaplan stated that Moore was a “dedicated community leader.”

“May her memory be a blessing,” she wrote in a text message. “Her death is a shock and a great loss.”

Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) knew both women.

“I’m heartbroken to hear of the tragic loss of Peggy Moore and Hope Wood,” Lee wrote on X. “Peggy was a friend, an activist, and one of the best organizers I knew. Her passion and fight for justice and equality is what brought her and Hope together.

“Together they organized, changed hearts and minds, and helped to create a world where who you love doesn’t limit your freedoms,” she added. “Both Peggy and Hope made an impact on our community, on our city, on our state, and on our nation that will be felt for generations to come.”

“It is always tragic to lose a loved one, but the loss of Peggy Moore and Hope Wood is not just a personal loss to me, but a huge loss for our community. The dynamic duo have always fought to ensure there was representation and equity in every arena they worked within. We mourn the loss and appreciate their legacy, because their work will live on in the lives that they touched,” Shay Franco-Clausen, Political Director Equality California, said in a statement.

Started consulting firm

In 2019, Moore and Wood, 48, started Hope Action Change Consulting. On the site, they wrote that they fell in love while working on the 2008 Obama campaign.

“As women of color, we are experts at the dance of values in the workplace,” they wrote on the site. “We have lived outside the main streets of society in the intersections of our gender and our race, and we have learned to navigate a path through many streets where we have not been welcome. Despite the difficulties of this journey, we are full of optimism for where our path leads.”

Moore and Wood were married in a ceremony at Oakland’s Lake Merritt on July 29, 2013. It was a month prior that same-sex marriage returned to being legalized in California after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an appeals court decision that Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban passed by voters in 2008, was unconstitutional.

On Facebook, friends remembered the couple.

“We want you to know how much we loved you both,” Brendalynn Goodall, a member of the Alameda County Democratic County Central Committee, and her wife, Nancy Hinds, wrote. “The news of your passing has left us feeling shocked, numb, and incredibly sad. It’s hard to believe you are no longer here. You were more than just friends — you were family.

“We shared so many unforgettable memories and experiences together — from life’s ups and downs to discussions about politics, community, family, relationships, careers, and even our beloved pets,” added Goodall. “We were always there for each other, through thick and thin.”

Longtime DJ Page Hodel was also stunned by the news. “I am still doubled over … literally speechless over hearing the news of the tragic passing of our beloved Peggy Moore and her wife Hope Wood,” she wrote on Facebook.

Moore is also remembered for co-founding Sistahs Steppin’ in Pride, which took place in Oakland beginning in the early 2000s. Kaplan mentioned it as one of Moore’s accomplishments. For a decade, it brought the East Bay’s diverse queer women’s community together in celebration during the last weekend of August. Up to 2,000 queer women attended the event at its peak, Moore told the B.A.R. in 2011, the last year of the march.

The event had started as the East Bay’s version of the dyke march held in San Francisco and took place in conjunction with the old East Bay Pride. When that event stopped in 2003, Sistahs Steppin’ in Pride stepped up, so to speak, to make sure there was a queer presence in the East Bay.

The new Oakland Pride started in 2010. Last year, a combined Oakland Pride and Pridefest parade and festival were held in early September.

Wood was a former teaching fellow for Harvard Kennedy School’s Leadership Organizing, Action: Leading Change course and a UCLA teacher education program alumna, according to the couple’s consulting website. She had devoted more than two decades of her life to organizing across California and the United States.

Moore and Wood’s friend Lisbet Tellefsen organized an impromptu memorial Sunday, May 12, at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater where Moore and Wood were married. Schaaf said that she attended.

“There were lots of [people wearing] Sistahs Steppin’ in Pride and Moore for City Council T-shirts,” Schaaf said.

“She was an amazing leader for the LGBTQ+ community,” Schaaf added. “She brought her full self to everything she did.”

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The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

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California Politics

U.S. Rep. Young Kim’s support from far-right extremist Jack Hibbs

Hibbs, a Christian nationalist pastor, podcaster, & commentator has appeared on right-wing outlets like Newsmax, Fox News, & Charlie Kirk

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Rep. Young Kim (R-CA) has spent years cultivating support from far-right extremist and pastor Jack Hibbs. (Photo montage: Media Matters)

By Eric Hananoki CHINO HILLS, Calif. – Rep. Young Kim (R-CA) has spent years cultivating support from far-right extremist and pastor Jack Hibbs, who has repeatedly told followers to vote for her and hosted Kim at his California church to call for “her sweet and glorious victory.”

Those interactions also include Kim telling him that he’s done an “awesome job shepherding, guiding our congregation” and praising Hibbs on the day he delivered a sermon attacking LGBTQ pride. 

Hibbs is a Christian nationalist pastor, podcaster, and commentator who has appeared on right-wing outlets like Newsmax, Fox News, and Charlie Kirk’s program. He also has a lengthy record of toxic commentary, which became a source of controversy earlier this year when House Speaker Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) invited him to serve as the House of Representatives’ guest chaplain.

Hibbs has criticized in vitro fertilization (IVF) as a process where people “throw away 500 children” to get one child. He said that Jewish people need to abandon their religion. He’s told his congregation that “violent” LGBTQ people will go door-to-door and threaten “to sodomize people who disagree with them.” And he’s advised his followers that their Muslim neighbors are going to turn on them “very soon” and side with terrorists.

Hibbs has a long history of bigoted and far-right rhetoric

IVF: Hibbs is staunchly anti-abortion and has also criticized in vitro fertilization. During a 2013 sermon, he said

HIBBS: The Bible says that God opens and closes the womb according to his will. There are people who can’t get pregnant, and they get pregnant through artificial insemination. I would never judge that. And I don’t have an up vote or a down vote on it. I leave that in the hands of God. OK?  […]

For me personally, my conviction is it does concern me about the disposing of a fertilized egg. For this, my reasons are purely theological. I understand the scientific part of it. That’s a done deal. It was life before it was fertilized. So the issue becomes to get one child, do we throw away 500 children? See our culture says, who cares? It’s just nothing. I understand that, but you can’t tell that to a scientist. A scientist will tell you that little nothing you just threw in the trash can is just as technically advanced and powerful and meaningful as if it lived to be 99 years old on the scientific level.

You see, it becomes an ethical, moral issue, doesn’t it? So you have to be [INAUDIBLE] in your own heart and your own mind, and just leave it at that. It’s a tough thing to answer. Be personally convinced, and let the Lord lead you in that.

Jewish people: Hibbs stated that people must look past “the sins of the Jew and give them the hope of Jesus” and claimed that “true Jews” are those who don’t “get bogged down in Judaism, which … cannot save you.”

LGBTQ people: After the Supreme Court approved marriage equality, Hibbs told his congregation in a 2015 sermon: “God is telling us, ‘Jack, church, don’t put your hope in man, you’ll be disappointed. Hope in me because it’s going to be like it was in the days of Lot. Violent homosexuality, knocking on doors, threatening to sodomize people who disagree with them.’” 

In September 2019, Hibbs said of people “who practice homosexuality”: “The Bible says it is destructive against nature. It destroys your body and it ruins your psyche, and it ravages your soul. I have all the Scriptures here to back that up.”

He has also stated that “transgenderism is actually a sexually perverted cult” and claimed transgender people are evidence of the “last days.” He supports dangerous and discredited conversion therapy as he issued guidance telling people how they can supposedly change their sexual orientation.

Muslims: Hibbs has warned his congregation about the alleged danger of Muslims by invoking the ISIS caliphatetelling them during a 2015 sermon: “If your friends are devout Muslims, they have a horrific day of reckoning coming very soon for them. They are going to have to choose between the caliphate and being a nice neighbor to you. Think of that. They have no choice one way or the other. I’d like to side with Patrick Henry. Give me liberty or give me death.” 

In a 2007 sermon about “The Rise of Islam,” he falsely said: “Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but every terrorist has been a Muslim.” Speaking on Charlie Kirk’s radio show last year, Hibbs said of Islam: “It is violent, it is deadly, it’s a death cult.” 

Hibbs’ church also released a companion guide that unabashedly portrays Muslims as a threat to the country, including stating: “Muslims are mandated to expand where ever they are. They must convert you and or your children. And they must kill those who do not convert.” 

An excerpt from an anti-Muslim guide from Jack Hibbs’ church.

Kim has had a years-long history with Hibbs

Kim, a former member of California’s State Assembly who currently represents the state’s 40th Congressional District, has spent years relying on the support of Hibbs. 

On February 23, 2020, she appeared with Hibbs at his church, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, during her second campaign for California’s 39th Congressional District. A broadcast posted to the church’s Facebook page identified Kim as a “congressional candidate” (Hibbs is currently under criticism for using his church for electioneering). 

Hibbs began: “On the local ballot for us here, we’re going to bring out three candidates who we support, we pray for, and we want to honor for their commitment. The first is no stranger to us. She’s not only been here before, but she’ll attend service from time to time. She’s running for the 39th District, which we need her to win this time. I think she won last time, personally. That was up against Gil Cisneros. I’m talking about Young Kim.” 

While on stage, Kim thanked Hibbs for talking about the election, stating: “Pastor Jack, you’re doing an awesome job shepherding, guiding our congregation to really understand why it is so important to find out who the candidates are with biblical values so we don’t have the legislation, the sex education that is passing while we were sleeping.” 

She then told the congregation that “we need to elect elected leaders who share our Christian biblical values.” 

After Kim spoke, Hibbs said: “We love her. We thank you for her, and God, we pray that come election night that there would be no angel or demon able to tamper with the results. That Lord, you would bring her sweet and glorious victory.” 

Kim has repeatedly praised Hibbs online. After that February 2020 endorsement, she shared photos of her appearance with Hibbs and wrote: “Had a blessed Sunday visiting Calvary Chapel Chino Hills and Agape Church OC in Yorba Linda. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share my testimony. I am so grateful and encouraged by your prayers!” 

She also wrote in August 2018: “Great to meet with Pastor Jack Hibbs … Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, and all you do for our community!” 

And on June 5, 2022, she praised Hibbs for delivering a sermon, stating: “Great to hear Pastor Jack’s sermon and see friends this morning at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills. Thanks for the warm reception!” 

While Kim did not specify the content of the sermon, or what she heard, that June 5 sermon had criticism of Pride Month, with Hibbs stating

HIBBS: Some people are saying that it’s Pride Month. And so I had a thought about that. Look, it’s a free country. Our Constitution protects everyone’s views and stuff like that. You know? It’s a free country. That’s their, that’s — they said it’s their month.

And then I thought, you know what? We ought to start — by the way, I’m joking. But could you imagine? Let’s start a Christian pride month. Now, what what no. Don’t clap. Don’t clap. That’s not good.

Where do you go to church? You should not clap at that. Christian and pride should never come together. Right? That’s important. Of all the sins listed in the Scriptures, the sin of pride is the original, the Bible says.

In addition to endorsing Kim at his church, Hibbs has frequently praised her online:

  • He wrote in August 2018: “VOTE PRO-LIFE. I had a great sit down with YOUNG KIM. We discussed issues our biblical worldview and prayed together.” 
  • He wrote in February 2020 that he “just voted for Young Kim” and posted a picture of a Kim campaign sign. He stated a few days later: “If you attend Calvary Chapel Chino Hills then you most likely live (as I do) in the 39th. District and If you do then I am asking you to support and vote for Young Kim. SHE HAS 100% OF MY SUPPORT – – VOTE YOUNG KIM in the 39th.” 
  • He wrote in April 2020 regarding a coronavirus op-ed she penned for right-wing outlet The Epoch Times: “A BIG THANK YOU from our very own Young Kim. And if you her Op-Ed, remember to vote for her this coming November (if we have elections).” 
  • He wrote in January 2021 regarding Kim’s support for anti-abortion legislation: “We are so proud of our very own congresswoman Young Kim. God bless you Young keep up the fight we’ve got your back.” 

Additionally, Hibbs invited his followers to a 2018 “Meet and Greet with Young Kim, Candidate for the 39th Congressional District,” adding, “I want to encourage you to pray and vote Young Kim on Tuesday.” He also donated to Kim’s campaign in 2020. 

In a post in February, Hibbs again endorsed Kim for Congress.

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The preceding article & research study was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Politics

American Academy of Pediatrics responds to Cass, reject bans

In recent weeks, the Cass Review has been used to argue for bans on trans care. The American Academy of Pediatrics rejecting such arguments

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UK Pediatrician Dr. Hilary Cass. (Screenshot/YouTube The Times and The Sunday Times)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – Over the past few weeks, Dr. Hillary Cass has begun giving interviews in the United States to defend her report targeting transgender care. The Cass Review has faced criticism for its alleged anti-trans political ties, biased findings, promotion of conversion therapists, and poor treatment of evidence regarding transgender care.

In an interview with NPR, Dr. Cass claimed that transgender individuals’ care should be judged by their “employment,” rather than their satisfaction with the care received. Later, during an interview with The New York Times, Cass misleadingly stated that she had not been contacted by any lawmakers or U.S. health bodies, despite having met with political appointees of Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss banning trans care before her report was published.

In response, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society have categorically rejected the review as a justification for bans on care and have challenged many of its alleged findings.

In a statement released by the Endocrine Society, they reiterated that they stand by their guidelines around the provision of gender affirming care for transgender youth: “We stand firm in our support of gender-affirming care. Transgender and gender-diverse people deserve access to needed and often life-saving medical care. NHS England’s recent report, the Cass Review, does not contain any new research that would contradict the recommendations made in our Clinical Practice Guideline on gender-affirming care… Medical evidence, not politics, should inform treatment decisions.”

The Endocrine Society defended its guidelines, highlighting that they cite over 260 research studies to support their recommendations on transgender care. Moreover, the guidelines were developed with input from more than 18,000 members who had the opportunity to comment.

This process is notably more transparent than the Cass Review, whose advisory members have been kept secret. Investigations have revealed that several members are part of an anti-trans lobbying organization, SEGM, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as “the hub” of an “anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience network.”

“Although the scientific landscape has not changed significantly, misinformation about gender-affirming care is being politicized. In the United States, 24 states have enacted laws or policies barring adolescents’ access to gender-affirming care, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In seven states, the policies also include provisions that would prevent at least some adults over age 18 from accessing gender-affirming care,” the Endocrine Society Letter reads, “Transgender and gender-diverse teenagers, their parents, and physicians should be able to determine the appropriate course of treatment. Banning evidence-based medical care based on misinformation takes away the ability of parents and patients to make informed decisions..”

You can see the Endocrine Society’s release here:

Endocrine Society response to Cass Review.

Similar sentiments were shared by Dr. Ben Hoffman, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who responded to the Cass Review, “What we’re seeing more and more is that the politically infused public discourse is getting this wrong and it’s impacting the way that doctors care for their patients. Physicians must be able to practice medicine that is informed by their medical education, training, experience, and the available evidence, freely and without the threat of punishment. Instead, state legislatures have passed bills to ban and restrict gender-affirming care, which means that right now, for far too many families, their zip code determines their ability to seek the health care they need. Politicians have inserted themselves into the exam room, and this is dangerous for both physicians and for families.”

Transgender care saves lives. A Cornell review of more than 51 studies determined that trans care significantly improves the mental health of transgender people. One major study even noted a 73% lower suicidality among trans youth who began care.

In a recent article published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in April of 2024, puberty blockers were found to significantly reduce depression and anxiety. In Germany, a recent review by over 27 medical organizations has judged that “not providing treatment can do harm” to transgender youth.

The evidence around transgender care led to a historic policy resolution condemning bans on gender affirming care by the American Psychological Association, the largest psychological association in the world, which was voted on by representatives of its 157,000 members.

Interestingly, Cass herself advocated against care bans in her most recent New York Times interview released today, where she stated, “There are young people who absolutely benefit from a medical pathway, and we need to make sure that those young people have access,” although she added a caveat that those young people should be forced to consent to research in order to access care, leaving many to question the ethics of such an approach.

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Regardless of Cass’s statements, her review is being used to justify bans in the United States and worldwide. In the United Kingdom, her report has led to bans on puberty blockers in England and even inquiries into adult care.

In the United States, Senators in South Carolina used it to pass a total care ban for trans youth in the state. Now, major medical organizations have responded firmly against the idea that evidence around gender affirming care is weak, challenging states who use such misleading claims to ban transgender care as practicing politics, not medicine.

You can find the statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society here:

Endocrine Society Cass Statement:

Download

AAP Cass Statement:

Download

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Politics

Trump vows to reverse trans student protections ‘on day one’

The new rules prohibit schools from barring trans students from using bathrooms or pronouns that correspond with their gender identities

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Former President Donald Trump appearing in a New York courtroom Friday for the fourth week of his criminal hush money trial. (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News)

NEW YORK – During a call-in interview Friday on a Philadelphia-based right-wing conservative talk radio show, former President Donald Trump said he would roll back transgender student protections enacted last month by the U.S. Department of Education “on day one,” if he’s reelected.

Reacting to a question by hosts Nick Kayal and Dawn Stensland, Trump said: “We’re gonna end it on day one. Don’t forget, that was done as an order from the president. That came down as an executive order. And we’re gonna change it — on day one it’s gonna be changed.”

“Tell your people not to worry about it,” Trump he added referring to the new Title IX rule. “It’ll be signed on day one. It’ll be terminated.”

In a campaign video released on his Truth Social account in February 2023, in a nearly four-minute-long straight-to-camera video, the former president vowed  “protect children from left-wing gender insanity,” some policies he outlined included a federal law that recognizes only two genders and bars transgender women from competing on women’s sports teams. He also promised that he would punish doctors who provide gender-affirming health care to minors.

Trump also falsely claimed that being transgender is a concept that the “radical left” manufactured “just a few years ago.” He also said “No serious country should be telling its children that they were born with the wrong gender. Under my leadership, this madness will end,” he added.

At least 22 Republican-led states are suing the Biden administration over its new rules to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in federally funded schools, NBC News Out reported this week.

The lawsuits follow the U.S. Education Department’s expansion of Title IX federal civil rights rules last month, which will now include anti-discrimination protections for students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Among other provisions, the new rules would prohibit schools from barring transgender students from using bathrooms, changing facilities and pronouns that correspond with their gender identities.

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California Politics

Newsom releases revised budget, cuts spending, state vacancies

The budget proposal — covering two years — cuts spending, makes government leaner, & preserves core services without new taxes

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom releases the revised state budget on May 10, 2024. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today released a May Revision proposal for the 2024-25 fiscal year that ensures the budget is balanced over the next two fiscal years by tightening the state’s belt and stabilizing spending following the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic, all while preserving key ongoing investments. 

Under the Governor’s proposal, the state is projected to achieve a positive operating reserve balance not only in this budget year but also in the next. This “budget year, plus one” proposal is designed to bring longer-term stability to state finances without delay and create an operating surplus in the 2025-26 budget year.

In the years leading up to this May Revision, the Newsom Administration recognized the threats of an uncertain stock market and federal tax deadline delays – setting aside $38 billion in reserves that could be utilized for shortfalls. That has put California in a strong position to maintain fiscal stability.

“Even when revenues were booming, we were preparing for possible downturns by investing in reserves and paying down debts – that’s put us in a position to close budget gaps while protecting core services that Californians depend on. Without raising taxes on Californians, we’re delivering a balanced budget over two years that continues the progress we’ve fought so hard to achieve, from getting folks off the streets to addressing the climate crisis to keeping our communities safe,” Newsom told an audience of reporters and officials.

Key Takeaways:

A BALANCED BUDGET OVER TWO YEARS. 

The Governor is solving two years of budget problems in a single budget, tightening the state’s belt to get the budget back to normal after the tumultuous years of the COVID-19 pandemic. By addressing the shortfall for this budget year — and next year — the Governor is eliminating the 2024-25 deficit and eliminating a projected deficit for the 2025-26 budget year that is $27.6 billion (after taking an early budget action) and $28.4 billion respectively.

CUTTING SPENDING, MAKING GOVERNMENT LEANER. 

Governor Newsom’s revised balanced state budget cuts one-time spending by $19.1 billion and ongoing spending by $13.7 billion through 2025-26. This includes a nearly 8% cut to state operations and a targeted elimination of 10,000 unfilled state positions, improving government efficiency and reducing non-essential spending — without raising taxes on individuals or proposing state worker furloughs. The budget makes California government more efficient, leaner, and modern — saving costs by streamlining procurement, cutting bureaucratic red tape, and reducing redundancies.

PRESERVING CORE SERVICES & SAFETY NETS. 

The budget maintains service levels for many key housing, food, health care, and other assistance programs that Californians rely on while addressing the deficit by pausing the expansion of certain programs and decreasing numerous recent one-time and ongoing investments.

NO NEW TAXES & MORE RAINY DAY SAVINGS. 

Governor Newsom is balancing the budget by getting state spending under control — cutting costs, not proposing new taxes on hardworking Californians and small businesses — and reducing the reliance on the state’s “Rainy Day” reserves this year.

According to a statement from the governor’s office, California’s budget shortfall is rooted in two separate but related developments over the past two years.

  • First, the state’s revenue, heavily reliant on personal income taxes including capital gains, surged in 2021 due to a robust stock market but plummeted in 2022 following a market downturn. While the market bounced back by late 2023, the state continued to collect less tax revenue than projected in part due to something called “capital loss carryover,” which allows losses from previous years to reduce how much an individual is taxed.
  • Second, the IRS extended the tax filing deadline for most California taxpayers in 2023 following severe winter storms, delaying the revelation of reduced tax receipts. When these receipts were able to eventually be processed, they were 22% below expectations. Without the filing delay, the revenue drop would have been incorporated into last year’s budget and the shortfall this year would be significantly smaller. 

The governor maintains that with his revised balanced budget, it sets the state up for continued economic success. California’s economy remains the 5th largest economy in the world and for the first time in years, the state’s population is increasing and tourism spending recently experienced a record high. California is #1 in the nation for new business starts, #1 for access to venture capital funding, and the #1 state for manufacturinghigh-tech, and agriculture.

Additional details on the May Revise proposal can be found in this fact sheet and at www.ebudget.ca.gov.

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