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Think twice about attacking Trans individuals this election cycle

Elected officials targeting trans people are harming their constituents. Morality, civility, & well-being of children demands they stop

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By Lisa Turner | WASHINGTON – On May 25, 2022 Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law which requires students at public schools to use restrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates.

This is the second anti-transgender law passed in Oklahoma just this year, and is one of the latest examples of an avalanche of state-level legislation targeting the rights of LGBTQ and transgender Americans. More than 320 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country since 2021. 

The situation has turned dark in Ohio, where a bill was passed in the State House that would not only ban transgender girls and women from participating in high school or college athletics, but also includes a “verification” provision which would allow authorities to examine the genitals of student athletes suspected of being transgender. 

This comes on the heels of anti-transgender legislation becoming the law of the land in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, South Dakota, and Utah, among others. In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem even went so far as to run a national television ad touting her “leadership” on the issue. 

These attacks on transgender rights have also taken the form of executive action. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has instructed state agencies to investigate the parents of transgender youth for child abuse. His directive also requires teachers, doctors, and nurses to report the parents of transgender kids or risk losing their professional licenses. While this executive order in Texas has been temporarily stayed by a Federal court, governors in other states have already indicated they plan to take similar actions. 

The average person who sees news about laws or policies about transgender participation in sports or youth healthcare may think they seem reasonable, but these bills and policies are not reasonable, and are dangerously extreme. 

Conservative elected officials are using the rights of transgender youth as a wedge issue to divide voters and rile up their base. It is not surprising that the most recent and vocal governors signing anti-transgender legislation have Presidential aspirations. So, will it work? 

LPAC Action Network recently took the unprecedent approach of studying the attitudes of registered voters, both nationwide and in swing Congressional districts, when it comes to transgender rights and legislation. This study, conducted in partnership with Lake Research Partners and consisting of focus groups and polling, shows that the public disagrees with this wedge. 

Among the key findings:

● A majority of voters are concerned about discrimination and bias towards transgender people. 

● A plurality of voters say they are more likely to support a candidate who stands up for transgender rights and inclusivity. 

● Voters strongly identify with pro-equality values like freedom, respect, trust, opportunity, and belonging. 

● After seeing messaging rooted in those values, even more voters, a majority of 56%, say they are more likely to support a candidate who stands up for transgender rights and inclusivity. Even a plurality of 38% of Republicans say they are more likely to support pro-transgender candidates. 

Beyond public opinion, these actions targeting transgender youth are morally bankrupt. On the whole, transgender girls do not have an advantage in athletics. Transgender girls have been legally allowed to compete in women’s sports in California for almost ten years, to almost no controversy. And transgender children who in consultation with their parents and medical professionals receive gender-affirming care are simply receiving healthcare, they are not being abused. It is true, however, that transgender youth are uniquely vulnerable. They are more than twice as likely as their peers to report being bullied, and more than four times more likely to have attempted suicide. Bills and policies like these only further isolate and distress transgender youth. 

If restrictions on transgender children’s ability to compete in sports or access healthcare is not addressing actual societal issues, we must ask ourselves, what purpose do they serve? Who thinks they benefit? The answer seems clear: conservative politicians. 

There is a lot of pain in our country right now, especially among those of us who value human rights and freedom, due to the choice conservative politicians have made to target transgender people. It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t be this way. Our research shows advocates of equality can push back on this divisive, harmful, and dangerous strategy. And history, whether it be the example of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or marriage amendments, shows that in the long-term attacks on equality are ultimately counterproductive.

Elected officials who target transgender people are doing untold harm to their own constituents. Morality, civility, and the well-being of children demands they stop. But if that isn’t enough, hopefully political reality will make a difference.

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Lisa Turner is the Executive Director of LPAC, the national committee supporting LGBTQ+ women candidates running for political office.

Turner served in the Obama Administration as a political appointee at USDA and HHS. She has worked on the national political scene for many years as a campaign consultant to numerous federal, state, and local candidates, campaign committees, and progressive donors.  Turner is a graduate of Old Dominion University and the UVA Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership. She currently serves as Chair of the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

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Monkeypox vaccines coming- we must mitigate risk & spread for now

Clinics are expected to have vaccines available by summer’s end. In the meantime, we need community-informed prevention & treatment strategies

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

By Jim Mangia | LOS ANGELES – Monkeypox virus (MPV) is on the rise – and many are understandably frustrated by the federal government’s slow response. The LGBTQ+ community has been demanding vaccines since day one, with many drawing similarities between today’s lackluster approach to MPV and the inhumane response to HIV/AIDs in the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

MPV is a serious health concern that indeed deserves swift action from elected officials. But truly drawing from lessons learned during the HIV/AIDs crisis means not relying on vaccines alone – especially while waiting for the federal government and supply chain to catch up to our demand for them. We need community-wide education, prevention, and treatment strategies around MPV – and we need them now. 

I was a young, gay man during the HIV/AIDs crisis. Last week, a friend and I reflected on how, out of our large social group from our early twenties, we are the only two left alive. Everyone else we loved during those years was killed by AIDS.

The Republican dominated government at the time didn’t care if we lived or died – and many preferred the latter. As AIDS dominated our lives, groups like the Gay Men’s Health Crisis mobilized, setting up hotlines to circulate information, writing and disseminating guidelines for safer sex, and creating tight-knit networks to support the sick or suffering. Simultaneously, ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) activated the LGBTQ+ community and allies to demand governmental action.

Now, we can draw on our community’s past resilience. We must keep ourselves safe, from both MPV and from the dangerous, homophobic messaging that’s emerging around it. 

First, LGBTQ+ people must avoid perpetuating the dangerous myth that MPV only impacts us. The scientific truth is that pathogens often first spread among social groups in close contact with one another – for example, outbreaks of meningitis among college students. MPV is continuing to primarily impact the LGBTQ+ community because the virus hasn’t yet had the biological need to move onto another social group. This is important both in terms of combating homophobia, and also in recognizing our community’s responsibility to help prevent MPV’s spread. 

We also need to emphasize that MPV is not an STI. While it is spread through close physical contact, that contact can be nonsexual. Day care workers, nannies, massage therapists, tattoo artists, and others whose livelihoods involve skin-to-skin contact are also at high risk right now, and we need to be educating and advocating for those folks as well. 

Direct contact with the rash or body fluids and sexual contact are the most risky activities; kissing, cuddling, and being in crowds of non fully clothed people are moderately risky; and sharing dishes, beds, towels, toiletry items or being in crowds with fully clothed people are possible ways of contracting MPV. Limiting those activities for now and communicating with each other about exposure are essential ways to prevent spread. 

There are other tools we should be advocating for in addition to vaccines. One is Tpoxx, an antiviral medication that hasn’t been approved by the FDA but is being widely and successfully used in Europe. Another is faster MPV tests – currently, the results can take several days. Only a few lab companies are approved to test MPV specimens sent by clinics and hospitals, and we need faster results to prevent further spread in real time.

Today, a multibillion dollar industry fuels many issues that plague our community – including major circuit party promoters, hookup apps, and corporations who infiltrated our pride events. These industries depend on our money, and are only interested in getting our bodies where they need them in order to cash in. 

Exploitative messaging from these industries can permeate our collective consciousness. They tell us we need and deserve certain things, and we need and deserve them immediately. They don’t care about our safety, and they aren’t advocating for our actual lives. They’re just contributing to a sense of urgency in the name of their bottom line. It’s up to LGBTQ+ people to get to the root of what’s important. We must organize ourselves, act with care for each other, and demand a comprehensive strategy from LGBTQ+ institutions and the government – rather than just looking for quick-fix solutions for ourselves.   

Clinics in California are expected to have thousands of vaccines available by summer’s end. In the meantime, we need community-informed prevention and treatment strategies from our leaders. And now more than ever, with both MPV and COVID-19 threatening our health, we must treat each other with consent and respect. 

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Jim Mangia is the president and CEO of St. John’s Community Health, a network of public health clinics serving South, Central, and East Los Angeles.

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Why supporting LGBTQ women in primary races is vital for our democracy

The majority of the 100 candidates LPAC has endorsed this election cycle are running for State Legislatures

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By Lisa Turner | WASHINGTON – For ten years, LPAC has been at the forefront of supporting candidates who champion LGBTQ equality, women’s rights, and social justice. As the only national political organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ women to local, state and federal office, LPAC firmly believes that having LGBTQ women at the table makes a real impact in the quality of our democracy.

As Americans face down callous attacks on reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality, it is clear LPAC’s work on the frontlines of politics supporting LGBTQ women is more important than ever. 

When LPAC was founded in 2012 only one openly LGBTQ woman had ever been elected to Federal office, then-Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. Since then there has been progress – Baldwin was elected to the U.S. Senate, Kate Brown became the first openly LGBTQ person elected as a governor, Maura Healey became the first LGBTQ state attorney general, and Lori 

LIghtfoot was elected as the first LGBTQ mayor of Chicago. However LGBTQ women are still underrepresented in public office, and LPAC is committed to continue this game-changing work. 

So far this year LPAC has endorsed 100 LGBTQ women vying to become everything from city council and school board members to Congresswomen and governors. This is the most candidates LPAC has ever endorsed in an election cycle. 

Making this many early endorsements in advance of the November elections was an important strategic decision. The first step to increasing LGBTQ women’s representation is to make sure they are competitive and win their primary elections, otherwise they will not even appear on the general election ballot. Endorsing candidates and providing financial support provides a critical strategic edge in their path to victory. 

This is particularly important for LGBTQ women, who face institutional barriers when they run for office. Even when there is not overt bias and discrimination, LGBTQ women are often assumed to be less competitive than straight candidates or even gay men, and passed over when it comes to endorsements and fundriasing from political organizations. This is despite the fact that LGBTQ women actually often outperform other candidates in elections. 

Take for example the 2018 midterm elections. In races for the U.S. House, 30 Democratic challengers defeated Republican incumbents. Of those successful challengers, three were LGBTQ women – Angie Craig, Sharice Davids, and Katie Hill. And on the Senate side, only two Democrats flipped Republican-held seats. One of those flips was an LGBTQ woman – Kyrsten Sinema. Clearly, when they advance from primaries LGBTQ women are formidable, viable candidates with general election voters. 

The 2022 Election Cycle

This election cycle, LPAC has been committed to making sure LGBTQ women receive the early support they deserve. LPAC has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than 50 candidates in primary races, and consistently stepped up with endorsements and contributions to level the playing field by making an impact when it matters. Take three examples of candidates who had primary elections in May of this year. 

Oregon Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tina Kotek received early support from LPAC, in terms of both an endorsement and financial backing. As Oregon’s longest continually-serving State House Speaker, Kotek was clearly the best Democrat to run in November. LPAC made a substantial contribution to her campaign in March, and she went on to her primary in May with 56% of the vote. LPAC has since doubled down on the investment and look forward to seeing Kotek become the first open lesbian to move into a Governor’s mansion. This is going to be one of the most expensive gubernatorial races in the country in 2022, and LPAC is proud to be leading the way among LGBTQ organizations in providing financial support to make sure Kotek wins. 

Jamie McLeod-Skinner in Oregon’s 5th Congressional district received her first national and LGBTQ endorsement from LPAC. This was a bold move, as McLeod-Skinner was challenging a Democratic incumbent, U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader. It was a risk LPAC was willing to take because the committee had been working with McLeod-Skinner from the early days of her campaign, and knew from political experience that she not only had a campaign plan in place to provide a path to victory in the primary, but also that she would be the best candidate for the general election. LPAC was confident in an early endorsement and investment. Other organizations followed LPAC’s lead, and McLeod-Skinner won the primary by a substantial margin. 

State Rep. Renitta Shannon’s campaign for Georgia Lt. Governor also received its first LGBTQ endorsement from LPAC. Rep. Shannon was ultimately just 3% away from making the runoff election. This race is illustrative of the barriers LGBTQ women face when they run for office. Rep. Shannon was the only woman in the field, and the only LGBTQ person, however other national groups that focus on women and LGBTQ candidates did not endorse her. The 2nd place finisher (a straight white man) had five times the amount of funds and barely made his place in the runoff. If Rep. Shannon had been fully funded and able to adequately reach voters via paid communications, she likely would have been successful. 

Rights and LGBTQ Women’s Leadership 

The majority of the 100 candidates LPAC has endorsed this election cycle are running for State Legislatures. This is important, as the states have truly become the frontlines in the battles for reproductive health, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, and other important policy matters. And throughout the country, it is LGBTQ women who are leading these fights, oftentimes against long odds. When it comes to abortion rights, there are numberous examples of LGBTQ women leaders to chose from.

In Ohio, State Senator Nickie Antonio has been at the head of Democratic efforts, both in her past State House service and current State Senate seat, to block Republican efforts in the state pass a “trigger law,” which would have automatically ban abortion in the state when Roe was overturned. 

In Texas, State Reps. Jessica González, Mary González, Celia Israel, Ann Johnson, Julie Johnson, and Erin Zwiener have been vocal opponents of extremist GOP legislation targeting reproductive healthcare and voting rights. They all participated in a walkout in the Summer of 2021 which delayed passage of these harmful Republican laws. 

In Colorado, State Reps. Daneya Esgar, Leslie Herod, and Brianna Titone, along with State Sens. Joann Ginal and Sonya Jaquez Lewis, all co-sponsored legislation, passed in April 2022, which enshrined a woman’s right to choose into state law. This ensured that when Roe was overturned Coloradans continued to have access to safe and legal abortion services, and has allowed Colorado to serve as a haven for Americans in neighboring states seeking abortion services. 

LGBTQ women are also leading the way at the Federal level. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is the lead sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation which would guarantee equal access to abortion across the country. Sen. Baldwin is also a lead Senate sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which recently passed in the U.S. House and would require the Federal government to recognize same-sex marriages. Rep. Angie Craig and Congresswoman Sharice Davids were leaders in cosponsoring both pieces of legislation in the U.S. House. 

Moving Forward 

In example after example, LGBTQ women serving in local, state, and federal offices are truly leading the way in the fights for our rights and our Democracy. As frontline leaders, it is crucial that those LGBTQ women serving in office are re-elected, and that more are elected in November to join them. In order for that to happen they must win primary and runoff elections, and LPAC is proud to lead the way and step in early to support those efforts.

**********************

Lisa Turner is the Executive Director of LPAC, the national committee supporting LGBTQ+ women candidates running for political office.

Turner served in the Obama Administration as a political appointee at USDA and HHS. She has worked on the national political scene for many years as a campaign consultant.

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“Just Vote” is not a strategy

The GOP found out long ago that keeping their based terrified and angry was the key to victory: Democrats need to learn to use it as well

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By Eric Tannehill | FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it sent waves of dismay through the LGBT community. Clarence Thomas’ concurrence made it clear that he wants to overturn Obergefell (marriage) and Lawrence v. Texas (sodomy laws).

Already, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has called upon the Supreme Court to overturn Lawrence, and sources tell The Blade that the Alliance Defending Freedom is gearing up challenges to Obergefell in the conservative 5th and 11th Circuits. Even if these challenges fail at the Supreme Court on the first try, the Circuit Courts are likely to issue injunctions that make life miserable for years for LGBT people.

It’s unclear whether the Supreme Court would overturn these rulings. In the Dobbs v. Jackson abortion decision by Alito, he claims that this case is different because it involves human life. On the other hand, the tests for constitutionality created by Alito in Dobbs clearly indicate that Obergefell and Lawrence would fail if brought before him, and should be struck down. Alito very clearly and deliberately left a road map for how to make arguments that ensure these seminal LGBT rights cases are overturned.

The Democratic response to Roe, reassuring the LGBT community, has achieved exactly the opposite: people are terrified and hopeless. Singing “God Bless America,” reading poems, making outraged statements, proposing bills that haven’t a prayer of becoming law, and doing yoga is about all that Democratic leaders have been able to offer the people who put them in office. 

Nancy Pelosi Criticizes ‘Hypocrisy’ Of Supreme Court Overturning Roe v. Wade:

Every proposed solution that might actually work has been shot down. The White House has unilaterally rejected expanding the court or providing abortions on federal land. Manchin and Sinema refuse to budge on the filibuster. No one dares speak about malicious compliance or the legitimacy of a court where most of the justices were put in place by Republicans who lost the popular vote. Meanwhile, Republicans are gleefully planning how they can abuse the system to prosecute women who flee to other states, or people who provide abortifacient drugs by mail.

The singular message Democrats are providing is, “give us money and vote for us, and maybe something good will happen.”

The singular message Democrats are providing is, “give us money and vote for us, and maybe something good will happen.” Vote is not a strategy. Nor is the Democratic base stupid: we know damn well that there is a +7 lean towards the GOP in the Senate, meaning that Democrats must win the national vote by an average of 7 points every year to even have a 50-50 shot of controlling the Senate.

We know that lifetime appointments to the bench mean that the GOP will control SCOTUS for decades. “Just vote” is not a strategy, just like hope is not a plan. But it is patronizing.

This is a complete failure of leadership. Democrats must state explicitly what they will do, and how they will do it, to protect the people voting for them from an increasingly fascist GOP that wants to remake America in its white, Christian, heterosexual image.

We are facing a queer apocalypse, and we’re getting tips on perfecting your “downward dog” and emails begging for money so they can keep doing what they’re doing: which is effectively nothing besides passing legislation that will never see the light of day in the Senate. (The Equality Act, anyone?)

There’s a glimmer of hope: congressional generic ballot polling after the Dobbs v. Jackson decision shows a strong shift towards Democrats, and that the ruling made Democrats much more likely to vote. However, without a clearly enumerated plan and messaging, this is just a blip in our collective short term political memory.

Between now and the election Democratic ads and messaging need to highlight every woman who dies, or nearly so, because of the Dobbs decision. Ads with interviews with women left in screaming bloody agony for hours while a priest and lawyers bicker over whether this is covered by “life of the mother” exceptions.

Women denied lifesaving chemotherapy or forced to carry a pregnancy that could kill them. Women forced to carry a rape to term, and then share custody with their assailant. Make the messaging as brutal as possible: remind voters every day that a vote for Republicans is a vote to torture or kill women.

The GOP found out long ago that keeping their based terrified and angry was the key to victory: Democrats need to learn to use it as well.

The GOP found out long ago that keeping their based terrified and angry was the key to victory

They also need to be explicit in what they are going to do if they somehow manage to retain the House and Senate: namely they will end the filibuster and enshrine Roe v. Wade as federal law.

They need to explicitly spell out how they will use the power given them to prevent SCOTUS from allowing gerrymandered red states from eliminating marriage equality and throwing LGBT people in jail for having consensual sex in the privacy of their own homes. 

Democrats need to stop over-promising and under delivering. The public knows damned well what cannot be accomplished as long as the filibuster is in place, or SCOTUS dominated by conservative ideologues.

The Roberts Court, April 23, 2021 Seated from left to right: Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor Standing from left to right: Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett.
Photograph by Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Failing to do these things will produce even worse outcomes: namely people giving up hope of solutions from within the system, ceasing to vote, and attempting to take matters into their own hands out of a sense of hopelessness and rage.

Viable plans create hope. Scared, desperate angry people do stupid things if they do not have both hope and a plan.

It’s President Biden’s responsibility as a leader to map out that plan unambiguously, while Democrats need to make certain everyone knows what the consequences of failure are. 

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Eric Tannehill is a twenty-something queer activist and university student.

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