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The march towards despotic authoritarianism: DeSantis & Florida

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is working towards, what appears to observers to be dedicated efforts, to completely erase LGBTQ+ people

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Historic image courtesy of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, Image of Governor Ron DeSantis from WFLA NBC News 8 coverage (Screenshot/YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – On May 10, 1933, students under the Nazi regime burned tens of thousands of books across Germany. These book burnings marked the beginning of a period of extensive censorship and control of culture in Adolf Hitler’s escalating reign of terror.

A writer, essayist, poet, novelist and one time professor of philosophy George Santayana, postulated in the twentieth century that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Yet, there are events unfolding and shockingly enough in the United States- specifically in the Sunshine State, in a parade of unceasing attacks on the LGBTQ+ community sponsored by its Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, while not burning books-yet, ban them and are working towards what appears to observers to be dedicated efforts to completely erase LGBTQ+ people from American society and culture.

Is the Nazi book burning too harsh of a comparison? Not exactly say some as illustrated by the example of far right conservative, Rabih Abuismail, a member of the Spotsylvania County, Virginia School Board who said “I think we should throw those books in a fire,” in November of 2021 referring to LGBTQ+ books.

Granted there is a significant amount of real estate between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Florida, but those sentiments around book burning one source in Flagler County, Florida told the Blade were privately expressed as the local school board there banned LGBTQ+ books from the school system’s libraries.

Those actions however, motivated LGBTQ+ activist and Flagler-Palm Coast High School Senior, (then a year 11 student) Jack Petocz to fight back and organize other students across Florida to fight bans in their counties. “I just want to inspire other students to fight these book bans,” he said.

A Flagler County school board member is seeking criminal charges against school officials for allowing copies of the LGBTQ+ themed book “All Boys Aren’t Blue” to remain in two of the county high school’s libraries.

Board member Jill Woolbright filed a report with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office claiming that book violates state obscenity laws. She is also demanding that three other books be pulled from the district schools libraries, “The Hate You Give,” “Speak”  and “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You.” Three of the four are written by Black authors.

“My concern is for the children of Flagler County. This book needs to be investigated as a crime in our media center. This is pretty heavy stuff, violating our own policies. That’s why I felt the need to file the report, so I know it will be investigated,” Flagler County School Board member Jill Woolbright said to local media.

Recently as a direct result of the infamous and controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, that forbids classroom discussion and materials relating to LGBTQ+ people, history, or even culture, which critics have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” law that DeSantis signed in April of this year and took effect officially July 1st, educational resources in Florida were immediately throttled.

The Collier County Public Schools District in Southwestern Florida which includes the city of Naples, has placed labels that read “Advisory notice to parents” in capital letters on books available to students dealing with race-related and LGBTQ+ themes.

 As Duval County Public School’s K-12 students begin their first day of school Monday, they are returning to classrooms that have been stripped bare of visible support for LGBTQ students.

Last week, Duval County Public School’s leadership held an emergency meeting with all of the school district’s principals in which they were directed to remove all posters, wall decorations, and stickers that support and affirm LGBTQ students, the latest in a wave of what LGBTQ+ advocates say are censorship efforts in the wake of the Don’t Say LGBTQ Law (HB 1557) taking effect across the state.

The Washington Post noted that sex education has already been banned in Florida (as in many states) until the fifth grade. So critics say the law tries to solve a problem that doesn’t exist for the state’s youngest students. Because it limits even discussions about LGBTQ issues, it could stifle conversations for children who need to work through their own gender or sexual-identity questions, they say.

“It begs the question of whether a teacher having a picture of a partner on their desk, or being asked to be referred to as Mr. or Mrs., if that counts as classroom instruction on gender identity,” said Brandon Wolf, Press Secretary for Equality Florida.

Beyond the infamous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ measure, DeSantis and his legislative allies declared war on what the Governor derisively refers to as ‘woke culture’ and socialism passing a series of other laws which included one that restricts instruction about African American history, another forbidding teaching of ‘unapproved’ materials to include so-called instruction in ‘Critical Race Theory’ which has never been taught in any secondary or grammar schools.

 A career special education teacher in Escambia County, Florida resigned this past week just as classes were scheduled to start after a Escambia County Public School District staffer removed posters and pictures of historically significant Black Americans from his classroom.

Michael James, 61, who has taught special ed classes for the past fifteen years told Pensacola News Journal reporter Colin Warren-Hicks in an interview this week that he had emailed a letter to Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith in which he wrote that a district employee removed the pictures citing the images as being “age inappropriate.”

Images that were removed from the bulletin board at O.J. Semmes Elementary School included depictions of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver, James said.

Michael Woods is a special education teacher in Palm Beach County
Photo Courtesy of Michael Woods

NBC News Out reported on a case in Palm Beach County where Michael Woods, a special education teacher at a high school in Palm Beach County, Florida, said he used to have a classroom library with shelves of dozens of books that students could take home and read for fun. 

The library included the “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” series and a book called “Meg,” which is a thriller about a shark.

But when school started this week, the classroom library was empty. The books now sit in a school closet, in part because of new laws that restrict classroom instruction.

This past week the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported ahead of the 2022-23 school year, the Sarasota County School District stopped all donations and purchases of books for school libraries while it waits for additional guidance from the Florida Department of Education about how to navigate the effects of new education laws.

This included hundreds of dictionaries earmarked for donation from a Venice Rotary Club sit collecting dust, precluded from being given to Sarasota County students. Even dictionaries aren’t safe from the Sarasota Schools book freeze.

Book bans and stilling the discourse in the state’s public schools is not the only part of a target rich environment for the governor. Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, an elected Florida prosecutor removed from office by DeSantis for signing a national pledge to not prosecute women and doctors for violating Florida abortion statues or families seeking treatments for transgender minors, filed suit Wednesday in United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

DeSantis’ office issued a statement two weeks ago saying: “We are suspending Soros-backed 13th circuit state attorney Andrew Warren for neglecting his duties as he pledges not to uphold the laws of the state.”

The lawsuit noted: “DeSantis’s Order does not identify any other conduct by Warren or other reason sufficient to justify a suspension.”

“What’s happening here is, he’s trying to throw out a free and fair election,” Warren said on CNN early Wednesday. “Even my 8-year-old understands this.”

The governor targeted trans youth in a series of actions bolstered by assistance from state lawmakers. Equality Florida, the state’s largest advocacy group for LGBTQ+ Floridians has consistently called DeSantis out for his seemingly authoritarian/autocratic governance.

A case in point says the organization as this weekend, the state Agency for Health Care Administration’s (AHCA) rule stripping Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming care goes into effect, officially ripping life-saving care from thousands of vulnerable Floridians.

The rule, which denies Medicaid coverage for transgender healthcare, is part of a broader assault on health care for transgender Floridians that has engulfed state agencies and the legislature. 

“As it has been with these attacks across the board, the cruelty is the point,” said Nikole Parker, Equality Florida Director of Transgender Equality. “Gender-affirming care is lifesaving care. That care is now being shut off by a state agency that has been corrupted, weaponized, and stacked with extremists by a governor desperate to fuel his own political ambitions. For many, that will mean losing access to health care they have been relying upon for decades. The transgender community, like all people, shouldn’t have necessary care stripped away by extremist politicians working overtime to stoke right-wing fervor. This cynical attack is dangerous and puts the health of thousands at risk.”

The DeSantis Administration has also wielded the Department of Education against LGBTQ young people, with Education Commissioner Manny Diaz penning a memo informing school districts in Florida that they may disregard Title IX nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ students, issuing erroneous legal threats to districts who publicly affirm those protections. And last month, the Governor weaponized the Department of Business and Professional Regulation against an LGBTQ-owned small business in Miami, threatening to strip the restaurant of its liquor license after they hosted a drag performance at their weekly Sunday Brunch.

Assaults on gender-affirming care, while motivated by the Governor’s desperate desire for unchecked power, are taking a toll on Florida’s transgender community, with many expressing fear about how they will access the care they have been receiving for years. As AHCA’s rule goes into effect, it is critical to stress Equality Florida’s Brandon Wolf says that gender-affirming care, including hormone and surgical treatments, continues to be legal and available in Florida and that Medicaid coverage for regular office visits or mental health services are not impacted by this new rulemaking.

Matt Cousins and Jennifer Cousins with their children, N.C., S.C., M.C. and P.C. (Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal)

There are efforts to mitigate the damages being inflicted by DeSantis and his allies. The Don’t Say Gay law is now a federal court case, although no immediate actions such as an injunction has been taken.

In an interview published by The Hill in July when the law took effect, Equality Florida’s Wolf told The Hill that he worries that measures like this one will stoke division and worsen anti-LGBTQ+ violence, which has increased nationwide over the last year.

The law is also personal for Wolf, a queer man who survived the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016. His two best friends, Drew and Juan, were among the 49 people killed that night.

Confronting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis outside Pulse, 2021 (Courtesy of Brandon J. Wolf)

Wolf worries that measures like this one will stoke division and worsen anti-LGBTQ+ violence, which has increased nationwide over the last year. “It feels very ominous that in a state that saw the deadliest attack on LGBTQ people in this nation’s history … that we would be having conversations about erasing our history, our lives, our lived experiences from classrooms,” he said.

 

In the wake of the passage of Florida’s discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill, extremist politicians and their allies engineered an unprecedented and dangerous anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation campaign that saw discriminatory and inflammatory “grooming” content surge by over 400% across social media platforms, according to a new report released by the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

DeSantis continues to ratchet up the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric including remarks made in his press conferences and out on the campaign trail including other states.

This past weekend he was in Pennsylvania boosting the effort of the GOP nominee, Republican State Senator Doug Mastriano who has a document public record of anti-LGBTQ comments as well as expressing belief in QAnon conspiracy theories and has made Islamophobic remarks.

Politico reported that the rally at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh was part of DeSantis’ national tour to bolster key Republican Senate and gubernatorial candidates who also have the backing of Trump. Last week, DeSantis spoke at rallies in Arizona for GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters and Kari Lake, the state’s Republican gubernatorial nominee. He is also stumping for GOP Senate hopeful J.D. Vance in Ohio.

Many feel that DeSantis himself though is an indicator of the just how far right the Republicans and more so conservatives are willing to go to cement the type of culture and society they envision, one that does not include LGBTQ+ people and limits truthful education of school children on the dark history of American racism and persecution against Blacks and other minorities.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Transphobic Fox host: Trans people are “Deeply Anti-Human”

Fox news host Laura Ingraham launched into a transphobic rant claiming the political left are cheering on what she termed anti-humanism

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Screenshot/YouTube Fox News

By Media Matters Staff | NEW YORK – On her show last night, Fox news host Laura Ingraham launched into a transphobic rant claiming among other things that those on the political left are cheering on what she termed anti-humanism.

Then she pivoted to the transgender community:

“Crusaders for climate change, abortion, euthanasia, gender fluidity, they all lead — eventually, their thinking — to the devaluing of human life.

“At its core, being anti-human means being anti- truth because it involves the questioning or denying of objective facts, including those at the very heart of our existence. 

“The cult of gender deviancy collapses into meaningless slogans and blather. None of it makes any sense, but it’s deeply anti-human.” 

Watch the Media Matters for America video clip:

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Obama rallies for Warnock as Walker goes transphobic in latest ad

“Tomorrow is the last day for early voting and then we need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday, which means we still got work to do”

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Former President Barack Obama with Sen. Raphael Warnock (Pool photo via CNN)

ATLANTA – Former President Barack Obama held a rally with Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) tonight in Atlanta as the Georgia election runoff for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Warnock enters its final week.

Speaking to the enthusiastic crowd in the historic Pullman Yard, Obama urged supporters to continue pressing to secure Warnock’s chances as early voting ends Friday ahead of next Tuesday’s election.

“Now I know a lot of folks have been voting early over the last few days, that is a good thing. That is an encouraging thing. But — you knew there was a but —plenty of folks haven’t voted yet. Tomorrow is the last day for early voting and then we need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday, which means we still got work to do,” Obama said.

A spokesperson for the the Georgia secretary of state’s office told the Blade that more than 1.1 million votes have been cast so far.

Warnock’s Republican challenger meanwhile focused on his opposition to transgender rights. In a recent campaign ad, Herschel Walker is featured alongside cisgender former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who tied with University of Pennsylvania trans female swimmer Lia Thomas.

In the ad Gaines says she “worked so hard” at competitive swimming but she was “forced to compete against a biological male.”  The ad also goes on to attack Warnock in the Chyron onscreen stating: “Raphael Warnock voted to allow biological men to compete in women’s sports.” That particular charge by Walker’s campaign is factually incorrect as the U.S. Senate has not held any votes on the subject of transgender women in sports.

Politico’s National political reporter Natalie Allison tweeted:

During the rally in Atlanta this evening Politico reported Warnock received roaring applause when he poked fun at Walker, something Obama also did, referencing a series of outlandish comments the retired football star has made over the course of his candidacy.

“We all know some folks in our lives who, we don’t wish them ill will, they say crazy stuff … but you don’t give them serious responsibility,” Obama said.

“He was an amazing running back,” Warnock said of Walker. “And come next Tuesday, we’re going to send him running back to Texas.”

Walker, who was raised in the Peach State and was a star player at the University of Georgia, lived the majority of his adult life in Texas before returning to run for Senate in 2021.

Politico also noted that Warnock, the pastor of the Atlanta church that Martin Luther King Jr. attended, tied the election to the long struggle of African Americans for equal rights, noting the crowd had gathered on the 67th anniversary of Rosa Parks refusing to get up from a bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama. Walker is also African American.

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Charlie Kirk smears Out Calif. State Sen. Scott Wiener on Twitter

“Kirk is leading the movement to slander gay men and trans people as ‘pedophiles’ and ‘groomers,’ & these heinous words have consequences”

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Charlie Kirk speaking on the 2021 Turning Point USA college tour (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

SAN FRANCISCO – In a lengthy tirade on Twitter Tuesday, far-right extremist radio chat show host Charles J. Kirk, while loosely channeling an InfoWars host Alex Jones style-attack, went after California State Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF District 11) implying that the veteran lawmaker endorses and supports child molestation.

Kirk, 29, is a co-founder of Turning Point USA, a conservative right-wing political group aimed at influencing college and university students and young people. Ironically, Kirk himself dropped out of Harper College, a junior community college near Chicago, without having completed any degree or certificate.

Kirk hosts a daily three-hour radio talk show, called The Charlie Kirk Show, on Salem Media which is known for owning conservative websites Townhall.com, RedState, Hot Air, and PJ Media, as well as Twitter aggregator Twitchy, calling itself a ” for-profit Christian broadcast corporation.”

He is also an avid supporter of impeached former president Donald Trump, consistently refers to himself as a MAGA Republican and has asserted that the concept of white privilege is a myth and a “racist lie.” He also has spread false information and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 on social media platforms, such as Twitter, in 2020.

Recently Kirk has been attacking the LGBTQ+ community on the subjects of trans youth and also following the lead of far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-GA) in attacking Senator Wiener:

Kirk’s attack on the senator commenced with: “Thousands of pedophiles in California are going free after just a few months in jail, thanks to the state’s radically reduced penalties for child molestation. One reason so many of these predators are going free so early is California lawmaker Scott Wiener.”

Then he went on to state in the thread: “That name and photo might ring a bell. Wiener is one of the most effective lawmakers in the entire country. He’s behind California’s new law that will protect parents who kidnap their children and take them to California to receive mutilating surgeries.

Wiener was also behind California’s law lowering penalties for intentionally spreading HIV to other people, and their law creating a third “nonbinary” gender for government documents.

If there’s some horrifying idea related to modern gender and sex ideology, Wiener has probably written and passed a bill about it in California.

If elected Republicans cared as much about their voters’ concerns as Scott Wiener cares about freeing pedophiles and mutilating children, they’d have won total victory long ago.”

Editor’s Note: It needs to be made clear, California has NOT reduced penalties for child molestation.

(REUTERS) Posts on Facebook claim that SB-145, a bill passed by the California State Senate on August 31, 2020 seeks to “legalize pedophilia.” This claim is false, as the bill is intended to reform the state’s sex offender registry to be fairer to young LGBT adults who may be in technical violation of statutory rape laws. The bill seeks to treat all statutory rape cases—regardless of what kind of sex they involve—equally.

Senator Wiener responded to Kirk’s attacks saying on Twitter:

Charlie Kirk — one of the biggest attention-seeking liars around — is spreading bald-faced lies about me. These statements are absolutely false & defamatory. These are the lies bigots have always spread about LGBTQ people — lies that lead to violence against our community.

In an emailed statement to the Blade Wiener said:

“LGBTQ leaders around the country are under attack by toxic, far-right ideologues and elected officials. These MAGA talking heads – whose party performed far worse than expected in the midterm elections – have no meaningful policy solutions for the issues facing our country. Instead, they are focused on slandering and demonizing gay and trans people, and using us as scapegoats. Specifically, they’re employing the age-old slander that LGBTQ people are threats to children, and that is what Greene and Kirk tweeted about me.

“Charlie Kirk is a prime example of this type of extremist right-wing grifter, and he joined Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene in tweeting about me repackaged versions of centuries-old homophobic lies. Kirk and Greene are leading the movement to slander gay men and trans people as ‘pedophiles’ and ‘groomers,’ and these heinous words have consequences. Be it the massacre at Club Q or the death threat I just received this morning referencing Kirk’s tweet, LGBTQ people everywhere are experiencing an onslaught of violence and threats.

“People like Kirk and Greene are a stain on our country, and they should be held accountable for spreading vile, homophobic misinformation.”

In his statement Wiener was referencing last week’s attack by Far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-GA) who called the Senator a “communist” questioning Wiener’s loyalty and service to both the State of California and the U.S. she then went on to accuse Wiener of being a “groomer” implying that the Senator was a predator of minors for sexual purposes:

Pass my Protect Children’s Innocence Act to stop communist groomers like this from using state government power to take children away from their parents to allow a for-profit medical industry to chop off these confused children’s genitals before they are even old enough to vote.”

Wiener made a point of calling out use of the word “groomer,” as the abusive reaction and fallout from right-wing sources regarding the mass-shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, continues to ratchet up against the LGBTQ+ community.

The word “groomer” is categorically an anti-LGBTQ hate word. It’s super homophobic/transphobic. It plays into the slander that LGBTQ people are pedophiles. It’s no different than calling someone a fagg*t. If you call someone groomer, you’re inciting violence against LGBTQ people,” Wiener stated in a tweet.

Equality California, the largest statewide LGBTQ equal rights advocacy group reacted to Kirk’s smears Wednesday afternoon. In an text message to the Blade, Equality California spokesperson Jorge Reyes Salinas said:

“It is disgusting but not surprising that days after a mass shooting fueled by dangerous rhetoric from extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Charlie Kirk posts lies to spread anti-LGBTQ+ hate. The statements made are false, defamatory and lead to violence  against our LGBTQ+ community. This is another performance to build up hatred.”

The organization had previously tweeted at Kirk defending the senator:

“This is a lie. It’s false, offensive and dangerous — the exact type of disinformation that has fueled violent attacks like the Club Q shooting in #ColoradoSprings. Shame on you, and shame on @elonmusk [Twitter owner and CEO] for allowing these dangerous lies to proliferate.”

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Marjorie Taylor Greene tweets homophobic attack on Sen. Wiener

“Greene is a toxic person & embodies why the MAGA movement is dangerous, a threat to our democracy & to the personal safety of LGBTQ people”

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Calif state Sen. Scott Wiener, (D-San Francisco) (Photo credit: California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus)

LOS ANGELES – Far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene attacked Calif. State Sen. Scott Wiener, (D-San Francisco) on Tuesday after Wiener made a point of calling out use of the word “groomer,” as the abusive reaction and fallout from right-wing sources regarding the mass-shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, continues to ratchet up against the LGBTQ+ community.

The word “groomer” is categorically an anti-LGBTQ hate word. It’s super homophobic/transphobic. It plays into the slander that LGBTQ people are pedophiles. It’s no different than calling someone a fagg*t. If you call someone groomer, you’re inciting violence against LGBTQ people,” Wiener stated in his tweet.

Quoting Wiener’s tweet the far-right MAGA Georgia congresswoman called the Senator a “communist” questioning Wiener’s loyalty and service to both the State of California and the U.S. she then went on to accuse Wiener of being a “groomer” implying that the Senator was a predator of minors for sexual purposes:

Pass my Protect Children’s Innocence Act to stop communist groomers like this from using state government power to take children away from their parents to allow a for-profit medical industry to chop off these confused children’s genitals before they are even old enough to vote.”

In an emailed statement, Senator Wiener responded to the homophobic attack by the Georgia Republican:

“The same day Elon Musk reinstated QAnon extremist Marjorie Taylor Greene, she launched a vile homophobic attack on me because of my vocal advocacy in response to the Club Q slaughter. When Greene has attacked me in the past, threats against me have typically increased. She is a toxic person and embodies why the MAGA movement is so dangerous. Green is a threat to our democracy and to the personal safety of LGBTQ people.”

The term ‘groomer’ is considered highly offensive as it broadly brushstroke paints LGBTQ+ people as child molesters.

The definition according to the Urban online dictionary:

groomer

1 (the crime definition): An adult that builds a sense of trust with a minor to exploit and/or abuse them, typically (but not always) in a sexual manner. This is a crime, and it also causes harm to the minor.

2 (in US politics): What republican politicians and supporters refer to LGBTQIA+ people and their allies as, to manipulate their audience to pass anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. This is targeting and harming LGBTQIA+ people and the people using the word in this manner typically are (or have connections with those who are) actual groomers.

National Public Radio, (NPR) reported this past May the Movement Advancement Project’s executive director, Ineke Mushovic, pointed out:

“What the far right often does is they engage people’s reptilian brains, the fight-or-flight instinct,” says Mushovic. “And so it behooves far-right conservatives to put people in a state of fear, because then they’re reactive. They don’t support change.”

The “grooming” narrative, Mushovic added, “taps into this primal sense of fear and this kind of parental protective instinct. But we know it’s a completely false narrative.”

The “grooming” narrative has been actively promoted by conservative activist Christopher Rufo, and Daily Wire pundit and transphobe Matt Walsh who have both attacked gender affirming care in their assaults on the LGBTQ+ community.

Green’s H.R.8731 – Protect Children’s Innocence Act, was introduced this past August 19 and has forty-nine Republican members listed as co-sponsors. The language as introduced stated targets primarily Trans youth healthcare and targets colleges and universities from “offering instruction in gender affirming care:”

This bill places restrictions on the provision of gender affirming care. Gender affirming care includes performing surgery, administering medication, or performing other procedures for the purpose of changing the body of an individual to correspond to a sex that differs from the individual’s biological sex.

Specifically, the bill makes it a felony to perform any gender affirming care on a minor and it permits a minor on whom such care is performed to bring a civil action against each individual who provided the care.

Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of federal funds for gender affirming care or for health insurance that covers such care. Such care may not be provided in a federal health care facility or by a federal employee. The bill also prohibits qualified health plans from including coverage for gender affirming care. Further, plans that include coverage for such care are not eligible for federal subsidies. […]

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Out AG candidate wins, Rollins concedes congressional race

‘Fixing our system of disagreement matters. Integrity matters. Truth matters. Democracy matters, elections matter’

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Kris Mayes & Will Rollins (Photo Credit: LGBTQ Victory Fund/Rollins Campaign)

PHOENIX – The closest statewide competition in the Grand Canyon State was the race for Arizona attorney general. On Monday Maricopa County released its final election results that had openly Out candidate Kris Mayes beating her Republican opponent Abe Hamadeh by only 510 votes.

“Kris’ victory is a win for all Arizonans. Voters chose a champion of equality who believes in democracy over a cynic who spread election disinformation for his own perceived political gain. In a state with bans on abortion and same-sex marriage still on the books, the symbolism of voters choosing an out LGBTQ Attorney General cannot be overstated,” Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Kris has a long track record of taking on big fights and winning on behalf of her community and will be a powerful pro-equality, pro-choice force in Arizona. Today’s results are a resounding rebuke to the hate and intolerance sweeping our country. Voters made their voices heard loud and clear: enough is enough. It’s time for change, it’s time for courage.”

There are currently just two out LGBTQ state Attorneys General in the United States, according to LGBTQ Victory Institute: Dana Nessel in Michigan and Maura Healey in Massachusetts. In case of Massachusetts, Healy is now the governor-elect of Massachusetts, having won the 2022 election.

According to Phoenix NBC News affiliate KPNX 12, the state’s unofficial final results have placed Mayes only 510 votes ahead of Hamadeh to become the state’s next attorney general. The results will likely spur an automatic recount after state election numbers are certified on Dec. 5. 

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

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – In the race to represent California’s 41st Congressional District in the House of Representatives, openly gay Democratic candidate and former federal prosecutor Will Rollins congratulated his GOP opponent Ken Calvert and conceded the race.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Rollins said: “I have called Representative Calvert to offer my congratulations. I had hoped for a different result, but I respect our democratic system and am sure that our fine election workers did their jobs honestly and responsibly, and I accept the count. Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of you who voted.” 

He added:

“So, what’s next? What’s next for our communities, and what’s next for our country? The truth is that we are in a moment of uncertainty, because America is divided. And there are a lot of people out there who benefit – financially, militarily, politically – when Americans turn against one another.

“But this campaign proves that ordinary Americans have the power to reject those who try to divide us. That is how we built this country, and that is how we built this campaign. We are a community of Democrats, Republicans, and independents who came together to restore compromise, civility, and progress in the United States.”

Rollins also noted:

“This community is growing. Ordinary Americans of good faith uniting to elect leaders who know that this country is about more than one person, more than one president, more than one party, and more than one congressman. We may not always agree on how to solve the country’s problems, but the point of this campaign has always been that the way we disagree matters. Fixing our system of disagreement matters. Integrity matters. Truth matters. Democracy matters.”

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Kelly cites white supremacy after losing House race in Tennessee

A 2022 report by The Sentencing Project shows that 21% of Black voters in Tennessee are permanently barred from voting

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Odessa Kelly lost her House race in a gerrymandered district. (Photo by Shance Ware)

NASHVILLE – Odessa Kelly was on track to become the first openly gay Black woman elected to represent Tennessee in the U.S. House. On election night, as votes were counted, Kelly watched that dream slip out of reach. 

“The loss didn’t come because I’m an openly gay Black woman in the South, the loss came because of racism,” Kelly said in an interview with the Blade.

Kelly, who ran to represent Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District against incumbent Mark Green (R), lost the election by more than 20 points. Kelly blames white supremacy, gerrymandering, and voter suppression for her loss.

“I just lost a congressional race due to White Supremacy, Gerrymandering, Racist (GOP), Undercover Racist BlueDog Dems, and Voter Suppression,” Kelly tweeted post-election.

Republican-led gerrymandering parceled predominantly Democratic Davidson County, which includes Nashville, into three separate congressional districts. This gerrymandering obliterated representation for Nashville residents at the state and federal level. 

“We have zero representation in the largest, most populated city in Tennessee,” Kelly said. 

Gerrymandering often intentionally marginalizes minority communities’ voices and votes by relocating them to conservative districts. East Nashville, the minority ruled and politically Democratic district where Kelly grew up, was moved to the conservative and predominantly white district of Cookeville. But Nashville residents aren’t the only Tennesseans affected by gerrymandering in the state. 

Statewide, Tennessean voters of color were disproportionately split up and relocated to districts where they are outnumbered and their voices are drowned out. This leaves communities of color at the mercy of Jim Crow and racist political tactics that suppress their voices and their votes because they no longer hold a majority vote in any of these new districts. 

“White supremacy showed up in our state legislature and in me losing this race,” Kelly said. 

The systemic disenfranchisement of Black voters in Tennessee also played a major role in Kelly’s loss. A 2022 report by The Sentencing Project shows that 21% of Black voters in Tennessee are permanently barred from voting, while only 8% of adult voters are barred statewide. 

And a Tennessee Advisory Committee Report shows that Tennessee is one of 11 states that permanently disenfranchises voters. With some of the toughest laws and requirements for voting, the state makes it hard for Tennesseans to earn the right to vote again. 

“I assume that the majority of those individuals who can’t vote would probably vote for me because they’re looking for relief and pathways out of poverty,” Kelly said. “And those are the things that I’m fighting for.” 

As for what’s next, Kelly says she is determined to keep fighting for a country and political system where those forgotten by the status quo are represented. .

“I will not stop. I will not give up. I will keep fighting because the issues don’t change.” 

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