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DeSantis smears opponent’s campaign with Libs Of TikTok tweets

“It’s a lie. And to top it off, it’s coming from a Governor whose own campaign was led by accused child sexual predator Matt Gaetz”

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DeSantis at rally event *undated* (Photo via DeSantis/Twitter)

TALLAHASSEE – A pair of tweets last week by anti-LGBTQ+ Libs of TikTok’s founder Chaya Raichik, spread malicious misinformation about the running mate for former U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in his race to oust incumbent Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Karla Hernández, the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Florida, was attacked by Raichik who tweeted: “Charlie Crist just picked Karla Mats as his running mate for Gov. She’s the president of a teacher’s union who covered up for a teacher who pled guilty to sexual assault of a student. There were allegations against him for 12 YEARS & the union she was in charge of protected him.”

In a follow-up tweet that included a link to a Miami-Herald story, Raichik wrote: “Here’s the article detailing how @KarlaMats protected a pedophile for 12 YEARS while he was working in a middle school.”

DeSantis campaign press flack and his former official state gubernatorial communications director, Christina Pushaw, who gained national notoriety for inflammatory tweets and remarks, calling LGBTQ+ people “groomers” while serving as the governor’s chief official spokesperson tweeted out the misinformation being spread by Raichik.

During a news conference earlier this week in Fort Pierce the governor stated:

“Everybody knew this was going on, and her union protected him knowing that he represented a threat to those students in middle school classrooms,” DeSantis told reporters. “He abused and he abused and he abused, and he finally got caught and he’s finally in prison.”

“They cared more about the power of their union than they did about the best interests of these kids,” he continued. “That is disgraceful. You do not put union politics ahead of middle school students who are in danger of being sexually abused. I think that’s disqualifying to be in any political office, much less Lieutenant Governor of the state of Florida.”

According to Florida Politics, Mediaite, and Popular Information, ‘”although allegations against Nibbs date back to 2004 and included rape accusations, the investigation against him didn’t begin until 2015, the year before Hernández was first elected union president.”

Nibbs was sentenced to eight years in prison plus 10 years of sex offender probation. He has a lifetime designation as a sexual predator.

Florida Politics reported that the Crist campaign hit back at the governor tying him to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who is under investigation for underage sex trafficking. Gaetz served on DeSantis’ transition team and reportedly helped him earn President Donald Trump’s endorsement in 2018.

“It’s a lie. And to top it off, it’s coming from a Governor whose own campaign was led by accused child sexual predator Matt Gaetz, and whose disgusting actions DeSantis still refuses to condemn,” said the Crist campaign’s Communications Director, Samantha Ramirez.

“While Ron DeSantis shields sexual predators in his own party, Karla Hernández is a former special needs teacher who has devoted her life to serving the people of her community.”

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California Politics

Newsom signs law banning schools’ gender notification policies

Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) introduced AB 1955

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(Graphic courtesy of PFLAG)

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1955 on Monday, banning forced outings in California schools after facing fierce opposition.

The signature comes after Newsom faced pressure to sign, leaving many to question his stance on LGBTQ issues after vetoing a bill that would have considered parents’ acceptance of a child’s identity or orientation in legal custody battles.

The bill, proposed by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) earlier this year, bans schools from creating or enacting policies that would out students to their parents about their gender, pronouns, name change, or sexual orientation.

“This comes from a growing national attack on LGBTQ+ people and in particular transgender individuals, with several California school districts and other states enacting policies that explicitly compel teachers to tell parents that their child identifies as transgender,” said Ward during a hearing last month.

“Forced outing policies harm everyone: Parents, families, and school staff by unnecessarily compelling the staff to involve themselves in family matters and removing the opportunity for families to build trust and have conversations on their own terms.”

The introduction of the bill follows a string of policies requiring counselors, administrators, teachers, school staff, and anyone else at the school to notify parents about their child’s transition or change of pronouns.

AB 1955 supports the Support Academic Futures and Educators for Today’s Youth Act (SAFETY Act) in preventing schools from enforcing or enacting forced outing policies.

“As a nonbinary educator working at a middle school, I definitely feel relieved to have some solid protection at the state level, and I feel empowered to continue advocating for my LGBTQ+ students,” said Amanda Estrada, a middle school teacher at Los Nietos Unified School District.

Lawmakers were discordant last month at a hearing that erupted in emotions over the issue. Following the hearing, legislators sent the bill to Newsom to stop these policies against LGBTQ students, families, and educators who felt passionately about the issue.

Last summer, Chino Valley Unified School District began enforcing the policy notifying parents of any requests “to change any information contained in a student’s official or unofficial records.” The policy was later blocked in court, sparking a civil rights lawsuit from California, bringing in Attorney General Rob Bonta to advocate against the policy.

Earlier this year, the school district revamped the policy, leaving out terms like gender, biological sex, and bathrooms but continues to push for outing students based on any changes they may request.

Existing law regarding the polarizing issue requires the State Department of Education to develop school-based resources and update previous resources that aim to support LGBTQ students. The new law now requires the State Department of Education to develop community-based resources for LGBTQ students and their families as well.

Existing law also prohibits discrimination against students participating in any program or activity conducted that receives or benefits from state-level funding. The new law will now include “any governing body or body of those educational entities from enacting or enforcing policy, rule, or administrative regulation that requires an employee or a contractor to disclose any information related to a pupil’s consent unless otherwise required by law.”

The law also states that students should feel “safe, supported, and affirmed for who they are at school.” This requires allowing them to choose when and how they want to make their new identities or orientation public and making resources available for them and their families.

This legislative push for laws and policies that protect LGBTQ youth will continue to face opposition as transition and gender identity continues to be a heavily polarizing and political issue among families.

The proposed bill cites research by the Trevor Project, stating that affirming school environments significantly lower the odds of transgender and LGBTQ youth attempting suicide.

Further findings also suggest that educators often face harassment and retaliation attempts because of their lawful efforts to uphold student privacy and protect them from discrimination.

“Over the past couple of years, I started to worry more about the creep of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric across the state, mostly through small districts like mine,” said Estrada. “Now that we have this law in place, I’ve got some peace of mind, and hopefully going forward, my students will too.”

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Trump picks anti-LGBTQ JD Vance as running mate

HRC, GLAAD highlight vice presidential nominee’s record

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U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) speaks at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former President Donald Trump announced anti-LGBTQ U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) as his 2024 running mate in a Truth Social post on Monday.

A political neophyte who was first elected in 2022 thanks to Trump’s endorsement, Vance once compared the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to Adolf Hitler, also calling him “cultural heroin” and “an opioid of the masses.”

The Ohio senator’s journey from critic to acolyte was cemented over the weekend.

After Trump walked away from an assassination attempt and both of the major candidates said it was time to turn down the rhetoric, Vance went further than many on the right and directly blamed President Joe Biden and his campaign for the gunman’s actions.

“The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs,” he said on X. “That rhetoric led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination.” 

LGBTQ organizations and advocates issued statements on Monday blasting Trump’s vice president pick.

“Donald Trump has been a bully for years — and his pick of MAGA clone JD Vance is a reminder that nothing has changed. This is anything but a unity ticket,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said.

“We are not simply choosing between two campaigns. We are choosing between two fundamentally different visions of America. One, with Trump and MAGA ‘yes man’ JD Vance at the helm, where our rights and freedoms are under siege. And the other, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris leading the way, where we are advancing toward freedom and equality for all,” she said.

“Everything is at stake and the contrast could not be clearer. We must defeat Trump, Vance, and their brand of chaos and division, and send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris back to the White House.”

In a press release, HRC listed some of the ways in which Vance has denigrated LGBTQ people.

GLAAD, meanwhile, has a lengthy entry for Vance in the GLAAD Accountability Project. Positions, statements, and actions by Trump’s running mate that were noted by the two organizations include:

  • His endorsement of the “groomer” slur against Democrats for their support of LGBTQ people,
  • His statement “strongly disagree[ing]” that LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination,
  • His opposition to the Equality Act, which would federalize and codify LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections,
  • His extreme anti-choice views, including opposition to exceptions to abortion restrictions for victims of rape and incest and opposition to IVF,
  • His introduction of a bill to charge healthcare providers with a felony for providing medically necessary health care to transgender youth,
  • His statement that he would have voted “no” on the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for married same-sex couples and was supported by a dozen GOP senators,
  • His defense of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for appearing at a white supremacist conference with host Nick Fuentes, who has spread racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories, and
  • His claim, a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that Biden was risking war with Russia because President Putin doesn’t believe in trans rights.
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Garcia and Log Cabin Republicans president react to new GOP party platform

RNC had not issued a new position manifesto since 2016

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee at National Harbor, Md., on March 4, 2023. (Screen capture via Vimeo)

Following the issuance of the Republican Party’s first new policy platform since 2016, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Charles Moran, president of the conservative LGBTQ group Log Cabin Republicans, shared their reactions this week with the Washington Blade.

Unlike previous iterations, including in 2016 and 2012, the 2024 version contains no mention of same-sex marriage and very little discussion about abortion, issues long championed by the religious right factions of the party.

Still, the document calls for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

“We will keep men out of women’s sports, ban taxpayer funding for sex change surgeries, and stop taxpayer-funded schools from promoting gender transition, reverse Biden’s radical rewrite of Title IX education regulations, and restore protections for women and girls,” the platform says.

“Republicans will ensure children are taught fundamentals like reading, history, science, and math, not leftwing propaganda,” according to the document. “We will defund schools that engage in inappropriate political indoctrination of our children using federal taxpayer dollars.”

Garcia, an openly gay vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, told the Blade by phone on Tuesday that the language is of a piece of the party’s efforts across the board to restrict rights, freedoms, and protections from many of America’s most vulnerable.

“The platform is the platform,” he said. “It’s reactionary. It moves us backwards. It does not support diverse communities.”

What is more important, however, than “the Republican platform, Project 2025, all of these ideas and proposals,” Garcia said, is the question of “who’s going to implement these.”

“Look at what Donald Trump is actually saying,” Garcia said. “That should scare us. He’s saying he’s going to deport undocumented people across the country. He’s saying he’s going to empower fossil fuel and oil companies in public. He’s saying that he doesn’t support unions. He’s saying all of these horrible things. I think we should take him for his word.”

“We should already know that he’s going to do what he says. He’s saying he’s going to jail his political opponents,” the congressman added. “This is insane. So, I think that is much more instructive than any party platform or other conversation happening right now.”

Project 2025, the exhaustively detailed governing blueprint for a second Trump term that was published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, “is finally starting to get more attention,” Garcia said.

Unlike the party platform, the 900-page document reads like a wishlist for the most right-wing conservative Christian flanks of the GOP — with proposals to criminalize all pornography, for instance, and to revoke LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for federal government employees.

“I wish that over the last two days we were talking about Project 2025,” said Garcia.

House Democrats, who had just returned from the July 4 break, had been inundated with questions about whether President Joe Biden should continue leading the party’s 2024 ticket after a shaky debate performance last month exacerbated concerns about his age.

“Moving forward,” he said, Project 2025 “needs to get more attention, and I’m hopeful that it will.”

Also speaking with the Blade on Tuesday was Moran, who had attended a Log Cabin Republicans fundraiser on Monday that former first lady Melania Trump hosted and netted $1.4 million. The event was the first to be held in the Trump Tower residence since her husband launched his 2024 campaign.

“Project 2025 is like a kid’s Christmas wish list — and it has just as much chance of coming to fruition as Santa Claus coming down that chimney,” he said. “It’s just not reality.”

By contrast, the platform has Trump written all over it, Moran said.

“Even though I was not on the platform committee, it was clear those in leadership understood that the process had been commandeered in the past by special interests and those trying to use intimidation and fear to bully their influence into the final document,” he said. “The RNC took steps to ensure a clean, orderly and accessible drafting process.”

As a result of influence peddling by special interest groups, “the platform continued to be an albatross around the necks of common-sense Republicans,” providing opportunities for Democrats to portray their political opponents as anti-gay, for example, since the document historically took a position against same-sex marriage.

“The 2016 platform was crafted under the influence of Ted Cruz’s delegates, veering it in a much more conservative direction on gay issues,” Moran said. “President Trump made it clear that he wasn’t aligned with the 2016 platform, and if the full RNC convention would have been held in 2020, it would have been changed then.”

Moran added that while “the platform process has historically been influenced by paid lobbyists representing special interests trying to game the system for their client’s pet projects and desires,” this year “presented President Trump with his first opportunity to genuinely make the GOP platform represent the modern Republican Party, and make it represent an inclusive, America-First context.”

Moran said the new platform is a reflection of the campaign’s strategy and approach to this election.

“I believe the president knew that the old platform made the GOP uncompetitive in major geographic and critical demographic areas,” he said. “The platform was definitely worth fighting over, because we know that the presidential nominee needs to get the party in the best position possible to appeal to the broadest number of people.”

“This is a platform that is inclusive of many communities, including LGBT Americans,” Moran said. “It promotes the sanctity of marriage, but doesn’t exclude our marriages. It supports IVF, which is the principle way same-sex couples build families.”

“This is a pro-family platform,” he added, “but it provides a place for our families too.”

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Republican National Convention expected to address LGBTQ issues

The Washington Blade will be reporting from Milwaukee next week

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Former President Donald Trump (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade will be in Milwaukee next week covering the Republican National Convention, which is expected to include events and discussions concerning LGBTQ issues.

  • GRACE, the gender research advocacy council and education, will host a media availability at the RNC next week with Alaina Kupec, its founder and president, and Executive Director Jennifer Williams.

Williams is a Republican city councilmember representing Trenton, N.J., and the first transgender woman elected to a municipal office in the state. Kupec, who is also trans, is a Navy veteran who has served in executive level positions at biopharmaceutical companies.

GRACE was founded to “assist other groups in addressing misinformation about transgender people,” as Kupec told Bay Area Reporter. The organization has also focused on engaging conservatives and moderates, including through a series of ads spotlighting right-leaning, Christian fathers of trans children.

The organization notes that the 2024 Republican Party platform included “references to the transgender community.”

  • On July 15, the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, will host “Heritage Policy Fest: Fighting for America’s Future.”

The group’s Project 2025, a 900+ page governing agenda for a second Trump administration, would repeal LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections and direct the federal government to advance principles of Christian nationalism.

The Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign has sought to bring attention to Project 2025 and tie it to Trump’s candidacy, as the document contains extreme policy proscriptions including a proposal to criminalize all pornography.

  • The anti-LGBTQ group Moms for Liberty will host “Giving Americans a Voice Town Hall” on July 16.

The group, which is considered a far-right extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has close ties to the Republican Party, has sought to ban books with LGBTQ characters or themes and its members have harassed and intimidated educators and school officials.

  • Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBTQ group, will host a Big Tent Event on July 17.

Former first lady Melania Trump hosted a fundraiser for the organization on Monday at the Trumps’ penthouse in Trump Tower, raising $1.4 million according to the New York Post. The event was the 2024 campaign’s first that was held at the couple’s residence.

  • On July 18, the anti-LGBTQ Faith and Freedom Coalition will host a prayer breakfast.

The organization, led by Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, opposes same-sex marriage and “transgender ideology.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Will Rollins raises $2.2+ million in Q2

Gay Democrat seeks to unseat anti-LGBTQ GOP opponent

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Will Rollins and his partner, Paolo, at the 2022 Palm Springs Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of Will Rollins for Congress)

Will Rollins, the gay Democrat vying for anti-LGBTQ U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert’s (R-Calif.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, raised more than $2.2 million in the second quarter, the Washington Blade has learned.

Fundraising totals covering the period from April 1 to June 30 must be reported to the U.S. Federal Election Commission by or before July 15.

With this latest haul, the Rollins campaign’s cash on hand will exceed $4.7 million and the total raised for the 2024 cycle, $7 million.

If Rollins out-raises Calvert, it would be the fourth consecutive quarter. In the first quarter of 2024, Rollins brought in more than $950,000 more than his opponent, boasting $3,162,026.27 in cash on hand to Calvert’s 2,639,376.83.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee believes California’s 41st Congressional District is likely to flip from red to blue, and therefore has made additional investments in Rollins’s campaign as he seeks to unseat a GOP member who has served since 1993.

The Democratic challenger’s campaign says this quarter saw more than 29,000 total contributions, 95 percent of which were $100 or less, for a total this cycle of more than 44,000 unique donors.

“Flipping the 41st District is critical for a host of reasons: Installing new leadership that prioritizes working families over special interests, defending and restoring into law a woman’s fundamental right to choose, protecting our fragile democracy, mitigating the effects of climate change and creating local green energy jobs that will protect our planet, and so much more,” Rollins told the Blade in an emailed statement.

“But, it’s also a history-making opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “If elected, I’d have the honor of being the first openly LBGTQ+ member of Congress to represent Palm Springs and the first openly LGBTQ+ member of Congress from a law enforcement background.”

Rollins continued, “I think that this representation and visibility resonates with a lot of grassroots supporters who see our current congressman for who he is: A staunch opponent of our community. Calvert’s record speaks for itself, including voting against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill and just last year voting to strip funding for basic services for LGBTQ+ community centers, including meals for seniors. It’s abhorrent.”

“As a result, we’ve been fortunate to have an outpouring of support from the LGBTQ+ community, particularly those locally in Riverside County,” Rollins said. “And it’s just one of a host of reasons why our campaign’s fundraising has been so strong — I’m very thankful for the support and look forward to finishing the job this November.”

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California Politics

Update: Calif. proposes LGBTQ commission amid escalating national and local challenges

Assemblymember Alex Lee introduced Assembly Bill 3031

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In response to mounting pressures on LGBTQ rights across the nation, California lawmakers have introduced Assembly Bill 3031 that would create a statewide LGBTQ commission. 

This initiative comes at a critical juncture, as the LGBTQ community faces intensifying challenges even within the traditionally progressive Golden State.

Recent years have seen a troubling trend in smaller California cities, where school boards face pressure from anti-LGBTQ groups to withdraw supportive curriculum and disband LGBTQ student organizations. 

In communities like Chino Hills, for instance, school boards have passed policies requiring schools to forcibly out transgender students to their parents, a move that has sparked intense debate and concern among LGBTQ advocates. These local battles mirror a larger national movement seeking to limit LGBTQ visibility and support in educational settings.

Simultaneously, some city councils, most recently in Downey, have moved to ban the Pride flag from flying on public property, a symbolic gesture with far-reaching implications for LGBTQ acceptance and representation.

At least one leader of these efforts, Claudia Frometta, a Downey, California councilmember who unsuccessfully voted against funding of LGBTQ Pride events in that city and one year later lead a successful effort to ban the flying of the Rainbow Flag on city property, has risen to national prominence. Frometta was recently elected President of the highly influential National Association of Elected Officials (NALEO).

Such developments contribute to a climate of exclusion and send a powerful message about the value placed on LGBTQ lives and experiences in these communities and organizations.

These local actions unfold against a backdrop of rising hate crimes targeting LGBTQ individuals. 

Between 2021 and 2022, California witnessed a 29 percent increase in reported hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation bias, totaling over 391 incidents. This surge in violence has sparked alarm among LGBTQ advocates and underscores the urgent need for comprehensive state-level action to protect and support the LGBTQ community.

The proposed commission aims to address these multifaceted challenges. 

Assemblymember Alex Lee, who serves California’s 24th Assembly District (Alameda County and Santa Clara County), the bill’s author, emphasized its importance: 

“It’s critical that the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ community members are recognized by our government,” he said. “The commission will play an important role in informing policy and programs for the LGBTQ+ community.”

LGBTQ advocates have expressed particular concern over the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation sweeping across the country. 

In 2023 alone, 520 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in more than 40 states, with 84 signed into law. The pace has not slowed in 2024, with 490 such bills proposed by June. This legislative onslaught has targeted various aspects of LGBTQ life, from restricting access to gender-affirming care for transyouth to limiting discussions of LGBTQ topics in schools.

Adding to these concerns is the Republican Party’s Project 2025 blueprint — a comprehensive plan that outlines potential rollbacks of LGBTQ rights should the party regain control of the White House. This document suggests threats to marriage equality and protections in employment and housing and other hard-won victories. The combination of ongoing legislative attacks and the potential for sweeping federal changes has created a climate of uncertainty and fear within the LGBTQ community, even in progressive states like California.

Equality California Executive Director Tony Hwang highlighted the urgency of the situation. 

“California has come a long way in the fight for full, lived equality for LGBTQ+ people, but our state is not immune to the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ hate, violence and right-wing extremism sweeping the country,” he said. “California’s commitment to the health, safety and dignity of LGBTQ+ people is needed now more than ever.”

The proposed commission would consist of nine members representing California’s diverse LGBTQ community. The governor would appoint five members, while the Assembly speaker and the Senate Rules Committee would each appoint two members. This structure aims to ensure a broad representation of perspectives and experiences within the LGBTQ+ community.

The commission’s responsibilities would be wide-ranging and impactful. It would act in an advisory capacity to the state legislature and governor on policy matters affecting the LGBTQ community. This would involve monitoring proposed legislation and regulations, coordinating with other relevant commissions on issues of mutual concern, and working with state agencies to assess the impact of their programs and policies on LGBTQ individuals.

The commission would also engage in fact-finding and data collection to gain a comprehensive understanding of the experiences and needs of LGBTQ Californians. This would involve holding public hearings to gather input directly from community members, as well as conducting research on various issues affecting the LGBTQ population. 

The commission would be required to submit annual reports to the legislature and governor, summarizing its findings and offering policy recommendations to address the needs of the LGBTQ community.

The bill has garnered support from various quarters, including local government bodies. 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in January 2024. From left to right: Janice Hahn, Hilda Solis, Lindsey Horvath (chair), Kathryn Barger and Holly Mitchell. (photo courtesy of the LA County Board of Supervisors)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on June 25 officially threw its support behind AB 3031.

Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Hilda Solis in a motion they put forth said the bill would create a commission “that represents California’s diverse LGBTQ+ community and shines a light on the unique challenges that LGBTQ+ people face.”

The Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee President Drew Lloyd told the Bay Area Reporter that having “a commission that addresses disparities facing California’s queer community and works to elevate our community’s unique experiences, voices, and concerns, is invaluable. BAYMEC enthusiastically endorses the creation of this commission and looks forward to working with all stakeholders and our community to create a safe and unique space that leads to a better California for all.”

“I thank my colleague Assemblymember Alex Lee for introducing this important legislation to establish the California LGBTQ+ Commission, which will empower our LGBTQ+ community with independent representation to advise the Legislature and governor on policy matters and provide recommendations for future actions we can take to identify and reduce systemic inequalities and barriers,” Assemblymember Evan Low, co-sponsor of AB 3031 and a member of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, stated,

As AB 3031 progresses through the legislative process, it represents California’s proactive stance in safeguarding LGBTQ rights amidst a challenging national landscape. The commission’s establishment would signal the state’s commitment to not only maintaining existing protections but also actively addressing the evolving needs of its LGBTQ residents in the face of unprecedented threats to their rights and well-being.

The creation of this commission comes at a time when LGBTQ Californians, estimated at 2.7 million or roughly 9 percent of the state’s adult population, face both longstanding and emerging challenges. From workplace discrimination and healthcare disparities to the recent surge in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policy proposals, the need for a dedicated body to address these issues has never been more apparent.

As the bill moves forward, many in California’s LGBTQ community and their allies are hopeful that this commission will provide a powerful voice for their concerns at the highest levels of state government. In doing so, it may serve as a model for other states seeking to protect and empower their LGBTQ residents in an increasingly challenging political climate.

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Project 2025 is Trump’s roadmap to the elimination of LGBTQ rights

US Supreme Court on Monday boosted former president’s re-election chances

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As a doubly emboldened Donald Trump eyes a return to the White House, a chilling blueprint for a fascist takeover of the country has emerged in the form of a 900-page blueprint called Project 2025. Every LGBTQ person, every agency that works on our behalf, every political and legal ally, every person who believes in civil liberties, equality and justice, must pay attention.

We are now facing a national emergency that requires you to understand the seriousness of Project 2025.

This far-reaching plan, developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and its allies, outlines a radical reshaping of the federal government, and includes an uncompromising plan to reverse course on LGBTQ rights in this county. 

Project 2025, of course does not only target LGBTQ poeple. It also targets immigrants, people of color and every allied interest community and progressive ideal.

Project 2025 is a $22 million initiative created in collaboration with 100 right-wing partner organizations. It includes a 180-day playbook of regulations and executive orders, a database of potential appointees, and a 1,000-page handbook outlining policy priorities. While its creators claim it’s designed to “save our republic,” Project 2025 in fact represents a coordinated assault on civil liberties, particularly those of LGBTQ Americans.

The project outlines numerous actions that would severely impact the LGBTQ community. A key focus is stripping away non-discrimination policies. This includes removing terms like “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “diversity” from federal documents, restricting the application of the Bostock v. Clayton County decision that prohibited discrimination against  LGBTQ people in the workplace, and rescinding all regulations prohibiting discrimination based on LGBTQ status.

The plan also aims to narrowly define “sex discrimination” in a way that would exclude LGBTQ identities, effectively erasing legal protections for this community.

Healthcare access for LGBTQ individuals, particularly transgender people, is another major target. The project proposes eliminating trans healthcare coverage in Medicare and Medicaid, opposing trans healthcare for service members, and ending anti-discrimination rules based on gender identity and sexual orientation in the Affordable Care Act.

These changes would significantly restrict access to necessary medical care for many LGBTQ Americans.

The military is not spared from this sweeping agenda. Project 2025 calls for reversing policies that currently allow trans people to serve openly in the armed forces. It goes further, proposing to expel trans troops and even individuals living with HIV from military service, regardless of their ability to perform their duties.

In education, the project aims to repress LGBTQ-inclusive policies and curricula. It promotes restrictive views on gender in schools, seeks to disallow students from using names or pronouns that don’t match their birth certificates, and advocates for removing LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum and policies.

These changes would create hostile environments for LGBTQ students and staff in educational settings.

The influence of Project 2025 extends beyond U.S. borders. It proposes ending the State Department’s LGBTQ equality initiatives globally, potentially emboldening anti-LGBTQ sentiments and policies in other countries, particularly in regions where LGBTQ rights are already under threat.

The project falsely characterizes trans identities as an “ideology” linked to child exploitation and portrays LGBTQ-inclusive education as harmful. It aims to prioritize a narrow definition of family that excludes LGBTQ parents and single mothers.

Project 2025 represents a coordinated effort to not only halt progress on LGBTQ rights but to actively dismantle existing protections. Its implementation would significantly impact the lives of LGBTQ Americans across various sectors, from healthcare and employment to education and military service, potentially setting back decades of progress in civil rights and equality.

The comprehensive nature and far-reaching consequences of Project 2025 make preventing its implementation one of the most urgent priorities for LGBTQ advocates and allies. The plan’s potential to systematically erase LGBTQ protections and rights at a federal level poses an unprecedented threat to the community.

The urgency to act against Project 2025 is further underscored by recent developments in the Supreme Court and political landscape. In a historic and controversial decision, the court granted substantial immunity from prosecution to Trump on election subversion charges, with potential far-reaching consequences for presidential accountability and the 2024 election.

This 6-3 decision, split along ideological lines, not only establishes broad new immunity for past and future presidents but also significantly boosts Donald Trump’s chances at reelection.

The timing of that ruling is also particularly bad, coming on the heels of what many observers described as a disappointing debate performance by President Joe Biden, an ally who, if reelected in 2024, would stand as a bulwark against the implementation of Project 2025’s goals.

The ruling states that presidents may not be prosecuted for exercising their “core” constitutional powers, and even in situations where former presidents might be prosecuted after leaving office, they are entitled to at least presumptive immunity for official actions taken as president.

Biden addressed the Supreme Court’s ruling, warning of its dangerous implications.

“Today’s decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president can do,” Biden said. He continued, “This is a fundamentally new principle, and it’s a dangerous precedent because the power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even including Supreme Court of the United States. The only limits will be self-imposed posed by the president alone.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, argued that such immunity is necessary to protect an “energetic” and “independent executive” willing to take “bold” actions and make unpopular decisions when needed. However, this ruling raises significant concerns for LGBTQ advocates and civil rights groups, especially in light of Project 2025.

The decision potentially makes it more difficult to hold presidents accountable for actions that may infringe on the rights of marginalized communities, including LGBTQ people. This could embolden a future Trump administration, or any administration aligned with Project 2025’s goals, to implement discriminatory policies with little fear of legal consequences.

This combination of factors — a well-funded, comprehensive plan to roll back LGBTQ rights, coupled with increased legal protections for those in power who might enforce such policies, and a political landscape that seems increasingly favorable to Project 2025’s proponents — presents a grave threat to the LGBTQ community. It underscores the critical importance of mobilizing now to prevent Project 2025 from becoming a reality.

LGBTQ advocates must not only work to thwart Project 2025 but also address the broader legal and political landscape that could enable its implementation. This includes pushing for legislative action to counteract the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling, working to ensure that future judicial appointments prioritize civil rights protections, and engaging in voter education and mobilization efforts to support candidates who oppose Project 2025’s agenda.

The stakes have never been higher. The time for action is now, before the combined threats of Project 2025, expanded presidential immunity, and potential political shifts can erode decades of progress in LGBTQ rights and protections.

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LGBTQ issues absent from Trump-Biden debate

Advocacy groups hoped candidates would address queer topics

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Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden debate on CNN on Jun 27, 2024. (Screen captures via CNN)

At their televised debate in Atlanta on Thursday, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump traded barbs on issues from abortion and election integrity to immigration and foreign policy. The 81 and 78-year-old candidates even argued over who is a better golfer.

Absent from the discussion, however, were matters of LGBTQ rights that have animated national politics in this election cycle with the presumptive Republican nominee promising to weaponize the federal government against queer and transgender Americans as the president pledges to build on his record of expanding their freedoms and protections.

CNN hosted Thursday’s debate, with the network’s anchors Dana Bash and Jake Tapper moderating. ABC News will run the second debate scheduled for Sept. 10.

Setting the tone early into the program was Trump’s repetition of the lie that Democrats are so “radical” on matters of abortion that they “will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth.”

Biden, meanwhile, laid the blame at his opponent’s feet for appointing three U.S. Supreme Court justices during his term in office who overturned Roe v. Wade’s 51-year-old constitutional protections for abortion.

He also referenced the fallout from that ruling and the extreme restrictions passed by conservative legislators in its wake, arguing that Trump would not veto a federal abortion ban if Republican majorities in Congress were to pass one.

Trump also repeated falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election.

“Will you pledge tonight that once all legal challenges have been exhausted, that you will accept the results of this election,” Bash asked him, “regardless of who wins, and you will say right now that political violence in any form is unacceptable?”

The Republican frontrunner first responded by denying he was responsible for his supporters’ violent ransacking of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

After the CNN anchor pressed him twice to answer the first part of her question, Trump said, “if it’s a fair and legal and good election, absolutely” but “the fraud and everything else was ridiculous.”

“You appealed and appealed to courts all across the country,” Biden responded. “Not one single court in America said any of your claims had any merit, state or local, none. But you continue to provoke this lie about somehow, there’s all this misrepresentation, all this stealing — there is no evidence of that at all.”

The president continued, “And I tell you what, I doubt whether you’ll accept it, because you’re such a whiner.”

Advocacy groups hoped the debate would address LGBTQ issues

Leading up to the debate, advocacy groups urged the candidates to defend their records on and policy proposals concerning LGBTQ rights, with some arguing the discussion would advantage Biden’s campaign, as reported by The Hill’s Brooke Migdon.

As the community celebrated Pride this month, the Biden-Harris 2024 team made significant investments in paid media and the Out for Biden national organizing effort to court LGBTQ voters, who are expected to comprise a larger share of the electorate than ever before.

“This will be an enormous slight to our community if LGBTQ questions are not asked during this debate,” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said. “Our community is deeply affected by where these candidates stand.” 

“The safety and freedom of LGBTQ people depends on your engagement with the candidates and ability to inform voters about their records and proposals,” she said.

Annise Parker, the outgoing president of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, said “I certainly hope that the moderators bring up the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ issues, because there is a stark contrast between the two candidates.”

“I hope we see a substantive conversation on the records of these two men for the fight for a more equal society,” said Brandon Wolf, national press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign.

“A vast majority of people in this country support an America that treats people with dignity and respect; they support an America that prevents people from experiencing discrimination and harm simply because of who they are,” he said.

“That is where the American people largely are, and I hope we get an opportunity on that stage to see the contrast between these two candidates.” 

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Bobby Berk may hit campaign trail for Biden, speak at DNC

‘Queer Eye’ star attended White House Pride event

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Bobby Berk attends the White House Pride event on June 26. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Interior designer and television personality Bobby Berk talked with the Biden-Harris 2024 team on Tuesday about “going on the road, going on the campaign trail, and maybe speaking” at the Democratic National Convention, he told the Washington Blade on Wednesday.

“I had a great meeting” with the president’s team, he said during a brief interview just ahead of the White House Pride celebration, which was headlined by first lady Jill Biden.

“I’m very excited here to support an administration that has 100 percent support in our community, and for that matter, has supported everyone,” Berk said. “You know, that’s what’s so amazing about this administration is they are for everyone, not just for a select few.”

Berk, who appeared on the first eight seasons of Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” also commented on the significance of being invited to the White House for the administration’s Pride event. “It’s kind of the center of the earth,” he said.

“To have somebody like the first lady presiding over an event like this — showing the world, every country, that she accepts us, that the president accepts us, that the administration accepts us — I think it’s a very powerful message,” he said. “It says 1,000 words.”

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Drag queens lobby members of Congress

MoveOn organized Tuesday’s Drag Lobby Day

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Drag artist Joey Jay speaks at a press conference at the House Triangle near the U.S. Capitol on June 25, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of drag queens on Tuesday traveled to D.C. to lobby members of Congress to support pro-LGBTQ legislation.

“Drag Race Philippines” judge Jiggly Caliente, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 13 contestant Joey Jay and Brigitte Bandit urged lawmakers to support the Equality Act, which would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Transgender Bill of Rights, which would add trans-specific protections to federal nondiscrimination laws. 

Caliente, Jay and Bandit met with U.S. Reps. Juan Ciscomani (D-Ariz.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), and Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) and/or their staffers.

Jay posted to her X account a picture of her, Caliente, and Bandit outside Crockett’s office. The Texas Democrat in response said “you’re always welcome, queens.”

MoveOn organized the visit, which it called the Drag Lobby Day.

“Today we brought together a trio of advocates and drag artists to stick up for LGBTQ folks, talk about what’s at stake and fight back against some extremist, hateful attacks, and narratives from conservative politicians,” said MoveOn Campaign Director Nakia Stephens during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol.

Caliente said the Equality Act and the Trans Bill of Rights “will make it easier for people to find and keep employment and protect our communities more fully from discrimination in housing, health care, and so much more.”

Jay, who now lives in Phoenix, cited statistics that indicate 320 trans people were killed in 2023. Jay also stressed to conservatives that drag queens and LGBTQ people are not “trying to shove our lifestyle down your throats.”

“We are just trying to live in peace without fear of being murdered,” said Jay.

(WASHINGTON BLADE VIDEO BY SEAN KOPEREK)

Bridget Bandit — known as the “Dolly of Austin” — has testified against two anti-drag bills in Texas while in drag. Bandit noted she joined an American Civil Liberties Union of Texas lawsuit against the state’s Senate Bill 12, which would have criminalized drag shows and other performances that took place in front of children, “to fight for our freedom of expression.”

A federal judge last September blocked the law from taking effect.

“This fight is far from over,” said Bandit. “We continue to face the effects of this harmful rhetoric legitimized by our lawmakers.”

Drag artist Brigitte Bandit speaks at a press conference at the House Triangle near the U.S. Capitol on June 25, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sean Koperek contributed to this story.

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