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Pennsylvania Republicans advocating broader ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

“The intent of these bills seems to be to wipe out any discussion and pretend that [LGBTQ people] don’t exist”

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Pennsylvania State Capitol building (Photo by Michael Key, The Washington Blade)

HARRISBURG – A conservative self described ‘Christian Mom’ Republican lawmaker along with other members of her party championed a anti-LGBTQ ‘parental rights bill’ Tuesday during a rally at the Pennsylvania State Capitol building.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Centre/Clinton) along with Republican Cumberland County Rep. Barbara Gleim as co-sponsor introduced House Bill 2813, Bororwicz telling rally attendees that the measure is set to guarantee parental oversight and control over the availability of school materials that she portrayed as increasingly obscene.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Centre/Clinton)
(Screenshot via Office of Rep. Borowicz)

“Many of the mothers joining us today in the state Capitol Rotunda have discovered sexually explicit content and pornographic images in children’s books in school libraries,” Borowicz said. “Passage of my (bill) will fundamentally guarantee that our children can remain children by allowing parents to vigilantly protect their innocence for as long as possible.”

“This is a bill to protect our children from gender ideology and sexual orientation being taught in our schools,” Borowicz added. 

Critics of the measure labeled it another Republican “don’t say gay” law effort, arguing the language goes even farther than the controversial Florida legislation which inspired it.

“It is patterned after the Florida bill, but mine goes further,” Borowicz acknowledged.

Pennsylvania Patriot News reported that the key part of the bill states that any public or charter school “may not offer instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to a student in kindergarten through fifth grade.”

Florida’s bill, which became law earlier this year, contains nearly identical language, but applies it only through third grade. Borowicz made it clear Tuesday that her desire would be to extend the prohibition all the way through high school, even though the current text of her bill goes only through grade five.

“It really needs to be protected up through 12th grade, we need to go all the way,” she told reporters, voicing support for the similar Senate Bill 1278, which would allow schools to be sued for material that is “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” at any grade level.

“This will really add to the existing targeting and bullying of LGBTQ kids in schools,” said Sharon Ward, senior policy advisor for the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania. “The intent of these bills seems to be to wipe out any discussion and pretend that [LGBTQ people] don’t exist.”

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, a Harvard Law school researcher who authored an independent United Nations Human Rights Council study titled; ” “Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” in his research noted “The adoption of comprehensive sexuality education inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity can significantly reduce physical and psychological health risks for LGBT and gender-diverse youth.”

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California Politics

Race to the Midterms: Christy Smith & Tony Hoang

Karen Ocamb & Max Huskins along with the Los Angeles Blade present a limited YouTube series “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms”

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Screenshot/YouTube

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The unimaginable is happening. Two years ago, Marc Elias, founder of the voting rights and elections-watcher Democracy Docket, warned that “we are one or two elections from losing our democracy.”

Complete and comprehensive voting rights legislation was needed to prevent that. Nothing happened and now several states are running slates of Trump cultist election deniers and MAGA Republican are “flooding the system” with anti-voting lawsuits. “It’s getting worse. It’s not getting better,” Elias told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace on Friday.

“The real threat to America’s electoral system is not posed by ineligible voters trying to cast ballots. It is coming from inside the system,” the New York Times Editorial Board wrote Friday, Sept. 23

“All those who value democracy have a role to play in strengthening and supporting the electoral system that powers it, whatever their party. This involves, first, taking the threat posed by election deniers seriously and talking to friends and neighbors about it. It means paying attention to local elections — not just national ones — and supporting candidates who reject conspiracy theories and unfounded claims of fraud. It means getting involved in elections as canvassers or poll watchers or precinct officers….And it means voting, in every race on the ballot and in every election.”

A warranted panic is slowly moving through minority communities across the country — but there is still little concerted national outreach to LGBTQ voters who have our very lives, rights and future at stake in the upcoming Nov. 8 midterm elections. Not that LGBTQ organizations and candidates don’t want to reach out – it’s just incredibly hard to break through all the news noise.

That’s why we — Karen Ocamb and (ally) Max Huskins — have teamed up with the Los Angeles Blade to produce a limited YouTube series “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms.” Our intention is to bring visibility to candidates and organization leaders and encourage LGBTQ people to get engaged, donate, do whatever they can to ensure a huge turnout for both local and statewide candidates and ballot measures, as well as electing candidates who will keep the US House of Representatives and the US Senate in Democratic hands. 

If MAGA Republicans win, Trump wins and we can kiss our democracy and our freedom goodbye. Think this is an exaggeration? No one really thought the US Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade and put politicians in charge of women’s bodies – but they did. The unthinkable is happening. 

Meet Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California. During the height of the AIDS crisis, the disease was perceived to be isolated to the gay community and gay meant “white.” The result was that many people of color avoided seeking prevention and help. Today, California is a minority-majority state and EQCA has a rainbow staff that reflects that. “We really want to make sure that we reflect the diverse communities that we serve, whether that’s around gender, gender identity, race and ethnicity,” Tony says during the Zoom interview. 

Equality California Votes, their new 501.C4 political action committee, just posted their first ad for out gay candidate Will Rollins (see our interview with Will in Episode 1). “Obviously, this is one of the most consequential election cycles in our lifetimes. And if we want to protect the pro-equality majority that we have in the House, that road runs through California. And so, CA-41, the district where Will Rollins is in, is one of the most important congressional flip opportunities in California. His opponent, Congressman Ken Calvert, for 30 years has voted against things like lowering prescription drug costs for seniors, against abortion rights and reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality.” 

It would be a “sweet irony” for LGBTQ voters to turn this red seat blue. 

Tony also talks about working with Planned Parenthood to explain why abortion rights is an LGBTQ issue and the importance of voting for Proposition One on the California ballot.

Tony is our first interview in tomorrow’s show. 

Full disclosure: since I am no longer a journalist, I get to express my own opinions and make endorsements. My first endorsement was for former EQCA executive director Rick Chavez Zbur, who I’ve known forever and who’s now running for the state Assembly. My second-ever endorsement was for Christy Smith

Meet Christy Smith, candidate for the CA-27. Christy ran for Katie Hill’s seat after she resigned. That race against Mike Garcia was so nail-bitingly close, she ran again. That race was also heartbreakingly close. But Garcia has gone from a dullard Republican to a major Trump fanboy, hanging around with cultists like Marjorie Taylor Green. He was among the MAGA Republicans who signed the amicus brief to the US Supreme Court asking them specifically to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“Subsequent to that,” Christy says in our interview, “he’s one of the people who coauthored ‘The Life Begins at Conception Act, which — don’t let them fool you — is their roadmap for a national abortion ban. So, while my opponent now tries to hide in safe spaces and say, ‘Well, abortion is safe in California — why are you so upset?’ Really? They have clearly signaled — and Lindsey Graham the other day just doubled down on the fact that they plan to pursue a national abortion ban. 

“But even aside from that,” she continues, “we should never live in the kind of dystopian country where any person’s rights vary from state to state. And you and I both know — we saw that for a very long time with gay marriage rights in this country, right? Where depending on where you live determines whether or not you can marry the person they love.”

Flipping this seat is a necessity. 

But one of the aspects about Christy Smith that folks may not know is that she’s a policy nerd – and a policy nerd who likes to get things done. 

Here’s a quick clip of Christ talking about how climate change is a paramount national security issue. Please check back here Sunday for our full Episode 2 show of “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms.”

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Far-right influencers are creating new barriers to trans health care

Right-wing media’s campaign against children’s hospitals is making it harder for trans people to access lifesaving medical care

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – Just days after the FBI arrested a suspect in the bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital, Libs of Tik Tok and The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh resumed their campaign against children’s hospitals that provide lifesaving care to trans people, directing followers’ attention this time to Akron Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Right-wing media have established a playbook for inundating hospitals with harassment and forcing them to delete information intended for trans patients from their websites — thus creating yet another barrier for trans people seeking medical care. 

Libs of TikTok first targeted Boston Children’s Hospital on August 11, sharing a video about gender-affirming hysterectomies with an incendiary caption claiming that the procedure was available to “young girls.” The hospital was forced to quickly delete the video, but the narrative had been set in right-wing media, and criticism of the hospital intensified.

On August 15, Walsh made the false and incendiary claim that children’s hospitals across the country were “butchering, mutilating, and sterilizing their young patients.” These attacks were followed by violent threats including threats to “execute” doctors and at least one bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital.

Members of the right-wing media initially dismissed the threats, with Infowars’ Owen Shroyer calling it a “false flag,” Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok, asserting it was “probably a left-wing person trying to get me suspended,” and Walsh suggesting that it could be a left-wing hoax. It apparently was not. On September 15, the FBI announced the arrest of a suspect who allegedly called hospital operators from her personal cell phone, calling them “sickos,” saying that a bomb was on the way, and demanding that everyone evacuate.

By September 18, Libs of TikTok had returned to the campaign against children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care, posting a tweet disclosing that Akron Children’s provides puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones before misleadingly noting that the hospital treats patients as young as 7.

On September 20, Walsh made similar claims about Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, saying it makes “lots of ‘services’ available to children, including chemical castration.”

Misinformation about treatments is rife on social media and in the right wing media, but 7-year-olds do not receive cross-sex hormones and are given puberty blockers only if another underlying disorder is causing precocious puberty. Cross-sex hormones are safe, studied, and effective treatments for gender dysphoria that dramatically reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in trans people.

Information about where to seek out medical care is vital for trans people. Nearly half of all trans people report experiencing mistreatment from medical providers, including verbal or physical abuse. According to a 2016 study, the biggest obstacle to obtaining safe and effective health care for trans people is a lack of knowledge by medical providers. 

The removal of public information intended for patients in the face of a vicious hate campaign creates a new barrier. In addition to Boston Children’s and Akron Children’sChildren’s National in Washington, D.C., and Vanderbilt Children’s in Nashville, Tennessee, have recently been forced to remove information for trans patients. Lurie Children’s hospital in Chicago canceled in-person meetings of a support group for trans youth because of security risks.

Without resistance, the barriers to effective care for trans people could grow further. According to freelance journalist Sydney Bauer, multiple medical providers have said that their worry is that these tactics will lead hospitals to drop gender-affirming care, shifting coverage to private clinics with less resources that could then be endlessly picketed and threatened — exactly the tactic that the right has used against abortion providers. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Raichik has targeted multiple hospitals this year. After earning a weeklong suspension for violating Twitter’s policies prohibiting hateful conduct, Raichik only vowed to double down. “We are not just reporting on this,” said Walsh in a tweet. “We are going to put a stop to it.”

Among the items posted by Libs of Tik Tok about Akron Children’s Hospital is an article with a photo of a 13-year-old girl. Her hair is long and blonde and she’s posed, smiling, next to a horse. They’re sharing a blanket — red, with a white snowflake pattern. The article says that this teenager knew from age 3 that she was transgender, and that with the help of the providers at Akron Children’s, she was able to become her true self. 

She’s a cheerleader. She rides horses. She says that she didn’t want to develop facial hair or for her voice to deepen. This is a story familiar to many trans people. A 2022 study from Stanford Medicine showed that trans people who accessed gender-affirming care as teenagers were less likely to experience major mental or substance abuse disorders than those who were denied care or forced to wait until adulthood.

But for Chaya Raichik, this is a horror story, and her 1.3 million followers flooded the article with hate, misgendering the trans girl and calling her “Buffalo Bill in the making,” a reference to the serial killer from the 1991 horror film The Silence of the Lambs. The article from Akron Children’s closes with a line from that teenager: “If you’re transgender, show it. Tell people,” she said. “It will help other transgender people feel not so alone.” The article has since been deleted.

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Ari Drennen is the LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, where she has worked since January 2022. She has a bachelors degree in political science and economics from Middlebury College. Previously she worked at the Center for American Progress and the League of Conservation Voters

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

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California Politics

LGBTQs- reclaim patriotism in the Midterms or lose everything

We must seize our own power & help Democrats win so we have a chance to secure our fundamental Constitutional rights

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – LGBTQ+ people – this is not a drill. Be afraid. Be very afraid of what will happen if MAGA Republicans win enough seats in Congress during the Nov. 8 midterm elections to not only block President Biden’s democratic agenda but fulfill their cruel Trumpian fantasies of what America should look like under Christian National white supremacy.

Already Trump Supreme Court justices have indicated that overturning Roe v Wade is just the beginning. MAGA Republicans want government control over decisions by women, transgender and nonbinary people regarding their own identity and bodily autonomy and they want the recriminalization of homosexuality, starting with striking down the fundamental right to marriage equality. 

For people of color, MAGA Republicans have gone way beyond curtailing voting rights. Now just stepping out the door takes courage. This was published by Statista Research Department on Sep 12: “Sadly, the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing, with a total 730 civilians having been shot, 71 of whom were Black, as of September 8, 2022. In 2021, there were 1,055 fatal police shootings, and in 2020 there were 1,020 fatal shootings.” The rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than that for any other ethnicity as of September 2022.

It is not hyperbolic to say our democracy — the promise of the Declaration of Independence, the very freedom to live authentic lives —  is on the ballot in the upcoming midterm elections as MAGA Republicans seek power for the sake of power alone – not to create a more perfect union. 

The evidence? 2022 is on track to set a record for the number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures.  NBC News/NBC Out reported: “State lawmakers have proposed a record 238 bills that would limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans this year — or more than three per day — with about half of them targeting transgender people specifically. Nearly 670 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed since 2018, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans, with nearly all of the country’s 50 state legislatures all having weighed at least one bill.” 

MAGA Republican Congressmembers often cite state and local data to propose federal action. Consider Republican Rep. Ken Calvert. According to Bloomberg.com, he supported a Texas lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the 2020 election and he objected to the certification of Biden electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Calvert said: “Today I lent my voice to the millions of Americans and my constituents who are deeply concerned by the integrity of the election.” 

However, after redistricting, Calvert now represents Palm Springs, California which has an all-LGBTQ city council and is considered one of the LGBTQ-ist places on earth. They are probably more concerned that – while Calvert may not have the same violent stripes as the rioters who scaled the walls of the US Capitol on Jan. 6 — he’s still an insurrectionist propagandizing Trump’s Big Lie about a stolen election.  

Enter Will Rollins, a brilliant gay former national security prosecutor who is challenging Calvert for that flip-able CA-41 congressional seat. 

Will Rollins is the true patriot here. 

“I was a federal prosecutor for five years in the central district of California, specialized in counterterrorism and counterintelligence and helped prosecute some of the people who attacked the Capitol,” Rollins tells me for a new limited YouTube series about the midterms. “As those of us in federal law enforcement were responding to that attack, my opponent Ken Calvert, was voting to decertify the election, voted against the commission to even investigate the attack. And then, even after it became clear that five police officers had died as a result of the attack, [he] called for dropping charges against the Capitol rioters. I didn’t want to look back on my life and regret not stepping up when our country needed people to challenge those who don’t believe in the rule of law and our Constitution, regardless of political party.”

Rollins has had a lifelong interest in national security, starting as a junior in high school watching the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. He wanted to join the military but feared being outed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He wanted to join the CIA as an Arab linguist but was bad at learning the language.

Eventually, Rollins went to Dartmouth, worked in media relations in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration, went to Columbia Law School, clerked for a couple of judges, and got hired as an Assistant Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office where he got to specialize in national security, including prosecuting a QAnon cultist who tried to attack a hospital ship in the Port of Los Angeles.  

“As those rising threats from domestic extremism cropped up over the last five years, culminating in January 6, it became clear to me that I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines,” Rollin says. 

Also interviewed in “The Time is Now: Racing to the Midterms” is Mark Gonzalez, the out chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party – which lists their endorsed candidates, including down-ballot candidates, on their LACDP.org website. Gonzalez talks about how the Trump census caused California to lose a congressional seat on the Eastside of LA – undercounting 100,000 people. He also talks about why it’s important for men to stand up for the rights of women who are a major target of MAGA Republicans, along with LGBTQ folks, people of color and migrants.   

This is the first time down-ballot races include city races and local propositions that are usually on the ballot in March or June. Gonzalez exhibits his leadership by admitting that LACDP screwed up by endorsing LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva in his first election. Villanueva recently displayed a very “Trumpian” move by having scores of deputies execute a questionable search warrant in the early hours at the home of out Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. 

“We made a mistake,” Gonzalez says. “I think what’s crucial to that is when we endorsed the current Sheriff, this was historic for us to endorse somebody who was a Democrat over a hundred and something years and that we made a pivotal change to put somebody in who was and is a Democrat and expressed those values in the Democratic Party, unlike the previous sheriff. Unfortunately, though, this particular sheriff — many of our membership, many Democrats across the county, feel that they’ve been duped…. [Now] he’s been on Republican platforms talking about his agenda.” 

Gonzalez says LACDP now supports Villanueva’s challenger, former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna and calls for a ballot measure that gives the LA County Board of Supervisors the power and authority to remove a sheriff for violations of public trust. 

“Election Day starts the first week of October,” he says. “Why is that important? It’s the sixth time that every single California registered voter in California will receive a ballot in the mail. That’s important because ads are going to ramp up. Folks are going to start to get their ballot in the box and they’re going to look at it and they have literally a month to return it.” The mail-in ballot must be postmarked by Election Day for it to count. 

Despite the stakes, we really haven’t seen a big Get Out The Vote push yet. That’s what Max Huskins and I are producing this limited YouTube series.

We are tired of letting MAGA Republicans stake a claim to “patriotism” as they carry Confederate flags through the US Capitol, looking to “hang” Vice President Mike Pence and “get” Speaker Nancy Pelosi in order to stop the Constitutional peaceful transfer of power and install their fake prince as President. What the hell? Even in junior high school sports, opposing teams line up and shake hands, no matter who wins or loses the game. 

Max and I are regular people with regular jobs — and we’re American patriots, too. That’s why we are reaching out to you, to stand up as an individual patriot who also cherishes this country and what it and you can become. We must all work hard to fight the Trumpification of America and save our democracy. 

And, as an LGBTQ person, I am tired of always being afraid of making some straight person uncomfortable by my mere existence. I am 72 years old and I do not want to die as an official second-class citizen in this country I love.

We LGBTQs must seize our own power and help Democrats win so we, too, have a chance to secure our fundamental Constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Who is fighting for your LGBTQ+ rights in the midterms?

    

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