Vice-President & local leaders discuss reproductive rights & Prop 1
The Vice-President has brought together leaders from across the nation who are fighting to protect reproductive health care & abortion access
LOS ANGELES – Mayor Eric Garcetti opened an event Monday afternoon which was organized as a conversation about protecting reproductive rights and the need for passage of Proposition 1, a California Ballot Proposition and State Constitutional Amendment that, if approved by voters, would establish a Constitutional right to reproductive freedom in California.
The event, facilitated by Vice-President Kamala Harris at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in LA, included discussions and remarks from Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37), Celinda Vázquez, Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), Director Melanie Fontes Rainer, the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Human Health & Services
California Attorney General Rob Bonta and California’s Senate President pro Tempore State Senator Toni G. Atkins, were also in attendance.
Sen. Padilla highlighted California’s leadership in protecting a woman’s right to choose and Proposition 1, which will appear on the November ballot in California and would codify the right to abortion access in the state constitution.
Padilla also raised the alarm about the increasing number of Republican state legislatures working to claw back women’s reproductive rights and the need to act urgently to stop them by codifying the right to an abortion into federal law.
“Abortion is a fundamental right in America,” said Senator Padilla. “While in California, the right to an abortion is currently safe, the worst thing we could do is grow numb to this crisis. For years, Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures have worked to strip away the reproductive rights of women across the country—and in June they got their wish. That’s why we must continue to grow our Democratic majorities so we can prevent a national abortion ban. We won’t give up the fight to codify Roe, and protect once and for all the right to an abortion.”
Rep. Karen Bass introduced and welcomed Celinda Vázquez, Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, on stage. Bass then praised Harris’ leadership and welcomed Harris on stage. Bass and Harris hugged. Bass, Vázquez and Harris then sat down to discuss abortion.
The Vice President highlighted the administration’s efforts to preserve access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. HHS contacted pharmacies to describe “their legal requirement to administer medication as prescribed,” Harris said, and that DOJ has a task force to pursue “whatever litigation is appropriate.”
“This is about freedom and liberty,” Harris said. “22 days, there is an election, that is a fact. We need to hold on to what we have, and we need two more senators,” Harris said adding, “We’re going to have to protect these rights by having national legislation,” Harris said. “We need people in Congress to recognize that responsibility.”
The Vice-President has brought together leaders from across the nation who are on the frontlines fighting to protect reproductive health care and abortion access. Earlier this month, she traveled to Connecticut and Texas to participate in conversations with reproductive rights leaders, she chaired the Second Meeting of the Interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, and she convened student leaders at the White House.
Since May, she has held more than 20 convenings and met with 180+ state legislators from 18 states to discuss protecting reproductive rights. The Vice President has also convened health care providers, constitutional law experts, faith leaders, state attorneys general, disability rights leaders, higher education leaders, students, and advocates.
Proposition 1 will appear on the November 8 General Election Ballot for California Voters. It was authored by the President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate, Toni Atkins, D-San Diego and co-authored by the Speaker of the California State Assembly, Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood.
Proposition 1 is a direct response to the June 2022 Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, ruling that the Constitution of the United States does not confer a right to abortion.
Watch the conversation here:
Transcript: Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Conversation on Protecting Reproductive Rights
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: How was that? How was that for a welcome home?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It is good to be home. It’s good to be home.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Well, we love having you in L.A. Absolutely. So, why don’t we get right to it? This is an important moment in the time of our fight for rights. So, tell us what it is like for you to be championing this issue? How has it been? I read off all of the meetings, all of the state legislatures. You’re going around the country. What’s it feel like?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s a combination of feelings that I think we all have about this. And when I’m traveling the country, one of the feelings that I hear most is fear. It’s fear.
But I’ll tell you, you know, here’s how I think about it: You know, people have asked me, “Well, what has caused you to focus a large part of your work on…” — as you said — “…the health, safety, and well-being of women and children?”
And, as you know, I was raised by a mother who had two goals in her life: to raise her two children — my sister, Maya, and me — and to end breast cancer. She was a breast cancer researcher, a scientist.
And so, from my earliest days of life, I remember my mother being so passionate about women’s health and access to health, and it was always grounded, so much of her work, in the importance of women having dignity in the healthcare system — in the healthcare delivery system and — and having rights and having power over the decisions that were being made so that it would be theirs to make, whatever it was.
And that’s how I was raised. I mean, you know, I was raised hearing the phrase “mammary gland” all the time. It was — it was just a common word in our household.
And so, when I think about this issue and this fight right now, it’s an extension of that. And so, to your point, I have been traveling the country in so-called red states and so-called blue states, talking with leaders on the ground — in particular a lot of state-elected leaders, legislators — about what we can do collectively to build up support for what we need to do, which is to empower women and restore their rights on this issue.
But it’s — really, it’s — it was unthinkable, I think, for so many of us. We knew it might happen, but let — I mean, let’s just pause for a moment. The highest court in our land, the United States Supreme Court, just took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America, from the women of America.
And if I may, I would like to put it in context to how I feel about this in the context of being Vice President. So, as Vice President, in the last a year and a half, I have, as of now — my staff has counted — I have now met directly or by phone with 100 world leaders, presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, kings. And here’s what I think we all know about what those experiences are like: The United States — we, as Americans — can walk in those rooms with a certain level of authority —
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: That’s right.
THE PRESIDENT: — chin up, shoulders back — to talk in those rooms about the importance of democracy, the importance of rule of law, the importance of human rights. And in that way, we have held ourselves out to be and have been considered a role model on these matters.
But what we, as role models, all know is that when you are role model, people watch what you do to see if it matches what you say.
And the point then is a realization that this issue is not only directly impacting the people of America, but when we think about autocratic governments around the world who can then look to their people and say, “Well, you want to hold up America and rights as an example of what we should do? Well, look at what they just did.” So, by extension, what just happened will invariably impact women around the world.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: That’s right.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, there’s a lot of fear. But also, as we all know, we know how to fight.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Oh, yeah.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Because when you know what you stand for, you know what to fight for. (Applause.)
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Celinda.
MS. VÁZQUEZ: We do know how to fight. So, what steps is the administration taking to protect reproductive rights?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, well — and, first, can I just say, it’s so good to be with the two of you on this stage? It’s so good to be home.
MS. VÁZQUEZ: So good.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Celinda, you have been such an extraordinary fighter. You and I’ve been in many of these rooms together in these past many, many months. And I cannot thank you enough for being on the ground and the courage that it takes for our frontline folks, like you, to do what you are doing. And to all of those who are here on the frontline, I applaud you. Let us applaud them. (Applause.)
Because around the country and here, it is not without risk that you do what you do.
To Madam Congresswoman — (laughter). It’s not a political event, I know. (Laughs.) You — you and I have worked together for so many years when I was AG and you were at the capitol — at the state capitol, and then in Washington, D.C.
You are a courageous, fearless fighter on so many of these issues. And, in particular, what you have done throughout your career to be a strong voice for women, for children, for all communities, for the coalition: I thank you. And it’s an honor to be on the stage with you as well. (Applause.)
And so, what we are doing as an administration is a number of things. Through the Health and Human Services agency, led by a Californian, Secretary Xavier Becerra — (applause) — we are — we’ve been actually sending out a number of things that are really intended to make sure that there’s clarity in the midst of the confusion.
And one of the things that HHS did that I think is very significant is sent out to pharmacies information about their legal requirement to administer medication as prescribed. And — and I also applaud that agency for also having announced that they will investigate where there are any violations of the rules of conduct on that issue.
The Department of Education has been extraordinary. Secretary Cardona has been doing some important work around making sure that that we protect students and their reproductive rights, including their ability to take leave from school for whatever reproductive healthcare they need, and make sure that there’s no discrimination in that regard.
The Department of Justice has been coordinating with a number of agencies as appropriate but has also set up, for example, a process of eliciting pro bono hours, because there are going to be so many folks who are on the ground doing the work who are not sure of the legal risks that they are taking in these various states.
They’ve also set up a task force, led by Vanita Gupta, who is a great civil rights lawyer, and they are pursuing whatever litigation is appropriate.
Also, through the Department of Justice, they’ve set up a hotline for providers, so there is an ability to report threats and things of that nature.
The FCC and the FTC are doing — the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission — are doing important work to, one, check with the biggest providers to see what their privacy policies are and their data retention policies are. And that’s extremely important.
I think I have a website here, but I’ll tell you that the — that they’ve also set up a number for people to issue complaints and to register complaints around privacy violations, which is a big issue, because, of course, there are an assortment of mobile apps that folks use to monitor their menstruation cycle. There are mobile apps that folks use to just get directions to go to a facility to get their healthcare, and we want to make sure that that information is not being violated.
So, that is the kind of work that’s happening through our administration.
The President has signed two executive orders that relate to making a very clear statement that we intend to protect and defend the right that people have for travel and for access to emergency healthcare.
The VA is doing great work, in terms of the number of women who are veterans, in ensuring that they will be able to have access to all of the care that they require — including the Department of Defense, because — think about it, if you’re a servicemember — and there are at least 300,000 women, I believe, who are in active service right now — you don’t have any choice where you’re deployed and could very well be deployed to a state where it’s been rendered illegal.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Right.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And so, they’re working through what they can do to ensure that the servicemembers are not subject to — to those kinds of threats to their healthcare and their independence.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Well, you know, Madam Vice President, this is kind of on the same lines of that. I’m wondering what kind of stories you might be hearing from people.
You know, in another life, I worked in healthcare. I’ve worked in the emergency room and also in primary care. Every now and then, you hear a story in the news like a woman — a woman that has an ectopic pregnancy; or the 10-year-old girl; or a woman who is — if she carries the pregnancy to term, might not live. As you’ve gone around the country, are you hearing stories like that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I am hearing those stories. And those are the stories that are the public stories. But as you and I know, what we’re hearing about only is just a fraction of what’s actually happening. Many of you know: As a former prosecutor, the bulk of my career as a prosecutor, I was focused on violent — crimes of violence against women and children, and, in particular, I specialized in child sexual assault cases.
The vast majority of those cases are not reported. And the idea that laws would be passed, as it relates to people who have endured and survived such violation and violence, and to then say to them, “And you will also not have autonomy over your body on this issue” — it’s immoral. It’s immoral.
As a former prosecutor having handled those cases, I can tell you the vast majority of those cases are not reported for a variety of reasons that have to do with the nature of it all, including it might be about a family member, it might be about someone who otherwise could harm that person or their family.
And what’s happening in these states on that and so many other related issues is abhorent: punishing women, criminalizing healthcare providers. In fact, I’m going to — I don’t know if everybody in the audience can see this.
(The Vice President holds up a map.)
This is a map of the United States. So, you don’t need to see — you don’t need to read the words to see the point that I’m going to make.
So, you see all the different colors. So, one of the colors on this map is — represents the states in which abortion is banned from conception with no exceptions. One color is abortion banned from conception with an exception for rape, but not incest. Another, banned from conception with exceptions for rape and incest. There’s a 6-week ban on here, a 15-week ban, an 18-week ban. You get the point.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Not incest?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Absolute —
MS. VÁZQUEZ: No.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But absolute confusion —
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Yeah. That’s (inaudible).
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — which also creates an environment that is ripe for misinformation, disinformation, and predatory practices.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Yeah.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, in addition to what I’m seeing around the country, there’s fear. There’s also just absolute and utter confusion about what are — for any individual: What are my rights? And that is something that, we as opinion leaders, of which there are so many here, we have to continue to use our voice and our platform in a way that informs people about their rights with an — with a full appreciation that it’s so confusing they may not be aware.
MS. VÁZQUEZ: So, you’ve touched upon this, but how else do you see the fight for reproductive freedom impacting the everyday lives of Americans?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (The Vice President reaches for the map.)
MS. VÁZQUEZ: Right, so —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) So, okay.
MS. VÁZQUEZ: — just a little expansion.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I love Venn diagrams. Okay? (Laughs.)
MS. VÁZQUEZ: Just a little expansion.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I really do. I love Venn diagrams — you know, the three circles — sometimes there are more.
So I asked my team, “Do — do me a Venn diagram on — from which states are we seeing attacks on reproductive healthcare, voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights.” You would not be surprised to know that there is a significant overlap. Right?
So that’s what — so when we talk about who’s being impacted, well, you know, if you read the Dobbs decision — or you don’t need to, I’ll just tell you — Clarence Thomas said the quiet part out loud: They’re coming for the right to conception, the right to marry the person you love.
But I do see in, then, this moment, another thing in that Venn diagram, which is the reminder about the importance of coalition building, of bringing together all those folks who have been fighting forever on reproductive healthcare and maternal mortality, something that Karen Bass has been a leader on, bringing together the folks that have been fighting forever on voting rights, bringing together all the folks who — who are responsible for the victory on marriage — but we still have so much more work to do — and building our coalition.
Because here’s the thing: There was a movement that was started generations ago that culminated in Roe v. Wade. We are now the ones that are responsible for picking up that movement. And as with any movement in our country that has been about progress and the expansion of rights, one of the most productive ingredients of those movements has been the coalition and our commitment to building that coalition and growing it, for a number of reasons, one is that we all have so much more in common than what separates us. But the other is, almost everyone should understand what rights of theirs are subject to and now exposed to attack.
And on this point — my final point on this would be, we need to take back the flag on this. Because this is absolutely about freedom and liberty.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: This is about freedom and liberty, which are foundational notions for the existence of our country. These are founding principles that we, as Americans, hold dear: freedom and liberty. And that means all of us are susceptible.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: And for freedom and liberty, we need to hold on to the House and the Senate, I’m just saying. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, it’s not a political event, but that doesn’t mean we don’t speak truth. (Laughter.)
So, in fact, so, 22 days, there’s an election.
REPSENTATIVE BASS: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s a — that’s a fact. It is a fact that there is a bill in Congress that the congressmember was a part of leading — the Women’s Health Protection Act — which would codify, which means put into law, the protections of Roe v. Wade.
The Court took it away; Congress can put it back.
The President of the United States — our President, Joe Biden, has said he will not let this thing called the “filibuster” get in the way of signing that law. All of those are facts.
It is also the fact that, in order for that bill to get to the President’s desk so he can sign it into law, we need two more senators. We need to hold on to what we have, and we need two more senators. That is a fact.
It is also fact, by the way, that in that same context, the President has said he will sign into law the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. (Applause.)
Two more senators.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: I could think of two. (Laughter.)
You know, along with this, in terms of, you know, understanding that the Dobbs decision was about the right to privacy and, Madam Vice President, you know, I’m not a lawyer, but I do wonder, like: How far could they go?
I mean, you know, Jim Crow laws? I mean, could business say, “Well, it’s my right to only allow certain people to come in”? How far — what are the implications?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I mean, I think you should — that everything that you can imagine, you should assume is possible.
It was unimaginable that the court of Thurgood Marshall would do what this court just did.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Right. Right.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And — and that’s, again, why I think that the point that you made about, you know, who is vulnerable to this moment: Everyone is vulnerable to this moment.
And we just — we have to understand that, I think, in so many ways, we are living in unsettled times.
You think about it on the global stage, there is a war in Europe. You know, for 70 years, there was an assumption that, in spite of the differences among nations, that there was still certain international rules and norms, including the importance of sovereignty and territorial integrity. But with Russia’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine, we see that we can’t necessarily take that for granted.
Unsettled times. Unsettled times.
The Voting Rights Act, guided by the United States Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder, a decision they rendered in 2013, and then you look at what happened in 2020, which is historic numbers of people voted in the midst of a pandemic, including an historic number of young voters, and almost immediately thereafter — because that scared people —
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Right. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — there are children here — they started passing laws making it illegal to give people food and water if they’ve been standing in line for hours to vote; passing laws making it intentionally more difficult for people to vote. Unsettled times.
We thought the issue of voting rights had been settled.
Unsettled times. In this year of our Lord 2022, taking away a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own body.
So, I think we have to listen to the words of Coretta Scott King. You’ve heard me paraphrase her so many times on this. She famously said: The fight for civil rights — which is the fight for justice, it’s the fight for equality, fight for freedom — the fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Because let’s always remember that these rights will not be permanent if we are not prepared to be vigilant.
And in that way, this is so much about a democracy. I think about democracy in this regard. I think — I think of democracy as there’s a duality to it, in that, when it is intact, it is strong in terms of what it does to create a system that preserves and fights for rights, civil rights, human rights. So, there’s an aspect to it that is about strength in terms of what it can do to lift people up.
On the other hand, it’s very fragile. It’s extremely fragile. It will only be as strong as our willingness to fight for it. And so, fight we will.
MS. VÁZQUEZ: You have touched upon many of these topics, but how are you seeing the intersection of attacks on — well, no, I think we already — we already did that.
But we have an expert here — our congresswoman worked on the floor — a maternal morbidity expert, and all of the things. What — what is the administration doing to address the maternal mortality crisis, which, we know, we you’ve done a lot of work previously?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Celinda. Maternal mortality — and, again, I recognize and thank Karen Bass for her work as a leader on this for so many years.
In America today, Black women are three times more likely to die in connection with childbirth. Native women, twice as likely. Rural women, one and a half times likely. And as it relates to, for example, the experience of Black women, it is unrelated to their educational level or their socioeconomic level. It is very clear it literally has to do with the fact that when she walks into that clinic or that doctor’s office or that emergency room, she is not taken as seriously.
And so, there is a lot of work that needs to happen that also understands and appreciates that, for so many of these women — for example, women in rural America — are living in the midst of healthcare deserts. There’s no hospitals. I — I have somebody that’s very close to me whose relative just died, just weeks ago, in connecti- — during childbirth, and the baby died, in rural America. Because there was nowhere, where she lived, to get her the kind of care that the complication required. Right?
So, this is a big issue. But the idea that in this country, at this time, it is still such an issue of the proportion.
And so, there are a number of things. One, when I was in the Senate, we had a bill that would address the bias in the healthcare delivery system and require training of healthcare providers — of all types of healthcare providers. And I wrote into it, in particular, that the trainers would include doulas, who — (applause) — yes — who provide some of the best care and could teach a few things to others.
We are doing the work as an administration of — you know, I’m very proud of this — we have lifted this issue up to the stage of the White House, actually convened a group of leaders to come to the White House to present on this issue.
We have done the work of also extending in states Medicaid coverage and encouraging, in extension — can you believe? Okay, so Medicaid — (applause) — Medicaid covers, but we’re changing this — only two months of postpartum care. Two months.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: You better not have a problem.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You just gave birth to a human being.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Right?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, there is — so we’re extending it to 12 months — right? —
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Excellent. That’s great.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — for all that that requires and it requires, you know, the details of pelvic examinations. It requires the details of whatever kind of healthcare that might be, you know, in any level of the body. Healthcare — for mental healthcare, physical.
And so, this is some of the work we are doing, and — and it’s a good start. There’s more work to be done, also recognizing that the disparities exist based on also lack of access to transportation, lack of access to all types of healthcare, in addition to maternal healthcare. Because there is so much of this that also can be attributed to unique stressors, right?
Take, for example, the fact that poverty is trauma inducing. And what that might mean, in terms of the unique stressors that low-income women are facing that can have an impact on their pregnancy.
And so, all of this work is being done by our administration in conjunction with the Congress. We have the “Momnibus” — we called it the “Momnibus.” An omnibus bill.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Yes. Yes, that’s great.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And we —
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: That was a great effort. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus that led that effort.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Exactly.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: You know, when you were talking about maternal mortality, especially amongst Black women, when Beyoncé and Serena Williams get into trouble —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right?
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: — when they’re in the delivery room, we know this is a huge problem.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s exactly right.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: The idea that you have high rates of maternal death in the United States of America is an outrage in and of itself.
How about a few words on contraception, in terms of what the administration has done?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we have done some good work in terms of making clear that there is a right to contraception.
But, you know, I mean, to your point about what’s at risk, they pulled it back, but you saw what happened with the University Idaho — right? — which was — which was the issue was that the university — they pulled it back, so it’s no longer the case — but had essentially said that they would not provide contraception at the university.
And you mentioned earlier that the convenings that I’ve been doing, one of them was with university presidents. And I brought them in because, of course, they’re — the 18- through 24-year-old population is most at risk on this issue.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Right. That’s right.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And I brought them in and asked them, “Well, what’s your plan?”
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: (Laughs.) And they said?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And it was a good and productive meeting.
MS. VÁZQUEZ: What did they say?
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: (Inaudible.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It was a (inaudible) meeting.
But, you know, for example, “What’s the plan?” And I’ve just recently convened a bunch of extraordinary college student leaders, just in the White House, in my office, last week. Just brilliant. They’re brilliant. They’re so good. Like, the future of our country is so bright if they’re leading. And — and — (applause) — yes.
And so, they — but we were talking about — for example, universities, colleges, community colleges, any, you know, educational institutions for educating after high school — what are they doing about privacy protocols as it relates to their health clinics?
What are they doing as it relates to absenteeism, because they may be in a state where she has to go to another state to receive her abortion care?
What are they doing in terms of — many universities, for example, will have — this might not be the right word — but bereavement funds, right? So if a student has a death in the family and they can’t afford the transportation, that there’ll be assistance with that.
Well — well, maybe we should be considering the fact that there are going to be students who can’t afford to leave the state and pay tuition and pay for books and pay for dorms, right? And how are they thinking about that approach?
And so those issues have come up. In connection also has been the issue of contraception and what are they doing to ensure that they are complying with the law but, at the same time, doing everything they can to fulfill a right that their students have.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Well, Madam Vice President, I know you have so many places to go. We would love to keep you here all day. So we want you to come back again soon.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Of course.
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: But maybe you can share some final thoughts. Final thoughts about today, where you’re going, where you been.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, a few things. You know, one of the — you know, the additional facts — if we don’t have the issue in California, we have an — we have extraordinary members of Congress. Mayor Garcetti is here. Rob Bonta, the Attorney General. Alex Padilla, the senator. Toni Atkins, who convened a bunch of state legislators for a previous meeting that I did in San Francisco.
But elections matter on this one, as with everything else. When I’m traveling the country, I remind folks: Elections matter in terms of who your local prosecutor is. If you’re in a state that has criminalized this, that matters.
Who your governor is matters. Governor Newsom has done an extraordinary job on this. Because it’s going to be about whether, depending on the composition of their legislature, do they need to veto stuff that would be bad and restricting rights, or are they going to sign legislation that is about preserving and expanding rights where they’ve been taken away in particular.
And so, 22 days. And the reality of it is that we’re going to have to protect these rights ultimately by having national legislation.
And there’s only one path to getting there. There’s only so much that the executive branch can do on this. We have three coequal branches of government. The Court has acted, and now we need Congress to act. And so we need people in Congress to recognize that responsibility.
So I’d urge everyone to just remember that and to talk with your friends and your neighbors, in particular in states where these rights are being attacked, and to remind them.
And then my last point would be just to repeat: I think the coalition-building piece on this is so extraordinarily important. You know, this is an intergenerational movement. This is a movement among so many people who are allies, who are — who are in this together for so many reasons.
So let’s just stay committed to it all and know that this moment was meant for those of us who are here to recognize we cannot afford to throw up our hands on this; we got to roll up our sleeves.
Thank you all. (Applause.)
REPRESENTATIVE BASS: Roll up our sleeves! Thank you. Thank you so much. It’s an honor to have you here. Thank you.
MS. VÁZQUEZ: Gracias, Madam Vice President.
Rep. Frost talks gun control on anniversary of March for Our Lives
“10 years ago I became an Organizer because of Sandyhook. 3 years later, I’d become a survivor myself. That same year, Pulse”
Editor’s note: The full interview with Congressman Frost will be published next week.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), after a week of making headlines for his gun violence prevention advocacy, sat down with the Washington Blade for an exclusive interview on Friday, which marks the five-year anniversary of the founding of March for Our Lives.
The 26-year-old freshman Congressman, who before his election was national organizing director for the student-led gun control group, had just introduced his first piece of legislation Tuesday with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn. that would establish an Office of Gun Violence Prevention within the U.S. Department of Justice.
The proposal’s aim, in part, is to better facilitate the implementation of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act by establishing a singular office to coordinate that work.
And on Thursday, Frost captured and tweeted a video of a confrontation between U.S. Capitol Police and Patricia and Manuel Oliver, gun control advocates who lost their son Joaquin in the 2018 Parkland, Florida high school shooting.
Manuel and Patricia Oliver were just kicked out of this committee hearing on gun violence. Patricia said one thing and the chair escalated the entire situation. Then, Police arrested Manuel Oliver who lost his son in the Parkland shooting.— Maxwell Alejandro Frost (@MaxwellFrostFL) March 23, 2023
His son was shot to death.
Here is @manueloliver00 being arrested for speaking out at a committee hearing. His son, Jaoquin, was shot to death in Parkland, Fl.— Maxwell Alejandro Frost (@MaxwellFrostFL) March 23, 2023
MANNY IS A HERO. He didn’t deserve this. The Republican Chair of this committee just called him a narcissist. Disgraceful. pic.twitter.com/6jccYvesHb
The couple had been removed by police from the House Oversight and House Judiciary Committees’ gun rights hearing at the request of GOP Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Pat Fallon (Texas).
Frost, who was in attendance, told the Blade the conflict started when Patricia Oliver “just stood up and she said, ‘you took my son’ and she sat down,” but “instead of moving on, the Chair [Fallon] escalated things.”
The Congressman said hearing itself was “a sham” convened for the purpose of attacking the Biden administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the entity within the U.S. Justice Department that investigates violations of laws governing the manufacture, possession, and use of guns.
“The real story here,” said the Congressman, “is the fact that there were two parents who lost their son who was in high school, because he was shot to death and died in a pool of his own blood, and now they’re going to spend the rest of their lives fighting for a world where it doesn’t happen to anybody else.”
Frost noted the Olivers were joined at the hearing by other families, activists, and organizers – all of whom were gathered in Washington, D.C. to advance the mission established by the group of teenaged Parkland survivors who founded March for Our Lives five years ago.
Among these student activists were Cameron Kasky, who identifies as queer, and X González, who is bisexual and uses they/them pronouns.
Frost has repeatedly said he ran for Congress because of his involvement in the gun violence prevention advocacy movement, which began with his volunteering on behalf of the Newtown Action Alliance, a group formed in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The Congressman told NPR the 2016 shooting at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando “where 49 angels were murdered right here because they’re queer” marked one of the most significant moments of his life.
That same year and in that same city, Frost himself survived a gun violence incident.
During his congressional campaign, on the heels of last year’s elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Frost tweeted: “10 years ago I became an Organizer because of Sandyhook. 3 years later, I’d become a survivor myself. That same year, Pulse. Now I’m running for Congress and 15 lives were taken at another Elementary school. I will not stop until the endless shootings do.”
SPLC condemns passage of Georgia anti-trans healthcare bill
Southern Poverty Law Center urged Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to veto S.B. 140, calling on him to not “give into pressure from his party”
ATLANTA – The Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund published a statement Tuesday condemning the Republican controlled Georgia legislature’s passage of S.B. 140, a bill that will criminalize gender-affirming health care for minors.
The statement, issued by Beth Littrell, senior supervising attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s LGBTQ and Special Litigation Practice Group, urges Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to veto S.B. 140, calling on him to not “give into pressure from his party” when “the health and wellbeing of young people are at risk” through the denial of “safe, effective medical treatment to transgender youth — based only on prejudice and political pandering.”
Kemp should “leave personal healthcare decisions in the capable hands of parents, children, and their doctors,” Littrell’s statement continues. “We hope the Governor will elevate himself and the State of Georgia above this cynical partisan attack on transgender youth, medical autonomy, and parental rights.”
S.B. 140 specifically prohibits “sex reassignment surgeries, or any other surgical procedures, that are performed for the purpose of altering primary or secondary sexual characteristics” when they are “performed on a minor for the treatment of gender dysphoria.”
“Limited exceptions” are made for the treatment of conditions other than gender dysphoria, if deemed medically necessary by the physician or healthcare practitioner, and for the treatment of patients with “a medically verifiable disorder of sex development.”
The mainstream medical societies with relevant clinical expertise have repeatedly spoken out against legislation that limits access to or criminalizes, as in the case of Georgia’s bill, guideline directed interventions for the treatment of trans and gender nonconforming youth.
On March 16, far-right GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who represents Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, called for the state legislature to make the bill more restrictive.
Specifically, in a tweet she urged the lawmakers to amended S.B. 140 such that treatment of gender dysphoria minor patients with puberty blockers would be criminalized alongside the other interventions covered in the bill and also to remove the covered exceptions.
Wiener introduces legislation to protect LGBTQ+ foster youth
SB 407 ensures LGBTQ foster youth are raised in supportive environments by creating standard documentation for their needs
SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 407, legislation to improve foster care conditions for LGBTQ youth. Nearly one third of foster youth identify as LGBTQ.
SB 407 ensures LGBTQ foster youth are raised in supportive environments by creating standard documentation for their needs, adding more follow-up from the Department of Social Services, and requiring LGBTQ youth’s needs be specifically considered in at-home assessments – including clarifying that conduct that poses risk to the health and safety of LGBTQ youth is a valid reason to deny a family the right to host a foster youth.
“Every child deserves to be one hundred percent supported at home,” said Wiener. “SB 407 ensures that foster youth receive this essential support by specifically requiring LGBTQ acceptance be considered in the resource family approval (RFA) process, creating standard documentation for the assessment of LGBTQ youth needs, and ensuring more frequent follow-up. These youth are at high risk for homelessness, criminal justice involvement, and mental health issues, and we must do everything in our power to ensure they have a safe home in the state of California.”
According to the California Child Welfare Indicators Project, there are 53,371 youth in foster care in California as of October 1, 2022. Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are overrepresented in foster care, with at least three studies estimating about 30 percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ.
The degree of support for their identity an LGBTQ child receives at home is a strong predictor of their mental health outcomes. According to the Trevor Project, teens who perceived parental support regarding gender identity were 93% less likely to attempt suicide than youth who did not perceive parents as supportive.
Data collected since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic show LGBTQ youth are facing a crisis of mental health. Forty-two percent of LGBTQ+ youth—and 52 percent of trans youth—said they seriously considered suicide in 2021. This crisis may be related to the recent surge of anti-LGBTQ hatred in many states in recent years, which most LGBTQ youth are exposed to online. This year alone, more than 420 bills have been introduced in states across the country.
In 2019, California passed AB 175 (Gipson), which expanded the foster youth bill of rights to include rights to be referred to by the youth’s preferred name and pronoun and maintain privacy of the child’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Under existing law, foster youth also have the right to have caregivers and child welfare personnel that have received instruction on cultural competency and best practices for providing care for LGBTQ+ youth in out-of-home care.
However, while the foster youth bill of rights is strong, it has not translated into the RFA process or into considerations made when approving caregivers. LGBTQ foster youth are still being placed in homes with families that discriminate against or are hostile toward them based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
SB 407 will strengthen the resource family approval (RFA) process for LGBTQ foster youth by:
- Requiring explicit consideration of LGBTQ youth in home and environmental assessments;
- Creating standard documentation by the Department of Social Services for these assessments to include LGBTQ youth needs;
- Reviewing county-approved resource families to evaluate if they are meeting the needs of LGBTQ youth and investigating related incidents as needed;
- Ensuring that resource families have the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to support LGBTQ youth; and
- Clarifying existing law that conduct that poses risk to the health and safety of LGBTQ youth is a valid reason for denial of a resource family.
SB 407 is sponsored by Equality California and the California Alliance of Child and Family Services.
“According to the Trevor Project, teens who have parental support regarding their gender identity were 93% less likely to attempt suicide than youth who did not perceive parents as supportive. Supportive and affirming homes for LGBTQ+ foster youth saves lives. The CA Alliance is excited to partner with Senator Wiener on SB 407 to ensure that all LGBTQ+ foster youth have affirming families and feel safe, supported, and cared for.” –Christine Stoner-Mertz, CEO of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services
“LGBTQ+ foster youth experience violence and other stressors unique to the LGBTQ+ community, including homophobia or transphobia,” said Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California. “SB 407 protects LGBTQ+ foster youth from being placed in non-affirming homes by creating standard guidelines and criteria that carefully screens potential families. LGBTQ+ foster youth need a healthy environment that supports and embraces them as they explore their identity.”
Chasten Buttigieg speaks out against Pence’s homophobic remarks
The Transportation Secretary, asked on Monday whether they are owed an apology from Pence, said, “I’ll let others speak to that”
NEW YORK – Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, said former Vice President Mike Pence has not apologized for homophobic and misogynistic remarks about the couple that he made at a dinner in Washington, DC last weekend.
“I spoke up because we all have an obligation to hold people accountable for when they say something wrong, especially when it’s misogynistic, especially when it’s homophobic,” Chasten Buttigieg said during an appearance Thursday on ABC’s The View.
Also on Thursday, the Associated Press reported Pence doubled down on his remarks after a Republican Party dinner in New Hampshire, telling reporters, “The only thing I can figure is Pete Buttigieg not only can’t do his job, but he can’t take a joke.”
Last Saturday, Pence had joked that following the birth of the Buttigieg twins in 2021, the Transportation Secretary took “maternity leave” and then the country suffered “postpartum depression” over issues with airlines and air travel.
The former Vice President delivered the remarks — which were first reported by the Washington Blade — during the annual Gridiron Club dinner, which he headlined along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D).
Per tradition, speakers at the dinner are expected to poke fun at political figures, including guests in attendance, but Pence’s comments quickly drew outrage for their homophobia and misogyny.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the matter in a comment shared with the Blade on Monday, “The former vice president’s homophobic joke about Secretary Buttigieg was offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline.”
The Buttigiegs have been public about the “terrifying” ordeal they suffered following the premature births of their twins. The newborns developed serious Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections (RSV) — which required one to be hospitalized, put on a ventilator, and transferred to a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids for treatment.
“An honest question for you, @Mike_Pence, after your attempted joke this weekend,” Chasten Buttigieg tweeted on Monday, “If your grandchild was born prematurely and placed on a ventilator at two months old – their tiny fingers wrapped around yours as the monitors beep in the background – where would you be?”
The Transportation Secretary, asked on Monday whether they are owed an apology from Pence, said, “I’ll let others speak to that.”
During Thursday’s interview, Chasten Buttigieg called out the hypocrisy of Pence’s putative identity as a “family values Republican,” telling the talk show’s hosts, “I don’t think he’s practicing what he preaches here.”
“But also,” he added, “it’s a bigger conversation about the work that women do in families — taking a swipe at all women and all families and expecting that women would stay home and raise children is a misogynistic view.”
Rachel Maddow: Trump inciting fears of another potential January 6
“He’s trying to make it so that there is a threat of uncontrollable political violence in this country that is triggered”
NEW YORK – Speaking by phone on Saturday morning with MSNBC’s weekend anchor and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, MSNBC journalist and anchor Rachel Maddow reflected on the plea by former President Donald Trump, in a social media post, to ‘protest’ his impending arrest.
In a post on the Trump owned TRUTH social, the former president implied that his indictment and arrest on corruption charges in New York were imminent and that his followers should stage protests to “Take our nation back” employing the same rhetoric he used that eventually led to the Capitol insurrection. He had called for his followers to protest the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election by Congress meeting on January 6, 2021.
NBC News reported Friday that the New York Police Department (NYPD) and New York State Court Officers, along with Homeland Security, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service were quietly preparing for potential demonstrations from Trump’s supporters and counterprotests from those opposed to the former president opponents and the potential of the two groups violently clashing each other.
A spokesperson for Trump told CNN Saturday that the former president has not received a notification from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office regarding any potential indictment, but was “rightfully highlighting his innocence” in his post.
Trump is under criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in connection to a hush money payment his former personal attorney Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election, CNBC reported noting Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, spoke on the heels of the report by NBC News that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are preparing for the possibility that Trump will be indicted as early as next week.
Maddow told Capehart:
“[…] I don’t think we’ve had a clear view of what his legal defense is going to be, but his overall defense is going to be to try to raise the civic cost of indicting him. He is trying to bring intimidation and pressure to bear against the prosecutors who are considering right now whether to indict him. And he’s hoping to create fear that there’ll be another January 6 type event or, you know, his followers are going to show up another FBI office or, you know, something else that he could he could cause to happen by asking his followers to go into the streets in his defense.”
Capehart responded noting: “I’m glad you brought that up. And I love that phrasing, raise the the civic cost of indicting him. And I’m just wondering, the it’s hard not to recall January 6th when you read a post like the one he put out this morning. And I want you to talk further. How concerned are you and should people be concerned that that Trump supporters will see this as a call to action?”
In answer Maddow said: “Well, he’s trying to make it that.
“Getting arrested, getting indicted, even going to jail isn’t the end of the line. It isn’t the end of the world. But Trump is trying to make it that. He’s trying to make it so that there is a threat of uncontrollable political violence in this country that is triggered, that would be triggered by any, any act of the legal system against him. It’s his effort. There’s nothing intrinsic about him getting in trouble as a potentially publicly corrupt, public, corrupt figure that should cause violence. But he’s trying to make sure that it does. And the question is, whether his followers do.”
Capehart then asked: “And, you know, to that point, you anticipated the next question I was going to ask you, given this long history of public officials up and down, up and down the roster being arrested and some of them viewing viewing it as a good thing, using the number of times they’ve been indicted as a punchline in in campaign speeches. Is this good for Trump politically because he is right now a declared candidate for president?”
“Yes. I mean, I think that he’s banking on it being something that helps him. But he is playing with a fire that he doesn’t know how to contain and that nobody knows how to contain,” Maddow said adding: “Right. I mean, I think it is a little unnerving that his first political campaign appearance for his 2024 run is in Waco, Right. We’re at the 30th anniversary of the Waco standoff, Right. You’re talking about trying to trying to engender militant consciousness among Americans about the need to fight the federal government with violence. Well, Waco was a nice place to try to do that from. That’s a nice resonant place to try to do that from.
I mean, him being indicted on, you know, on a charge related to campaign finance tax and business fraud, again, doesn’t have to be the end of the world for him and could potentially be a positive for him. But if he’s asking for a militant racially, racially tinged violent response from his followers, that’s something that won’t be good for him. You know, January 6 is not good for Trump’s political legacy, for all the other things that it is, for all the other things that means for our country. It didn’t make him more electable for coming back as another term as president.
And so he’s he’s trying to start something that I don’t think he can, I don’t think he can take responsibility for how it will finish. And so I just I don’t I just don’t think it’s wise on his part. Just in political strategy, for him to be calling for what he’s calling for.”
LGBTQ groups challenge Fla. healthcare ban for trans youth
The healthcare ban is among anti-LGBTQ laws passed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his conservative allies in the state legislature
Attorneys from a coalition of three LGBTQ groups and a public interest law firm announced on Thursday their plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of Florida parents challenging the state’s ban on healthcare interventions for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors.
Plaintiffs are represented by Southern Legal Counsel, Inc., the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). A spokesperson for NCLR told the Washington Blade they plan to file the complaint “in the next week or so.”
The ban on guideline-directed, medically necessary healthcare for trans youth went into effect Thursday. The rule has been opposed by major medical associations with relevant clinical expertise including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
These organizations’ clinical practice guidelines and recommendations for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minor patients are backed by hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on the safety, efficacy, and medical necessity of these interventions.
“This policy came about through a political process with a predetermined conclusion, and it stands in direct contrast to the overwhelming weight of the evidence and science,” said Simone Chriss, Director of Transgender Rights Initiative, Southern Legal Counsel, in a press release announcing the lawsuit.
“There is an unbelievable degree of hypocrisy when a state that holds itself out as being deeply concerned with protecting ‘parents’ rights’ strips parents of their right to ensure their children receive appropriate medical care,” Chriss said.
“Our daughter is a happy, confident child but denying her access to the medical care recommended by her doctors would completely disrupt her life,” one parent-plaintiff said in the press release. “I’m devastated by what this will mean for her physical and mental health.”
The healthcare ban is among a bevy of anti-LGBTQ laws passed in recent years by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his conservative allies in the state legislature. Other examples include last year’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bars classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity, and the 2021 law that prohibits transgender women and girls from participating in school sports.
The ACLU is tracking 10 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration by Florida lawmakers during this legislative session. Among these is a proposal that would allow the state to take children from their parents for facilitating access to gender affirming healthcare and require courts to “vacate, stay, or modify the child custody determination to the extent necessary to protect the child from the provision of such prescriptions or procedures.”
Republican leader Gallagher introduces ‘outing’ bill in Sacramento
“Legislation ‘outing’ transgender students against their will does not protect them it puts them in potentially life-threatening danger”
SACRAMENTO – Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (Yuba City) alongside Assemblymember Bill Essayli (Riverside) introduced legislation that would require that any teacher, counselor, or employee of a school notifies the parents of any student that identifies at school as a gender that does not align with their assigned birth gender.
The text of Assembly Bill 1314 reads:
Existing law authorizes a minor who is 12 years of age or older to consent to mental health treatment or counseling services, notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, if, in the opinion of the attending professional person, the minor is mature enough to participate intelligently in those services, or to outpatient mental health treatment or counseling services if the foregoing is true and the minor would present a danger of serious physical or mental harm to self or to others without the mental health treatment or counseling or residential shelter services, or is the alleged victim of incest or child abuse. Existing law requires the mental health treatment or counseling of a minor authorized by these provisions to include involvement of the minor’s parent or guardian unless, in the opinion of the professional person who is treating or counseling the minor, the involvement would be inappropriate.
This bill would, notwithstanding the consent provisions described above, provide that a parent or guardian has the right to be notified in writing within 3 days from the date any teacher, counselor, or employee of the school becomes aware that a pupil is identifying at school as a gender that does not align with the child’s sex on their birth certificate, other official records, or sex assigned at birth, using sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, or using facilities that do not align with the child’s sex on their birth certificate, other official records, or sex assigned at birth. The bill would state legislative intent related to these provisions. By imposing additional duties on public school officials, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
Echoing arguments that have risen in state houses across the United States by Republicans, especially in Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas, Gallagher in a response to State Senator Scott Wiener who tweeted his outrage over the bill tweeted: “No Senator this bill simply stops an outrageous policy of transitioning kids at school in secret without their parents knowledge or consent.”
A DeSantis-style bill was just introduced in CA to require teachers/counselors to inform parents if a kid id’s as a gender not on birth certificate.— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) March 13, 2023
Even if the kid isn’t ready to come out to their parents. Even if ratting the kid out risks violence at home.
Nope, not in CA.
In a statement issued by his office, Assemblyman Essayli said, “This legislation seeks to protect parental rights, ensuring that parents know what is going on with their child at school, instead of having the teacher replace the parent in discussing important personal matters.”
Essayli told media outlets that the legislation was specifically designed to assert the freedom of teachers to openly communicate with parents regarding their children’s gender transition decisions, and that it was based on a Jurupa Valley educator’s firing over her predisposition toward full disclosure.
In response to the introduction of the measure, the California Legislative LGBTQ+ Caucus said in a statement released Monday afternoon:
“The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus is united in ensuring that our children are protected and safe. But legislation that aims to ‘out’ transgender and non-binary students against their will does not protect them — it puts them in potentially life-threatening danger, subjecting them to trauma and violence. Additionally, the Trevor Project cites family conflict around youths’ LGBTQ identities as a driving factor contributing to LGBTQ youth homelessness.
“Teachers should not be forced into the inappropriate position of revealing a student’s personal information about their gender identity with anyone. Data indicates that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide, with suicidality highest among transgender youth. Anyone putting forward a bill that would only increase those numbers is not seeking to protect children. Period.”
Equality California also issued a statement:
“We want LGBTQ+ students to feel safe talking to their parents about their gender and sexuality, but AB 1314 ignores the reality that not all trans youth have that option. Trans people are more likely to face family rejection and even abuse at home based on their gender identity, which leads to overrepresentation in foster care, juvenile detention and among unhoused youth. For many trans kids, school is the only place they feel safe to be their true, authentic selves. Forced ‘outing’ bills like AB 1314 seek to strip that sense of safety and dignity away.
“Conversations between children and their parents about gender identity should happen on their terms — at a time and place they feel is appropriate — not because politicians say so. We should be encouraging and supporting parents to have open and honest conversations with their children, not forcing teachers to serve as the school’s ‘gender police’, tracking down students using a different name or pronoun at school and outing them at home.”
State Senator María Elena Durazo: Expand tenant protections
“The rising homelessness crisis has become one of the most urgent and humanitarian issues facing our state and communities”
SACRAMENTO – State Senator María Elena Durazo, (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill this past Friday to address limiting the risk of homelessness in the Golden State by expanding the California Tenant Protection Act of 2019.
Senate Bill 567 (SB 567), the Homelessness Prevention Act, is set to give Californian renters greater housing stability and reduces the number of people on the brink of homelessness. Currently the existing law provides tenant protection for renters, which includes limits on rent increases, unjust evictions and relocation fees for no-fault evictions.
Durazo’s bill will close loopholes that allow for rampant abuse of the no-fault just causes for eviction. The measure also calls for limiting allowable rent increases to a more reasonable cap while also providing mechanisms for accountability and enforcement.
“The rising homelessness crisis has become one of the most urgent and humanitarian issues facing our state and communities; that’s why I’ve introduced the Homelessness Prevention Act of 2023,” Durazo said in a tweet.
The rising homelessness crisis has become one of the most urgent and humanitarian issues facing our state and communities that’s why I’ve introduced the Homelessness Prevention Act of 2023. https://t.co/hu3X8TiCuB— María Elena Durazo (@MariaEDurazo) March 11, 2023
In a fact sheet provided by the Senator’s office citing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the state’s unhoused population has risen by 31% since 2010, which includes a 57% increase in people becoming unsheltered and living in the streets.
In a most recent count of the state’s unhoused, there are more than 170,000 unsheltered Californians, accounting for half of the U.S. unsheltered population. This does not include families living in substandard motel rooms or sleeping on floors and couches.
About 30% of the nation’s homeless population resides in California, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, an independent research group. That means about 170,000 homeless people are in the Golden State.
Los Angeles has a homeless population of 69,144, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
As the measure is introduced, the dual laws which protected renters who were financially impacted due to the pandemic from evictions, the California COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act and the COVID-19 Rental Housing Recovery Act, are set to expire at the end of this month on March 31.
In 2020, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found a $100 median rent increase led to a 9% increase in homelessness. Further, loopholes in existing law have led to widespread abuses that leave people vulnerable to displacement or eviction, even when tenants are in compliance with the terms of their lease.
These evictions and rent hikes are directly contributing to homelessness. As inflation soars and both state and local eviction protections enacted during the pandemic come to an end, gaps in standing tenant protections are impacting more renters facing significant rent increases and “no-fault” evictions.
In a press release, Durazo’s office noted that government responses have primarily focused on rehousing people, yet this has not led to a decrease in homelessness numbers due to the influx of newly homeless.
“While these efforts are needed, they should be complemented by efforts to prevent people from becoming homeless. While existing law provides for basic protections from rent-gouging and unjust evictions, loopholes in the law allow too many tenants to remain unprotected from eviction,” the statement continued.
Kal Penn & President Biden discuss same-sex marriage, trans kids
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s same-sex or a heterosexual couple, you should be able to be married.” Biden on same-sex marriage
WASHINGTON – In a segment slated to broadcast Monday on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, noted Out Indian American actor, comedian and former Obama White House adviser Kal Penn sits down with President Joe Biden at the White House discussing same-sex marriage, and how the government can protect the transgender community.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s same-sex or a heterosexual couple, you should be able to be married.” Biden tells Penn
White House condemns Pence’s homophobic comments
Associated Press Chief White House Correspondent Zeke Miller reported Pence’s “jokes” were not well received
WASHINGTON – White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement Monday condemning the homophobic and misogynistic remarks made by former Vice President Mike Pence during the Gridiron Club dinner Saturday night.
At the event, Pence said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — the country’s first openly gay cabinet secretary — “took maternity leave” following the birth of his and husband Chasten’s twins in 2021, adding that the country subsequently suffered postpartum depression via airline and air travel issues.
“The former vice president’s homophobic joke about Secretary Buttigieg was offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement she shared with the Washington Blade.
“He should apologize to women and LGBTQ people, who are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect,” Jean-Pierre said.
Pence headlined the event for Republicans, while New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy represented the Democrats and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken represented the Biden administration. By tradition, each delivered prepared remarks that were meant to be humorous.
Associated Press Chief White House Correspondent Zeke Miller reported Pence’s “jokes” were not well received by the room.
Buttigieg has suffered homophobic attacks from Republicans in the past, including by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has repeatedly made similar comments about the transportation secretary’s parental leave.
On Monday afternoon, Chasten Buttigieg shared a photo on Instagram of Pete seated next to a crib equipped with monitors and medical equipment that was captioned: “An honest question for you,@mikepence, after your attempted joke this weekend. If your grandchild was born prematurely and placed on a ventilator at two months old – their tiny fingers wrapped around yours as the monitors beep in the background – where would you be?”
Shortly after they were adopted in 2021, the Buttigieg twins were hospitalized with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The couple’s infant son Joseph “Gus” August had to be intubated for a ventilator and transferred to a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids for treatment.
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