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Victory Institute: Confirmation of key LGBTQ Biden nominees now

Letter sent urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to move for a vote on 11 LGBTQ nominees for key posts

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – The LGBTQ Victory Institute will issue a letter on Friday urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to move for a vote on 11 LGBTQ nominees for key posts in the Biden administration, the group told the Washington Blade.

The letter notes that several of these appointments have languished before the Senate and its committees for more than 100 days since they were first announced by the White House, underscoring the urgency for lawmakers to take action in the waning days before the new Congress is seated in January.

Victory Institute Senior Manager for Presidential Appointments Jonathan Dromgoole told the Blade that the group will continue advocating on behalf of the candidates if Congress fails to approve them by the year’s end — in which case they must be re-nominated by President Joe Biden to begin the approvals process anew.

Dromgoole echoed the praise in the Victory Institute’s letter for the strides that Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and pro-LGBTQ legislators in the Senate have made to nominate and approve a record number of LGBTQ candidates to serve in the administration, as well as their success in passing the historic Respect for Marriage Act, which was signed into law this week.

At the same time, “we’re really urging Sen. Schumer — who has the power to do this, to bring these folks up to a vote — to take action, because they’ve truly been waiting long enough,” Dromgoole said.

Confirming these nominees is essential, not just for reasons of representation and the need to include LGBTQ people in policymaking, but also for Americans more broadly, Dromgoole said. Having qualified candidates seated and serving in these key government posts will benefit everyone, perhaps especially when those positions would otherwise remain vacant, he said.

The 11 LGBTQ nominees awaiting Senate confirmation includes six jurists who were picked to fill open judgeships in U.S. federal district courts, a candidate nominated for foreign ambassadorships, and individuals who were selected for key posts at the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Federal Communications Commission.

If confirmed, Gigi Sohn, Biden’s pick for FCC commissioner, would provide the key votes necessary to pass rules and policies that have been held up for more than a year because of the agency’s bipartisan leadership structure, with voting commissioners from both parties serving under Democratic Chair Jessica Rosenworcel.

Sohn’s confirmation process has been embroiled in conflict, perhaps in large part because of Republican opposition to rules and policies that would pass with her tie-breaking votes.

Nevertheless, and especially with respect to the other 10 candidates, Dromgoole said partisan political disagreements should have nothing to do with the Senate’s deliberations. These nominees are qualified and ready to do the work, he said. “They are there to really look at the laws and interpret those laws in a nonpartisan way” on behalf of the American people.

More broadly, Dromgoole said, the 11 nominees “really do represent and give effect to the president’s mission, to make sure that the appointees look like America. And in this case, yes, we’re focused on LGBTQ individuals as part of the Victory Institute’s work. But a lot of these folks hold multiple identities that they’re able to bring into their jobs on day one.”

“And I think the timing is right with both President Biden and the pro LGBTQ mandate that the Senate has right now, to get these folks over the finish line in these last critical weeks. So, we’re hopeful and we’re going to continue to champion them and all of our appointees as we move forward.”

The Victory Institute’s Presidential Appointments Initiative was started during the Clinton White House, during which time Dromgoole said only about 30 LGBTQ people were working in the administration.

The group claims to have had a hand in 40 percent of the LGBTQ individuals who were selected and approved for key roles in the Biden-Harris administration — the most inclusive to-date, with 15 percent identifying as LGBTQ.

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Politics

Houston candidate tests if Democrats tolerate anti-LGBTQ votes

Rep. Shawn Thierry voted for three anti-LGBTQ bills last year, which could make her more vulnerable as she fights for reelection

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Texas state Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Harris County) reelection yard sign. (Screenshot/YouTube Campaign advert)

By Zach Despart | HOUSTON, Texas – That Senate Bill 14 would pass was not in doubt.

The legislation, which would bar gender-transitioning care for children and teens, had universal Republican support and merely awaited final sign-off by the GOP-led House.

The only surprise that May evening in the Capitol was when Rep. Shawn Thierry, a Democrat from Houston, strode to the front of the chamber and announced she was breaking with her party to support the bill.

Children must be protected from transgender care because of its risk of harm, she said, citing precedent in Texas for allowing only adults to get tattoos, use tanning salons and purchase tobacco products. She said teenagers’ brains are not developed enough to make potentially irreversible medical decisions.

“This debate… was never about erasing trans children,” Thierry said in a tearful 12-minute speech. “For me, this discussion is about how to best protect and care for these children as they navigate through the challenging journey of finding the best version of themselves.”

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Republican blitz on LGBTQ issues exposes fractures among Texas Democrats

MAY 23, 2023

Thierry’s remarks ignored that treatment decisions for minors can only be made by parents or legal guardians, as well as the consensus of major medical groups that gender-transitioning care should be available to children and teens in the care of doctors.

Republicans were quick to praise Thierry as a brave politician willing to buck her radical party. To Democrats, who watched the speech in stunned silence, she had betrayed their party’s commitment to protect LGBTQ+ rights and vulnerable Texans.

“It feels defeating, when you’re a Democrat in the Texas Legislature,” said Dallas Rep. Jessica González, one of several gay members of the caucus. “The last two legislative sessions had the most conservative bills. That’s why it’s even more important for us to stick together.”

The political fallout is spilling into the Democratic primary, where in her bid for reelection Thierry faces two challengers. One of them, labor organizer Lauren Ashley Simmons, is well funded and has secured the support of several Democratic officials — including sitting House members — and progressive groups like the influential Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus. A Democratic club in Houston censured her, accusing Thierry of turning her back on the gay and transgender community.

Thierry, whose small-dollar donations have largely dried up, now relies heavily on wealthy Republican donors to fund her campaign.

More than a third of Thierry’s donations over the past year came from individuals or groups who typically support Republican candidates, a curiosity in a predominantly Democratic district. They include $10,000 from Doug Deason, a conservative activist, and $15,000 from his pro-school voucher Family Empowerment Coalition PAC.

While she’s not the only Democrat in the House to have voted with Republicans on those bills, Thierry’s race has become a referendum on whether elected officials who do not fully support LGBTQ+ causes can remain in good standing with the Democratic Party. Thierry is insistent she can, and said her votes last year reflected the will of her constituents.

Thierry, who declined to sit for an interview but spoke briefly to The Texas Tribune by phone, said most of the criticism of her on LGBTQ+ issues comes from white progressives outside her district, who do not represent her base of more socially conservative, religious Black voters.

“I didn’t just jump out against … my constituents,” Thierry said. “Clearly, I have a good pulse of how the majority of the people in my district feel. I really do. I’ve lived here forever.”

But it’s a knife in the back for gay and transgender residents in District 146, who previously viewed her as an ally. The LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Texas endorsed Thierry as recently as 2022.

Ashton Woods, a gay man and founder of Houston’s Black Lives Matter chapter, accused Thierry of lying about her constituents’ support for her LGBTQ+ positions. He said the representative previously presented herself as an ally of the gay and transgender community, but in reality is solely interested in the views of a small group of mostly elderly supporters that agree with her.

“I don’t know who she’s talking to in my age group,” said Woods, 39. “She’s seeking a safe space where people share the same ideology as her.”

Woods, who unsuccessfully challenged Thierry in the 2020 Democratic primary, said her votes on LGBTQ+ issues last year were a reason why he has decided to run again.

Joëlle Espeut, a Black transgender woman in Thierry’s district, said she had doubts about the sincerity of Thierry’s commitment even before the votes.

“I think people think that showing support is merely just saying you support the LGBT community,” Espeut said. “Outside of these bills, her support, at best, was nominal.”

Thierry gives an emotional speech, on the House floor,  on her personal experience during childbirth, on July 31, 2017.
Thierry speaks on her personal experience during childbirth, on the House floor, on July 31, 2017. 
(Photo Credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune)

House District 146 covers a swath of south Houston, bounded by Brays Bayou, that includes the world-class Texas Medical Center and world-famous Astrodome. Three-quarters nonwhite and heavily Democratic — President Joe Biden won some precincts by more than 90 points — the district stretches west through middle-class Meyerland and Westbury, heart of the city’s Jewish community. But it is anchored in Sunnyside, a low-income, majority-Black neighborhood that once was a thriving economic hub that is trying to revitalize.

The district has always been represented by a Black Houstonian. Thierry, now 54, in 2016 was selected by Democratic precinct chairs as the party’s nominee for the seat after then-Rep. Borris Miles resigned to run for the state Senate. She was elected unopposed.

Thierry made an impression in her first session by fighting for bipartisan legislation to address the state’s high maternal mortality rate for Black mothers, drawing on the experience of her own difficult pregnancy with her daughter.

In the following sessions, Thierry voted reliably with her party. She joined most of the Democratic caucus in their 2021 protest of a GOP voter restrictions bill, where they absconded to Washington, D.C., for several weeks to shut down the House. It was an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her mother, a civil rights activist who integrated Sharpstown High School in Houston.

In the 2023 regular legislative session, Republicans made sexuality and children their new top social issue. By the time lawmakers adjourned in May, much of the camaraderie Thierry had built with fellow Democrats unraveled.

Three major pieces of legislation proposed by Republicans became law last year: a bill aimed at removing sexually explicit books from school libraries, a designation critics feared would be used to target LGBTQ+ literature; a requirement that transgender college athletes play on teams that align their sex assigned at birth; and the ban on trans minors from receiving gender-transitioning care.

RELATED STORY
Texas lawmakers pursued dozens of bills affecting LGBTQ people this year. Here’s what passed and what failed.

UPDATED: JUNE 2, 2023

Thierry supported all three. She was not the only Democrat to break ranks — 11 others supported the book-banning bill. But she was by far the most outspoken in her support for the legislation. She said in another floor speech that the book bill would set up guardrails against explicit materials that have “infiltrated” schools, noting one that she said teaches children how to access dating websites.

Fellow Democrats told the Tribune they were especially frustrated that Thierry did not support their efforts to offer compromises on the transgender bill.

Rep. Ann Johnson, whose district borders Thierry’s, offered an unsuccessful amendment that would have permitted trans teens from receiving such care if two doctors and two mental health professionals approved — a high bar intended to assuage concerns that treatment such as hormones could be carelessly prescribed. Johnson declined to comment.

Thierry skipped the vote on the item, as well as all 18 other Democratic amendments. Thierry said that her positions reflected the views of her constituents.

State representatives gather to listen to discussion of a Point of Order brought against SB 14 on the House floor at the state Capitol in Austin on May 12, 2023.
State representatives listen to a Point of Order discussion brought against SB 14 on the House floor at the state Capitol in Austin on May 12, 2023. 
(Photo Credit: Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune)
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, prepares for a press conference in front of people who have gathered on the stairs across from the House floor to protest against SB 14, before it is heard for debate on May 12, 2023.
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, prepares for a press conference in front of people who have gathered on the stairs across from the House floor to protest against SB 14, before it is heard for debate on May 12, 2023.  (Photo Credit: Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune)

Community leaders in Sunnyside said LGBTQ+ issues are not the ones they think most about. Sunnyside Civic Club President Tracy Stephens, 66, recalls when the neighborhood was a bustling center of Black life in Houston, with its own movie theaters, bowling alleys and grocery stores.

After decades of neglect and underinvestment, he said Sunnyside needs a representative that will secure funding for street repairs and strengthen penalties for pollution. He commended Thierry for being accessible and attentive to these needs.

Stephens also said he supported Thierry’s stances on the book rating and gender-transitioning care bills. These weren’t issues when he was a kid, he said, adding that he understood Thierry’s desire to protect children.

“You’ve got to think about what’s going to happen to that kid in the long run,” Stephens said about gender-transitioning care.

Sandra Massie Hines, who earned the nickname “the mayor of Sunnyside” for her civil rights work in the community, said her focus lately has been helping elderly residents at risk of homelessness because of rising rents.

When it comes to gay and trans issues, Hines said she supported Thierry’s votes. She said exposing children to LGBTQ+ materials is confusing for them.

“I think kids shouldn’t be coached into being told they need to grow extremities, or cut off extremities,” said Hines, 75. “I just think a lot of that is fostered by adults.”

Gender transition surgery is extremely rare under the age of 18, according to doctors, and in most cases gender-transition medical care for minors means hormone therapy or puberty blockers.

But younger residents, and those with gay or trans family members, said Thierry’s stances are hurtful and don’t represent the largely progressive district.

Gender-transitioning care, including doctor-prescribed hormones, makes life bearable for a 16-year-old trans teenager in District 146, their mother said.

The Tribune granted her anonymity, after verifying her identity and address, because Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized state officials to open child abuse investigations into parents who provide gender-affirming care to their trans children. Those investigations are on pause due to a lawsuit filed by Texas families against the state.

The child came out as trans at age 7. They had a mental health crisis at 10, a common occurrence for children suffering from gender dysphoria, a type of psychological distress that results from a mismatch between a person’s sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. Their mother said at the time she did not understand the kind of support they needed. Gender-transitioning treatments have significantly improved the teen’s mental and physical health, she said.

“They can just go to school, do the SATs, get their driver’s license and think about who they’re going to take to the spring dance,” she said. “It freed them up to have a developmentally normal life, as opposed to where they were at prior to this care, which was a dark place.”

The mother said she wished to share her experience with Thierry as lawmakers considered SB 14 but said her Capitol staff declined to schedule an appointment. She said aides said constituents could visit the office at any time to see if Thierry was available. The mother said it was impractical to make the three-hour drive from Houston without a guarantee (Thierry’s chief of staff said she makes time to meet with visitors, even if it requires stepping away from legislative business).

Now that gender-transitioning care is banned, the mother said she has made a plan to move to a different state if necessary, a step other Texas families with trans children have already taken.

Lauren Ashley Simmons speaks with volunteers before block walking on Jan. 28, 2024, in the Meyerland neighborhood of Houston.
Lauren Ashley Simmons speaks with volunteers before block walking on Jan. 28, 2024, in the Meyerland neighborhood of Houston. (Photo Credit: Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune)

Anger with Thierry over her votes last year has created an opening for labor organizer Lauren Ashley Simmons, with a faction of Democrats coalescing around her.

Simmons, who has never before sought elected office, said residents encouraged her to run after a video of her criticizing the state takeover of Houston ISD exploded in popularity online. With two children in the district, Simmons was worried about Republican attacks on public education and felt Thierry was unresponsive to constituents about the issue.

She was shocked to see Thierry’s remarks on SB 14, which she felt were “ripped from the Republican national agenda.” Why not make a 12-minute speech on the most pressing issues in District 146, she wondered, like gun violence and the lack of grocery stores?

Simmons, 36, likened the plight of the parents of trans children to her own daughter’s treatment for sickle-cell anemia, which includes an experimental chemotherapy drug and opioids.

“Those are decisions that are hard for me and her dad to make with her medical team,” Simmons said. “I get really nervous when we start passing legislation about what decisions parents can make about their children’s health care.”

Simmons has captured some of the marquee Democratic endorsements, including labor unions and Planned Parenthood, as well as Equality Texas, which had previously endorsed Thierry. Democratic leaders including Houston City Controller Chris Hollins, former Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Odus Evbagharu and three House Democrats have also backed her.

Lauren Ashley Simmons checks addresses of voters as she block walks on in Houston.
Lauren Ashley Simmons checks addresses of voters as she block walks on in Houston. 
(Photo Credit: Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune)

Two Black Democratic House members — Reps. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins of San Antonio and Nicole Collier of Fort Worth — have endorsed Thierry, as have local groups including the Houston Black American Democrats and the Harris County chapter of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.

Collier disagrees with Thierry’s vote on SB 14. But she said Thierry has been a devoted Democrat on other issues and does not deserve to be purged from the party. Collier praised Thierry as a skilled and hardworking legislator who has done much for her district.

“It takes a lot of courage to take a stand on a provision that isn’t popular or safe,” Collier said. “I respect that as a leader, she is able to do that, in a time where everyone expected her to go along.”

Other Democrats view it differently. There is room for the party’s elected officials to offer lukewarm support to the LGBTQ+ community in moderate districts, they believe, but not in one that has one of the highest shares of Democrat voters of any in the state.

“It is increasingly hard for us to not only pass meaningful legislation, but also defeat harmful policies,” said González, who has endorsed Simmons. “I firmly believe it’s important for us to stand up and fight for our Democratic values and also elect other Democrats who share those values.”

William Melhado contributed reporting.

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Zach Despart’s staff photo

Zach Despart is a politics reporter for The Texas Tribune. He investigates power — who wields it, how and to what ends — through the lens of Texas government. He has extensively covered the Uvalde school shooting, including a groundbreaking investigation on the role the gunman’s rifle played in the disastrous police response.

He previously covered Harris County for the Houston Chronicle, where he reported on corruption, elections, disaster preparedness and the region’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey. An upstate New York native, he received his bachelor’s degree in political science and film from the University of Vermont.

The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

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California Politics

Poll: Schiff continues to lead U.S. Senate Primary with 28%

Since January, Schiff’s support has increased by three points, from 25% to 28%, Garvey’s support increased by four points, from 18% to 22%

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Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) speaking to group in the Capitol in January 2024. (Official U.S. House of Representatives photo)

BOSTON, Mass. – A new Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics/The Hill survey finds California Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff maintaining his lead in the U.S. Senate Primary, with 28%, followed by former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres baseball player, Republican Steve Garvey at 22%, and Schiff’s Democratic House colleague Katie Porter with 16%.

The Emerson College Polling also found that nine percent of voters support Democratic U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee. Seventeen percent remain undecided. 
Since January, Schiff’s support has increased by three points, from 25% to 28%, Garvey’s support increased by four points, from 18% to 22%, and Porter’s support increased by three points, from 13% to 16%.

“Candidate support varies by age group,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, noted. “Schiff’s support is highest among voters in their 60s, at 45%, and those over 70, with 39%, whereas Porter’s strength is among young voters, where she holds 23%. Notably, this group has the highest share of undecided voters at 28%. Garvey’s strength is also with older voters, with 33% support among voters over 70.”

Emerson researchers also found:

  • Half of California voters (50%) approve of the job President Biden is doing in office, while 41% disapprove. Governor Newsom holds a 49% job approval, while 40% disapprove.
  • In the likely general election between Biden and former President Donald Trump, 55% would support Biden, 33% Trump, while 12% are undecided. With third-party candidates added to the ballot test, Biden’s support decreased to 49%, Trump’s to 31%, while 8% instead supported Robert Kennedy Jr., and 1% supported Cornel West and Jill Stein respectively. 
  • In the March Republican Primary, 72% of GOP voters plan to vote for Trump, 20% for Haley, and 8% are undecided. In the Democratic Primary, 75% of voters support President Biden, 9% Dean Phillips, and 16% are undecided.

The Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics/The Hill California poll was conducted February 16-18, 2024. The sample consisted of 1,000 registered voters, with a credibility interval, similar to a poll’s margin of error, of +/- 3 percentage points.

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Politics

Plans for ‘Christian nationalism’ if Trump wins a second term

New documents show that close allies of former President Donald Trump who would likely serve in senior White House roles

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President Trump is applauded by gathered religious leaders on May 4, 2017, as he displays his signature on his Executive Order Promoting Free Speech & Religious Liberty, at a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House photo)

WASHINGTON – New documents show that close allies of former President Donald Trump who would likely serve in senior White House roles if he is reelected would make Christian nationalism a guiding principle of governance and public policy in a second term.

Politico reported on Tuesday that it had reviewed a list of priorities for a second Trump administration that was prepared by a right-wing think tank called the Center for Renewing America and included “Christian nationalism.”

In a statement to Politico, a spokesperson at the organization disputed the accuracy of the reporting.

CRA is led by Russell Vought, who was director of the Office of Management and Budget in the first Trump administration and is considered a top candidate for the chief-of-staff job if he returns to the White House.

The bulleted list also featured examples of ways in which Trump would consolidate and exercise the powers of the presidency in a maximalist fashion, including by using the military to quash protests and by refusing to spend congressionally appropriated funds on any projects that he does not agree with.

Sources at CRA who were familiar with the plans told Politico that Vought speaks with Trump at least once per month and plans to leverage his relationship with the former president to elevate Christian nationalism in a second term.

Politico noted that Vought is close with William Wolfe, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon and as director of legislative affairs at the State Department during the Trump administration — and has advocated for ending abortion, reducing access to contraceptives and overturning the right to same-sex marriage.

In a post on X last week, Wolfe circulated the false allegation that the shooter who injured two people at a Texas megachurch was transgender, writing “The “T” in LGBT stands for “Terrorist.”

The former Trump official is an advisor on Project 2025, the 887-page governing agenda for the next Republican administration that was created by the Heritage Foundation, another conservative think tank.

Like the CRA document, Project 2025 outlines plans to advance Christian nationalism in American government. Specific policies include the replacement of secular public education with teaching based on the Bible, outlawing all pornography and eroding protections for LGBTQ Americans.

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Political commentary & analysis

Anti-trans legislative risk assessment map – February Update

6 weeks into 2024, there are already 400+ bills targeting transgender people. This map assesses the risk of the worst laws passing

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By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – I have tracked anti-transgender legislation for 4 years @erininthemorn on Twitter and TikTok. Every day, I’ve gotten messages from worried people wondering how they are supposed to assess their risk of staying in their home state.

The messages range from parents of trans youth wondering if their children will be taken from them to trans teachers wondering if their jobs will be safe in coming years. Sometimes people just want to know if there is a safer state they can move to nearby.

I created the legislative risk map specifically to help answer that question. Now more than ever, it is a question that needs answering for so many transgender people facing forced medical detransition, arrests for using the bathroom, bans on the use of our names, pronouns, and identification documents, and many other curtailments of our rights to exist in public life.

In previous iterations of the map, the focus was entirely on the risk to transgender youth. When the map was first developed, bills targeting transgender youth were far more common. Unfortunately over the last year, the transgender youth map has lost all granularity, largely reducing to just two colors: red and blue, a set of states criminalizing trans youth and a set of states protecting them.

You can still find this map at the end of the document, and it will be continually updated. The primary map of focus, though, will be the transgender adult map, as bills targeting trans adults have become far more common.

Methodology

The methodology used is primarily qualitative, with a scoring-rubric element for the worst bills. Part of the methodology is my own expert assessment of laws, of which I am well equipped to do. I have read all 550 bills that target trans people in America in 2023 and 400 in the first 6 weeks of 2024. I have watched hundreds of hours of hearings on anti-trans legislation and am fully aware of all of the players nationally as well as where they are making their pushes against trans rights. I have followed the vote count and talk to activists on the ground in each state. I am looking at how similar states are moving in their legislative cycles. Lastly, I watch for statements by governors and bill drafts to see if the Republican party in various states seems to be pushing anti-trans legislation heavily – you can see many examples of such legislation in this newsletter.

In terms of actual laws, I keep a rubric of the various types of laws that target transgender people. For transgender youth, the most concerning laws are those that prohibit gender-affirming care and mandate detransition. Additionally, bathroom bans, laws that rigidly define sex as binary, and restrictions on social transition are other key factors that negatively impact a state’s ranking. For transgender adults, the primary legislative concerns include adult gender affirming care bans, bathroom bans, prohibitions on drag specifically aimed at trans people and pride events, restrictions on changing birth certificates and drivers licenses, and laws that end legal recognition for trans people entirely. These factors play a significant role in how I assess and rank a state’s legislative risk.

The Adult Trans Legislative Risk Assessment Map

This updated map delineates the legislative risks concerning laws aimed at transgender adults in the United States. States like Florida have eliminated 80% of all trans adult care, adults can be thrown in jail for using the bathroom of their gender identity, and trans people with correct gender markers on their drivers licenses can be charged with fraud. Multiple states have passed laws ending all legal recognition for trans people. As such, starting this year, adult risk levels for trans people will be tracked on its own map.

Moves in this update: Utah (High Risk → Worst Laws Passed), Iowa (Medium Risk → High Risk), South Dakota (Medium Risk → High Risk)

  • Summary of updates: There are two major moves on this map update. Utah has passed a bathroom ban targeting transgender people, but it is unclear on how or where the law applies. Similarly, the same bill defines sex in a way that ends legal recognition for trans people in much of Utah’s code. For Iowa and South Dakota, many harsh anti-trans laws have been proposed and have already passed at least one committee vote. South Dakota’s drag ban, which passed committee, could be used to target Pride festivities. Iowa, meanwhile, has a bill that could require all transgender people who change their birth certificates to have a special gender marker that would out them as trans that is moving through and has already passed a committee vote.

Nationwide Risk: Moderate. Increasing bills targeting trans adult healthcare and campaigning by Republican presidential candidates means that there could be national anti-trans laws should Republicans gain all 3 branches of government.

Here are the categories:

  • Do Not Travel (FL): The only state earning a “Do Not Travel” advisory is Florida. Florida has a law that allows for the arrest of transgender people for using bathrooms according to their gender identity and another policy targets transgender people’s drivers licenses. Local LGBTQ+ orgs as well as HRC have issued travel advisories for the state. This analysis likewise concurs with such a rating.
  • The Worst States (KS, MT, ND, OK, TN, UT): These states have passed deeply troubling legislation targeting transgender adults in extremely harmful new ways. KansasFlorida, and Utah have bathroom bans for transgender adults, while Tennessee briefly enacted a law requiring signage to warn of the presence of transgender individuals in restrooms. Many, including Florida, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, have gone so far as to legislatively erase transgender people, effectively removing any legal rights associated with their gender identities. Other states, such as Kansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, prohibit any changes to birth certificates, forcing trans people to out themselves when showing their documents. In Kansas, this law could even force individuals who have updated their driver’s licenses and birth certificates to see their gender markers reverted. These states also could start targeting adult gender affirming care – Florida has already done so, banning 80% of such care. Florida has also put into effect a policy that says trans people “misrepresenting” their gender on their drivers license could be guilty of fraud.
  • High-Risk States (AL, AR, IA, IN, LA, MO, MS, NE, OH, SC, SD, TX, WV): All of these states have passed some anti-trans adult laws, but they haven’t reached the same level of severity as the worst states. Missouri and West Virginia, for example, prohibit gender-affirming care for incarcerated adults as well as transgender youth and have seen new laws proposed this cycle going even further. Nebraska’s governor has issued an executive order ending legal recognition of trans people. Additionally, some of these states, including Alabama and Arkansas, have laws that permit the refusal of medical care to LGBTQ+ individuals on religious grounds. South Dakota is advancing a drag ban that could block Pride parades from happening, and Iowa may soon require trans people to have special markers on their birth certificates identifying them as trans. Although each of these states has laws targeting transgender adults, none have done so to the extent of the worst states.
  • Moderate-Risk States (AK, GA, ID, KY, NC, NH, WY): These states have either passed one or two laws aimed at transgender adults or have enacted multiple laws targeting transgender youth, or are advancing negative laws quickly. For states focusing on trans youth, history shows they are more likely to introduce anti-trans legislation for adults in subsequent years. All of these states are under Republican control, either through supermajorities in the legislature or Republican governorships. Many have enacted “Don’t Say Gay” provisions, which frequently result in the banning of transgender teachers – in Georgia, for instance, a teacher was fired for merely reading a book with a character that could vaguely be interpreted as transgender. Additionally, many have passed religious refusal rights bills. However, most of these states have either not yet ventured into anti-trans adult legislation or have only passed milder forms of such laws.
  • Low-Risk States (AZ, DE, ME, MI, NV, PA, RI, VA, WI): These states have largely refrained from targeting transgender adults, although they haven’t taken extraordinary steps to protect adult transgender rights either. For example, Arizona and Virginia have enacted anti-trans policies affecting youth but, due to state-specific factors, appear unlikely to extend such policies to adults. Conversely, MichiganMaine, and Nevada have enacted fairly robust non-discrimination policies but fall short in ensuring healthcare equity and providing protections for incarcerated transgender individuals. While these states generally offer a safer environment for transgender adults, they stop short of going the extra mile to make their jurisdictions unequivocally safe places to reside.
  • Most Protective States (CA, CO, CT, DC, HI, IL, MA, MD, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OR, VT, WA): These states have gone above and beyond in safeguarding the rights and well-being of transgender individuals, making them highly desirable places to live for those in search of security. States like ColoradoHawaiiMaryland, and Washington have enacted comprehensive health insurance laws that cover facial hair removal and an expanded range of medical procedures. Each of these states offers refugee protections for individuals fleeing more repressive states with anti-trans laws. Care is not only supported but also enjoys legal reinforcement from the state, ensuring accessibility as long as such treatments remain lawful at the national level. These states are the most likely to counteract federal anti-trans regulations if faced with a Republican presidency.Please support my independent reporting and advocacy on transgender legislation by subscribing. You help me keep this going and keep people informed.Subscribed

The Youth Trans Legislative Risk Assessment Map

Very few states now occupy the middle ground in the realm of anti-trans legislation for transgender youth. Those marked in dark red have enacted bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, with many even mandating medical detransition for these young people. Conversely, states shown in dark blue have implemented refugee protection laws for trans youth seeking to escape the harsh legal environments of more restrictive states.

Moves in this update: Ohio (High Risk → Worst Laws), Wyoming (Medium Risk → High Risk), Arizona (Low Risk → Medium Risk)

  • Summary of updates: Major shifts have occurred for transgender youth on the latest iteration of this map. Ohio has moved into the list of states with the worst anti-trans laws after a harsh gender affirming care ban for transgender youth in the state. Wyoming, which has up to this point resisted anti-trans legislation, has advanced several anti-trans bills that could ban care for trans youth through for full consideration. Perhaps the biggest surprise though comes in Arizona, where Republicans appear to be pushing through a bill that would escape the Governor’s veto by placing a trans student bathroom ban and forced outing policy on the ballot for voters in November.

Nationwide Risk: Moderate. Increasing bills targeting trans healthcare and campaigning by Republican presidential candidates means that there could be national anti-trans laws should Republicans gain all 3 branches of government.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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California Politics

Assemblymember Lee introduces bill to tackle LBGTQ+ inequalities

The LGBTQ+ Commission will monitor state legislation, and assess programs and policies affecting the LGBTQ+ community

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Calif. Attorney General Rob Bonta with Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-24) at a Santa Clara County Democratic Party event in San Jose last Fall. (Photo Credit: Assemblymember Alex Lee/Facebook)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Today, Assemblymember Alex Lee introduced AB 3031 to address the inequities and barriers faced by LGBTQ+ community. AB 3031 will create the LGBTQ+ Commission with the goal of improving the health, safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ community members.

The LGBTQ+ Commission will monitor state legislation, and assess programs and policies affecting the LGBTQ+ community. 

“It’s critical that the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ community members are recognized by our government,” said Assemblymember Lee. “The Commission will play an important role in informing policy and programs for the LGBTQ+ community. Creating the LGBTQ+ Commission is another important step forward to ensure that everyone can live authentically and inclusively in our community.” 

California is one of the most diverse states in the country. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the Golden State has the largest share of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, compared to any other highly populated state. About 2.7 million or roughly 9% of Californian adults identify as lesbian, gay, bixsexual or transgender. 

But there continue to be attempts at silencing the LGBTQ+ community in California and across the U.S. Between 2021 to 2022, there were over 391 reported hate crime events motivated by sexual orientation bias in California, an increase of 29% from the previous year. 

Meanwhile, local school boards are also moving to reverse the gains made by the LGBTQ+ community, whether it be banning displays of the pride flag or requiring parental notifications of students’ gender identities. In addition, more than 200 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in over 40 state legislatures were introduced in 2022, according to the State of Pride Report by the California Department of Justice. 

“We have made strides in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and those who desire to put us back in the closet want us to feel ashamed,” said Lee. “But we are never going back. As a member of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, I will continue to advocate and fight for the voices of our LGBTQ+ community members to be heard.” 

Under AB 3031, appointments to California’s LGBTQ+ Commission will be considered among individuals who representthe diversity of California’s LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ Commission will be composed of nine members, as follows: 

·         5 members appointed by the Governor. 

·         2 members appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly. 

·         2 members appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules. 

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

“Thanks to Assemblymembers Alex Lee and Evan Low for authoring legislation that creates a state-level Commission on LGBTQ+ Affairs,” said BAYMEC President Drew Lloyd. “Having a commission that addresses disparities facing California’s queer community and works to elevate our community’s unique experiences, voices, and concerns, is invaluable. BAYMEC enthusiastically endorses the creation of this Commission and looks forward to working with all stakeholders and our community to create a safe and unique space that leads to a better California for All.” 

“California has come a long way in the fight for full, lived equality for LGBTQ+ people, but our state is not immune to the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ hate, violence and right-wing extremism sweeping the country,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “California’s commitment to the health, safety and dignity of LGBTQ+ people is needed now more than ever. This commission will be an important demonstration of that commitment and will help ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable members of our community are heard at the highest levels of government.”

Assemblymember Alex Lee (D) represents the 24th Assembly District which includes the cities of Fremont, Newark, Milpitas, San Jose, and the community of Sunol.

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Politics

Michigan House Speaker strips anti-LGBTQ+ state Rep. of staff

Michigan Speaker of the House Joe Tate: “Representative Schriver has deeply and personally offended the Michigan House of Representatives”

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Michigan Speaker of the House Joe Tate at the Capitol Building in Lansing, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Office of the Michigan Speaker of the House)

LANSING, Mich. – On Monday Michigan Speaker of the House Joe Tate (D-Detroit) took action against state Rep. Josh Schriver (R-Oxford) after Schriver’s sustained campaign of racist rhetoric and hate speech on social media.

Representative Schriver has also previously railed against the LGBTQ+ community in his social media posts in addition to the White supremacist posts.

Schriver had reposted on his X (formerly Twitter) a meme posted by far-right commentator Jack Posobiec, who has widely been known to distort facts and has collaborated with white supremacists, neo-fascists and antisemites for years according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch investigators.

Posobiec has targeted the LGBTQ+ community often using a slur to refer to transgender Americans. Posobiec has also promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and has espoused QAnon theories, which regularly accuse LGBTQ+ politicians, Democrats, Hollywood, and LGBTQ+ political allies of sexually abusing kids.

“Jack Posobiec’s extensive ties to white supremacists should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who hasn’t made the connection between Trump’s MAGA movement and hate,” said Michael Edison Hayden, the SPLC senior investigative reporter.

In the post Schriver had reposted (pictured below),  Posobiec’s meme depicted Black figures covering most of a map of the world, with white figures in small areas of Australia, Canada, northern Europe and the northern US. Underneath was the phrase “The Great Replacement.”

The map is not an accurate representation of global racial diversity.

The Great Replacement, also known as replacement theory or great replacement theory, is a white nationalist far-right conspiracy theory first espoused by French author Renaud Camus in his 2011 book Le Grand Remplacement. The American far-right white supremacist movement has used social media to spread this theory further while in most cases adding elements of antisemitism.

According to Camus and the adherents of this racist theory, the ethnic white populations at large are being demographically and culturally replaced by non-white peoples—especially from Muslim-majority countries—through mass migration, demographic growth and a drop in the birth rate of white people.

In 2017, the Unite the Right rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, from August 11–12, which included included members of the alt-right, neo-Confederates, neo-fascists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and far-right militias, chanted “You will not replace us” and openly argued with counter-protestors advancing this racist theory.

For his part Schriver has been unrepentant leading to the actions taken by the Michigan House Speaker. In a statement released by his office last week on February 8, Speaker Tate said:

“Representative Schriver’s blatantly racist social media post does not align with the values of the Michigan House of Representatives. It is difficult for me to understand why he would hold these beliefs as a representative of a diverse group of Michigan residents. 

“Furthermore, the fact that Representative Schriver would espouse a deplorable and false theory and contend it is worthy of consideration puts his ignorance on full display. But ignorance is no excuse for proliferating obvious hate.

“I urge Representative Schriver to do some worthwhile research on the accurate history of people of color in this country. He is clearly in need of knowledge rooted in fact and would greatly benefit from a better understanding of the vibrant communities and diverse people that make Michigan strong.

“Perhaps most disturbing is that his post uplifts a dangerous and tortured narrative that fosters violence and instability. His callous and reckless act is not within the spirit of what Michigan is, and it contributes to a hostile environment. His actions are a stark reminder of the importance of commemorating Black History Month to ensure we are true students of history and the racist laws and practices once in place in this country that we must continually guard against in order to ensure a bright future for generations.

“Representative Schriver has deeply and personally offended the Michigan House of Representatives.”

 After it became apparent that the recalcitrant Schriver wasn’t going to back down, Speaker Tate on Monday took further action.

“I will not allow the Michigan House of Representatives to be a forum for the proliferation of racist, hateful and bigoted speech,” Tate said. “Representative Schriver has a history of promoting debunked theories and dangerous rhetoric that jeopardizes the safety of Michigan residents and contributes to a hostile and uncomfortable environment for others. The House of Representatives is the people’s house, and all Michiganders should look upon this body and take pride in how we conduct ourselves. It is also a workplace, and I have a responsibility to make sure the employees of the House feel safe and secure.” 

Tate ordered withholding the office expenses allotment for Schriver, and then also had his staff reassigned. Schriver will be removed from the House Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Committee, and the resources typically made available to a representative will be held by the House Business Office. 

In the statement by the Speaker’s office it noted that “such resources are provided at the discretion and pleasure of the Speaker.” It added that Schriver will fulfill his responsibility as a representative through his ability to cast a vote in the House of Representatives.

In a statement Wednesday Feb. 8 to The Detroit News, Schriver said he loved “all of God’s offspring” and believed “everyone’s immense value is rooted in the price Christ paid on the Cross when he died for our sins.

“I’m opposed to racists, race baiters, and victim politics,” Schriver said in the statement. “What I find strange is the agenda to demoralize and reduce the white portion of our population. That’s not inclusive and Christ is inclusive! I’m glad Tucker Carlson and Jack Posobiec are sharing links so I can continue my research on these issues.”

Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, condemned Schriver and took the Republican leaders to task over their failure in not condemning Schriver’s social media content.

“It is a failure of leadership for this kind of action to take place unchecked by the leaders of Representative Schriver’s caucus, and the longer there is no action taken, the more responsibility leadership bears,” the governor said.

Even as the House Speaker took action stripping him of his staff and committee assignments, Schriver posted another racist meme from Posobiec, this time targeting Governor Whitmer accusing the governor of fostering “replacement” politics:

On Wednesday, Feb. 14 Rep. Schriver responded defending his racist viewpoints in a unapologetic statement:

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Politics

National Council on Aging calls out ageism in election discourse

Discussion of the president’s age reached a fever pitch after a prosecutor called Biden a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”

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Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – National Council on Aging President Ramsey Alwin spoke with the Washington Blade on Tuesday, a few days after the group issued a statement calling out “pervasive ageist remarks [that] we have been hearing in the 2024 election.”

Discussion of President Joe Biden’s age reached a fever pitch last week after a prosecutor who was investigating his handling of classified documents called Biden a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” who had “diminished faculties in advancing age” — remarks that the administration roundly denounced as untrue and out-of-bounds.

“We’re always monitoring the public discourse as advocates for older adults,” Alwin said, “and we speak up and we speak out to reject ageism in all its forms when we feel necessary,” including in this instance.

Whether for partisan purposes or in the context of political punditry, talk about the president’s age has often come with speculation about the state of his mental faculties.

“We believe any questions related to person’s health are best discussed with their medical provider,” Alwin said. “Hard stop.”

In cases where Biden might mix up names or seem to forget details when delivering speeches, for instance, Alwin stressed “it’s crucial that we recognize age alone is not dictating speech abilities by any means.”

“The president has always acknowledged that he had a stutter since childhood,” she said. “And people can successfully overcome challenges such as that with therapy and practice regardless of their age.”

Asked whether, hypothetically, such speculation may be appropriate in cases where there is reason to suspect elected leaders may not be capable of executing their duties as a result of age-related conditions like memory loss, Alwin said “There are systems in place to assess the health and to explore these issues when necessary,” adding, “We believe in the current approach and the existing systems.”

Meanwhile, the presumptive Republican nominee challenging Biden for the White House, former President Donald Trump, is only three years younger — and has, similarly, been accused of being or seeming too forgetful, too confused, and, of course, too old.

“Focusing only on age is a distraction,” Alwin said, “it shouldn’t be the sole determinant.”

Instead, she said, Americans “need to be able to assess candidates for elected office based on their skills, their knowledge, their experience” along with factors like “the individual’s ability and track record to do the job when it comes to doing the job.”

Ageism harms everyone

Alwin told the Blade that “ageism is the last -ism of many -isms that is still very socially acceptable,” but “it’s damaging in terms of preventing us from being able to make our best contributions and live our best lives.”

“With our first breath, we’re all aging,” she said — and time and experience provide more “that we can bring to bear on all that we do: our work, our volunteerism, our contributions.”

So, at the National Council on Aging, “we really try to lift up the value of experience and wisdom and remind all of us that with the gift of longevity, with our first breath, we too are aging,” Alwin said.

“We are all living longer,” she added. “We should recognize the wisdom and experience that comes with those added years.”

Another unique feature about ageism, Alwin said, is that it works in both directions. For example, she said, one might be deemed either “too young to lead [or] too old to learn the new technology.”

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Politics

Democrat takes Santos’ House seat

Biden-Harris Campaign Manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez also issued a statement, proclaiming that “Donald Trump lost again tonight”

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U.S. Rep.-elect Tom Suozzi (Screen capture/YouTube)

NASSAU COUNTY, N.Y. – In an electoral victory Tuesday night that buoyed optimism in his party, Democratic former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi reclaimed his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which was vacated in December by the expulsion of disgraced Republican former Congressman George Santos.

Securing a seat in the coveted swing district, Suozzi flipped one of the five seats needed for Democrats to recapture control of the lower chamber.

Republicans are operating with a slim majority, which has led to outcomes like the failed effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week. Party leaders were able to corral the votes to pass the measure on Tuesday night.

In his victory speech, Suozzi acknowledged the fraught political climate, touting his win despite the “dirty tricks” of his Republican opponent and efforts to portray him as ideologically aligned with “The Squad,” an informal group of eight liberal Democratic members of Congress.

“Let’s send a message to our friends running the Congress these days,” he said. “Stop running around for Trump and start running the country.”

“The people of NY-3 sent a clear message tonight: They’re done with the George Santos circus and ready for serious, proven leadership,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said in a statement.  

“And, in what was a bellwether race for the year to come, it’s clear the nation is exhausted by the failure of MAGA Republicans,” she added. “The politics of chaos and extremism may get attention, but it’s equality that wins elections.”

HRC was “proud to mobilize people power and resources for Tom Suozzi and are thrilled to celebrate a big win tonight,” Robinson said. “Now it’s time to retake a pro-equality majority in the House, secure the speaker’s gavel for Hakeem Jeffries, and give this country serious leadership to be proud of.”

Biden-Harris Campaign Manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez also issued a statement, proclaiming that “Donald Trump lost again tonight.”

“When Republicans run on Trump’s extreme agenda — even in a Republican-held seat — voters reject them,” she said. “As we saw in 2020, 2022, 2023 and now tonight, when it comes down to the choice between Donald Trump’s chaos and division and President Biden who wakes up everyday working to get things done and make Americans’ lives better, voters are consistently choosing the leadership of President Biden and Democrats.”

“We just lost another winnable Republican House seat because voters overwhelmingly reject Donald Trump,” said a spokeswoman for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump’s lone remaining Republican challenger. “Until Republicans wake up, we will continue to lose,” she said.

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Politics

LGBTQ elected leaders are ‘the strongest line of defense’

“Because of these ever growing attacks on our community, the need for LGBT leaders has never been greater”

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Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker speaks at the International LGBTQ Leaders Conference on Dec. 2, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – The Washington Blade connected with former Houston Mayor Annise Parker last week, shortly after breaking the news of her departure from the LGBTQ Victory Fund and LGBTQ Victory Institute after six years of serving as president and CEO.

The organizations are, respectively, dedicated to increasing the number of public officeholders who are LGBTQ and providing training and resources for them, whether they are appointed or elected to the positions they hold.

Parker’s exit was planned since last July, in coordination with the boards of directors. “We worked out the timing together,” she said. “I wanted 2024 to be my last year, but I also think we all recognize the importance of this election and what’s going on politically,” and for these reasons “I wanted to [leave] in the least disruptive way possible.”

This means staying on through the end of this year, in part to assist the boards in “a thoughtful search process” for her successor.

Parker told the Blade she agreed to take the helm at Victory at a time when the organization had strong foundations but “lost its way a little bit” by straying from its “really narrow mission,” which is “to put LGBT leaders into public office.”

“In my view, one of the most important things I did was bring us back to where we started,” she said. “We’re the only national organization that only works with LGBT leaders. We love our allies and we respect our allies, but they are not our mission.”

So far this year, conservative lawmakers have proposed more than 400 bills targeting the rights of LGBTQ Americans. The moral panic stoked by the right wing against queer and especially trans people brings into sharp relief the importance of the work in which Victory is engaged, Parker said.

“Because of these ever growing attacks on our community, the need for LGBT leaders who are willing to step up and serve and run for office has never been greater,” she said. When Victory was founded “33 years ago, there were just a handful of folks; most of our community was in the closet.”

Parker remembers, “I ran for the first time in 1991, the year Victory was founded. It was a long time ago. We were pioneers. But now we are the strongest line of defense. And the barbarians are at the gate.”

Then, as now, coming out “in all aspects of our lives” is “the most powerful thing we do,” Parker said — a lesson she first learned as an activist in the 1970s. “It still matters,” she said. Candidates backed by Victory are often voters’ first exposure to gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or genderqueer people, she noted — “and it changes hearts and minds.”

Many begin their careers in public service at school boards or other local offices, but go on to serve in progressively higher-profile roles, Parker said. She pointed to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who is gay, and served as a statewide education official before his election to the U.S. Congress and then the governorship.

The importance of local races must not be overlooked, Parker stressed. To take the example of school boards, she said, “folks on the other side” like the anti-LGBTQ extremist group Moms for Liberty are “targeting school boards for the same reasons that Victory works in school boards.” So, “we need to be where our enemies are.”

Opponents of LGBTQ rights “see what’s happening demographically, in terms of changing attitudes, about all sorts of things — including the LGBT community,” and while “we have won this war,” generationally speaking with increased acceptance, Parker warned that “we can still lose a whole lot of battles.”

“These overt attacks, you know, they didn’t have to attack us 30 years ago in the same way, because we had no protections,” Parker said. “This is part of the backlash for all of the successes that we’ve had.”

An example of that success: “There is no place in America,” she said, “that is not accessible to the right LGBT candidates with the right mix of ideas and energy and insights for that district to win.”

Parker added, “And part of the reason that we push so hard for our trans candidates that we work with, is that they’re the tip of the spear right now. They’re the ones that are the target of the attacks.”

At the same time, she is clear-eyed about the threat presented by the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

“What keeps me awake is the idea that Donald Trump could again become the president of the United States,” Parker said. “That is horrifying. And I would I would willingly lose every other race to keep him away from — I mean, I just perceive him as an existential threat to democracy in America.”

Here, again, part of the bulwark against this threat will be “our candidates,” who are “mobilizing people who will be in direct opposition to the horrific vision of America that he’s pushing,” Parker said. “I absolutely believe there’s a fundamental difference between the two presidential candidates that we’re going to have. And I also believe that it’s critical for democracy not to have Donald Trump.”

The fight for bodily autonomy


The Victory Fund endorses LGBTQ candidates who are positioned to win and who also believe in bodily autonomy; the right to privacy that undergirds not only protections for LGBTQ people but also reproductive freedoms.

“When we were founded,” Parker said, the attacks on body autonomy were happening on multiple fronts, from restrictions on access to abortion to sodomy statutes that criminalized gay sex acts between consenting adults.

“All these trans issues we’re facing right now are about bodily autonomy,” she said. “We can have a legitimate argument about gender affirming care for people under 18 or even under 21, but for adults, it is about body autonomy.”

Likewise, under the right to privacy rubric, “more and more places are rethinking how we deal with those who abuse substances,” she said, adding that anyone who is LGBT has to care about a right to privacy that incorporates body autonomy.

Parker explained that “Over the years, there have been a lot of men that I’ve talked to who asked the same question, ‘Well, why do you have to be pro choice?’ Our candidates don’t have to believe in or want to support abortion, but they must believe that every human being has the right to body autonomy, because they demand it for themselves.”

As a result, and because of the Republican Party’s hostility toward reproductive freedom and the rights of trans people, Parker said “it is really challenging to find Republican candidates” who qualify under the criteria for Victory Fund as an endorsing PAC.

Most conservative candidates who object to the criteria about abortion “also have problems with the fact that we are fully supportive of the trans community,” she said.

Feeding the pipeline


Asked about plans for Victory following her departure, Parker said there are concrete goals and metrics that were established in the organizations’ five-year strategic plan, among them, building a roster of “LGBT candidates who are ready for the presidential stage.”

The Victory Fund endorsed former South Bend, Ind., mayor and current U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s presidential run in 2020 — but even though he was the only LGBTQ candidate, the endorsement was hardly a foregone conclusion.

“I am a huge Pete Buttigieg fan,” Parker said. “I think he’s got mad political skills,” but at the same time, she hedged, “when you think of presidential candidates, you think of governors” or folks who are well known on the national stage, often with many years of service in public office.

“From the first notice to his first announcement, we waited six months because — and I had the conversation with him — you have to poll consistently; you have to be competitive financially; and show you can place in these primaries,” Parker said. “And he did.”

The Transportation Secretary has “superb political instincts,” she said. “He is brilliant. He has the ability to connect to people. And he thinks really strategically.”

Also in Victory’s roster of potential presidential candidates are “three governors and a former governor, Kate Brown” along with “other statewide elected officials — so we have two attorneys general, two United States senators,” and “big city mayors; I’m a former big city mayor,” and then “you have [San Diego Mayor] Todd Gloria and [former Chicago Mayor] Lori Lightfoot.”

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California Politics

LGBTQ+ advocates & health care providers release new report

Report details policy recommendations to improve access to comprehensive health care & education for LGBTQ+ communities

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Capitol Dome in Sacramento lit up for Pride Month. (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A coalition of more than two dozen LGBTQ+ advocate organizations and health care providers are releasing a new report aimed at addressing the challenges and discrimination that transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex (“TGI”) individuals face when seeking and receiving health care and health education.

The group, which convened under the name “Project RAINBOW,” has put forth almost a dozen policy recommendations which they hope the California legislature will consider introducing to further protect LGBTQ+ people in the state and increase access to care.

With the disturbing rise of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and policies throughout the country, the coalition is urging California to lead the way to ensure that young people are safe, supported, and have access to the resources and health care that they need. The groups want California policymakers to act upon the recommendations and take meaningful action to implement them to improve equitable access to health care services for TGI people.

LGBTQ+ individuals, especially TGI youth, are confronting an alarming rise in discrimination and violence, fueled by misinformation and political attacks. States across the country enacted 25 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022, and by 2023, nearly 600 bills across 49 states were introduced to restrict the rights of transgender people. These attacks mirror previous assaults on reproductive freedom from the same extremists who limited access to abortion before turning their focus to gender-affirming care.

Project RAINBOW – which stands for Resources Advocacy and Inclusive Network for Better Outcomes in LGBTQ+ Wellness – came together in August 2023 to improve access to comprehensive health care and health education in settings that promote respect and validation, as well as address barriers to obtaining health care services – including gender-affirming care – in safe and inclusive settings.

The policy recommendations in this report are the result of that process and are designed to promote access to health education, expand the availability of inclusive care and medically accurate resources, and create welcoming and supportive environments for California’s diverse LGBTQ+ communities.

The report details how California should further invest in strong support services for LGBTQ+ people, particularly TGI people and their families, and ensure that the health care workforce is trained to provide inclusive care with dignity. California must also strengthen safeguards for LGBTQ+ communities and remain a safe haven from states that are creating hostile environments for TGI people.

The coalition stresses that in this dangerous moment, California must continue to lead the nation with legislation that safeguards LGBTQ+ civil rights and does everything possible to protect TGI communities from discrimination and violence. 

Statements from Project RAINBOW participants:

“Across the county and even here in California, right-wing extremists are attempting to ban access to life-saving gender-affirming medical care and roll back protections for TGI youth. Project RAINBOW was formed in direct response to these attacks and will help to ensure that California remains a safe haven for the TGI community. We are grateful to the community advocates and medical providers that offered their time and expertise to this effort, and we hope California lawmakers will now work to enact the policy recommendations published on this report.”
– Tony Hoang, Executive Director, Equality California

“As a medical provider of gender-affirming care, Planned Parenthood believes in protecting everyone’s fundamental right to control their own bodies and make their own personal decisions about their unique circumstances. This includes making sure all TGI people, especially youth, have access to comprehensive, whole-person health-related education and health care in a dignified and affirming environment, which these recommendations will help us work towards. We look forward to working in continued partnership with the participants and Legislature to bring meaningful change to California.”
– Jodi Hicks, CEO/President, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California

“Comprehensive gender-affirming care (GAC) for the transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex (TGI) community needs to be made a top priority in every facet of healthcare throughout California and the rest of the nation.  As a society, we cannot continue to exclude a subset of the community based on a moral compass and blatant bias.  We have an obligation to ensure we are taking care of our TGI community and investing in the betterment of their lives.  The movement to achieve health equity for all will not stop until the TGI community has an equitable seat at the table.”
– TransLatin@ Coalition

“The Sacramento LGBT Community Center works to create a region where all LGBTQ+ people thrive and to make this mission a reality, the TGI community must have access to affirming healthcare. The Center was thrilled to work alongside advocates and medical providers throughout California to develop statewide policy recommendations to create more equitable healthcare services. Project Rainbow’s policy recommendations seek to improve research and information sharing, invest in community-based organizations, educate medical providers, and enshrine the right to gender-affirming care in California. The Center looks forward to supporting these recommendations and is eager to see these ideas become a reality.”
– Sacramento LGBT Community Center

“Project RAINBOW’s report underscores the urgent need for California to prioritize the rights and well-being of its LGBTQ+ communities, particularly transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex individuals (TGI). In the face of growing anti-LGBTQ+ measures nationwide, it’s imperative that California takes decisive action to ensure equitable access to comprehensive healthcare and education. We call on policymakers to heed these recommendations and foster inclusive environments that affirm and support the diverse needs of TGI people.”
– Trans Family Support Services

“Aligning with our commitment to equitable and inclusive healthcare, the California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP) stands firmly behind the vital initiatives of Project RAINBOW. Upholding the principles of dignity, respect, and accessibility, we affirm that access to safe and affirming healthcare environments is imperative for all, especially our transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex (TGI) communities. Family physicians, with their specialized training in preventive and primary care for people from birth to end-of-life, provide continuity of care throughout someone’s life, including intergenerational care, regardless of immigration status, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Every individual deserves compassionate care within an environment that fosters respect and validation. Guided by collaboration and evidence-based practices, we advocate for comprehensive health education, inclusive resources, and barrier-free access to gender-affirming care. Let us continue to champion the rights and welfare of California’s diverse LGBTQ+ communities, ensuring their voices are heard and their health needs met with empathy and understanding.”
– California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP)

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