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Federal Government

HHS may bar certain disclosures of abortion related health info

The move comes days after a Federal judge issued a ruling that stayed the FDA’s 2000 approval of the abortion medication mifepristone



U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Hubert H. Humphrey Building (Photo Credit: GSA)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday will reportedly issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would bar the disclosure of information that could be used to investigate, sue, or prosecute patients for undergoing abortion procedures.

The agency’s Office of Civil Rights would implement the new rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA.

Should it go into effect, the new language would apply to health providers and insurers, covering people who travel to other states to obtain legal abortions in their home states as well as those who cross state lines for the procedure.

According to Politico, during a background call with reporters on Tuesday night a HHS official explained the impetus behind the proposal: “some providers get fearful when they receive a subpoena or they might feel like they have to turn the information over,” the official said, while some pregnant patients “are concerned about their medical information being misused and disclosed.”

The move comes days after Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling that stayed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of the abortion medication mifepristone.

That decision was roundly criticized on substantive and procedural grounds. Kacsmaryk has no formal training in science or medicine, and mifepristone has been proven safe and effective over two decades since the drug first secured FDA approval.


Federal Government

FDA finalizes new blood donation risk assessment guidelines

“The implementation of these recommendations will represent a significant milestone for the agency and the LGBTQI+ community”



Photo Credit: American Red Cross

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday finalized new guidelines for blood donation that will use a uniform individualized risk assessment questionnaire for respondents regardless of their sexual orientation, sex, or gender.

The move, which brings U.S. policy in line with procedures used in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, marks a significant departure from longstanding bans targeting gay and bisexual men who have sex with men that were gradually eased over the decades since the AIDS epidemic.

“The implementation of these recommendations will represent a significant milestone for the agency and the LGBTQI+ community,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a press release issued by the agency.

“The FDA is committed to working closely with the blood collection industry to help ensure timely implementation of the new recommendations and we will continue to monitor the safety of the blood supply once this individual risk-based approach is in place.”

Under the new guidelines, prospective donors who have had a new sexual partner, or more than one sexual partner in the past three months, and anal sex in the past three months, would be ineligible.

So would those who are “taking medications to treat or prevent HIV infection (e.g., antiretroviral therapy (ART), pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP),” because these drugs can delay the detection of HIV.

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Federal Government

Active shooter? FBI Video circulates again on Twitter after Allen, Tx

A video released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Sept. 21, 2020 is again getting viral attention on Twitter



In this FBI training video, customers at a bar are caught in an active shooter event. (Screenshot/YouTube FBI)

LOS ANGELES – A video released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Sept. 21, 2020 is again getting viral attention on Twitter after the mass-shooting at a shopping center in Allen, Texas, that killed eight people this past weekend.

The FBI video is an advisory on the steps a person needs to protect themselves in the event of a mass-shooting. In this FBI training video, customers at a bar are caught in an active shooter event. By employing the run, hide, and fight tactics, as well as knowing the basics of rendering first aid to others, they are prepared, empowered, and able to survive the attack.

WARNING! The following video contains disturbing imagery and content. Viewer discretion is advised:

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Federal Government

Samantha Power: US ‘stands up for marginalized people’

USAID administrator testified before House subcommittee on Tuesday



U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power testifies before the House State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee on April 18, 2023. (Screen capture via House Appropriations Committee YouTube)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power on Tuesday reiterated USAID continues to support LGBTQ+ and intersex rights around the world.

“The United States stands up for marginalized people, and we stand up for human rights,” Power told U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Ala.) during a House State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing on USAID’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal. “We stand up for girls who are being persecuted by the Taliban and we stand up for Transgender people who are being murdered or who are being denied access to health care.”

Carl before Power’s comment noted China is building “additions to the Panama Canal” and “doing stuff in Mexico, in a couple of ports.”

“If China’s getting ahead of us here — and we all admit they’re getting ahead of us here and they’re spending their money in all the right places, obviously — why are we, why is (sic) the Americans focused on spending $86.3 million towards LGBTQ issues and not towards power plants as you said are so important,” asked Carl

“This is why we have a multisectoral budget request that has come to you and that is very deliberate about the range of areas we are investing in,” responded Power.

President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.

Power was a vocal champion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights when she was the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during President Barack Obama’s second term.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist noted to Carl that consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in more than 60 countries, and 10 of them impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of homosexuality. Power also highlighted the Anti-Homosexuality Act that Ugandan lawmakers approved last month has already impacted programs the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief funds in the country.  

“We cannot turn our back on people,” said Power before Carl interrupted her.

“It’s not ahead of anything,” added Power, referencing her previous comments on LGBTQ+ and intersex rights within the context of USAID’s budget proposal. “I do think it’s a distinguishing feature of U.S. assistance that we support vulnerable people and we believe that no individual should be discriminated against, or killed or attacked because of who they love.”

Power said “standing up for human rights and standing up for vulnerable and margainalized people is a major point of distinction with the PRC (People’s Republic of China) as well as a major reason that the United States has the standing it does around the world.” 

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Federal Government

Dept. of Education’s draft Title IX rule has mixed reactions

Public comments on the draft proposal will be solicited for 30 days beginning when the document is published in the Federal Register



The Lyndon Baines Johnson Building, Washington D.C., headquarters of the U.S. Department of Education (Photo Credit: GSA/U.S. Dept. of Education)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Education has drawn mixed reactions over its issuance on Thursday of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a draft regulation governing the eligibility frameworks for transgender athletes who compete on school sports teams.

According to an agency fact sheet, the proposal would affirm “that policies violate Title IX when they categorically ban transgender students” from participating on teams that align with their gender identity.

However, if the policy is adopted as written, schools may implement criteria that — in some circumstances and when certain conditions are met — may be used to prohibit these student athletes from competing.

“At this time, the Department is only issuing a proposed rule, which does not require changes in policies or practices by recipients of federal funding,” an agency spokesperson told the Washington Blade in an emailed statement.

“We look forward to comments from states and others during the public comment period,” the spokesperson said, adding, “Title IX is the law of the land, and all federally funded education programs and activities must comply with Title IX and the Department’s regulations implementing Title IX.”

Public comments on the draft proposal [See below] will be solicited for 30 days beginning when the document is published in the Federal Register, and interested parties are urged to provide input via the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

Under the proposed policy, schools could lawfully limit the participation of trans athletes “in some instances, particularly in competitive high school and college athletic environments,” including for purposes of “ensuring fairness in competition or preventing sports-related injury.”

However, such eligibility criteria must “minimize harms to students whose opportunity to participate on a male or female team consistent with their gender identity would be limited or denied” while considering “differences in grade and education level, level of competition, and sports.”

The fact sheet indicates that “The proposed regulation supports Title IX’s nondiscrimination requirement, while providing flexibility for schools to achieve important educational objectives through their athletic program.”

For purposes of limiting or denying eligibility, schools may include criteria such as “a sex marker or an identification document, such as a birth certificate, passport, or driver’s license,” as well as other means of collecting this information like “physical examinations or medical testing or treatment related to a student’s sex characteristics.” 

Proposal earns criticism and support from Democrats and trans stakeholders

“The National Center for Transgender Equality applauds the Department of Education for acknowledging in this proposed rule that categorical bans on participation in school sports based on transgender status are inappropriate, unlawful, and fundamentally un-American,” the group’s President Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen said in a statement Friday.

“While there is still more to be accomplished surrounding this proposal, we appreciate the robust action of the Department of Education,” Heng-Lehtinen said, adding, “NCTE looks forward to submitting public comments, as well as working alongside the administration to further remove these inappropriate barriers, allowing for equal participation by transgender youth.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, issued a similar statement on Thusday in which he and the Caucus pledged to “continue to further analyze this rule and what restrictions may or may not be permitted.”

“We will be providing our feedback to the Department of Education to ensure trans students are afforded their full civil rights protections under Title IX,” Pocan said.

GOP lawmakers like U.S. Rep. Greg Steube — who introduced a federal ban that would prohibit all trans women and girls from participating in sports teams consistent with their gender identity — denounced the proposal as an attempt to “erase women’s sports.”

Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, tweeted praise for the Department’s move, writing: “As a transgender lawyer who has represented many transgender athletes over the past 20 years, I appreciate this proposed rule, which will be a huge help in challenging state bans that are devastating for trans kids.”

Minter also tweeted Stern’s piece which called the rule “certainly a huge improvement from the Department of Education’s bigoted position under former President Donald Trump,” adding that “LGBTQ advocates expect much more of Biden, and any apprehension about the rule’s less-than-complete support for equality is understandable.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed the draft rule on Twitter, urging the Biden administration to “walk this back.”

Some transgender activists, including legislative researcher Erin Reed, also spoke out against the proposed rule, arguing it would provide pathways for schools to implement discriminatory policies while incentivizing intrusive gender policing of female student athletes.

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Federal Government

Federal financial agency now requiring collection of LGBTQ+ data

35 percent of LGBTQ+ Americans reported discrimination affected their financial well-being to a moderate or significant degree



Small business graphic by Karen Doyle for the blog

WASHINGTON –  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued new guidelines on March 31 requiring the collection of LGBTQ+ identifying data to improve data collection on small business lending for LBGTQ-owned businesses.

The inclusion of this provision follows a February letter issued by U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Representative Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.-15), that urged CFPB Director Rohit Chopra to use his existing legal authority to include sexual orientation and gender identity as required data points for financial institutions to collect and report for the purpose of enforcing fair lending laws under Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The provision allows the CFPB to more accurately monitor trends of discrimination and helps ensure the nation’s 1.4 million LGBTQ-owned businesses are being treated fairly within the financial sector so that they can effectively compete, create opportunities, invest in employees, and uplift their communities.

According to a recent report, 35 percent of LGBTQ+ Americans reported that discrimination affected their financial well-being to a moderate or significant degree in the past year.

“This provision will help ensure that financial institutions meet the needs of the communities they serve and that LGBTQ-owned businesses do not face discrimination in our financial sector,” said Senator Padilla. “As we work to build an economy that works for all, we must ensure that all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, have equal access to capital.”

“I was delighted to see that the CFPB finalized a rule for self-reporting for LGBTQI+-owned businesses, which I have long pushed for through our LGBTQ Business Equal Credit Enforcement and Investment Act,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This rule will allow for another necessary data point to enhance our federal fair lending laws, and I look forward to continuing to work with CFPB to ensure business lending remains fair for every American business.”

“From my days serving on the New York City Council to my time as the first openly gay Afro-Latino in Congress, I’ve been a staunch champion and fighter for creating a more equitable and more fair playing field for small businesses — particularly LGBTQI+ small businesses,” said U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres. 

“With more than one million LGBTQI+ businesses contributing nearly $2 trillion to the American economy, we have a vested interest in strengthening and sustaining their access to credit and increasing transparency in small business lending to help them grow and thrive without fear of discrimination. I’m proud to join my colleagues in helping to advance this new rule at the CFPB in service of inclusive growth and economic opportunity regardless of who you love or how you identify.”

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Federal Government

New VA Mission Statement recognizes commitment to all Veterans

“To fulfill [Lincoln’s] promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military & for their families, caregivers, & survivors”



VA Secretary Denis McDonough (Screenshot/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – In a speech delivered Thursday at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA), located at the main entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in suburban Virginia, VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued an updated version of its 1959 mission statement.

The new mission statement is: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”

As the VA Secretary commenced his remarks, he honored several notable women in the audience including Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton, the assistant secretary of veterans affairs for public and intergovernmental affairs.

Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton
Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Fulton, is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Ny., which was the Academy’s first class to admit women. She is an Out Lesbian and served as a founding board member of Knights Out, the organization of LGBT West Point graduates, and later worked with OutServe, the association of actively-serving LGBT military members and SPARTA, an LGBT military group advocating for transgender military service.

“Whenever any Veteran, family member, caregiver, or survivor walks by a VA facility, we want them to see themselves in the mission statement on the outside of the building,” said Secretary McDonough. “We are here to serve all  Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors — and now, our mission statement reflects exactly that.”

In crafting the new mission statement, VA surveyed roughly 30,000 Veterans. Among Veterans surveyed, the new version of VA’s mission statement was chosen over the current version by every age group; by men and by women; by LGBTQ+ Veterans; and by white, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native Veterans.

In addition to two rounds of surveys, VA conducted dozens of small-group engagements with Veterans to understand what was most important to them in a VA mission statement, then incorporated that feedback into quantitative research. The new mission statement reflects that VA serves all of the heroes who have served our country, regardless of their race, gender, background, sexual orientation, religion, zip code or identity.

The previous mission statement was: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.” The previous mission statement is posted in roughly 50% of VA’s facilities. Over the coming months, VA’s new mission statement will replace the previous version.

VA Announces New Mission Statement, Recognizing Sacred Commitment to Serve All Who Served:

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Federal Government

Nonbinary federal official charged with second luggage theft

They were previously charged with a felony for lifting a suitcase from baggage claim at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport on Sept. 16.



Sam Brinton (Screenshot via YouTube KLAS-TV CBS 8 News Las Vegas)

WASHINGTON – Sam Brinton, the first openly genderfluid person appointed to a senior government post, was served with a felony arrest warrant Friday following a second incident in which they were accused of stealing luggage from an airport.

New charges accuse Brinton of grand larceny of property valued between $1,200 and $5,000, for stealing luggage from the Harry Reid International Airport. They were previously charged with a felony for lifting a suitcase from baggage claim at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport on Sept. 16.

Brinton joined the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this year as deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition. The New York Post reported they were put on leave following the first incident.

The agency did not immediately return a request for comment or clarification on the status of Brinton’s employment.

On Dec. 7, a group of 16 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives including far-right GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), and Louie Gohmert (Texas), called on Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to demand Brinton’s resignation.

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Federal Government

One million plus same-sex households in U.S., California has most

Data also revealed that roughly 710,000 of the same-sex couple households were married and about 500,000 were unmarried



US Census Bureau Headquarters, Suitland, Maryland (Photo Credit: Photo by Hubert Dobson, U.S. Census Bureau)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Census Bureau last week released a report that detailed that there were about 1.2 million same-sex couple households in the United States in 2021. Data also revealed that roughly 710,000 of the same-sex couple households were married and about 500,000 were unmarried.

Since 2005 the number of same-sex households in the U.S. has steadily increased, with about 540,000 reported in 2008 and then in 2019, the last year the Census reported data, there were about 980,000 same-sex households in the country.

The data, based on American Community Survey (ACS), which shows estimates from 2005 through 2021, was not released in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 on ACS data collection.

Other highlights from the release:

  • The average age of householders in same-sex married couples (48.9 years) was lower than in opposite-sex married couples (52.8 years). But the average age of householders in same-sex unmarried couples (42.0 years) was higher than in opposite-sex unmarried couples (39.9 years).
  • The share of female-female and male-male couples with both partners employed did not differ significantly, though median household income in female same-sex couple households ($92,470) was lower than in male same-sex couple households ($116,800).
  • Both partners had at least a bachelor’s degree in a larger share of same-sex (29.6%) than opposite-sex (18.1%) unmarried couples.
  • A larger share of same-sex (31.6%) than opposite-sex (18.4%) married couples were interracial.
  • The District of Columbia (2.5%) had the highest percentage of same-sex couple households of any state or state equivalent. California has the most same-sex households at 163,964.
  • States with the highest number of same-sex households include Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Delaware, Oregon, California, Florida and New York, all of which include more than 1 percent of same-sex households in the total household population.

This is the second time the Census Bureau has released ACS estimates of same-sex couple households since revising the survey’s relationship to householder question to more accurately capture same-sex relationships.

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Federal Government

Homeland Security: More attacks against LGBTQ people possible

Some domestic violent extremists who have conducted attacks have cited previous attacks and attackers as inspiration



Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a terror threat bulletin today warning that domestic extremists have posted online praise for the fatal shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado earlier this month. and have called for copycat attacks.

In its bulletin, DHS officials noted that several recent attacks, plots, and threats of violence demonstrate the continued dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment in the United States:

“Some domestic violent extremists who have conducted attacks have cited previous attacks and attackers as inspiration. Following the late November shooting at an LGBTQI+ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado—which remains under investigation—we have observed actors on forums known to post racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist content praising the alleged attacker. Similarly, some domestic violent extremists in the United States praised an October 2022 shooting at a LGBTQI+ bar in Slovakia and encouraged additional violence. The attacker in Slovakia posted a manifesto online espousing white supremacist beliefs and his admiration for prior attackers, including some within the United States,” DHS warned.

DHS also asked that Americans report potential threats:

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Federal Government

Nonbinary Dept. of Energy official replaced after felony charges

Extreme right-wing Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) published an offensive tweet yesterday targeting their nonbinary identity



Sam Brinton addressing Trevor Project gathering in 2018. Screenshot/YouTube The Trevor Project

WASHINGTON – The Department of Energy replaced a nonbinary senior official who had served as the agency’s deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition after they were charged with a felony over an incident at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Sept. 16.

Sam Brinton, whose departure from the Energy Department was confirmed by a spokesperson to the New York Post, did not immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment via Facebook Messenger.

Brinton, who has dual degrees from MIT and years of experience in nuclear waste management and climate change work, is also an LGBTQ activist who made history this year with their appointment as the first openly gender-fluid person to serve in a senior government post.

A 2018 column in the Los Angeles Times argued there was a cultural shift afoot towards greater acceptance of transgender and gender fluid people — using, as an introductory anecdote, Brinton’s appearance at the Academy Awards. According to the author, Brinton spoke passionately about their suicide prevention work for the Trevor Project and was embraced by Hollywood icons like Jane Fonda.

They also encountered some hateful backlash from anti-LGBTQ figures on the right, which was renewed on Monday with the news about Brinton’s dismissal pursuant to the felony charges filed against them, which conservative-leaning outlets were among the first to report.

Extreme right-wing Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) published an offensive tweet yesterday targeting Brinton and their nonbinary identity:

According to reporting in the New York Post, during an initial conversation with police, Brinton allegedly denied that they had stolen another passenger’s suitcase. Subsequently, Brinton told investigators they accidentally grabbed the wrong bag at the luggage carousel by mistake out of exhaustion.

Court filings indicate that Brinton, upon realizing they had mistakenly taken someone else’s bag, emptied its contents into dresser drawers in their hotel room, anxious about the prospect of facing accusations of property theft.

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