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Gen Z and the Gerontocracy

Many young voters across the Democratic ideological spectrum said substantive representation was more important to them

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Rep. Maxwell Frost, (D-FL) speaking at a Gen Z summit this past weekend in Washington D.C.. (Photo Credit: Voters of Tomorrow)

America’s leadership is older than ever but its electorate is younger than ever. Will Gen Z turn out in 2024 for the elderly Democratic president?

By Gabe Fleisher | WASHINGTON – America’s political gerontocracy was on full display last week, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, appeared to experience a medical episode during a press conference and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 90, had to be repeatedly told how to vote on a key bill.

On the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, White House aides have been making changes to President Biden’s schedule and routine to adapt for his age. At 80, he is the oldest president in American history and one of the oldest heads of government in the world; meanwhile, the current U.S. Congress is the third-oldest in history.

But, at the same time as older politicians are making up a growing proportion of the government, younger voters are making up a growing proportion of the electorate. According to Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, in the four election cycles in which Generation Z has been eligible to vote, youth voter turnout has been up 25% compared to the previous nine cycles.

Largely due to that soaring turnout, in the 2018, 2020, and 2022 elections, the Gen Z vote was critical to the results, giving young voters a power over politics they have rarely wielded throughout history.

This fundamental mismatch — leaders grayer than ever and voters greener than ever — is at the heart of American politics right now. It will also be central to the next election: if Biden’s advanced age leads even a small percentage of young voters who supported him in 2020 to stay home or vote against him in 2024, it could be decisive.

As Harvard’s John Della Volpe recently noted, in this century, whenever Democratic presidential candidates have received at least 60% of the youth vote (Obama in 2008 and 2012; Biden in 2020), they have won the election. Whenever they have received less than 60% (Gore in 2000; Kerry in 2004; Clinton in 2016), they have lost.

Over the weekend, about 275 members of this sought-after voting bloc gathered at the famed Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., for a summit hosted by Voters of Tomorrow, a prominent left-leaning Gen Z group.

The speakers were a mix of young and old, and their tones varied dramatically by generation. Democratic Party eminence Nancy Pelosi, 83, a self-described “voter of yesterday,” was the first to address the group. “We cannot be fearmongers. We don’t want to go out there and say, ‘Blah blah blah blah,’” she said during her remarks, mimicking a nagging voice.

Pelosi was followed by New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, 47, who was greeted with a hero’s welcome. “Wassup wassup!” he said as he took the stage. While Pelosi’s speech closed with a paean to the national anthem, Bowman took a different tack. “As you know, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, they did great things, but they were fundamentally flawed,” he said. (Later, at a different session of the conference, when a speaker asked how many of the attendees described themselves as “patriotic,” only a scattering of hands went up.)

Ignoring Pelosi’s warning against fearmongering, Bowman focused his speech not on legislation, but on the ills facing the country right now. “A new American Revolution” is underway, he declared, led by Gen Z. Florida Rep. Maxwell Frost, 26, similarly invoked Gen Z as a bulwark against the “far-right-wing fascist movement growing in this country.”

Notably, unlike old-guard institutionalists like Pelosi, many of the younger speakers offered almost as many criticisms of the Democratic Party as they did Republicans. “People have been beaten down by our system,” Bowman said. “By design, by the way. And not just Republicans. Democrats have been guilty of this too.” The statement was met by loud cheers and applause from the largely Democratic audience.

“I used to joke with people, if I didn’t run for something else, I was going to leave the Democratic Party,” North Carolina Democratic Party chair Anderson Clayton, 25, said, adding that her goal is to “make people feel like this party gives a damn about them again.”

That skeptical attitude is shared among many young voters. Several of the conference attendees told me they felt much less attached to a political party than their parents. Polling bears this out as well: John Della Volpe, the Harvard pollster, recently wrote that his surveys show declining numbers of young Americans are identifying as Democrats, paying close attention to the news, or describing politics as a “meaningful way to create change in the system.”

Those metrics, he said, were some of the ones that indicated strong Democratic performance ahead of the 2018, 2020, and 2022 elections; now, he views them as “flashing red” warning signs for Democrats ahead of 2024.

“I think that Trump’s election in ’16 and the aftermath in ’17 showed the concrete ways in which politics can impact people’s lives,” Della Volpe told me in an interview. “And I think that for young people who aren’t paying as close attention to the news as others, I think they’re struggling to find similar concrete examples of government making a meaningful difference in their lives, and that’s driving the cynicism.”

“[Young] people are really apathetic right now to voting,” Clayton, the youngest state party chair in the country, told me. “They don’t believe their vote actually matters. And I think that part of what we have a job to do as a party is to ensure people know that we care about them again, because I feel like part of why people don’t vote right now is they’re like, ‘I don’t see myself represented in the Democratic Party.’”

Among young voters, views on the effectiveness of working through the political system to create change almost perfectly mirror views on the Biden presidency. In Della Volpe’s latest Harvard polling, 58% of 18-to-29-year-olds agreed with the statement “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing,” a 27-point increase since 2018. 61% of young voters in the same poll said they disapproved of Biden’s job performance.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the two metrics are moving in tandem. Biden, after all, is a 50-year veteran of elected office; he is as much an avatar for the political system, and the belief that change can be made through compromise, as anyone alive today. Supporting Biden also represents a compromise in itself for young Democrats, who overwhelmingly voted against him in the 2020 primaries.

As with any youth movement, pragmatists and idealists could be found in equal measure at the Voters of Tomorrow summit. One attendee joked to me that the more dressed-up someone at the summit was, the more you could tell they were planning to run for office one day (or that they were already officeholders). Mirroring the Democratic divide in which the party’s leaders are gung-ho for Biden 2024 while its voters are hesitant about him seeking re-election, I found these aspiring pols in suit jackets much more amenable to the president than their aspiring activist counterparts.

“They’re doing outreach, their messaging is doing very well… It’s not on all issues. We don’t agree with them on everything, obviously,” Quentin Colón Roosevelt, a 19-year-old local commissioner in D.C. and Theodore Roosevelt’s great-great-great grandson, told me of the Biden campaign. “But I think they’ve done a really good job so far, making sure we feel included in their campaign.”

“To paraphrase Milton Friedman, we’re all Bidenists now,” another office-seeking young attendee told me.

But over in the non-Milton-Friedman-quoting sector of the summit, Biden wasn’t quite so popular. “Definitely, in Gen Z, there is a lack of confidence in Biden’s capabilities to solve certain issues, particularly things like climate change,” Odessa Hotte, a 21-year-old student at Virginia Commonwealth University, told me. “There’s so many people saying, ‘Oh, he’s doing great, he’s doing great,’ and we’re sort of looking at it as, well, actually, there’s been some good things, but there’s also a lot that’s left to be desired.”

“I personally am not a huge fan of Biden, and I wasn’t when he was elected, either,” Hotte added, although she said she will “probably” support him in the 2024 election.

Asked if she believed young voters were enthusiastic about Biden, Anderson Clayton, the 25-year-old state party chair, said: “You know what’s so funny, someone earlier asked me that. They said, ‘I’ve asked every person at this conference and they’ve said no.’”

But Clayton, who is tasked with delivering the Democrats’ long-held hopes of flipping North Carolina, insisted that she is excited. “I think that Joe Biden is doing everything that he can right now and anything that a Democrat could do right now, honestly, to advance and move our country forward,” she told me.

Santiago Mayer, the 21-year-old founder of Voters of Tomorrow, acknowledged in an interview that differing “theories of change” and opinions on Biden existed among attendees at the summit. “I think that’s what’s so beautiful about this space,” he said, “that we can have all those differing philosophies, all those differing views, and still come together because we share the same goals.”

But at times, the differences commingled uncomfortably. With 12 million social media views and counting, perhaps the most viral moment from the summit — and the moment that best represented the generational divide in the Democratic Party right now — took place during White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s remarks.

Jean-Pierre, 48, was extolling Biden’s climate record when an attendee, 21-year-old Elise Joshi, stood up to interrupt her. “Excuse me for interrupting, but asking nicely hasn’t worked out,” Joshi said, before calling on the Biden administration to stop approving new oil and gas pipelines, an issue that has led to some of the biggest clashes between Biden and young voters.

“Let her talk, let her talk,” Jean-Pierre said when a conference organizer quickly approached Joshi. Eventually, when other attendees began to speak (“Declare a climate emergency!”) and snaps and applause broke out for the hecklers, Jean-Pierre ended the exchange.

“This is not a call and response. This is me actually delivering a speech to all of you,” Jean-Pierre said, adding: “This is a president who has had a climate change agenda like no other.”

“Promises kept, that’s all I’m asking,” Joshi said before sitting down.

Mayer told me that Voters of Tomorrow shares some of Joshi’s concerns, but that “we are very proud of President Biden’s climate record.” Jean-Pierre handled the back-and-forth “perfectly,” he added, expressing gratitude for the “administration’s partnership.” (Joshi is the executive director of her own youth voter group, Gen Z for Change. The group, notably, was founded with the name TikTok for Biden and has also worked with the White House in the past.)

In a sign of some of the same divergences in tone I noticed during their speeches, several young elected officials later tweeted in support of Joshi after the exchange. “We are running out of time,” Frost, the first Gen Z congressman, wrote. “We can’t afford to approve projects that will increase emissions. Every move should bring us to net zero. Our humanity depends on it. @EliseJoshi is a patriot.”

If there is any issue in which negative opinions about Biden and existential apathy about the political system intersect among young people, it’s climate change.

“I think it can feel overwhelming to feel like the burden is on our shoulders to solve all of these problems [connected to climate change],” Hotte said. “I think that’s maybe where some of that pessimism is stemming from, just from feeling like there’s so much to do and so little time.”

At one point in the summit, Generational Lab founder Cyrus Beschloss, 26, conducted an informal straw poll of which issue mattered most to the audience. More than half of the hands went up for climate change. No other issue garnered anywhere close to as much support.

According to the Harvard Youth Poll, in 2013, 29% of 18-to-29-year-olds agreed with the statement “Government should do more to curb climate change, even at the expense of economic growth.” 50% of 18-to-29s believe that today.

In political science, scholars refer to two types of political representation: “descriptive” and “substantive.” Descriptive representation is when an officeholder shares the identity of a certain group; substantive representation is when an officeholder shares the group’s views on policy.  

I opened the newsletter by referring to an absence of descriptive representation, which young voters obviously lack from Biden and other elderly politicians. But without using the exact term, many young voters across the Democratic ideological spectrum told me substantive representation was more important to them anyway. The age of a candidate matters, but their policies matter a lot more.

It is these voters Biden will have to persuade in 2024 that he has done enough to satisfy their demands on climate and other issues — and that electoral politics are worth engaging with in the first place. “I think it’s been a challenge for an analog president to communicate with a digital generation,” Della Volpe, who advised the Biden 2020 campaign, said.

The challenge is made harder by Gen Z’s nuanced political identity: more likely than adults to hold left-leaning political views, but less likely than adults to identify with the left-leaning political party. Unlike their more politically tribal parents, many young voters view themselves as proudly unmoored from any candidate or party. At one point, Clayton, a Democratic Party official, described the Democratic Party merely as “the party we find ourselves in,” suggesting more of a temporary alliance than permanent membership.

“I really care that the Republicans don’t win the White House,” Grace Wankelman, a 23-year-old recent graduate of the University of Denver, told me, “but I also don’t want to just blindly support the other party… We’re gonna vote on issues that matter to us and make sure that the politicians that say they support these issues, that they follow through and actually show up and do what needs to be done.”

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Gabe Fleisher is an award-winning journalist and editor-in-chief of Wake Up to Politics, a non-partisan political newsletter that he founded in 2011.

The preceding post was previously published by Wake Up to Politics, and is republished with permission.

If you’re interested in subscribing to the newsletter subscribe here. If you want to contribute to support Gabe’s work, please donate here.

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Politics

Biden-Harris campaign debuts ads targeting LGBTQ voters

The Biden-Harris 2024 campaign will debut new ads on Tuesday targeting LGBTQ voters in battleground states for Pride Month

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Image courtesy of Biden-Harris 2024 campaign


WILMINGTON, Del. — The Biden-Harris 2024 campaign will debut new ads on Tuesday targeting LGBTQ voters in battleground states for Pride Month ahead of November’s election.

“These ads will be featured across national and battleground LGBTQ+ media outlets, and will run throughout the month,” the campaign explained in a press release.

The aim is to “uplift” Biden’s record as “the most pro-LGBTQ+ president in history” while also highlighting “Donald Trump’s history of attacking their rights and his plans to go further.”

One ad that was previewed exclusively by the Washington Blade reads, “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are fighting for the LGBTQ community!” with a photo of the president and vice president.

Another, formatted for social media, features a photo of Pride flags atop a quote from the “PBS NewsHour”: “On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has been outlining what he plans to do if elected in November. That includes rolling back the rights of millions of LGBTQ+ people. It’s part of a wider playbook to undo many civil rights advances for minority groups.”

“This Pride is an important time to remember the progress we’ve made for our community under President Biden, and the stakes of this election for LGBTQ+ Americans as Trump proudly runs to strip us of our rights,” said Biden-Harris 2024 Spokesperson Kevin Munoz, who is gay.

“From threatening IVF treatments to threatening LGBTQ+ marriages, Trump’s Project 2025 agenda would rip away our rights, and sow needless hate and division for Trump’s political gain,” he said. “LGBTQ+ Americans deserve to hear from us about these stakes, and this buy shows we will continue to show up and make our case to them in this election.”

The ad blitz on Tuesday comes after the campaign’s announcement of a paid media and organizing push for Pride month, which includes sizable investments in courting LGBTQ voters in battleground states.

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Politics

New poll: 60% oppose laws banning youth gender-affirming care

A slim majority believe that changing one’s gender is morally wrong. Yet, a majority also oppose laws banning gender-affirming care

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“March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy” on Transgender Day of Visibility 2023. (File photo: Washington Blade/Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – A new Gallup poll out this week found that six in 10 U.S. adults oppose laws banning gender-affirming care for minors. The poll also found that a steady 51% of Americans think changing one’s gender is morally wrong, while 44% say it is morally acceptable.

According to the researchers at Gallup: There are significant demographic differences in Americans’ views of the morality of changing one’s gender. Majorities of political liberals (81%), Democrats (72%), those who do not identify with a religion (67%), those who do not attend religious services regularly (59%), young adults aged 18 to 29 (56%) and college graduates (53%) believe changing genders is morally acceptable. Less than half of their counterparts say the same.

While slightly less than half of women believe in the moral acceptability of changing genders, they are significantly more likely than men to think as much (48% vs. 39%, respectively).

In data published by the Human Rights Campaign, as of May 2024, 39% or 117,600 trans youth aged 13-17 are living in the 25 states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care. This includes 18,500 youth living in the three states–Florida, Ohio, and Montana–where bans are currently on hold or blocked from enforcement through court orders.

In its survey, Gallup researchers gauged Americans’ support for laws banning such care for minors with two questions, each asked of half of the total sample. One question asks about bans in general terms, on “treatments and medical procedures,” while the other spells out some of the specific treatments that could be banned, such as “psychological support, hormonal treatments and medical surgeries” to help minors align with their gender identity.

Gallup researchers found that on both questions, Republicans are more supportive than Democrats and independents of bans on gender-affirming care for minors.

On the more specific question that includes psychological support, hormonal treatments and medical surgeries, a majority of Republicans (53%) but far fewer Democrats (25%) and independents (34%) favor a ban.

On the more general question, Republicans are somewhat less likely to support a ban on treatments and medical procedures (45%), while Democrats’ and independents’ responses remain unchanged from the more specific question.

Gallup researchers measured U.S. adults’ gender identity in all of its surveys; an average of 0.9% of U.S. adults in 2023 identified as transgender. Transgender identification among adults is highest (2.8%) for those in Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2005).

The Gallup polling data also revealed:

A slim majority of Americans believe that changing one’s gender is morally wrong. Yet, a majority also oppose laws banning gender-affirming care to help minors align with their gender identity.

This discrepancy could be because the questions about gender-affirming care specifically mention minors, while the question about the morality of changing one’s gender does not. In addition, the relatively low support for banning laws on gender-affirming care may be attributable to Americans’ general distaste for bans, a pattern that can be seen in Gallup trends on banning cigarette smoking and handguns.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Bogus Doctors org pushed by Musk & Fox News against trans care

Headlines on conservative news sites stated that the “American College of Pediatricians” opposes trans care

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A video featuring Dr. Jill Simons states that there must be an end to "social affirmation, puberty blockers, and cross-sex hormones" for trans youth. (Photo Credit: Erin Reed)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Friday, numerous conservative accounts and news sources promoted headlines that the “American College of Pediatricians” had issued a statement against transgender care.

video accompanied the announcement featuring Dr. Jill Simons, who, wearing a white lab coat, states that there must be an end to “social affirmation, puberty blockers, and cross-sex hormones” for transgender youth.

Despite the official-looking attire and name, the organization’s name serves to mislead observers into thinking they are the much larger American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents tens of thousands of pediatricians. In reality, the ACP is a hyper-conservative Christian group of doctors created in 2002 to oppose gay parenting.

In the announcement released on Friday, Simons called for an end to social transition and gender-affirming care for transgender youth. One video, which went viral, begins with a statement that the organization has released a “declaration” authored by the American College of Pediatricians, along with “hundreds of doctors and healthcare workers,” opposing transgender care.

It references the highly-politicized Cass Review from the United Kingdom, whose author controversially blames pornography for being transgender, as well as the Climategate-style leak of the “WPATH Files” to support the statement.

The video, which was viewed over 51 million times on Twitter, cuts off just before the next speaker is introduced: Dr. Andre Van Mol, who represents the Christian Medical and Dental Associations. Van Mol serves on the board of the Bethel Church of Redding, which made headlines in 2019 for attempting to pray a dead child back to life.

He is followed by representatives from several other Christian medical organizations that also support banning transgender care. The website promoted at the event lists signatories to the statement, including the Catholic Medical Association, Genspect, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, the Family Research Council, and the Discovery Institute, an organization that promotes intelligent design over evolution in schools.

The American College of Pediatricians has been hugely influential in the promotion of anti-trans policy in the United States, relying in part to its misleading name. Members of the organization testify in state houses and courtrooms across the United States, misleading legislators into thinking they are the much larger American Academy of Pediatrics, the professional society that represents 67,000 pediatricians in the United States.

In 2023, the organization inadvertently left a Google Drive public, leading to the leak of a massive trove of files showing their extremist roots. According to these documents, the group received significant media training from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing organization that has played a large role in the passage and defense of anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the United States.

It also received free video production from Family Watch International, a group of Christian fundamentalists opposing homosexuality, birth control, abortion, and sex education. The American College of Pediatricians itself has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2012, when the group’s leader stated that “homosexuality poses a danger to children” and that the group was “essentially a Judeo-Christian values organization.”

Despite its clear Christian fundamentalist opposition to LGBTQ+ people, the organization’s name has been utilized to help create misleading headlines about the state of medical acceptance of transgender care in the United States.

On Friday, conservative influencer Robby Starbuck posted a video of Simons speaking with a statement that “The American College of Pediatricians” had called for groups to “IMMEDIATELY stop the promotion of social affirmation, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries for children and adolescents who experience distress over their biological sex.”

That video was retweeted by Elon Musk, who quote tweeted it with a reply of “wow.” Michael Shermer of “Skeptic Magazine” also promoted the misleading video. Following millions of views on twitter, Fox News reported on the video, stating that “American College of Pediatricians issues fiery statement condemning child gender transition” and that “The American College of Pediatricians and other groups argue evidence does not support transgender medical procedures.”

The Fox News article makes no mention of the nature of the ACP and its Christian conservative roots.

The article and tweets successfully fooled many people. Replies to the Fox News story, for instance, feature top-rated comments such as “I’m a retired physician, pathologist, who has been wondering why this group and others have taken so long to publish a position paper along these lines,” “I never thought I would see anything like this in my entire life,” and “Finally…….a medical group has the courage to speak out against this evil practice!”

Despite the widespread misinformation, every major medical organization in the United States supports gender-affirming care. In February, the American Psychological Association, the largest psychological association in the world, released a policy resolution stating that gender-affirming care is medically necessary and saves lives.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that transgender youth have access to gender-affirming care tailored to their unique needs. The Advocates for Trans Equality maintains a list of over 30 of the largest U.S.-based medical organizations that support transgender care, including the Endocrine Society, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the American Public Health Association, and the American Medical Association.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) 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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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Political commentary & analysis

2024 European elections: A turning point for LGBTQ rights?

After the elections, right-wing parties are gaining substantial ground and concerns about the potential impact on LGBTQ rights are growing

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The Pride flag and flag of the European Union fly over International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo Credit: ILGA)

By Amber Laenen | BRUSSELS, Belgium – As the dust settles after the 2024 European Parliament elections, right-wing parties are gaining substantial ground and concerns about the potential impact on LGBTQ rights are growing. The projected surge in support for far-right parties, however, was not as pronounced as some had expected.

Monday morning’s estimates indicate the far-right’s presence has, however, undeniably increased. 

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) gained four seats, bringing their total to 73. The Identity and Democracy group saw a significant rise, gaining nine seats to reach 58. Together, these nationalist, anti-immigrant parties now hold around 130 seats, reflecting their growing influence.

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France, which clinched over 32 percent of the vote, and the Alternative for Germany securing approximately 16 percent of the vote and becoming the country’s second-largest party, ahead of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, in particular could affect the broader political dynamics in Europe.

Despite the gains for the far-right, the mainstream conservative European People’s Party (EPP) emerged as the largest group, securing 189 seats, an increase of 13 seats. The two other centrist parties, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and Renew Europe, however, experienced losses that eroded the political center. S&D finished with 135 seats, losing four, while Renew Europe saw a significant reduction, finishing with 83 seats.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen celebrated her party’s victory and called for cooperation among centrists to ensure a “strong and effective Europe.” She emphasized the responsibility that comes with the election results, noting the need for stability amid growing support for extremist parties.

The election’s biggest losers were the Greens, who saw their support decrease by 25 percent, ending with 53 seats. The Greens, despite this setback, could still play a crucial role in supporting centrist majorities as an alternative to further-right parties.

All eyes are now on the election winners, the EPP. 

Von der Leyen has indicated her readiness to work with certain parties sitting with the hard-right ECR. Initial signals from the EPP camp, however, suggest it will stay true to its traditional allies at the center. Von der Leyen has offered to work with socialists and liberals to build a “majority in the center for a strong Europe,” underscoring the importance of maintaining a united front against extremism.

The narrow margins in the new parliament could lead to issue-by-issue coalitions, especially for sensitive issues such as those related to the European Green Deal. This limited room for maneuver could see the EPP relying on partners to its right on an ad hoc basis, including for critical decisions that include ushering in a new commission president. Von der Leyen’s future hangs in the balance as she seeks re-election. National delegations within her EPP grouping and support from lawmakers of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which clinched 24 seats, will play a crucial role in her bid to secure an absolute majority of 361 MEPs.

The implications for LGBTQ rights in Europe are significant. 

Far-right parties, known for their conservative social values, might push for policies that restrict LGBTQ rights, opposing marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, and challenging the legal recognition of gender identity and access to healthcare for transgender people. Such potential policy reversals represent a significant setback for the LGBTQ community.

The rising popularity of far-right ideologies also poses a risk of heightened discrimination and hate speech against LGBTQ people. 

Hate-motivated violence and exclusion are likely to become more prevalent, along with more frequent and aggressive hate speech targeting the LGBTQ community. Additionally, far-right parties often promote traditional gender roles and family structures, potentially undermining the visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ identities. Nonbinary, transgender, and intersex people could face increased stigmatization.

The 16th annual Rainbow Map that ILGA-Europe publishes underscores the importance of legal protections for LGBTQ people. 

Authoritarian leaders across Europe continue to use the scapegoating of LGBTQ people to divide and mobilize their electorates. Several countries, however, have demonstrated robust political will to advance and protect LGBTQ rights. Some countries — Germany, Iceland, Estonia, and Greece — have made significant strides in protecting LGBTQ rights through improvements in legislation and anti-discrimination measures. Belgium, Cyprus, Norway, and Portugal have introduced bans on conversion therapy practices.

Countries such as Italy, on the other hand, show the consequences of stalling legislative protection for LGBTQ people. Moreover, EU accession countries, including Turkey and Georgia, are actively eroding human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Rainbow Map illustrates the stark differences in how European countries handle LGBTQ rights. 

While some nations are making significant progress, others are regressing, influenced by the far-right’s growing power. Germany, Iceland, Estonia, and Greece, for example, have made noteworthy improvements in their legal frameworks to protect LGBTQ people. Germany prohibited hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics, while Estonia and Greece amended their laws to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

In contrast, Italy, which has dropped in the rankings due to stalling legislative protections, exemplifies the risk of complacency that many activists in Europe fear. The far-right’s influence can quickly lead to the erosion of rights if proactive measures are not taken. The situation is even more dire in EU accession countries such as Turkey and Georgia, where LGBTQ rights are actively being rolled back.

The stakes are high as Europe moves forward from these elections. 

The EU must address the rise in political hate speech and new tools of oppression that include Russia’s criminalization of the LGBTQ movement. Without strong laws and policies to protect LGBTQ people, the foundation of safety, rule of law, and democracy in Europe is at risk.

The balance of power remains delicate as the European Parliament prepares for its new term.

related

The first major test will be the approval of the new European Commission president, which is set for July. Von der Leyen, who narrowly won her position five years ago, will need to secure broad support among centrists while navigating the complex dynamics of the new parliament. The secret ballot process adds an additional layer of uncertainty, making her re-election far from guaranteed.

The 2024 European elections have set the stage for potentially significant changes in the legislative and social landscape of the EU. As right-wing parties gain power, the fight for LGBTQ rights becomes more crucial than ever. The next few years will be pivotal in determining whether Europe can uphold its commitment to human rights and equality or if it will see a regression influenced by nationalist, conservative ideologies.

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Amber Laenen is a senior at Thomas More Mechelen University in Belgium. She is majoring in journalism and international relations.

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Politics

Former out staffers reflect on working for VP Kamala Harris

Tim Silard & Ike Irby, two gay men who have worked for Harris, spoke to the Blade providing insight into her work advancing LGBTQ+ rights

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Vice President Kamala Harris and staff (Photo credit: The White House/Lawrence Jackson)

WASHINGTON — The Washington Blade spoke last week with two gay men who have worked for vice president Kamala Harris and provided insight into her work advancing LGBTQ+ rights and her lifelong close ties to the queer community.

These conversations preceded the exclusive interview with Harris published on the Blade Tuesday.

Tim Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation, which provides grants to promote racial and economic justice in California, worked for Harris when she served as the District Attorney of San Francisco.

Ike Irby, a scientist who now leads his eponymously named communications firm, served as special assistant to the president and deputy domestic policy advisor and chief climate advisor to the vice president until January 2024, having previously worked in Harris’s U.S. Senate office.

Harris has sincere, deep ties to the LGBTQ community


“She’s had close working relationships with and advisors from the [LGBTQ] community, and in particular, one of her main campaign people the first time she ran [for district attorney] was Jim Rivaldo, who was a legend in San Francisco and part of Harvey Milk’s inner circle,” Silard said.

Irby, and Harris herself, also told the Blade about her work with Rivaldo, who through his role electing Milk, California’s first openly gay public servant, helped show the country it was possible for queer people to hold elected office.

“From the get go, she both hired — and, I think, maybe just as significantly, promoted into the top ranks of the office — a number of LGBTQ people,” Silard said. Harris “was intentional about not only hiring more people of color into the office, but also women and LGBTQ people,” he noted.

When he joined her Senate office, Irby remembers, “it was actually such a shock to like, finally, be in a work environment where it’s not just like there was another queer person, it was like there was a whole family, a brigade of queer people in this office.”

“Law enforcement as an institution tends to be dominated by straight white men,” Silard said. So, “promoting LGBTQ people into [positions] as managers of units and into the top executive staff, I think is a very important element to culture change within an office and to ensuring that the voices of the community are heard within the office.”

“Kamala, just by the virtue of who she is and what she believes, and her deep relationships across many communities, brought a very different perspective,” he explained. “And that was true across so many things, communities of color, women, LGBTQ folks — I think it was just natural for her, and, you know, she became a prosecutor to represent the underdog, right, to represent people who are victimized.”

In her personal life, too, Silard said, the vice president has “always had deep relationships and close friendships” with LGBTQ+ people who “were really part of her immediate, extended family, coming to Thanksgiving dinner and whatnot.”

“In the time period where the vice president was was growing up and learning the foundation of who she was going to be, both as a child in the Bay Area, but then also right after she graduated undergrad and moved to law school over there and then became a D.A., both those time periods were such a moment of the queer liberation movement,” Irby said.

Cover of the August 13-26, 2020 issue of the SF Bay Times newspaper as then U.S. Senator Kamala Harris campaigns for the vice-presidency as an LGBTQ+ ally in Northern California.
(Photo: Library of Congress collections)

This time was also a period in which LGBTQ rights intersected with “women’s rights and Black equality,” he noted, “all of these fights, together, and the way the vice president really addresses and thinks about these issues is that intersectionality.”

“Both because of her relationships, and going back to hiring and promoting a lot of LGBTQ people, all of the things that she did and that we did, that I mentioned, and there were others, all came from and were developed in direct conversation and coordination with leaders from our community,” Silard said.

Taking action, and understanding problems as intersectional


In her first term as district attorney, which was also her first elected position, Harris was sure to appoint LGBTQ+ staff to the Victim Services Division, Silard said.

“Our office provided victim services whether there was an actual prosecution or not,” he said. “If there was a police report, then the victim advocates could do a lot of practical things, like accessing victim support funds and funds for therapy, changing your locks, other kinds of practical ways to keep you safe, as well as emotional support.”

Silard added, “That was the first in California — I don’t know about, possibly, the nation — but where there was a whole team of victim advocates who were from our community.”

As a result, he said, more LGBTQ people came forward to report crimes. Having “vertical prosecution units” with “lawyers and paralegals and others who not only are from the community, but they are experts, they have lower caseloads, they pay more attention,” he said, tends to yield “more successful prosecutions, and you can define that in a whole number of different ways.”

Irby and Silard both highlighted Harris’s work combatting use of the “gay panic defense” and “trans panic defense,” arguments in the courtroom that endeavor to mitigate acts of violence against LGBTQ+ victims.

“She brought a focus to LGBTQ hate crimes, and in particular, transphobic crimes,” said Silard, who noted, “it hadn’t been that long since [the murder of] Matthew Shepard and then, I think, more recently for us in the Bay Area, Gwen Araujo’s murder.”

“We did a whole conference, for law enforcement, on the trans and gay panic defenses,” he said, recalling, “we had these sheriffs from Texas and Florida and people in cowboy hats; we had people from all over the country come from prosecutors’ offices and law enforcement,” many of whom had never met a trans person and now were listening to full panels of trans speakers.

“It really was impactful for those law enforcement people to be hearing directly from trans people about what their lives are like, the oppression and violence that they and people in their community were suffering all the time,” Silard said.

Irby pointed to the fact that Harris “gathered other district attorneys from around the country to do a training so that she could share that information, so that it wasn’t just her impacting [the issue] there in San Francisco.”

Silard said the notion that she “somehow she did these things because she thought it would get her more votes” is ridiculous, as if bringing in law enforcement officials from Florida to work on this issue could have carried some electoral advantage for her.

“It’s classic Kamala to say, ‘okay, what are we going to do about it?'” when confronted with a problem, he said. So, with respect to the gay and trans panic defenses, she set about figuring out ‘”how do we educate people in law enforcement to confront it?’ and ‘how can we craft a law and do it in such a way that still protects the rights of defendants?'”

Irby remembered how Harris, as a new senator, saw and took the chance to help broaden access to pre-exposure prophylaxis, a medication regimen that substantially lessens the chances of transmitting HIV through sex.

“There’s a lot of people who have been senators for a very long time, and there are not a lot of open policy lanes for a new person to come in and try to make sure that they are making their mark on specific issues,” he said. “But on LGBTQ issues in particular, the Vice President found that opportunity by her bill to help people access PrEP.”

Harris, he recalled, said, “‘hey, this is important. We need to de-stigmatize this. This is about healthcare for LGBTQ people. This is about their ability to to be to be safe, to be healthy and live their fullest lives.'”

“As a former prosecutor, she understands the power of the courts, certainly,” Irby told the Blade. Going back to her time as a prosecutor and later as California’s Attorney General, he noted, Harris “refused to uphold Prop 8 in the courts and saw the power of that as making sure that she was fighting for that expansion and not the restriction” of rights through the judiciary, whose role she has always understood as a means of strengthening and broadening freedoms and protections.

“I am so proud of her, and I was so proud to be part of so many things that she did early on and proud of what she’s continuing to do,” Silard said.

“It’s one thing for a politician to talk about an issue, to orate about it very nicely,” Irby said. “It’s another thing to show up in those spaces; it’s another thing to surround yourself and demonstrate that you have credibility,” as she has done and continues to do.

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New poll: 77% say elected officials use trans issues as a distraction

New NORC/LA Times poll shows support for protecting trans access to medical care & 77% think politicians use trans as a distraction

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – A new poll released by NORC and the Los Angeles Times reveals that 77% of U.S. citizens believe politicians are using debates over transgender and nonbinary people as a distraction from more pressing priorities.

The same poll finds that majorities oppose forced outing laws for transgender youth. A slim majority indicated their support for protecting access to gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth when their parents and doctors feel those treatments are appropriate, though results were somewhat mixed depending on how the question was worded.

These numbers align with several recent polls indicating that while some people may have nuanced opinions on transgender issues, Americans do not view these concerns as worthy of lawmakers’ attention.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “Elected officials are mostly using debates over transgender and nonbinary people to distract attention from more pressing priorities.”

The remainder agreed with the statement, “Issues regarding transgender people are an important priority for elected officials.”

In the last three years, over 1,000 anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been proposed across the United States, most of them targeting transgender people; few other issues receive as much attention in statehouses across the country. These poll results suggest that spending significant time targeting transgender people may not be a popular course of action.

These results align with several recent polls. In March of this year, 71% of South Carolina voters indicated that the government should not intervene in LGBTQ+ gender-affirming healthcare decisions for those under 18 years old.

Another recent poll found that 76% of respondents believe decisions regarding gender-affirming care for transgender youth belong to parents or doctors, not state lawmakers. Similar findings were replicated in a poll of Kentucky voters and a Pathfinder Opinion Research poll that indicated 53% of voters would be motivated to oppose a candidate who frequently spoke about restricting access to gender-affirming care for trans youth, compared to 25% who would be motivated to support such a candidate.

Likewise, a Fox News poll in 2023 indicated that only 1% of people identified transgender issues as a top priority, and 83% of voters believed that political attacks on transgender children are a problem.

The new survey also asked questions about individual issues, such as gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth and adults, as well as forced outing policies for transgender youth in schools.

A majority of respondents indicated that schools should “respect students’ wishes of not telling parents that they identify as transgender.” This support was higher among Democrats than Republicans, but even 32% of Republicans indicated they oppose forced outing policies.

When it comes to gender affirming medical care, the results were mixed depending on how the question was worded. When asked if they would support state laws that prevent access for minors to gender affirming care, 54% answered in favor with 44% in opposition.

However, when asked if they would support laws that protect access for minors to gender affirming care 50% answered in favor and 49% answered against.

Confusing and contradictory results on support for gender-affirming care highlight a larger narrative about Americans’ complex opinions on transgender issues: a lack of salience on the matter.

People’s views on transgender individuals seem not to be firmly held and can vary significantly with simple changes in wording. Most importantly, several polls indicate that Americans do not want legislators spending time on this topic and believe these decisions should be made by parents, patients, and doctors.

These findings suggest that while Americans may have uncertainties about transgender issues, they believe these are personal decisions for families and individuals, not matters for legislative action.

The idea that transgender issues are a distraction is supported by the heavy electoral losses where these issues have been made front and center. In 2023, 70% of Moms For Liberty and 1776 Project candidates lost their races after campaigning heavily on book bans and bathroom bans targeting transgender people.

That same year, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear won reelection despite vetoing the state’s gender-affirming care ban; he won by an even larger margin than in his initial election, despite significant funding for anti-trans ads.

Similar victories for those supporting transgender people occurred in elections where transgender issues were a major focus, including the Virginia legislature elections, the Arizona Governor’s race, the Michigan legislature elections, the Wisconsin Supreme Court election, the Walker-Warnock Senate race, and dozens more.

All of these races were significantly influenced by anti-trans political expenditures and narratives; Democrats were victorious in each of these contests.

Going into 2024, a number of elections will feature similar dynamics. With over 1,000 anti-LGBTQ+ policies pushed in the last two years, many legislators will face their first election since passing anti-transgender legislation.

Perhaps sensing voter sentiment, several state legislatures, including those in GeorgiaWest Virginia, and Florida, have pulled back on targeting LGBTQ+ people this year, with bills failing to pass. Similarly, ballot initiatives were rejected in California and Arizona, highlighting Republicans’ wavering commitment to these policies.

Nevertheless, major Republican candidates, including Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, have issued strong statements of intent to target transgender people if they win, suggesting the issue could be pivotal in 2024 election campaigns. If this poll is correct, focusing on such issues could harm candidates who prioritize targeting transgender people.

You can view the poll report here as well as the toplines.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) 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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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Political commentary & analysis

The What-ifs are setting in: Harris, Eastman & Trumpish retribution

Now it’s rapist/convicted felon/wanna-be dictator Donald Trump’s MAGA cult salivating to erase #LGBTQIA people

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Vice President Kamala Harris greeting LGBTQ+ supporters at LAX on June 1, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Jono Madison/Jono Photography)

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – “Freedom, the concept of freedom, has always been an undergird of the movement for LGBTQ equality and rights,” Vice President Kamala Harris told Los Angeles Blade White House Correspondent Chris Kane in an exclusive interview about the November election.

Some of us remember the Gay Liberation movement, the hard fights for our freedom and full equality and the heart-breaking losses to hate crimes, AIDS, overdoses and suicides. Now it’s rapist/convicted felon/wanna-be dictator Donald Trump’s MAGA cult salivating to erase #lgbtqia people as a line item on God and Trump’s retribution list for defiantly existing in the first place.

LGBTQ ally Kamala Harris is surely high up on that retribution list, as well. As Chris Kane points out, “America’s first woman, first Black, and first South Asian vice president, Harris, 59, has broken barriers throughout her career in public service, beginning with her election as San Francisco district attorney in 2003, and then as California attorney general in 2010 and U.S. senator for California in 2016. Harris has also been credited with playing a major role in the establishment and expansion of rights and protections for LGBTQ communities at the local, state, and federal levels over the past two decades.”

But Harris really hasn’t been given much credit for her courage. Over the decades, Harris — who was born in Oakland in 1964 to immigrant parents — has exhibited a smart, determined commitment to the civil rights struggle, even as she is constantly attacked by dangerous creeps like former law professor John Eastman. LGBTQ people know Eastman well as Chair of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which passed California’s anti-gay marriage initiative #Prop8 in coalition with leaders of the crazed “spiritual warfare” movement. As Attorney General, Harris refused to defend Prop 8 in court.

After Biden picked Harris as his Vice- Presidential running mate, Eastman wrote a hostile op-ed in Newsweek that critics compared to “Birtherism,” the fake racist “natural born citizen” conspiracy theory Trump advanced against Barack Obama.

Trump defended Eastman. In an Aug. 18, 2020 story, The Intercept noted that “Trump called birthright citizenship ‘ridiculous’” in a 2018 interview with Axios. “[Trump] also said that an executive order was in the process of being drafted” to strip citizenship “from people like Harris.”

The Intercept reported that Trump “called the question Eastman raised about Harris’s citizenship at birth ‘very serious’ and a potential ‘problem’ for her. He also praised the fringe legal theorist” as “a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer” and “a brilliant lawyer.”

Eastman provided the theory for overturning the Biden/Harris 2020 election victory, reportedly trying to convince Vice President Mike Pence (incorrectly) that he had authority to not certify the Electoral College vote. After an impassioned introduction by Trump lawyer Rudi Guiliani on Jan. 6, Eastman spouted nonsense about decertification at the March to Save America rally: “This is bigger than President Trump! It is the very essence of our republican form of government, and it has to be done!” After Trump spoke, the Stop the Steal protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol building.

Eastman has since been disbarred in California, criminally indicted in the now-delayed Georgia election racketeering case, and a co-conspirator in the (delayed) federal 2020 election interference case against Trump.

But Eastman’s already implanted seeds in MAGA minds about the fringe independent state legislature (ISL) theory whereby state legislatures determine laws regulating federal elections. Democracy Docket explained in a July 11, 2023 story that the Supreme Court rejected the ISL theory but that may not deter MAGAs who prefer electoral chaos.

If Trump wins, Eastman may well seek retribution — perhaps even against Kamala Harris. In 2010, Eastman ran for California Attorney General but lost to LA District Attorney Steve Cooley in the Republican Primary. Three nail-biting weeks after Election Night, Cooley finally conceded to Democrat Harris.

Did Eastman and his campaign manager Jeff Flint – of Schubert and Flint Public Affairs/Prop 8 infamy – think they could have defeated their Prop 8 foe in 2010? Might Eastman want to “lock her up?”

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There’s another pall being ignored: the fear that some progressives may decide that the Biden/Harris team is not progressive enough.

What if the campaign found unlikely surrogates to offer contrary evidence? Longtime San Francisco deputy public defender Niki Solis, for instance, an LGBTQ mom of two, wrote a piece on Aug 10, 2010 for USA Today headlined “I worked with Kamala Harris. She was the most progressive DA in California.” The subhead was: “I grappled with this idea of defending a former prosecutor for a long time, but I have to say what I feel is right to set the record straight on Harris.”

Two years later, I interviewed Attorney General Kamala Harris at LA Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa’s Pride Party with the Traipsing Thru Films lesbian crew, Renee Sotile & @Mary jo Godges. See for yourself. Kamala HarrisBiden/Harris 2024Geoff KorsRick Chavez ZburChad Hunter GriffinHuman Rights CampaignEquality CaliforniaBiden-Harris HQ

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Karen Ocamb is the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. She is an award-winning journalist who, upon graduating from Skidmore College, started her professional career at CBS News in New York.

Ocamb started in LGBTQ+ media in the late 1980s after more than 100 friends died from AIDS. She covered the spectrum of the LGBTQ+ movement for equality until June 2020, including pressing for LGBTQ+ data collection during the COVID pandemic.

Since leaving the LA Blade Ocamb continues to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues.

She lives in West Hollywood, California with her rescue dog Pepper.

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LGBTQ+ groups condemn Biden immigration executive order

Directive ‘catastrophic’ for queer asylum seekers

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the urgent need to pass the Senate bipartisan border security agreement, Thursday, February 29, 2024, at the Brownsville Border Patrol Station in Brownsville, Texas. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued an executive order that prohibits migrants from asking for asylum in the U.S. if they “unlawfully” cross the Southern border.

Senior administration officials on Tuesday told reporters before Biden announced the directive that it will take effect “when high levels of encounters at the Southern border exceed our ability to deliver timely consequences, as is the case today.” The Associated Press reported this figure is 2,500 “border encounters between ports of entry” a day. 

“Today, I’m announcing actions to bar migrants who cross our Southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum,” said Biden at the White House. “Migrants will be restricted from receiving asylum at our southern border unless they seek it after entering through an established lawful process.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, U.S. Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), and Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) joined Biden at the White House alongside San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, El Paso (Texas) Mayor Oscar Leeser, Edinberg (Texas) Mayor Ramiro Garza, Harlingen (Texas) Mayor Norma Sepulveda, Laredo (Texas) Victor Treviño, Brownsville (Texas) Mayor John Cowen, Bexar County (Texas) Sheriff Javier Salazar, and Santa Cruz County (Ariz.) Supervisor Manuel Ruiz.

El Paso, Edinberg, Harlingen, Laredo, Brownsville, and Santa Cruz County border Mexico.

U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) in February unveiled an immigration overhaul bill they described as “the strongest border security package in decades to reassert control of the border, end catch and release, enhance security, fix the asylum system, and support border communities.” Senate Republicans blocked the measure.

“I’m moving past Republican obstruction and using the executive authorities available to me as president to do what I can on my own to address the border,” said Biden.

“Frankly, I would have preferred to address this issue through bipartisan legislation, because that’s the only way to actually get the kind of system we have now — that’s broken — fixed, to hire more Border Patrol agents, more asylum officers, more judges,” he added. “But Republicans have left me with no choice.” 

Biden stressed migrants who “come to the United States legally … by making an appointment and coming to a port of entry” will still be able to ask for asylum.

“If an individual chooses not to use our legal pathways, if they choose to come without permission and against the law, they’ll be restricted from receiving asylum and staying in the United States,” he said. 

“This action will help us to gain control of our border, restore order to the process,” Biden added. 

Biden further stressed the ban “will remain in place until the number of people trying to enter illegally is reduced to a level that our system can effectively manage.”

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) in a statement sharply criticized the executive order.

“By reviving Trump’s asylum ban, President Biden has undermined American values and abandoned our nation’s obligations to provide people fleeing persecution, violence, and authoritarianism with an opportunity to seek refuge in the U.S.,” said the California Democrat.

The Council for Global Equality said the executive order is “catastrophic for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and other asylum seekers from vulnerable populations — and it’s highly unlikely to help move the electoral needle.” Immigration Equality Director of Law and Policy Bridget Crawford reiterated this point.

“President Biden is playing craven political games with the lives of refugees, including LGBTQ people fleeing persecution, instead of implementing workable solutions,” she said.

The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration works with LGBTQ+ migrants and asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexicali and other Mexican cities that border the U.S. 

ORAM Executive Director Steve Roth in a statement to the Washington Blade said the executive order will harm “LGBTIQ asylum seekers and other vulnerable individuals seeking refuge from persecution.” He also said the directive “will put more LGBTIQ asylum seekers in harm’s way in dangerous Mexican border towns and puts added pressure on refugee-serving organizations throughout Mexico.”

The State Department currently advises Americans not to travel to Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, which borders Texas, because of “crime and kidnapping.” It also recommends Americans to reconsider travel to the country’s Baja California, Sonora, and Chihuahua states that border California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas respectively. 

“President Biden’s unlawful policy flies in the face of U.S. refugee law and removes the critical protections and paths to safety of these asylum seekers, leaving them vulnerable and with no resources,” Roth told the Blade.

Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Impact Officer Terra Russell-Slavin noted Biden issued the executive director days after he issued a Pride Month proclamation. Russell-Slavin, like other activists, also referenced the previous administration’s policies they said harmed LGBTQ+ migrants and asylums seekers.

“The Biden administration cannot have it both ways: They cannot ‘celebrate’ Pride Month while turning their backs on LGBTQ+ individuals who are seeking the rights our movement is based on,” said Russell-Slavin. “We strongly condemn this executive order, and urge the president to immediately reverse this harmful action.”

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Genspect, SEGM designated anti-LGBTQ hate groups by SPLC

SEGM members were part of a secret advisory group for the Cass Review in England. Genspect & SEGM pushed anti-trans policies in U.S.

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Erin Reed | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – In a major move, the Southern Poverty Law Center has formally designated the anti-transgender pseudoscience organizations Genspect and the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine as anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups.

This designation is part of the civil rights organization’s latest release of its “Year In Hate & Extremism” report, which tracks hate groups and extremist groups throughout the United States. Members of these and other anti-LGBTQ+ organizations listed have played significant roles in the passage of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and policy by concealing and underplaying their ties to anti-LGBTQ+ extremism.

Most recently, members of the newly designated hate group, Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, helped advise the Cass Review in the United Kingdom, which has led to the criminalization of possession of some forms of transgender care there and is currently being used to argue for heavy restrictions in the United States.

The designation is significant, placing these organizations alongside other extremist groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council—Christian fundamentalist organizations pushing anti-LGBTQ+ policies in the United States and internationally. Justifying the new designations, the report points to conferences held by these organizations that featured “expert witnesses” employed by the Alliance Defending Freedom to target LGBTQ+ people in the United States.

It also highlights an investigative analysis that discovered the organizations were at the center of a massive “anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience network.” The analysis further determined that in the case of SEGM, the organization’s funding stream included Koch Foundation money funneled through the Edward Charles Foundation. Notably, SEGM shared funding streams with right-wing Christian groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council.

In recent years, the Society for Evidence in Gender Medicine has played a huge role in advancing anti-transgender policy globally. In the United States, far-right politicians such as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott have relied on SEGM materials to justify treating gender affirming care for transgender youth as child abuse.

In Florida, SEGM members aided in a DeSantis initiative to ban transgender care through a review for the Florida Board of Medicine; that review was conducted so poorly that it led to Yale researchers determining, “So repeated and fundamental are the errors in the June 2 Report that it seems clear that the report is not a serious scientific analysis but, rather, a document crafted to serve a political agenda.”

A later investigation determined that before the reviews were even conducted, board members had determined it would result in “care effectively banned.” At the same time, members of Genspect affiliates were placed on the Florida Board of Medicine who would ultimately vote to ban that care.

Importantly, members and associates of the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine (SEGM) have recently played a significant role in the Cass Review, a supposedly “independent” review now being cited to crack down on transgender care in England and the United States.

Recent investigations revealed that multiple SEGM members and associates were part of advisory groups to the review with secret memberships. One such person was Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala, a Finnish psychologist who prominently presented at the latest SEGM conference and has been closely associated with SEGM, which denies her membership due to the organization having “no official members.” 

Dr. Kaltiala facilitated a meeting between Dr. Cass and Dr. Patrick Hunter, a DeSantis medical board pick and member of Genspect. Dr. Cass later shared information with the team according a letter obtained exclusively by this publication. Dr. Kaltiala went on to “meet regularly” with the DeSantis appointees and even testified in favor of Florida’s ban on transgender care.

Letter from DeSantis-pick Patrick Hunter meeting with Dr. Cass to help ban care in Florida. The meeting was facilitated by Dr. Kaltiala, who has been widely associated with SEGM and who “met regularly” with the DeSantis picks.

The latest report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) indicates that in 2023, the number of anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups increased by one-third to 86 groups, the highest number ever tracked by the organization.

According to the group, this surge is primarily due to the rise of “family policy councils” that push right-wing Christian agendas and members of anti-LGBTQ+ pseudoscience networks that often share the same goals.

“As in previous years, the anti-LGBTQ policy push was grounded in demonizing LGBTQ people and using pseudoscientific claims about LGBTQ people, but the weaponization of pseudoscience as a tool of trans suppression and the targeting of fundamental freedoms like free speech, expression, and assembly through book and drag bans has become a more prominent feature in recent years,” the report says, highlighting the increasing use of organizations weaponizing disinformation to target transgender people.

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When asked about the inclusion of SEGM and Genspect as hate groups in the latest report and the ways in which they weaponize pseudoscience to target transgender people, R.G. Cravens, a Senior Research Analyst at the SPLC, stated, “We often defer to experts, allowing them to substitute their judgment for our own. Purveyors of hate and extremism count on this deference when they market pseudoscience as objective truth and use it to discriminate (and worse) against others.”

He also stated that such groups “frequently use pseudoscience to disguise their far-right ideologies, using the language of science in an attempt to make their extremism seem reasonable.”

You can find a full list of the anti-LGBTQ+ groups in the latest update here.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) 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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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

SPLC annual hate report: White nationalist, anti-LGBTQ activity rise

Among the states leading in numbers of anti-government and hate groups are Calif.; Fla.; Texas; Penn.; NY; Va.; Ga.; NC; Wash. and Ohio

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Love and Hate in the Deep South. A 2018 profile of white Christian anti-LGBTQ street preachers at Southern Decadence in New Orleans, La. (Screenshot/YouTube Vice TV)

By Ashley Murray | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Emboldened by the mainstreaming of hard-right politics ahead of a presidential election cycle, white nationalist and anti-LGBTQ+ groups increased to record levels in the United States last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest annual report on hate and extremism released Tuesday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has published the annual report since 1990, documented 835 active anti-government groups, up 133 from 2022’s count, and 595 hate groups, an increase of 72 over the previous year’s figure.

Accounting for a large portion of the increase was a 50% surge in white supremacy hate groups in 2023, the highest jump ever recorded by the SPLC, growing to 165 over 109 in 2022. White power and neo-Nazi rallies across the U.S. totaled 143 in 2023, down from 191 in 2022.

SPLC saw a 33% rise in anti-LGBTQ+ organizations over last year, bringing the total to 86. The group said the growth was largely attributable to the anti-trans movement on the far-right.

“What we’re seeing now should be a wake-up call for all of us,” Margaret Huang, SPLC’s president and CEO, said on a call with reporters. “Our 2023 report documented more hate and anti-government extremist groups than ever before. With a historic election just months away, these groups are multiplying, mobilizing and making, and in some cases already implementing, plans to undo democracy.”

Hate groups have increased in-person events and leafleting, according to the report. The SPLC tracked nearly 7,000 flyering incidents last year, many including language derived from racist and antisemitic conspiracies.

The groups also launched campaigns to gain influence in mainstream politics, according to the report, namely through the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 manifesto that outlines aspirations for anti-abortion, anti-free press and anti-LGBTQ+ priorities should presumed GOP presidential nominee and former President Donald Trump win in November.

Nine of the anti-government and hate groups tracked by the SPLC are part of the coalition that supports Project 2025, the organization reports.

Florida a leader in anti-government, hate groups

Among the states leading in numbers of anti-government and hate groups are California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Washington and Ohio.

California topped the list with 51 hate and 66 anti-government groups.

The SPLC recorded the second-most groups in Florida, which has become a leader in book-banning incidents and restrictive policies on teachers. The Sunshine State is home to 43 hate and 71 anti-government organizations, according to the report, and is the birthplace of recently influential “parental rights” group Moms for Liberty.

Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice was invited in March 2023 to testify before a U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary subcommittee then chaired by Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who is now House speaker. 

The annual survey of hate groups tracked 116 hate-leafleting incidents in Florida, where the antisemitic groups rallied and flyered on multiple occasions, including over Labor Day when groups named the Goyim Defense League, The Order of the Black Sun and the Maine-based Blood Tribe marched in Orlando wielding flags with swastikas and making Nazi salutes.

Antisemitism, already on the rise, became more pronounced following Israel’s continuing offensive on the Gaza Strip following the Hamas-led terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023.

“Antisemitic conspiracies seeped into mainstream narratives at an alarming pace and 2023. Specifically after Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack, the far right blurred the lines between legitimate criticism of the Israeli government’s actions and outright antisemitism,” R.G. Cravens, SPLC’s senior research analyst for its Intelligence Project, said during Tuesday’s call with reporters.

Following the Hamas attack, the so-called Goyim Defense League distributed a flyer online and in person that read “FREE PALESTINE,” as a “not-so-thinly-veiled attempt at stoking more antisemitism and using Palestinian people to further their own aims,” according to the report.

Christian ‘dominionism’

The SPLC report also cited the expanding influence of extreme Christian nationalism as a driver for the growing number of anti-government organizations.

The report expresses concern over the rise in the Republican ranks of Johnson, a former senior lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group behind the U.S. Supreme Court case that precipitated the overturning of the federal right to abortion.

Johnson’s far-right politics, including his anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ positions and his advocacy to blur Christianity and the state, are well documented.

Spokespeople for Johnson did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The Alliance for Defending Freedom describes SPLC as a “discredited” and “scandal-ridden group,” and denounces the organization’s “hate map.” The SPLC currently has an interactive U.S. map pinpointing locations of anti-government and hate groups.

“Eventually, their definition of hate included huge swaths of well-respected, mainstream, conservative America,” according to a post on the Alliance for Defending Freedom website.

The SPLC report specifically warns about the rise of the National Apostolic Reformation, a Christian movement made up of “dominionist leaders” that aim to “seize control” of seven areas of society, including government, education and business.

Decline in militias

One area in which the report documented a decline is in the militia movement, which suffered after the hundreds of Department of Justice prosecutions following the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The numbers of militias dropped to 52 in 2023, from 61 in 2022.

One of the most prominent militias, the Oath Keepers, significantly diminished its presence following the 2023 conviction and sentencing of its leader Stewart Rhodes for seditious conspiracy leading up to and during the Jan. 6 attack.

The Oath Keepers active militia chapters dropped to 10 in 2023 from 79 in 2022.

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Ashley Murray

Ashley Murray covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include domestic policy and appropriations.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished with permission.

The Louisiana Illuminator is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization with a mission to cast light on how decisions in Baton Rouge are made and how they affect the lives of everyday Louisianians. Our in-depth investigations and news stories, news briefs and commentary help residents make sense of how state policies help or hurt them and their neighbors statewide.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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