By Alejandro Serrano | AUSTIN, Texas – A federal judge said Thursday he will stop a new Texas law aimed at keeping sexually explicit materials off of school library shelves on the eve of the law going into effect, according to state attorneys and lawyers for a group who sued over the proposal.
District Judge Alan D. Albright indicated during a hearing that he will grant a temporary injunction sought by a group of book groups and sellers, including two Texas bookstores, who sued the state over House Bill 900 in July, the group’s lawyers said in a statement. Albright will issue a written order in one to two weeks; in the meantime, the state cannot enforce the law, according to the statement.
HB 900, which was approved during this year’s regular legislative session, requires school library vendors to rate all their books and materials for appropriateness before selling them to schools based on the presence of sex depictions or references. It also requires vendors to rank materials previously sold to schools and issue a recall for those that are deemed sexually explicit and are in active use by a school.
The plaintiffs argue that the law violates their constitutional rights by targeting protected speech with its broad and vague language. The lawsuit further alleges HB 900 would force plaintiffs to comply with the government’s views, even if they do not agree with them, and that the law operates as prior restraint, which is government action that prohibits speech or other expression before the speech happens. The vendors say it is impossible for them to comply with the rating system because of the sheer volume of materials they would need to review.
The law also calls for creating state school library standards that prohibit sexually explicit materials, requiring parental consent for students to check out materials classified by vendors as “sexually relevant” and giving the Texas Education Agency authority to review a vendor’s rating. If the TEA disagrees with the vendor’s rating and gives it a different one, the vendor must use the agency’s rating. Vendors who do not will be added to a list of vendors that schools cannot buy library materials from.
During the bill’s legislative hearings, librarians and legal experts shared concerns and worries that its language would ensnare books that are not inappropriate and, to the contrary, may be titles important for students whose lived experiences may not be reflected in other literature.
The proposal, from Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, arrived amid an ongoing debate about what materials are appropriate to be stocked in school and public libraries. Patterson and supporters of such regulations say libraries are infested with inappropriate books that must be vetted and removed.
However, skeptics of that panic and literary advocates counter that the books singled out by politicians often explore sexuality and race, topics that have been swept up in culture-war politics but remain important for youth who may not be comfortable talking about such matters with others.
Despite the concerns, HB 900 sailed through the legislative process before Gov. Greg Abbott signed it in June. It was set to go into effect Friday; however, the law’s language suggests the new requirements won’t have to be fulfilled immediately.
Most, if not all, of the state’s roughly 5.4 million public schoolchildren have already begun the 2023-2024 school year.
The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include two bookstores, Austin’s BookPeople and West Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, as well as the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
The Texas Attorney General’s office said Thursday it would move to reverse the injunction and appeal the judge’s decision. The office had not received the judge’s written order or decision by Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson said.
A court representative for Albright did not respond to an inquiry about his comments during Thursday’s hearing, reported by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and on social media by at least one plaintiff.
“We are grateful for the court’s swift action in deciding to enjoin this law, in the process preserving the long-established rights of local communities to set their own standards; protecting the constitutionally protected speech of authors, booksellers, publishers and readers; preventing the state government from unlawfully compelling speech on the part of private citizens; and shielding Texas businesses from the imposition of impossibly onerous conditions,” the plaintiffs said in a joint statement after the hearing. “We look forward to reading the court’s full opinion once it is issued.”
The preceding article was previously published by the Texas Tribune and is republished with permission.
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Federal appeals court lets gender-affirming ban stand in Tennessee
Samantha & Brian Williams of Nashville, TN & their 15-year-old trans daughter are challenging a Tennessee law banning gender-affirming care
CINCINNATI, Ohio – The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected a request from families and medical providers to block a Tennessee law banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. Today’s ruling follows an earlier ruling by the Appeals Court rejecting a stay request to block enforcement of the law which took effect in July 2023.
Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Tennessee, and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP issued the following joint statement:
“This is a devastating result for transgender youth and their families in Tennessee and across the region. The disastrous impact of Tennessee’s law and all others like it has already been felt in thousands of homes and communities. Denying transgender youth equality before the law and needlessly withholding the necessary medical care their families and their doctors know is right for them has caused and will continue to cause serious harm. We are assessing our next steps and will take further action in defense of our clients and the constitutional rights of transgender people in Tennessee and across the country.”
In April 2023, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Tennessee, and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP filed a lawsuit to oppose the law on behalf of Samantha and Brian Williams of Nashville and their 15-year-old daughter, L.W., as well as two other anonymous families and Dr. Susan N. Lacy. The law prohibits medical providers from treating transgender youth with evidence-based gender-affirming medical treatment and requires youth currently receiving gender-affirming care to end that care by March 31, 2024.
Samantha and Brian Williams of Nashville, TN and their 15-year-old transgender daughter are challenging a Tennessee law banning gender-affirming care for transgender people under 18. Tennessee is home to over 3,000 transgender adolescents and the health care banned by this law is supported by the entire mainstream of the medical community.
District courts have unanimously blocked such bans in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. In August 2023, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Alabama’s ban to take effect while a legal challenge against it proceeds.
In June 2023, a federal court in Arkansas struck down that state’s ban on gender-affirming care in the first ruling on the merits of such a law, finding it violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Federal judge: Texas’ ban on certain drag shows is unconstitutional
Senate Bill 12 would have prohibited performers from dancing suggestively or wearing certain prosthetics in front of children
By Alejandro Serrano & William Melhado | AUSTIN, Texas – Texas cannot enforce a new law that restricts some public drag shows, a federal judge said Tuesday in declaring the legislation unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner found Senate Bill 12 “impermissibly infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech.” The struck-down law prohibited any performers from dancing suggestively or wearing certain prosthetics in front of children.
Hittner ruled that language discriminated based on viewpoint and is unconstitutionally overbroad and vague.
“The Court sees no way to read the provisions of SB 12 without concluding that a large amount of constitutionally-protected conduct can and will be wrapped up in the enforcement of SB 12,” the ruling reads. “It is not unreasonable to read SB 12 and conclude that activities such as cheerleading, dancing, live theater, and other common public occurrences could possibly become a civil or criminal violation.”
While SB 12 was originally billed as legislation that would prevent children from seeing drag shows, the final version did not directly reference people dressing as the opposite gender.
However, Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott made it clear that drag shows were the bill’s target — comments and history that Hittner wrote “the court cannot ignore.”
Last month, Hittner temporarily blocked SB 12 from taking effect on Sept. 1 after a two-day hearing for a lawsuit filed against the state by a drag queen and LGBTQ+ groups.
LGBTQ+ Texans, advocates, artists and business groups who sued the state, argued that the law discriminates against the content of performances and restricts equally protected free expression that is protected under the First and 14th Amendments.
“I believe the purpose of SB 12 is to push drag and queer artistry out of public spaces,” said Brigitte Bandit, an Austin-based drag performer, during August arguments. Bandit testified to the political messaging often included in her performances.
Other states have passed similar legislation restricting drag performance, which have also been struck down by federal courts.
In June, a federal judge in Tennessee, appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled a law there was unconstitutional in its effort to suppress First Amendment-protected speech.
The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished with permission.
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Two men charged with attacking Trans Puerto Rican woman plead guilty to federal hate crimes charges
Alexa Negrón Luciano attacked with paintball gun before her murder
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Two men on Monday pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes charges in connection with attacking a Transgender woman in Puerto Rico in 2020.
A Justice Department press release notes Jordany Laboy Garcia, Christian Rivera Otero and Anthony Lobos Ruiz “were out driving together” in Toa Baja, a municipality that is about 15 miles west of San Juan, early on Feb. 24, 2020, “when they saw” Alexa Negrón Luciano “standing under a tent near the side of the road.”
“The defendants recognized A.N.L. from social media posts concerning an incident that had occurred the day prior at a McDonald’s in Toa Baja,” reads the press release. “During that incident, A.N.L. had used a stall in the McDonald’s women’s restroom.”
“Upon recognizing A.N.L., Lobos-Ruiz used his iPhone to record a video of himself yelling, ‘la loca, la loca,’ (‘the crazy woman, the crazy woman’) as well as other disparaging and threatening comments to A.N.L. from inside the car,” it notes. “The defendants then decided to get a paintball gun to shoot A.N.L. and record another iPhone video. Within 30 minutes, they retrieved a paintball gun and returned to the location where they had last seen A.N.L., who was still at that location. Lobos-Ruiz then used his iPhone to record Laboy-Garcia shooting at A.N.L. multiple times with the paintball gun. After the assault ended, Lobos Ruiz shared the iPhone video recordings with others.”
Negrón was later killed in Toa Baja.
Laboy and Rivera pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a hate crime and obstruction of justice. El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, notes a federal judge sentenced Lobos to two years and nine months in prison after he pleaded guilty to hate crimes charges last November.
Laboy and Rivera are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 10.
They, along with Lobos, have not been charged with Negrón’s murder.
“To assault an innocent victim who posed no threat to the defendants for no other reason than her gender identity is reprehensible behavior that will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico in the Justice Department’s press release. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend the rights of all people, regardless of their gender identity, to be free from hate-fueled violence. Our community must stand together against acts of violence motivated by hate for any group of people — we remain steadfast in our commitment to prosecute civil rights violations and keep our communities safe and free from fear.”
Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for Puerto Rico Para Todes, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ+ rights group, on Tuesday welcomed the guilty pleas. Serrano also urged authorities to bring those who killed Negrón to justice.
“The time for total justice for Alexa is now,” said Serrano in a press release. “Her murder was a hate crime. Nobody doubts this. They falsely accused her, persecuted her, hunted her, insulted her with transphobic epithets, uploaded onto social media a video of them accosting her and they killed her. There are already three individuals who will serve time in federal prison for attacking her in a hate crime. That’s some justice, but not complete.”
Federal judge overturns Calif. high capacity magazines ban again
There are over 110 gun deaths daily & nearly 41,000 per year in the U.S. Guns are the leading cause of death of children & adolescents
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – California Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta reacted sharply to a ruling Friday by a federal judge blocking California’s ban on gun ammunition magazines with capacity of holding more than 10 rounds.
U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez, a President George W. Bush appointee on the bench of the Southern District of California wrote: “This case is about a California state law that makes it a crime to keep and bear common firearm magazines typically possessed for lawful purposes. Based on the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, this law is clearly unconstitutional.”
This is not the only time Benitez has ruled against the ban by the state on high capacity magazines. The Sacramento Bee noted that Benitez struck down California’s large-capacity ammunition ban originally in 2019 — when the case was still called Duncan v. Becerra, for then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra — only for the case to make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which kicked it back down for further proceedings.
In his opinion today Benitez wrote, “The fact that there are so many different numerical limits demonstrates the arbitrary nature of magazine capacity limits,” referring to similar bans in other states but with differing numbers of rounds limited.
He also noted several cases where he said ammunition capacity “was a matter of life and death for lawful gun owners.”
“There have been, and there will be, times where many more than 10 rounds are needed to stop attackers. […] Woe to the victim who runs out of ammunition before armed attackers do. The police will mark the ground with chalk, count the number of shell casings, and file the report.”
In a statement released by his office, Newsom took aim at the ruling:
“Unsurprisingly, Judge Benitez chose to issue this radical decision on the same day President Biden announced his new Office of Gun Violence Prevention. As a reminder, this is the same judge who used Gun Violence Awareness Day to strike down California’s assault weapons ban — comparing the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife.
“Judge Benitez is not even pretending anymore. This is politics, pure and simple.
“It’s time to wake up. Unless we enshrine a Right to Safety in the Constitution, we are at the mercy of ideologues like Judge Benitez. All of our gun safety laws that are proven to save lives are at risk. It doesn’t matter what laws we pass. It doesn’t matter what the voters decide. Concealed carry. Banning weapons of war. Reasonable waiting periods. Background checks. The idealogues are coming for all of them.
“This is exactly why I’ve called for a Constitutional amendment, and this is why I’ll keep fighting to defend our right to protect ourselves from gun violence.”
Today, a district court struck down CA’s large-capacity magazine ban.— Rob Bonta (@AGRobBonta) September 22, 2023
I am going to immediately appeal to correct this dangerous decision.
We vow to fight to keep Californians safe from weapon enhancements that cause mass casualties. https://t.co/2chQiVqb75
California Attorney General Rob Bonta immediately filed a notice of appeal to overturn the decision. The notice of appeal, filed just hours after Benitez issued his decision and temporary stay, is the first step toward seeking a further stay of the decision by the Ninth Circuit pending appeal.
“In the past half-century, large-capacity magazines have been used in about three-quarters of gun massacres with 10 or more deaths and in 100 percent of gun massacres with 20 or more deaths,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We will continue to fight for our authority to keep Californians safe from weapon enhancements designed to cause mass casualties. The Supreme Court was clear that Bruen did not create a regulatory straitjacket for states — and we believe that the district court got this wrong. We will move quickly to correct this incredibly dangerous mistake. We will not stop in our efforts to protect the safety of communities and Californians’ rights to go about their business without fear of becoming victims of gun violence, while at the same time respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.”
Gun violence remains a growing threat to public safety throughout the nation. Mass shootings are on the rise throughout the country and frequently feature large-capacity magazines, causing more deaths and injuries.
On average, there are over 110 gun deaths each day and nearly 41,000 each year in the U.S. Guns are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents, with U.S. children being more likely to die from gun violence than in any other comparable country.
In 2021, California was ranked as the #1 state for gun safety by Giffords Law Center, and the state saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the CDC, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation and the gun death rate for children is 58% lower than the national average.
Federal Judge says drag is ‘vulgar & lewd’ ‘sexualized conduct’
Anti-LGBTQ activists perpetuate lies that LGBTQ community targets children for sexual abuse by bringing them to drag performances
AMARILLO, Texas — Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.
A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.
As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”
“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.
Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.
Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk refuses to grant relief to Texas college students who may be punished for hosting a drag show.— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) September 22, 2023
His condemns drag as “vulgar and lewd” “sexualized conduct” that harms children and is likely unprotected by the First Amendment. https://t.co/UPeolMfGON
As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”
The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”
Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.
Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.
Federal judge blocks policy stopping outing of queer kids to parents
“Disclosing that a student is transgender without the student’s permission may violate California’s anti-discrimination law”
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California issued a ruling a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of a Escondido Union School District policy that bars teachers from discussing students’ gender identities with their parents.
The suit was brought by Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, two teachers at Escondido’s Rincon Middle School and both self-labeled Christians who alleged that the policy violates their religious beliefs.
The lawsuit, filed by the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, which is representing the two women, also names the California State Board of Education as a defendant.
The Thomas More Society is a conservative Roman Catholic public-interest law firm based in Chicago. The group has been engaged in many “culture war” issues, promoting its anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage beliefs through litigation.
U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, wrote in his ruling Thursday that a parent’s right to make decisions concerning the care, custody control, and medical care of their children “one of the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests that Americans enjoy.”
He noted: “If a school student expresses words or actions during class that may be the first visible sign that the child is dealing with gender incongruity or possibly gender dysphoria, conditions that may (or may not) progress into significant, adverse, life-long social-emotional health consequences, would it be lawful for the school to require teachers to hide the event from the parents?”
“The school’s policy is a trifecta of harm: it harms the child who needs parental guidance and possibly mental health intervention to determine if the incongruence is organic or whether it is the result of bullying, peer pressure, or a fleeting impulse,” he added.
The California Department of Education’s policies state:
“Revealing a student’s gender identity or expression to others may compromise the student’s safety. Thus, preserving a student’s privacy is of the utmost importance. The right of transgender students to keep their transgender status private is grounded in California’s anti-discrimination laws as well as federal and state laws.”
[…] “Disclosing that a student is transgender without the student’s permission may violate California’s anti-discrimination law by increasing the student’s vulnerability to harassment and may violate the student’s right to privacy.”
In a statement released Thursday evening, the Thomas More Society said:
“A federal judge has blocked California’s Escondido Union School District from forcing teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West to comply with a dangerous district policy that requires teachers to lie to parents about their own children’s gender identity. Thomas More Society attorneys today successfully won a preliminary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of EUSD’s offensive policy while the case is under court consideration.
“This is an untenable situation to put teachers in,” explained Paul Jonna, Thomas More Society Special Counsel and Partner.
A spokesperson for the Escondido Union School District, Michelle Breier, said, “Our leadership team is currently reviewing the decision.” A lawyer for the EUSD, which has around 16,000 students, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta has been pursuing legal and other means across the state to protect LGBTQ+ students as some school boards have sought to enact policies that would involuntarily out trans and queer students to their parents.
- Last week, Attorney General Bonta issued a statement condemning the Rocklin Unified School District Board’s decision to implement a mandatory gender identity disclosure policy targeting transgender and gender-nonconforming students.
- Earlier this month, he issued a statement commending the San Bernardino Superior Court’s ruling to issue a temporary restraining order against Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education’s (CVUSD) mandatory gender identity disclosure policy, immediately halting its enforcement.
- Last month, the Attorney General announced a lawsuit challenging the enforcement of CVUSD’s forced outing policy. Prior to filing a lawsuit, Bonta announced opening a civil rights investigation into the legality of CVUSD’s adoption of its mandatory gender identity disclosure policy. Prior to opening the investigation, the Attorney General in July sent a letter to Superintendent Norman Enfield and the Board of Education cautioning them of the dangers of adopting its forced outing policy, emphasizing the potential infringements on students’ privacy rights and educational opportunities.
- Recently, he issued a statement following Anderson Union High School District, and Temecula Valley and Murrieta Valley Unified School District Boards’ decisions to implement copy-cat mandatory gender identity disclosure policy targeting transgender and gender-nonconforming students.
Federal Judge denies motion to block adult trans healthcare
Judge Robert Hinkle issued a prior ruling on June 6 halting enforcement of the ban on healthcare for transgender minors
TALLAHASSEE – A U.S. District Court Judge on Tuesday denied a motion to temporarily block state restrictions on access to healthcare for transgender adults as the legal challenge continues.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle issued the order denying a motion to stop enforcement of the law as the full trial addressing both the restrictions on adult care and the state’s bans on care for transgender adolescents is scheduled for November.
Judge Hinkle issued a prior ruling on June 6 halting enforcement of the ban on healthcare for transgender minors and saying the ban is likely unconstitutional. That order remains in effect.
Hinkle’s ruling allows Florida parents challenging the ban to access necessary medical care for their transgender children while the legal challenge to the bans continues. The ruling blocks enforcement of Florida state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine rules banning established medical care for transgender adolescents as well as provisions in SB 254 that codify those rules into state law with added criminal and civil penalties.
The plaintiffs are represented by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Southern Legal Counsel, and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
In a statement to the Blade Tuesday, Shannon Minter the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights said:
“We know the denial of preliminary relief is devastating for many transgender people in Florida and will prevent many from being able to obtain hormone therapy or surgical care. We strongly urge anyone who is experiencing this to reach out to us so that we can track the impact of this harmful law in as much detail as possible. We are going all-out to win at trial, and to do that, we will need as much information from the community as we can obtain. We also strongly urge allies to reach out to transgender family members and friends and assist them in making arrangements to obtain their health care out of state, if necessary. Being denied medically needed care is one of the most stressful experiences a person can undergo and can result in severe, irreparable harm. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for the LGBTQ community in Florida.”
The group of attorneys for the plaintiffs issued the following statement:
“The state’s restrictions on well-established health care in SB 254 serve no purpose other than to intentionally prevent transgender people from receiving the care they need. This case is far from over and we will continue to take every legal step to challenge this law that takes away Floridian’s ability to make important decisions about their own lives and hands it over to the government instead.
We are preparing now for the trial in November at which we intend to lay out the full evidence of the state’s deliberate targeting of transgender Floridians through the harmful, arbitrary, and medically unjustified rules enacted in SB 254. We also encourage transgender Floridians and their families to seek out resources and take all the steps they can to get the essential medical care they need to live healthy and happy lives.
Florida’s SB 254 is part of a broader landscape of laws that are hurting transgender people in Florida and across the country. We will continue to challenge these dangerous bans that deliberately single out transgender people for discriminatory treatment and ignore well-established medical research until they are permanently overturned.
All of us who believe in fairness, science, and freedom must also keep fighting on every level to ensure people in Florida and across the country can live their lives free from draconian and unlawful attacks on their health and wellbeing.”
ICE has detained lesbian mother from El Salvador since 2017
Jessica Patricia Barahona-Martinez has won asylum twice
LAFAYETTE, La. — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana on Wednesday asked a federal court to order the release of a lesbian mother from El Salvador who has been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since June 2017
The writ for habeas corpus petition the ACLU filed in U.S. District for the Western District of Louisiana in Lafayette, La., on Jessica Patricia Barahona-Martinez’s behalf notes she and her three children entered the U.S. on May 31, 2016, “fleeing persecution she faced in El Salvador as a lesbian, and because the government had falsely identified her as a gang member.”
ICE released her “under conditions of supervision” and she “complied with these conditions for more than a year.”
ACLU Staff Attorney My Khanh Ngo on Thursday told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview that Barahona-Martinez, 40, was living with her sister and other family members in Woodbridge, Va., when ICE arrested and detained her on June 26, 2017.
“The sole reason for her arrest and detention was an Interpol Red Notice that was based on a Salvadoran warrant related to a charge of aggravated extortion for up to $30 — a charge for which she had initially been acquitted,” reads her petition.
She was at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail in Williamsburg, Va., before ICE transferred her to the Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green, Va., in October 2018. Barahona-Martinez arrived at the South Louisiana ICE Processing Center, a privately-run detention center the GEO Group, a Florida-based company, operates in Basile, La., in October 2020.
Barahona-Martinez’s petition notes an immigration judge has granted her asylum twice, most recently in November 2019, “on the grounds that she faces persecution on account of her sexual orientation.” The government appealed and the Board of Immigration Appeals, which the Justice Department oversees, ruled in their favor.
“In sustaining the government’s appeal of that grant, the Board of Immigration Appeals (‘BIA’ or ‘board’) did not address the merits of her asylum claim,” reads Barahona-Martinez’s petition. “Instead, in a two-to-one decision, over a strong dissent, it held that petitioner was ineligible for asylum under the ‘serious nonpolitical crime’ bar. The majority relied on the then-pending Interpol Red Notice and the Salvadoran warrant to find there were ‘serious reasons’ for believing she had committed such a crime. The dissenting Board member pointed out that petitioner had not only been acquitted of the alleged offense once, but had also submitted credible evidence to back up her claim of innocence.”
Her petition notes she appealed the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., “which granted her a stay of removal pending appeal, reflecting it assessment of the likelihood of her success on the merits of her appeal.” Her petition further indicates the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files, an independent body that oversees whether Interpol properly processes personal data, in April “permanently deleted the Interpol Red Notice that had been lodged against Ms. Barahona-Martinez” after her new lawyer made the request.
“Her pro bono counsel has since filed a motion to reopen proceedings before the BIA on this ground, as it is relevant to the board’s analysis of whether the serious nonpolitical crime bar applies to petitioner’s case and renders her ineligible for asylum,” reads the petition. “The government has agreed to hold her appeal in abeyance in light of the pending motion to reopen, yet ICE continues to detain Ms. Barahona-Martinez as her removal proceedings continue.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) in June 2020 told the Blade that detainees at the South Louisiana ICE Processing Center did not have access to toilet paper or soap for nine days. The Illinois Democrat also said staff were not required to wear masks and they did not implement social distancing policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Ngo said Barahona-Martinez is at increased risk for COVID-19 because she has asthma.
Ngo said a doctor gave Barahona-Martinez Tylenol when she showed COVID-19 symptoms, “and unsurprisingly she got extremely sick.” Ngo told the Blade that Barahona-Martinez a few weeks ago went to the emergency room because of “excruciating stomach pain.”
“It’s clear that she’s been deteriorating in detention, both physically and mentally,” said Ngo.
Ngo told the Blade that Barahona-Martinez’s asthma has become worse since arrived in Louisiana, and suffers panic attacks nearly every day. Ngo said the only way that Barahona-Martinez can “get back into a mental state that will keep her going” is by talking with her family.
“The food is rotten. She is afraid because she is gay in attention. She’s been harassed and threatened by both officers and other detainees because of her sexual orientation,” said Ngo. “She doesn’t feel safe there at all. She tries to keep to herself.”
Ngo said Barahona-Martinez works up to five hours a day in the facility’s kitchen. She earns around $3 a day.
Transgender woman murdered after US deported her to El Salvador
Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace in El Salvador.
A court in San Salvador, the country’s capital, in 2020 sentenced three police officers to 20 years in prison for the murder of Camila Díaz Córdova, a Transgender woman.
Díaz asked for asylum in the U.S. because of violence against LGBTQ+ and intersex Salvadorans. The U.S. deported her in 2017, and her friend reported her missing at the end of January 2019. Díaz died at a San Salvador hospital on Feb. 3, 2019.
Barahona-Martinez is from San Salvador.
President Nayib Bukele in March 2022 declared a state of emergency that allowed his government to crackdown on rampant gang violence.
The Associated Press in July reported Salvadoran authorities have detained upwards of 70,000 people. Human Rights Watch and other groups say arbitrary arrests, torture of detainees and other human rights abuses have taken place since the crackdown began.
“The situation in El Salvador is much worse,” Ngo told the Blade. “It was bad in 2016 when she [Barahona-Martinez] fled, but with the state of emergency that’s in place right now, there’s been a lot of reporting about how much worse conditions are in the prisons against people who are accused of being with the gangs. There’s a lot of arbitrary detentions and killings and abuses.”
Ngo said Salvadoran authorities tortured Barahona-Martinez after they arrested her. Ngo said her former criminal defense attorney told her that Barahona-Martinez would be “in danger if she were returned” to El Salvador.
“She said, as much as possible, please keep her in the United States,” said Ngo. “She was known as a lesbian back then. It’s clear coming back they would know that she had applied for asylum in the United States and there’s the potential retaliation for that. She’s really risking her life if she’s sent back there.”
Barahona-Martinez’s petition names Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and South Louisiana ICE Processing Center Warden Eleazar Garcia are among those named as defendants.
ICE and the Department of Homeland Security have not responded to the Blade’s request for comment.
Barahona-Martinez, for her part, says she simply wants to be reunited with her children.
“I always think back on that day in 2017 when I was arrested by ICE and taken away from my children. They were so young at that time. I never thought that I would still be in detention six years later. I have missed so many of their birthdays, graduations, and other big life events,” she said in a statement to the ACLU. “Being separated from my children for this long has been so difficult, but I am fighting for a future here with them. All I want is the chance to show a judge why we should be reunited.”
Federal judge reverses, Georgia trans healthcare ban can resume
The judge rejected Georgia’s request the preliminary injunction be quashed permanently she stayed it pending the final outcome in Alabama case
ATLANTA – Two weeks after issuing a ruling that blocked a gender-affirming care ban for transgender minors in Georgia from taking effect, United States District Court Judge Sarah E. Geraghty lifted her preliminary injunction and will allow the ban to resume.
The Columbus, Georgia-based newspaper, the Ledger-Enquirer reported Wednesday Geraghty changed course on Tuesday, citing a decision by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the day after her earlier ruling. The appellate court reversed an injunction that had been imposed in the Alabama case.
U.S. District Judge Liles Burke of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama preliminarily enjoined the state from enforcing the law criminalizing medical care for transgender minors in Alabama in the Spring of 2022.
Judge Liles Burke’s opinion held that Alabama’s law likely violated the federal Equal Protection Clause and parents’ fundamental right to make medical decisions for their children. Thus far, every single federal district court to hear a similar challenge has ruled similarly, holding that these state bans discriminate against transgender minors and burden their parents’ constitutionally protected rights.
Judge Burke however ruled that all other provisions of the Act remain in effect, specifically: (1) the provision that bans sex-altering surgeries on minors; (2) the provision prohibiting school officials from keeping certain gender-identity information of children secret from their parents; and (3) the provision that prohibits school officials from encouraging or compelling children to keep certain gender-identity information secret from their parents.
The 11th Circuit panel disagreed, holding that Alabama’s law does not discriminate based on sex or transgender status and is therefore subject only to the lowest level of constitutional review.
According to the Ledger-Enquirer, Judge Geraghty wrote in Tuesday’s decision:
“It is undisputed that this court’s preliminary injunction order rests on legal grounds that have been squarely rejected by the panel in [Alabama]. This court’s injunction cannot stand on the bases articulated in the order.”
However, the judge rejected Georgia’s request that the preliminary injunction be quashed permanently. Instead, she stayed the injunction pending the final outcome of the Alabama case.
Federal judge blocks Texas porn law, says violates 1st Amendment
If website operators fail to adhere to the requirements- Texas AG would be able to sue non-complaint adult websites for $3 million per year
AUSTIN, Texas – U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction Thursday that blocked a Texas law from taking effect Friday that would have required adult websites to use “reasonable age verification methods”, such as government ID, to ensure users who are accessing explicit content are aged 18 or older.
The law, Texas House Bill 1181, which Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed on June 12, 2023, also required that websites display in 14-point font or larger the following warning: “Pornography is potentially biologically addictive, is proven to harm human brain development, desensitizes brain reward circuits, increases conditioned responses, and weakens brain function.” There were provisions in the law that should the website operators fail to adhere to the requirements, Texas attorney general would be able to sue non-complaint adult websites for $3 million per year.
In his ruling, Judge Ezra noted that:
- The law violates First Amendment rights of creators and consumers
- The law has a chilling effect on legally-protected speech
- Parental filters are a less restrictive and more effective method of protecting minors
- The state does not have the right to compel speech in the form of health warnings
“The state has a legitimate goal in protecting children from sexually explicit material online,” Ezra wrote and added: “But that goal, however crucial, does not negate this Court’s burden to ensure that the laws passed in its pursuit comport with established First Amendment doctrine.”
“This is a huge and important victory against the rising tide of censorship online,” says Alison Boden, Executive Director of Free Speech Coalition. “From the beginning, we have argued that the Texas law, and those like it, are both dangerous and unconstitutional. We’re pleased that the Court agreed with our view that HB1181’s true purpose is not to protect young people, but to prevent Texans from enjoying First Amendment protected expression. The state’s defense of the law was not based in science or technology, but ideology and politics.”
The Free Speech Coalition has argued that these new and expensive verification technologies present an unreasonable burden for both sites and users, stressing that members of the adult industry already register with parental filters and other software to help parents easily block adult content.
“The ruling rebuffs nearly every argument made by state legislatures, and not only in Texas,” says Boden. “While Texas presented the most straightforward path to securing a ruling like this, the issues are the same whether in Utah, Louisiana or Virginia. Anyone who attempts to bring a case in those jurisdictions faces little hope of success. We are thrilled with the decision and thank our co-plaintiffs for joining this battle and defending the industry. We are confident that the law will ultimately be struck down permanently.”
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