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Writer’s Guild of America & studios have reached a tentative deal

“We are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing. Instead, if you are able, we encourage you to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines this week”

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WGA/Los Angeles Blade graphic

HOLLYWOOD – The end may be in sight for the strike by The Writers Guild of America that has lasted more than 140 days and put thousands of people out of work. On Sunday, the WGA Negotiating Committee said that the union and the major Hollywood studios have reached a tentative deal for a new contract, although the deal must still be ratified by the union’s 11,500 members.

In a statement released by the WGA Sunday evening the WGA Negotiating Committee leadership wrote:

“We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language. 

What we have won in this contract—most particularly, everything we have gained since May 2nd—is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncertainty of the past 146 days. It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal. […]

What remains now is for our staff to make sure everything we have agreed to is codified in final contract language. And though we are eager to share the details of what has been achieved with you, we cannot do that until the last “i” is dotted. To do so would complicate our ability to finish the job. So, as you have been patient with us before, we ask you to be patient again—one last time. 

Once the Memorandum of Agreement with the AMPTP is complete, the Negotiating Committee will vote on whether to recommend the agreement and send it on to the WGAW Board and WGAE Council for approval. The Board and Council will then vote on whether to authorize a contract ratification vote by the membership. 

If that authorization is approved, the Board and Council would also vote on whether to lift the restraining order and end the strike at a certain date and time (to be determined) pending ratification. This would allow writers to return to work during the ratification vote, but would not affect the membership’s right to make a final determination on contract approval. 

Immediately after those leadership votes, which are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday if the language is settled, we will provide a comprehensive summary of the deal points and the Memorandum of Agreement. We will also convene meetings where members will have the opportunity to learn more about and assess the deal before voting on ratification. 

To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then. But we are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing. Instead, if you are able, we encourage you to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines this week.”

 

Governor Gavin Newsom issued the following statement in response to the tentative agreement reached by the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers:

“California’s entertainment industry would not be what it is today without our world class writers. For over 100 days, 11,000 writers went on strike over existential threats to their careers and livelihoods — expressing real concerns over the stress and anxiety workers are feeling. I am grateful that the two sides have come together to reach an agreement that benefits all parties involved, and can put a major piece of California’s economy back to work.”

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Congress

House ethics complaint filed over GOP staffer’s anti-trans email

“You’re disgusting and should be ashamed of yourself. Don’t email me or anyone from my office ever again!” 

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Matthew Donnellan, chief of staff to Republican U.S. Rep. Carol Miller (W.Va.), in 2012. (Screenshot/YouTube San Diego City Beat)

WASHINGTON — A federal government employee has filed a complaint to the U.S. House Ethics Committee over an email they received from Matthew Donnellan, chief of staff to Republican U.S. Rep. Carol Miller (W.Va.), which contained combative and anti-trans language. 

The Washington Blade has seen the correspondence between the parties, in which the confrontation was apparently kicked off when the congresswoman’s top aide received an email that included the sender’s preferred pronouns in the signature box, triggering his reply.

Donnellan wrote, “As a father, it is disgusting that anyone would ever tell my son or daughter that something is wrong with them and they should take sterilizing hormones or have surgery to cut off their genitals.”  

“The fact that you support that ideology by putting pronouns in your signature is awful,” he said, adding, “You’re disgusting and should be ashamed of yourself. Don’t email me or anyone from my office ever again.” 

A senior government official told the Blade in a written statement that the email was not out of character for Donnellan:

 “I’ve heard from two colleagues several months apart about two separate transphobic emails, using identical language, from Matthew. Unfortunately these emails—though inconsistent with the typical collegiality one would expect from a Chief of Staff on the Hill—is likely a reflection of both increased partisanship on the Hill and a rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from the right.

“Not only is this virtual, hate-filled temper tantrum unbecoming of a Chief of Staff, inappropriate, and unprofessional, it also hurts his boss’s constituents. DC is built on congressional staff, members of Congress, and executive officials being able to put aside their differences to find unlikely areas of commonality where they can work together. 

“Even some of the most progressive members, like [U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Jerry Nadler (N.Y.)] have partnered with some of the most conservative members, like [U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio)], respectively, when they can find common ground. 

“Matthew’s refusal to work with an agency department or office just because a staffer has pronouns in their signature isn’t just hateful—it means he’s cutting off opportunities to deliver results for his boss’s constituents, especially in a divided Washington.”

Donnellan told the Blade by email that his response to the government employee is “a reply I send to anyone who uses pronouns or pushes gender ideology in any way.” 

“No one is ‘born in the wrong body’ and it’s horrific to tell anyone that they need genital mutilation surgery or sterilizing drugs,” he said. “People who push gender ideology, actively or passively, are awful and should be confronted every single time.”

“If the blunt reality of the terrible things that they are pushing is offensive to them then they should strongly reconsider what it this they believe and the harm that they are doing rather than simply trying to conform to liberal luxury beliefs,” Donnellan said. 

Addressing the complaint filed against him, Donnellan said, “I haven’t heard anything from Ethics and doubt that I will, they generally don’t waste their time with sheltered progressives being forced into the real world for the first time.”

A House Ethics Committee spokesperson declined to comment when asked if they could confirm receipt of the complaint.

Asked whether Miller might object to the way that she and her Congressional office are represented with these confrontational email exchanges, Donnellan said his boss’s “motto is ‘cut the bull’, and gender ideology is some of the biggest bull there is.”   

On Friday, the congresswoman’s son Chris Miller placed third in the Republican primary contest for West Virginia’s gubernatorial race, where the state’s Attorney General Patrick Morrissey secured his party’s nomination in a decisive victory with 33 percent of the vote. 

Leading up to the election, trans issues had emerged as a dominant focal point as the GOP candidates squared off against each other, with Miller’s campaign attacking Morrissey with allegations that he had profited from “the trans agenda” and backed a drug company that “helps turn boys into girls” when working as a healthcare lobbyist in Washington.  

In one ad that was paid for by a super PAC chaired by his father, Miller said the pronouns used by Morrissey are “money-grubbing liberal,” an interesting charge to level at the conservative Republican attorney general of West Virginia (even notwithstanding the fact that those three words are not pronouns but, rather, nouns and verbs.)

Declaring preferred pronouns in workplace email signatures has become commonplace in both the public and private sector, whether for purposes of sending an affirming message to transgender and gender expansive employees and officers or to mitigate the chances that either they or their cisgender counterparts might be unintentionally misgendered. 

The Biden-Harris administration has pushed for agencies to adopt the practice along with other measures and policies to advance the rights and wellbeing of trans and gender expansive employees across the federal government. 

In a 2021 announcement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s issuance of updated guidance on the agency’s email signature block, Michael Watts, director of civil rights for the U.S. Forrest Service, noted that “There are plenty of gender-neutral names out there, or names from other cultures that might not give you enough information to know their gender.” 

While the inclusion of pronouns was not made mandatory at USDA, he urged employees to “strongly consider taking this small but important step toward supporting inclusiveness in the workplace.” 

“The use of pronouns in our email signatures and getting into the habit of including pronouns in our introductions doesn’t really cost us anything,” Watts added, arguing that the move constitutes “a meaningful exchange to others and makes it easier for people to be respectful in how they address each other.”

“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. 

Official guidance published by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which is responsible for administering policies across the U.S. federal civil service, stipulates that agencies should “take steps to provide the option for employees to include the pronouns they use in employee systems and profiles, including email signature blocks, employee directories and employee profiles.”

Some have gone further, such as by adding pronouns to email signatures for all employees, as the U.S. Department of State did in 2023, while others like USDA have established, as official policy, that “employees are encouraged to include their pronouns in the first line of their email signature block (e.g. he/him/his). Signature blocks are a simple and effective way for individuals to communicate their identified pronouns to colleagues, stakeholders, and customers.”

“For example,” the USDA writes, “adding pronouns to signature blocks also has the benefit of indicating to the recipient that you will respect their gender identity and choice of pronouns.”

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Congress

Bill to support LGBTQ+ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation & should be able to access services and care”

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U.S. Capitol Building (Photo Credit: Washington Blade/Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ+ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ+ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ+ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Rep. Bonamici, Chair of the Equality Caucus’ LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Rep. Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQI+ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

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Federal Government

CDC issues warning on new “deadlier strain” of Mpox

As LGBTQ+ Pride month and events happen globally, there is more need for greater caution and people to take steps at prevention

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JYNNEOS Mpox vaccine. (Photo Credit: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-CDC)

ATLANTA, Ga. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a health advisory regarding a deadlier strain of the Mpox virus outbreak which is currently impacting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

According to the CDC, since January of 2023, DRC has reported more than 19,000 suspect mpox cases and more than 900 deaths. The CDC stated that the overall risk to the United States posed by the clade I mpox outbreak is low.

The risk to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) who have more than one sexual partner and people who have sex with MSM, regardless of gender, is assessed as low to moderate the agency stated.

While no cases of that subtype have been identified outside sub-Saharan Africa so far, the World Health Organization said earlier this week that the escalating epidemic in Congo nevertheless poses a global threat, just as infections in Nigeria set off the 2022 outbreak according to a WHO spokesperson.

The spokesperson also noted that as LGBTQ+ Pride month and events happen globally, there is more need for greater caution and people to take steps at prevention including being vaccinated.

The CDC advises that while there are no changes to the overall risk assessment, people in the United States who have already had Mpox or are fully vaccinated should be protected against the type of Mpox spreading in DRC. Casual contact, such as might occur during travel, is not likely to cause the disease to spread. The best protection against Mpox is two doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine.

The CDC also noted the risk might change as more information becomes available, or if cases appear outside DRC or other African countries where clade I exists naturally.

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U.S. State Department

State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ+ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week

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State Department (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday issued a worldwide travel advisory that warns of potential violence against LGBTQ+ people and LGBTQ+-specific events.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” reads the advisory. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”  

The advisory further urges U.S. citizens to:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Investigations earlier this week issued a similar advisory.

The advisory notes June 12 will mark eight years since the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

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The White House

White House acknowledges IDAHOBiT, reiterates support for global LGBTQ+ rights

WHO on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as a mental illness

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The White House is lit in rainbow colors following the Respect for Marriage Act signing ceremony on Dec. 13, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — The Biden-Harris administration on Friday used the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia to reiterate its support of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights around the world.

“On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, my administration stands in support and solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people around the world as they seek to live full lives, free from violence and discrimination,” said President Joe Biden in a statement. “This is a matter of human rights, plain and simple.” 

“The United States applauds those individuals and groups worldwide working to defend the rights of LGBTQI+ people wherever they are under threat,” he added. “We are grateful for the contributions that LGBTQI+ people make every day across our nation.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Biden.

“On this day, we reflect upon the violence and discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons worldwide suffer and re-commit ourselves to opposing these acts,” said Blinken in his own statement. “This year, like every year, we state unequivocally: LGBTQI+ persons deserve recognition of their universal human rights and human dignity.” 

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder on May 17, 1990.

Blinken in his statement notes LGBTQ+ and intersex people around the world “continue to face insidious forms of stigma and discrimination.”

Dominica last month became the latest country to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

“Even as more countries make meaningful advancements towards full equality; LGBTQI+ persons continue to be sentenced to death for daring to live their sexual orientation or gender identity, subjected to coercive conversion ‘therapies’ and ‘normalization’ surgeries, discriminated against while receiving health services, restricted from exercising fundamental freedoms, and denied the dignity of same-sex partnership and fulfillment of family,” said Blinken. 

“As we reflect upon the injustices that LGBTQI+ persons and their allies endure, we must not forget that today is fundamentally a day of action,” he added. “On this day and every day, the United States stands with LGBTQI+ persons around the world. We will continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTQI+ persons not just because we have a moral imperative to do so, but because it helps to strengthen democracy, bolster national security, and promote global health and economic development.”

The Tonga Leitis Association is among the myriad LGBTQ+ and intersex rights groups around the world that acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

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Mississippi

ACLU files complaint over Title IX violations in Mississippi school

Allegations include forcing these students to abide by a “biological sex” dress code, enduring repeated and severe harassment and bullying

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Harrison County School District Mississippi School Board Meeting May 6, 2024. (Photo Credit: Harrison County School District MS/Facebook)

By Erin Reed | GULFPORT, Miss. – The ACLU has filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights over the consistent, deliberate, and cruel mistreatment of transgender and gender-nonconforming students in the Harrison County, Mississippi School District.

Allegations include forcing these students to abide by a “biological sex” dress code, enduring repeated and severe harassment and bullying, and removing transgender and gender-nonconforming students from school-related functions in violation of Title IX. Previously, the school made national news for forcing a transgender girl, as well as a cisgender gender-nonconforming girl, to miss graduation for wearing a dress and pants, respectively.

The complaint was primarily brought by A.H., a transgender 16-year-old girl who attends Harrison Central High School. After being told by her band teacher that she could wear a black dress to a regional band concert evaluation, she received compliments from her fellow bandmates.

However, when HCHS Principal Kelly Fuller saw her in the hallway, she balked, saying, “You know you can’t wear that right? Boys can’t wear skirts or dresses,” and then added, “you can’t represent our school dressed like that.” She then forced her mother to bring “boys clothes” or threatened to send her to in-school reassignment.

Civil rights complaint detailing A.H. being threatened after wearing a dress.

The incident that appears to have triggered the complaint was not the only time A.H. has suffered harassment and abuse over her gender identity in the school district. Previously, when she entered the girls’ restroom in eighth grade, she was screamed at by a teacher to the point of tears. She was then forced to use the teacher’s restroom. In ninth grade, a hall monitor confronted her on her way to the bathroom, demeaned her, and asked, “What are you?”

She also alleges severe bullying and harassment from other students with no resolution from the school. She even received a suspension after being targeted by bullying in the classroom. One student allegedly repeatedly called her a “fa***t” and a “tr***y” in the presence of a teacher while class was in session. No action was taken until A.H. stood up for herself and told the student to stop harassing her loudly in the classroom. As a result, A.H. was written up and suspended for two days.

Transgender student suspended after telling a student to stop harassing her.

A.H.’s story is not unique in the district: the district has recently made national news after excluding a transgender girl, as well as a cisgender gender-nonconforming girl, from their own graduation due to their attire. The transgender girl, identified as L.B., was denied entry to her own graduation for wearing a dress and adhering to the girls’ dress code. Another cisgender student, identified as Jai, wore black pants to her graduation in accordance with her usual gender expression and was barred from attending. She was even told that she could remove her pants under her graduation gown, but if her pants were on under her gown, she would not be allowed to walk.

The following summer, the school released a “biological sex” dress code that mandates students “follow the dress attire consistent with their biological sex.” Boys are required to “wear shorts or pants, and shirts and footwear” and are banned from wearing items commonly associated with girls, such as skirts, dresses, and blouses. Girls must “wear dresses or skirts or shorts or pants, and shirts or blouses and footwear.” The policy appears to violate Title IX, as 34 CFR 106.31(b)(4) states that students cannot be subjected to different rules of behavior, sanctions, or treatment based on their sex. Numerous courts have ruled that sex-based dress codes violate Title IX, including the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals, which stated, “Based on the plain language and structure of the statute, we conclude that Title IX unambiguously encompasses sex-based dress codes.”

The ACLU is seeking five remedies for A.H. and students in the Harrison County School District.

  • They seek an order for the district to adopt gender-neutral dress code policies.
  • They demand that the school stop targeting, surveilling, and disciplining students based on sex.
  • The school should adopt policies and procedures for promptly and equitably responding to reports of discrimination.
  • The school should be made to provide mandatory training for District employees about non-discrimination and compliance with federal anti-discrimination lawss
  • The school should issue a written apology to A.H. for discriminatory conduct.

The complaint will be a significant test of how the Biden administration handles a major Title IX complaint concerning gender identity and expression, following recent updates to Title IX guidance.

Additionally, the complaint emerges in the wake of the death of transgender teenager Nex Benedict in Oklahoma, where similar longstanding allegations of harassment and abuse led to an ongoing formal investigation into the school district.

More than 20 GOP-led states are suing the Biden administration over new Title IX rules, arguing that they have a right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ students despite Title IX protections. It remains uncertain whether these lawsuits will impact prohibited dress codes, which have been successfully challenged under Title IX even before the new rules.

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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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Federal Government

U.S. Justice Dept. takes major step toward reclassifying marijuana

“Far too many lives have been upended because of a failed approach to marijuana and I’m committed to righting those wrongs”

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President Joe Biden discusses his administration's move toward reforming drug policy on cannabis (Screen capture: X)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday took a major step toward loosening the federal government’s regulation of marijuana by issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which outlines a proposal to reclassify it under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

The move comes pursuant to the Biden-Harris administration’s April 30 announcement of plans to recategorize cannabis as a Schedule III substance, which could substantially lessen the criminal penalties for those convicted of using, possessing, selling, distributing, or cultivating the drug.

A 60-day public comment period will begin after the NPRM is published on the Federal Register, along with a concurrent review of the proposed regulatory reforms by an administrative law judge assigned by the DEA.

Since the CSA was passed in 1971, cannabis has been listed under Schedule I, the category reserved for drugs that are considered to be the most dangerous and lacking any currently accepted medical use in the U.S.

In a press release, a senior administration official noted that “marijuana is currently classified higher than fentanyl and meth – the drugs driving our Nation’s overdose epidemic.”

President Joe Biden posted a video on X in which he said the proposal to house cannabis under the Schedule III regulatory regime constitutes “an important move towards reversing longstanding inequities.”

“Today’s announcement builds on the work we’ve already done to pardon a record number of federal offenses for simple possession of marijuana,” the president said. “It adds to the action we’ve taken to lift barriers to housing, employment, small business loans, and more for tens of thousands of Americans.”

“Look folks no one should be in jail for merely using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said. “Period.”

The president added, “Far too many lives have been upended because of a failed approach to marijuana and I’m committed to righting those wrongs. You have my word on it.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal court: Maryland parents cannot opt out of LGBTQ lessons

The lawsuit challenges Montgomery County Public Schools’ policy that “mandates the inclusion of literature with LGBTQ+ characters”

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Lewis F. Powell Jr. Courthouse, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

RICHMOND, Va. – A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled a group of Montgomery County parents cannot “opt out” their children from classes in which lessons or books on LGBTQ-related topics are taught.

The parents filed their lawsuit in May 2023.

An American Civil Liberties Union press release notes the lawsuit challenges Montgomery County Public Schools’ policy that “mandates the inclusion of literature with LGBTQ+ characters as part of the ELA (English and Language Arts) curriculum, aiming to promote understanding and acceptance among students.” 

“Although the district originally allowed parents to opt their children out of some ELA lessons, it rescinded the opt-out policy because the number of requests grew too difficult to manage, student absenteeism soared, and it created a stigmatizing environment for students who are LGBTQ or have LGBTQ family members, undermining the purpose of the inclusivity requirement,” said the ACLU.

U.S. District Judge Deborah L. Boardman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled against the parents. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., upheld the decision.

“We’re talking about books like ‘Pride Puppy,’ which is light-hearted and affirming,” said ACLU of Maryland Legal Director Deborah Jeon in a press release. “During a time of intensifying calls to ban books and limit access to information about LGBTQ+ people and identities, this ruling in support of inclusion in education matters.”

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Louisiana

Bills targeting Louisiana’s LGBTQ+ youth close to final approval

Horton’s bill could potentially hinder student chapters of the Gay-Straight Alliance and other LGBTQ+ student organizations

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House Bill 122 by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haugton, (speaking) which limits discussion of gender and sexuality in public K-12 schools, was also approved. 

By Piper Hutchinson | BATON ROUGUE, La. – Two anti-LGBTQ+ bills advanced Wednesday from the Louisiana Senate Committee on Education, putting them one step away from final legislative approval. 

The committee advanced House Bill 121 by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, which prohibits the use of transgender and nonbinary youth’s chosen names and pronouns in public K-12 schools without parental permission. 

House Bill 122 by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haugton, which limits discussion of gender and sexuality in public K-12 schools, was also approved. 

Both bills were advanced without objection. Sen. Katrina Jackson-Andrews, D-Monroe, was the only Democrat present. 

The Legislature approved both bills last year. Then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed them, and Republicans were unable to overturn his action. Lance Maxwell, a legislative liaison for Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, attended the committee meeting in support of Crews’ and Horton’s bills. 

Wednesday’s emotional hearing marked the latest step for an advancing culture-war agenda, once held back under a Democratic governor. With the support of an ultra-conservative in the governor’s mansion, a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ proposals are rapidly advancing toward enactment. 

“I don’t know how y’all continue to hear things from us about our pain and our trauma, and just still pass bills,” Peyton Rose Michelle, executive director of Louisiana Trans Advocates, said. “I don’t know how y’all sit through these things, and you don’t break down.” 

Crews’ bill would require teachers and other school personnel to use a student’s given name and pronouns that align with their birth sex unless a student has permission from their parents to use their chosen name. The proposal has been promoted as a “parental rights” bill. 

“This bill is a grave violation of parental rights by prioritizing the moral objections of others over the fundamental rights of transgender students to be recognized by their chosen names, pronouns and identities,” SarahJane Guidry, executive director of LGBTQ+ rights group Forum For Equality said. “This legislation sets a dangerous and discriminatory precedent.” 

“This relentless focus on legislating the lives of a small, vulnerable population diverts precious time, money and energy away from addressing real educational issues,” Guidry added. 

Under Crews’ bill, teachers would be allowed to disregard a parent’s choice to respect their transgender or nonbinary child’s name and pronouns if they have religious opposition to doing so.

In an interview, Crews said that while his bill supports parental rights, parents should not be able to eclipse somebody else’s religious rights. 

His bill does not have an exception for those who have a religious opposition to deadnaming or misgendering students. Deadnaming is when someone uses a transgender or nonbinary person’s birth name or “dead name” against their wishes. Misgendering occurs when someone refers to an individual as a gender that they do not identify. 

While the bill would allow parents to request a classroom change if a teacher disregards their permission for their transgender or nonbinary child to use their name or pronouns, it does not require this change to take place. Advocates have argued such classroom changes may not be feasible in smaller schools. 

Jacob Newsom, an Ascension Parish public school teacher, said disregarding students’ names and pronouns would make them uncomfortable, which he believes would hamper the learning environment.

“How am I going to reach this child? How am I going to effectively teach this child?” Newsom said. 

“There is an undeniable correlation between feeling safe and secure and being able to learn,” Megan Sheehan-Dean, a child learning expert, later added. 

At the core of Crews’ proposal is his belief that parents have the right to know whether their children are transgender. Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community say the bill would force transgender youth to out themselves to their parents or else be deadnamed and misgendered at school. They have raised concerns about what happens when parents find out — and don’t approve.

A survey from the Trevor Project found 38% of transgender women, 39% of transgender men and 35% of nonbinary youth have experienced homelessness as a result of parental rejection. 

Horton’s bill is similar to a Florida law referred to by critics as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Her proposal is much broader and would apply to K-12 grades, whereas Florida’s law applies only to early grade students. 

Florida recently settled a lawsuit over the law filed by civil rights activists. As part of the agreement, students and teachers are permitted to discuss gender and sexuality as long as it is not part of classroom instruction. 

Horton said she didn’t believe teachers should discuss their “lifestyle choices” with students. 

“Having sexualized personal discussions between educators and students in our classrooms are not appropriate, and they can rob our children of their innocence while imposing suggested influence over their developing young minds,” Horton said. 

Horton’s bill would not just apply to classroom instruction. It also prohibits “covering the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity” during any extracurricular and athletics events, meaning it could potentially hinder student chapters of the Gay-Straight Alliance and other LGBTQ+ student organizations. 

When asked by committee Chair Sen. Rick Edmonds, R-Central, Horton agreed that heterosexuality falls under “sexual orientation” and is also not appropriate for classroom discussion. 

The bills will next be discussed in the Senate.

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Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor in chief for summer 2022.

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

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence.

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Tennessee

Federal judge refuses to dismiss trans kid’s suit against Tennessee

The case involves a 9-year-old trans child who was male at birth but identifies as female & Williamson County Schools

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Los Angeles Blade file photo

By Sam Stockard  | NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A challenge of Tennessee’s law dealing with the use of public school restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students remains alive after a federal judge declined to dismiss all claims against the state education department and Williamson County Schools.

U.S. District Court Judge William Campbell denied the state’s request in to dismiss the child’s claim of a violation of rights under the Equal Protection Clause. 

The judge, however, granted a request to dismiss the child’s claim that her Title IX rights were violated. The ruling notes that because the federal law allows schools to maintain separate restrooms for “the different sexes,” requiring the child to use the restroom based on her biological sex doesn’t violate Title IX.

The judge also dismissed the child’s request to correct all records to reflect her female gender.

Tennessee lawmakers have taken steps in recent years to prevent transgender athletes from playing sports based on their sexual identity. The Legislature enacted restrictions in 2023 on transgender medical treatment and this year adopted a bill preventing adults other than parents and guardians from taking children outside the state for transgender care.

The case against the Tennessee Department of Education and Williamson County Schools involves a 9-year-old transgender child who was male at birth but identifies as female, according to court filings. The child uses “she/her” pronouns and lives socially as a girl by wearing her hair long and dressing in a manner usually associated with girls. 

The complaint was brought by a friend and the child’s parents when the child was 8, claiming the Williamson County elementary school she attends requires her to use a single-occupancy restroom, not the multi-use girls’ restroom.

The child claims the school’s “insistence” that she use a separate restroom “isolates her and distinguishes her from her classmates and exacerbates the stress and anxiety she experiences while trying to fit in and avoid being stigmatized on the basis of her sex and gender identity.” The child also claims the restroom designated for her has problems with distance from her class, safety and cleanliness.

The Tennessee Legislature passed the Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act in May 2021, requiring public schools to provide a “reasonable accommodation” to students, teachers and employees who want “greater privacy when using a multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility designated for [their] sex and located within a public school building.” 

“Reasonable accommodations” include single-occupancy restrooms or changing facilities or use of an employee restroom or changing facility.

The “reasonable accommodations” don’t include restrooms or changing areas designated for use by members of the opposite sex while the opposite sex is present or could be present. They also don’t require remodeling or structurally changing a school facility, or limiting access to a restroom or changing room designated for use by members of the opposite sex if that creates a violation or state or local building codes.

The new state law defines sex as “a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.” It also provides students, parents, guardians, teachers and employees the right to sue public school systems for “psychological, emotional, and physical harm,” including monetary damages, legal fees and costs if they “encounter a member of the opposite sex in a multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility located in a public school building … [and] the public school intentionally allowed a member of the opposite sex [defined as sex at birth] to enter the multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility while other persons were present.”

Campbell denied the child’s request for an injunction against the school district to stop it from enforcing the state law.

Yet the judge opted not to dismiss the child’s claims under the Equal Protection Clause, which prohibits a state from “denying to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” and prevents government discrimination that “either burdens a fundamental right, targets a suspect class or intentionally treats one differently than others similarly situated without any rational basis for the difference.”

The judge’s ruling points out that classifications by the government based on sex are recognized as “a quasi-suspect classification subject to intermediate scrutiny.”

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Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state’s best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial and Best Single Feature from the Tennessee Press Association.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Tennessee Lookout and is republished with permission.

Now more than ever, tough and fair journalism is important. The Tennessee Lookout is your watchdog, telling the stories of politics and policy that affect the people of the Volunteer State.

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

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