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Immigration rally includes LGBT voices

Bi-national couples seek inclusion in reform

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(DC Agenda video by Steve Fox)

An estimated 200,000 demonstrators descended on the National Mall on Sunday to urge passage of comprehensive immigration reform, including several hundred protesters advocating for LGBT inclusion in the legislation.

As they danced to salsa music and listened to speeches, participants at the rally and the march that followed called on President Obama and Congress to keep their promise to enact reform legislation before the year’s end.

Latino groups — waiving signs reading “Reform not Raids” and “Obama Cumple tu Promesa” — comprised the majority of those participating in the demonstration, although contingents of Asian and Caribbean groups also took part.

The LGBT contingent, which included about 300 people, advocated for their inclusion as part of the broader immigration movement as well as for incorporating the Uniting American Families Act in reform. The bill would enable LGBT Americans to sponsor same-sex partners who are foreign nationals for residency.

Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, said the showing was “a nice visible contingent” that demonstrated “how much the LGBT community is here for comprehensive immigration reform that includes all families.”

“First and foremost, we hope to really be a part of the movement that’s pushing for [comprehensive immigration reform] to get going,” she said. “Nobody knows better than [LGBT] families how badly we need immigration reform in this country.”

Advocates are pushing Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who are developing bi-partisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation, to include UAFA in the version of the bill they introduce in the U.S. Senate.

As they marched among other groups, members of Immigration Equality’s contingent sported red shirts with “LGBT families for immigration reform” on the back as they chanted, “Two, four, six, eight! Let our families immigrate!” and “We’re here! We’re queer! You are not alone!”

A number of demonstrators had a personal stake in the passage of legislation to protect bi-national same-sex couples. Eric Stanley, a D.C. resident, and Tim Lin, his partner of nearly four years from Taiwan, said they want UAFA passed so they can remain together in the United States.

Under current law, they said it would take Lin seven to 10 years for him to receive a green card to remain in the country.

“If I could marry him and give a green card, I would,” Stanley said. “It feels like Kansas controls what the rest of country has to do in this situation.”

Although they’re pushing hard for LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, Lin said he isn’t optimistic that reform will pass this year.

“I’m just hoping that with all these people, they might start to think about it this year, and eventually, in a year or two, do something about it,” he said.

Stanley also said he doesn’t think many LGBT people view protection for bi-national couples as a priority.

“People who are not directly affected don’t seem very interested,” he said. “I couldn’t get any friends to come today. But when you are directly affected, it does matter quite a bit.”

Guillermo Lopez, 22, a gay U.S. citizen and student at Houston Community College, said he came to the march in D.C. to support same-sex bi-national couples, even though he’s not in a relationship that would benefit from passage of the Uniting American Families Act.

“If these people were straight or were in heterosexual relationships, they could easily sponsor their partners and give them legal status,” he said. “So we’re here trying to push for the Uniting American Families Act, which would bring that equality so that gay people can sponsor their partner.”

Lopez said he thinks the rally put pressure on President Obama and Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“Hopefully it’ll put enough pressure on them so that a comprehensive reform bill will pass in 2010 before Democrats lose seats in the election, which will make it harder for us to push our agenda,” he said.

Before marching past the U.S. Capitol to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, demonstrators gathered on the Mall where a series of speakers rallied the crowd. The issue of helping same-sex couples was only mentioned a few times.

A female speaker at the event said immigration reform is supported by many groups, including “disabled and queer people.” Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), whose Reuniting American Families Act includes language similar to UAFA, was introduced at the event as someone who wants gay and lesbian families included in reform.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a gay lawmaker, joined a group of members of Congress on stage who support immigration reform.

Speakers at the event worked to invigorate the crowd. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a champion of immigrant rights, was received particularly favorably by attendees, as he urged them to continue to pressuring lawmakers to enact reform.

“If today we will raise our voices in hope, then soon we will raise our voices in victory,” he said. “Because our day is coming. Together, we will turn today’s hope into tomorrow’s victory.”

Gutierrez late last year introduced in the U.S. House a version of immigration reform intended as a more liberal alternative to the working bill expected later in the House. But Gutierrez’s bill lacks a provision similar to the Uniting American Families Act.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a group leading the charge for reform, also had encouraging words for his audience.

“We will keep the pressure on until comprehensive immigration reform is finally passed,” he said. “So from here, our power will only grow.”

In addition to Immigration Equality, other LGBT organizations participated in the demonstration, including the Human Rights Campaign, the Latino GLBT History Project and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.

Rea Carey, the Task Force’s executive director, said her organization participated to emphasize immigration as an LGBT issue.

In addition to ensuring that bi-national same-sex couples can stay together in the United States, Carey said there also are issues related to transgender people and HIV-positive detainees not receiving needed treatment while in custody that need to be addressed.

“We are here today because we want to make sure the broad range of issues that affect LGBT people are recognized in the context of immigration reform,” she said.

Lt. Dan Choi, a gay U.S. Army Iraq war veteran who was arrested last week for chaining himself to the White House gates in protest of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” joined the LGBT contingent in the rally. He said he wouldn’t take questions because the day was focused on the immigration rally.

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State Department

State Department hosts intersex activists from around the world

Group met with policy makers, health officials, NGOs

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The State Department last week hosted a group of intersex activists from around the world. (Courtesy photo)

The State Department last week hosted five intersex activists from around the world.

Kimberly Zieselman, a prominent intersex activist who advises Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad, brought the activists to D.C.

• Morgan Carpenter, co-founder and executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia

• Natasha Jiménez, an intersex activist from Costa Rica who is the general coordinator of Mulabi, the Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights

• Julius Kaggwa, founder of the Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development Uganda

• Magda Rakita, co-founder and executive director of Fujdacja Interakcja in Poland and co-founder of Interconnected UK

• Esan Regmi, co-founder and executive director of the Campaign for Change in Nepal.

Special U.S. Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine are among the officials with whom the activists met.

Zieselman told the Washington Blade on Sept. 21 the activists offered State Department officials an “intersex 101” overview during a virtual briefing.

More than 60 Save the Children staffers from around the world participated in another virtual briefing. Zieselman noted the activists also met with Stern, U.N. and Organization of American States officials, funders and NGO representatives while in D.C.

“The people we met were genuinely interested,” Rakita told the Blade.

Stern in an exclusive statement to the Blade said “the visiting intersex activists clearly had an impact here at State, sharing their expertise and lived experience highlighting the urgency to end human rights abuses, including those involving harmful medical practices against intersex persons globally.” Andrew Gleason, senior director for gender equality and social justice at Save the Children US, in a LinkedIn post he wrote after attending his organization’s meeting with the activists echoed Stern.

“There are many learnings to recount from today’s discussion, but one thing is clear, this is unequivocally a child rights issue, and one that demands attention and action at the intersection of LGBTQI+ rights, reproductive rights and justice, disability justice and more,” wrote Gleason. “Gratitude to the panelists for sharing such poignant testimonies and providing insights into what organizations like ours can do to contribute to the broader intersex movement; and thank you to Kimberly for your leadership and bringing this group together.”

The activists’ trip to D.C. coincided with efforts to end so-called sex “normalization” surgeries on intersex children.

Greek lawmakers in July passed a law that bans such procedures on children under 15 unless they offer their consent or a court allows them to happen. Doctors who violate the statute face fines and prison.

Germany Iceland, Malta, Portugal and Spain have also enacted laws that seek to protect intersex youth. 

A law that grants equal rights and legal recognition to intersex people in Kenya took effect in July 2022. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory earlier this year passed the Variation in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023.

Intersex Human Rights Australia notes the law implements “mechanisms to regulate non-urgent medical care to encourage child participation in medical decisions, establish groundbreaking oversight mechanisms and provide transparency on medical practices and decision making.” It further points out the statute “will criminalize some deferrable procedures that permanently alter the sex characteristics of children” and provides “funding for necessary psychosocial supports for families and children.”

“It’s amazing,” Carpenter told the Blade when discussing the law and resistance to it. “It’s not perfect. There was some big gaps, but physicians are resisting every step of the way.”

The State Department in April 2022 began to issue passports with an “X” gender marker.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. Zzyym in October 2021 received the first gender-neutral American passport.

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Federal Government

Federal government prepares for looming shutdown

White House warns of ‘damaging impacts across the country’

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U.S. Capitol Building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

However remote they were on Monday, odds of avoiding a government shutdown were narrowed by Thursday evening as House Republicans continued debate over their hyper-partisan appropriations bills that stand no chance of passage by the Upper Chamber.

As lawmakers in the Democratic controlled Senate forged ahead with a bipartisan stop-gap spending measure that House GOP leadership had vowed to reject, the federal government began bracing for operations to grind to a halt on October 1.

This would mean hundreds of thousands of workers are furloughed as more than 100 agencies from the State Department to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation roll out contingency plans maintained by the White House Office of Management and Budget. On Thursday the Office of Personnel Management sent out memos to all agencies instructing them to ready for a shutdown on Sunday.

Before 1980, operations would continue per usual in cases where Congress failed to break an impasse over spending, as lapses in funding tended to last only a few days before lawmakers brokered a deal.

Since then, the government has shut down more than a dozen times and the duration has tended to become longer and longer.

“Across the United States, local news outlets are reporting on the harmful impacts a potential government shutdown would have on American families,” the White House wrote in a release on Thursday featuring a roundup of reporting on how the public might be affected.

“With just days left before the end of the fiscal year, extreme House Republicans are playing partisan games with peoples’ lives and marching our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country,” the White House said.

The nature and extent of that damage will depend on factors including how long the impasse lasts, but the Biden-Harris administration has warned of some consequences the American public is likely to face.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for example, warned: “There is no good time for a government shutdown, but this is a particularly bad time for a government shutdown, especially when it comes to transportation.”

Amid the shortage of air traffic controllers and efforts to modernize aviation technology to mitigate flight delays and cancellations, a government shutdown threatens to “make air travel even worse,” as Business Insider wrote in a headline Thursday.

Democratic lawmakers including California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, meanwhile, have sounded the alarm in recent weeks over the consequences for the global fight against AIDS amid the looming expiration, on Oct. 1, of funding for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

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Federal Government

QAnon follower pleads guilty to threatening member of Congress

Conspiracy movement claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world

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QAnon banner at a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Va., in 2020. (YouTube screenshot from Anthony Crider)

A New Mexico man has entered a plea deal after being charged with a federal criminal complaint of making threats through interstate communications directed at a member of Congress.

Federal prosecutors charged Michael David Fox, a resident of Doña Ana County, for calling the Houston district office of an unnamed member of Congress on or about May 18, 2023, and uttering threats that included knowingly threatening to kill an active member of Congress.

The plea agreement was brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Damian L. Martinez of U.S. District Court in New Mexico in the Las Cruces by Fox’s attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office in August.

According to the criminal complaint as outlined by a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal investigator for the Albuquerque Field Office, Las Cruces Resident Agency, on May 18 at approximately 9:04 p.m. Fox called the office of a congresswoman for the District of Texas, U.S. House of Representatives (Victim One/”V1″), who is from Houston. The call was received by V1’s office.

In the phone call Fox stated “Hey [Vl], you’re a man. It’s official. You’re literally a tranny and a pedophile, and I’m going to put a bullet in your fucking face. You mother fucking satanic cock smoking son of a whore. You understand me you fucker?” 

Law enforcement was able to trace the call back to Las Cruces, N.M., and it was believed that Fox was the user of cell phone account used to make the call. According to the FBI agents who interviewed Fox, he admitted to making the call.

Fox acknowledged that the threat was direct but claimed that he did not own any guns. Fox
claimed to be a member of the Q2 Truth Movement, the Q Movement. Fox explained these
movements believe all over the world there were transgender individuals running
governments, kingdoms and corporations. 

Fox told the FBI that there is a plan called “Q the Plan to Save the World” which he learned about from an online video. Fox claimed that he believed Q was going to engage in the “eradication” of the people who were causing all the world’s misery. He believed that part of the eradication had already happened.

Fox explained that he had run Vl’s skull features through forensic analysis and determined
that Vl was born male and is now trans. Fox discussed his military service with the
U.S. Air Force, “Q the Plan to Save the World,” and how God communicates using
numbers. 

Fox continued to reiterate several different types of conspiracy theories indicating
extreme far right ideologies as his explanation for why he conducted the phone call to
threaten V1.

According to the FBI, Fox rescinded his threat against Vl and apologized. Fox claimed he was not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs when he made the call. Fox stated he understood how Vl would feel threatened by his phone call, and he acknowledged that anyone he knew or cared about would also be concerned with such a threat.

The charge of interstate threatening communications carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

QAnon began in 2017, when a mysterious figure named “Q” started posting on the online message board 4chan, claiming to have inside access to government secrets. Since then, QAnon has grown into a conspiracy movement that claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world. It is claimed by QAnon adherents that former President Donald Trump is the only person who can defeat them. 

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based journalist Ana Valens, a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship and sex workers’ rights noted that Fox appears to be a “transvestigator.” Valens noted that the transvestigation conspiracy theory is a fringe movement within QAnon that claims the world is primarily run by trans people. Phrenological analysis is common among transvestigators, with a prominent focus on analyzing celebrities for proof that they are trans.

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