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Goodwin said to be ‘open’ on LGBT issues

But new W.V. senator an unknown to advocates

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Many supporters of LGBT rights are expressing confidence that the temporary replacement for Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) will be supportive of pro-LGBT legislation in the Senate even though his views on such issues are unknown.

On Friday, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) announced Carte Goodwin, his former general counsel, would fill the Senate seat vacated by Byrd upon his death earlier this month.

At a press conference at the statehouse in Charleston, W.V., Goodwin reportedly said he has “no agenda” in the Senate other than “working to fight hard every day for West Virginia families,” according to the Hill newspaper.

Goodwin, who didn’t respond to the Blade’s request to comment, is seen as a temporary replacement for Byrd because the West Virginia Legislature is considering a change to state law to allow for a vote to fill the Senate seat this fall.

At 36 years old, Goodwin will become the youngest member of the Senate when he’s sworn into office this week, according to the Hill newspaper.

Stephen Skinner, board president for Fairness West Virginia, said he had no information on Goodwin’s background on LGBT issues, but he thinks the senator would be open to discussion.

“I think he’s certainly someone who would be open to engaging in discussions on LGBT issues,” Skinner said. “But that, of course, doesn’t mean that we know any of his public stances.”

Michael Mitchell, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said Goodwin appears to be a “very smart and energetic choice” to represent West Virginia.

“I just hope that he remembers that he will be a senator for all West Virginians — including LGBT West Virginians — as well as remember that he can be a leader, and should be a leader, for those West Virginians who aren’t necessarily there yet on LGBT issues,” Mitchell said.

Many political observers are expecting Manchin to pursue a run for the U.S. Senate in November and that Goodwin’s past work with the governor means he would be aligned with Manchin in terms of ideology.

Skinner said believing Goodwin’s positions on LGBT issues to be similar to Manchin’s is “absolutely” a safe assumption.

As far as Manchin’s views on LGBT issues, Skinner said the governor has been “thoughtful” about LGBT issues and twice came out publicly against a state constitutional amendment in West Virginia banning same-sex marriage.

“However, he did that in the context of saying that our state [Defense of Marriage Act] was sufficient,” Skinner said. “So although the end result was certaintly something that we wanted from him, he’s clearly not in favor of marriage equality.”

Skinner said Manchin has “indicated at least privately” that he would support a state law prohibiting job bias against LGBT people in the workforce.

“The important thing about Sen. Goodwin and Gov. Manchin is that I know that they will have an open door and will be fully engaged with the folks that believe in equality in West Virginia,” Skinner said.

A lingering question for Goodwin is how he would vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when the issue comes before the full Senate. A provision for repeal is in the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization pending before Congress, and opponents have vowed to strip out the language from the legislation.

Byrd was a “yes” vote in Senate Armed Services Committee in May on an amendment that would lead to repeal of the law.

The late senator’s support was noteworthy because it came on the condition of adding 60 days between the time for when the president and defense leaders would certify that the U.S. military is ready to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the time for when repeal would go into effect.

Skinner said he’s expecting Goodwin to follow through on Byrd’s commitment to repealing the ban on open service.

“I think it’s reasonable for the LGBT community to expect Sen. Goodwin to follow through on Sen. Byrd’s commitment on the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” Skinner said.

Paul Guequierre, a Human Rights Campaign spokesperson, said “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is among the issues his organization plans to discuss with Goodwin when the new senator takes office.

“As you know, HRC has done a lot of work on the ground throughout West Virginia with Fairness West Virginia and other organizations to help secure Sen. Byrd’s vote to repeal [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] in the Senate Armed Services Committee,” Guequierre said. “We will work just as diligently to secure Sen. Goodwin’s support.”

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the importance of Goodwin’s position on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” stands “somewhere on the middle” in terms of possible obstacles on the way toward repeal.

“In the full chamber, he’s certainly important,” Nicholson said. “We need every vote we can get and we’re not taking any vote for granted, but it’s not going to come down to one vote.”

Nicholson added that Goodwin would need “an extraordinarily strong anti-repeal view” for him to oppose an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“If he’s supportive, he’s going to vote with us,” Nicholson said. “I think if he’s neutral, he’s going to default to party standard, which is to vote for the amendment and against any attempts to strip it.”

Nicholson said any opposition to repeal from Goodwin would be unusual because of Byrd’s role in negotiating the language.

“It would be a big slap in the face, I think, for the senator to have negotiated a position he feels comfortable supporting … and then have this 36-year-old whipper-snapper successor come back and say that was wrong,” Nicholson said. “I think that would be an extraordinary change of course and I think that’s unlikely.”

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

“LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased”

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Florida State Capitol building

TALLAHASSEE – A Republican majority Florida House Education & Employment Committee passed HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion Senate bill SB 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the Press Secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56% of transgender and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 47% felt nervous and/or scared, 45% felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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California mom claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Jessica Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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