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Protesting Obama by air, land and sea

Activists target Florida fundraiser, demand action on ‘Don’t Ask’

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LGBT rights activists on Monday staged a massive protest against President Obama during his appearance at a Florida fundraiser.

Activists affiliated with GetEQUAL protested Obama during his appearance at a Democratic fundraiser at the waterfront estate of NBA star Alonzo Mourning. Those participating in the protest sent their message to the president by land, air and sea.

The goal of the protest was to convince Obama to issue an executive order to stop the discharges of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Opponents of the law have been pressing Obama to issue such an order since the beginning of his administration, but he has yet to take such action.

In a statement, Robin McGehee, co-founder of GetEQUAL, said the protest was intended to “remind” Obama of his failure to live up to his campaign promises to the LGBT community, including repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“If the president is going to travel around the country asking for our dollars and our votes, then we are going to travel with him and insist that he first give us some of the hope and change he promised,” she said. “As of now, we’re still hoping.”

As the president spoke at the event, air horns could be heard across the bay from the protesters in boats. At one point the protesters could be heard yelling.

Some members of the audience looked over, but the noise was reportedly not loud enough to disrupt the event and the president continued his speech uninterrupted. Anthony Woods, a gay former Democratic congressional candidate in California and Army veteran discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, planned to approach Obama to inform him about the purpose of the protests and to remind him of his campaign promises.

While the protest for the most part proceeded as intended, Woods was denied access to the event as was local activist Itzel Diaz, according to GetEQUAL. The organization said the activists were informed that the White House made the decision to bar them from the fundraiser.

But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee denied GetEQUAL’s account of this aspect of the protest.

DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer said, “Ms. Diaz called on Friday and said she may be interested in attending the event with a guest. However, Ms. Diaz did not confirm attendance, payment was not submitted, and no information was provided for vetting.”

By land, activists held 10-foot signs saying “End the Discharges Now” and “We’ll Give When We GetEQUAL” while the presidential motorcade entered the neighborhood.

A second set of activists was stationed on boats in the nearby bay once the president was inside the fundraiser. The protesters shouted via bullhorns, “End the discharges now” and “We’ll give when we GetEQUAL.”

Meanwhile, another group of activists launched two, large eight-foot weather balloons carrying 10-foot long banners reading “GetEQUAL.org” to carry the message in the sky.

“Regardless of the spin coming out of the White House, President Obama has the power to dramatically impact the course of civil rights history for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” McGehee said. “Unfortunately, all we have yet to see from the president, who the LGBT community overwhelmingly supported, is excuses, delays and passing the buck off to someone else. That isn’t change we can believe in, that’s just more of the same.”

Photo courtesy of Luna Media Group

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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit against Montgomery County schools gender guidelines

4th Circuit last August dismissed parents’ case

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender nonconfirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district — none of whom have trans or gender nonconfirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

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National

Bill to support LGBTQ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

Advocates praise Elder Pride Act

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(Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) 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 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 Bonamici, chair of the Equality Caucus’s 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 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 LGBTQ 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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State Department

State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week

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(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

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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