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D.C. declared gayest U.S. region, same-sex domestic violence is up and more

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Screen capture of hate-spewing ex-school board member Clint McCance.

 

Anti-gay Ark. school board member resigns after FB rant

PLEASANT PLAINS, Ark. — A school board member who urged bullied gay and lesbian youths to “commit suicide” has quit his post, CNN and other media outlets reported this week.

Clint McCance, the vice-president of the Midland School District in Pleasant Plains, Ark., apologized for the comments which caused public outcry. He had posted them on Facebook in response to Spirit Day on Oct. 20, when people were asked to wear purple in recognition of bullied gay youths after several suicide.

McCance apologized on CNN during an interview with Anderson Cooper. He’d written on his Facebook page and said, “Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves,” McCance wrote. “The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I can’t believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin.”

McCance told Cooper his statements were ill-chosen and not indicative of his true feelings. He attributed the posts to a lapse in judgement.

McCance’s comments had been savaged by his peers.

Tom Kimbrell, Arkansas commissioner of education, said, “I strongly condemn the statements that appeared on Mr. Clint McCance’s Facebook page. The divisiveness and disruption of these comments cause me to seriously question the ability of Mr. McCance to remain as an effective member of the Midland School Board.”

A statement signed by Midland School headmaster Dean Stanley, distanced the school from McCance’s remarks but school officials said they didn’t have the authority to fire McCance since he was an elected official.

D.C. gayest U.S. region: report

WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia leads the country in male same-sex households and Massachusetts is tops in lesbian-led homes, Washington Times has reported citing a university-based research center report.

Overall, there were 581,300 gay-couple-headed households in the United States in 2009, the National Center for Marriage & Family Research said in this month’s Family Profiles report, citing data from the 2009 American Community Survey.

This is somewhat smaller than the 594,391 same-sex couples identified in the 2000 census, but potential misclassifications mean “these differences should be interpreted with caution,” the Center report said.

About 26 percent of the nation’s 581,300 gay households, or 152,121, were led by married couples in 2009.

Census Bureau data also showed that, when it came to weddings, lesbians significantly outnumbered gay males — 85,847 to 66,274 or 56 percent to 44 percent. But this broad-based number was less dramatic than other studies that have suggested that lesbians marry at twice the rate of gay men.

Geographically, the report identified about a dozen places where at least one in 10 unmarried couples are gay (whether the gay couples are themselves unmarried or married), the Times article said.

The District came in No. 1 in the nation, with 31 percent of the city’s unmarried couples identifying themselves as same-sex. This high representation was overwhelmingly due to the men — gay male households make up 26 percent of all unmarried households, compared with 4 percent that were led by lesbians.

However, Massachusetts was the top choice of lesbian couples, who represented nearly 8 percent of the state’s unmarried couples. Gay males were about 6 percent of the Bay State’s unmarried households.

The Center’s Family Profiles are summaries of the latest statistics on a variety of family issues. The center was established in 2007 at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, and receives support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

LGBT domestic violence up 15 percent nationwide

CHICAGO — LGBT domestic violence is up 15 percent from 2008 in the U.S. according to a report released last week from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

The findings — which cite six 2009 murders related to LGBT domestic or intimate partner violence, represents a 50 percent rise since 2007 — come at a time when gay-specific programs are losing staff or closing due to the sluggish economy.

“Member programs face sharp increases in calls from LGBTQ survivors, while sustaining 50 percent or more in cuts to staffing and program closures because of the financial crisis,” said Lisa Gilmore of Chicago’s Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project. “We know that LGBTQ survivors need specific and culturally competent services to stay safe, and our primary recommendation is that funding for LGBTQ-specific anti-violence programs is needed now more than ever.”

From 2008 to 2009 there was a 99 percent increase in calls for police assistance and a 135 percent increase in arrests, though misarrests and reports of police misconduct also rose dramatically in LGBT households, the report said.

“Police are 10 to 15 times as likely to make a dual arrest in cases of same-sex domestic/intimate partner violence than in heterosexual ones,” said Kelly Clark at the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley’s Community Safety Program. “This report demonstrates the critical need for LGBTQ-specific cultural competency for first responders, such as law enforcement, to prevent re-traumatizing the survivor of violence.”

Chicago Jewish group in spotlight after terror plot

CHICAGO — About two dozen members of the Congregation Or Chadash were enjoying their usual Friday evening dinner before services at their Edgewater neighborhood headquarters when they got the startling news that they were apparently the target of an international terrorist plot, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The small congregation for LGBT Jews that started with an alternative newspaper ad in 1976 had gotten used to a life of relative obscurity — too small with about 100 members to afford its own building or build much of a profile.

How a terrorist in Yemen who’d rigged printer cartridges with explosives would know who and where they are sparked as much puzzlement as fear, congregants said last week.

“I thought ‘Wow, I didn’t know we had such visibility,'” congregation member Marvin Levin said.

But that’s what the tight-knit group got as federal officials announced last week that a woman in Yemen had been arrested in the alleged terrorist plot that sent several packages to the U.S. loaded with the industrial explosive, PETN.

Authorities have not said which two Chicago addresses the packages were mailed to, but a source told the Tribune both were Jewish congregations on the North Side, home to a thriving Jewish community. Chicago police said they were making increased checks in areas with a high number of synagogues, including Edgewater, Rogers Park and West Rogers Park.

Or Chadash leaders said they learned that their group was an intended recipient of one of the Yemen packages from Emanuel’s Rabbi Michael Zedek.

“It was just a surprise,” said Rabbi Larry Edwards of Or Chadash. “When I was first hearing news (about the packages), I assumed there were probably bigger targets. We’re a small congregation. Either we were selected at random or it’s because we’re a mostly gay congregation.”

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Police describe Wilton Manors Pride incident as ‘fatal traffic crash’

Pickup truck driver identified as 77-year-old man

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A screenshot from a video taken at the scene by Joey Spears. (Image courtesy of @pinto_spears, via Twitter.) Screenshot used with permission from South Florida Gay News.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sunday released additional information about an incident at a Wilton Manors Pride parade that left one person dead and another injured.

A press release notes a 77-year-old man who was “a participant who had ailments preventing him from walking the duration of the parade and was selected to drive as the lead vehicle” was behind the wheel of a 2011 white Dodge Ram pickup truck that struck the two people near the Stonewall Pride Parade’s staging area shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“As the vehicle began to move forward in anticipation for the start of the parade, the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly, striking two pedestrians,” reads the press release. “After striking the pedestrians, the driver continued across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into the fence of a business on the west side of the street.”

“The driver remained on scene and has been cooperative with investigators for the duration of the investigation,” further notes the press release. “A DUI investigation of the driver was conducted on scene and showed no signs of impairment.”

The press release confirms the driver and the two people he hit are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue transported both victims to Broward Health Medical Center “with serious injuries.” The press release notes one of the victims died shortly after he arrived at the hospital.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department, which is leading the investigation, has not publicly identified the victims and the driver, but the press release describes the incident as a “fatal traffic crash.” The press release notes the second victim remains hospitalized at Broward Health Medical Center, but “is expected to survive.”

“While no arrests have been made, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department continues to investigate this incident and will not be releasing the names of the involved parties due to the status of the investigation,” says the press release. “The Fort Lauderdale Police Department asks anyone who may have witnessed this incident, who has not already spoken to investigators, to contact Traffic Homicide Investigator Paul Williams at (954) 828-5755.”

The pickup truck narrowly avoided U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was in a convertible participating in the parade. Florida Congressman Ted Deutch was also nearby.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic accident that occurred when the Stonewall Pride Parade was just getting started,” said Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus President Justin Knight in a statement he issued after the incident. “Our fellow chorus members were those injured and the driver was also part of the chorus family.”

“To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” added Knight. “We anticipate more details to follow and ask for the community’s love and support.”

Fort Lauderdale mayor initially described incident as anti-LGBTQ ‘terrorist attack’

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis initially described the incident as “a terrorist attack against the LGBT community,” without any official confirmation. Detective Ali Adamson of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Saturday confirmed to reporters that investigators are “working with” the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but stressed the “investigation is active and we are considering and evaluating all possibilities.”

“Last evening, at the start of what was to be a celebration of pride for the LGBT community and commemoration of our hard-won victories for equality, our community faced the worst of tragedies. The grief of our LGBT community — and greater Fort Lauderdale as a whole — is palpable,” said Trantalis on Sunday in a statement he posted to his Facebook page.

“I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events. It terrorized me and all around me. I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strong concerns about what transpired — concerns for the safety of my community. I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away,” he added.

Trantalis added “law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job.”

“As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control,” he said. “As a result, one man died, two others were injured and the lives of two members of Congress were at risk. My heart breaks for all impacted by this tragedy.”

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ACLU and Justice Department to jointly challenge anti-Trans laws

Recently passed anti-transgender laws in West Virginia and Arkansas violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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U.S. Department of Justice, Robert F. Kennedy Building (Photo Credit: GSA U.S. Government)

WASHINGTON – In court documents filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia and in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, the U.S. Department of Justice, in Statement of Interest filings, joined the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU), arguing that recently passed anti-transgender laws in West Virginia and Arkansas violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The suits filed by the ACLU challenges an Arkansas law that bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth and a West Virginia law banning transgender youth from participating in school sports.

Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBTQ & HIV Project, issued the following statement responding to the Department of Justice submitting a statement of interest in two federal courts supporting transgender youth;

“Today’s filings from the Department of Justice send a powerful message that discrimination against transgender youth is not just wrong, it is also plainly unconstitutional. These filings from the Department of Justice confirm what we have been telling legislatures all year: Banning trans youth from sports and denying trans youth health care violates the Constitution and federal law. We hope that state legislatures finally get the message.” 

Law and Crime reported that in the West Virginia case filing, the Justice Dept. argued that House Bill 3293, which bans transgender athletes at public schools from competing in female sports at the middle school, high school, and collegiate level, violates both the Equal Protection Clause and  Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by the parents of transgender girl who said their daughter was unlawfully prohibited from trying out for the school’s cross-country track team because of the measure.

In Arkansas, the Justice Dept. backed an ACLU-filed lawsuit challenging a state law (Act 626) which bans gender-affirming health care for transgender youths. The DOJ also claims that state ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Law & Crime reported.

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Immigrant rights groups demand ICE release transgender, HIV-positive detainees

Letter notes Roxsana Hernández case

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The Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez, Miss., is a privately-run facility that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses to house some of its detainees. Eight immigrant rights groups have demanded ICE release all transgender people and people with HIV in their custody. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Eight immigrant advocacy groups this week demanded the release of all transgender and HIV-positive people who are in immigrant detention facilities.

Immigration Equality, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Transgender Law Center, the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, the Center for Victims of Torture, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Mijente and the National Immigrant Justice Center made the request in a letter they sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tae Johnson on June 16.

“As you know, transgender and HIV-positive people are severely suffering in U.S. immigration detention facilities,” reads the letter. “Those who do not perish from mortally deficient medical negligence are regularly mistreated, isolated and sexually assaulted.”

The letter notes DHS “for years” has “attempted to create conditions of confinement that are safe for these historically disenfranchised minorities.”

“This has been a fool’s errand,” it says. “Under both Democrat and Republican leadership, DHS has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars attempting to overcome a simple and inevitable truth: It is not possible for the U.S. government to house transgender and HIV-positive asylum seekers safely. Every progressive policy, every well-meaning protocol and every specialized facility has utterly failed. This has to stop. It is in your exclusive power to put an end to this ongoing human rights atrocity.”

“What makes this situation even more intolerable, is that the vast majority of the transgender and HIV-positive people suffering in immigration detention fled to the U.S. to escape persecution and torture,” adds the letter. “To these asylum seekers, the U.S. is more than a symbol of liberty. It is one of the few places in the world where they may hope to build a safer future. And yet, by detaining trans and HIV-positive people in such inhumane and unsafe conditions, the U.S. government is subjecting them to some of the same kinds of mistreatment they sought to escape.”

The groups in their letter demand ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to immediately release all transgender and HIV-positive people in their custody” and “review its system for identifying transgender and HIV-positive individuals, and work with stakeholders to ensure that it is effective and safe.” The groups also seek the creation of a policy “that deems all transgender and HIV-positive individuals non-detainable.”

The letter notes the case of Roxsana Hernández, a trans asylum seeker from Honduras with HIV who died in a New Mexico hospital on May 25, 2018, while she was in ICE custody.

Hernández’s family in a lawsuit it has filed against the federal government and five private companies who were responsible for Hernández’s care allege she did not have adequate access to medical care and other basic needs from the time she asked for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego on May 9, 2018, to her arrival at the Cibola County Correctional Center, a privately-run facility in Milan, N.M., a week later.

ICE in 2017 opened a unit for trans women at the Cibola County Correctional Center. It closed last year.

A picture of Roxsana Hernández, a transgender Honduran woman with HIV who died in ICE custody in 2018, hangs on a wall inside the offices of Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa, an LGBTQ advocacy group in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The letter also notes the case of Johana “Joa” Medina León, a trans woman with HIV from El Salvador who asked for asylum in the U.S. in 2019 after she suffered persecution in her home country because of her gender identity.

Medina was in ICE custody at the privately-run Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., until her transfer to a hospital in nearby El Paso, Texas, on May 28, 2019. ICE on the same day released Medina from their custody.

Medina died three days later.

“She became worse, worse, worse,” Medina’s mother, Patricia Medina de Barrientos, told the Washington Blade in an exclusive interview in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador that took place a few weeks after Medina’s death. “She asked for help because she was a nurse, but they refused. She was denied help. There was no medical attention.”

Johana “Joa” Medina León, a transgender woman with HIV from El Salvador, died on June 1, 2019, at a hospital in El Paso, Texas, three days after ICE released her from their custody. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Medina de Barrientos)

The letter also includes testimonials from dozens of other trans and/or HIV-positive people who say they suffered physical abuse and survived sexual assault while in ICE custody. They also allege they did not receive adequate health care — including access to hormones and antiretroviral drugs — while in detention.

“Throwing LGBTQ and HIV-positive asylum seekers into prison is cruel, expensive and dangerous. For transgender and HIV-positive people, it can even be deadly,” said Immigration Equality Policy Director Bridget Crawford in a statement. “In response to years of consistently documented abuses against the community, the government has implemented ineffective half-measures that have utterly failed. That is why we have demanded that DHS release all transgender and HIV-positive people immediately. No one should ever be locked into prison because they fled persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status. Doing so during a pandemic is a human rights atrocity.”

Immigration Equality is among the groups that have previously demanded ICE release all trans people who are in their custody. Advocacy organizations have also called for the release of people with HIV in ICE custody, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DHS, which oversees ICE, has not responded to the Blade’s request for comment on the June 16 letter.

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