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UPDATED: GLAAD’s communication breakdown; Barrios voted out

Media watchdog group dogged by allegations of dishonesty, incompetence



UPDATE: According to Politico, the Executive committee of GLAAD’s Board of Directors has voted to remove Jarrett Barrios as President of the organization.

UPDATE 2: According to both Michelangelo Signorile and the Bilerico Project, Rich Ferraro is confirming that Jarrett Barrios has stepped down as GLAAD’s President.

Jarrett Barrios

A former GLAAD board chair has called for the resignation of its president, Jarrett Barrios. (Photo courtesy GLAAD)

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation raised eyebrows last week when the media watchdog group released a statement supporting the merger of telecom giants AT&T and T-Mobile. It marked the second time the organization, which was founded in 1985 as a grassroots action network, had weighed in on major business news. The prior statement had been released a year earlier objecting to the NBC-Comcast merger, due to concerns about negative portrayals of LGBT characters in the media.

The AT&T statement was curious, but attracted little media attention.

That changed on Tuesday, when former GLAAD board of directors co-chair Laurie Perper appeared on Michelangelo Signorile’s Sirius-XM OutQ show to sound the alarm on other alleged improprieties at the organization and questions facing its leader, Jarrett Barrios.

Since then, Barrios — who has been at the helm of GLAAD for 23 months — has granted a flurry of interviews to counter Perper’s claims. His responses, however, have only served to attract more scrutiny of the organization.

While speaking with Perper, Signorile pressed about why she left her position as board chair early. “You stepped down because you just thought he was not qualified. Obviously, as the months went on, others agreed with that assessment,” Signorile summarized. “I believe that over 14 board members have left, [since Barrios took over],” Perper relayed to the radio host.

Signorile continued, “Is it fair to say that most of these people stepped down because of the direction the organization was going, because of Jarrett Barrios?”

“Absolutely,” Perper said.

Reached by phone last week along with GLAAD director of communications Richard Ferraro and GLAAD board member and Florida PR consultant Gary Bitner, Barrios insisted that his short time working with Perper — only five weeks — was marked by a positive working relationship, and was focused on solving the organization’s financial problems.

“It’s perplexing and disappointing, considering that she worked for many years to help build this organization, but this happens sometimes,” Barrios told the Blade. “We form in our movement a circular firing squad, and we for whatever reason feel it’s necessary to hurt somebody else in the movement. [Laurie Perper and I] worked well together. Frankly the time we interacted was the time I was getting my feet wet, learning that the org at the time was running a rather large deficit.”

After booking Perper on the Signorile show, the producers reached out and arranged to have Barrios on the following day to respond to the statements that had been made. However, when GLAAD later attempted to arrange to have Bitner join him on the Signorile show, the show’s producers refused and the GLAAD team pulled out of the arrangement, opting to contact other media outlets and bloggers instead.

Barrios insists that the financial figures that Perper presented on the Signorile show were inaccurate and misleading, including a quote about a $14 million discrepancy after 2008, which Barrios says is the result of an IRS reporting requirement of a major multi-million dollar bequest by the late Ric Weiland of Microsoft that was dispersed over seven years. GLAAD insists that it has righted its financial footing thanks to cuts made early in Barrios’ term, though Ferraro also disputes Perper’s claim that six senior staff members left the organization since Jarrett’s start. GLAAD insists it was only three, with another just having left a few months ago.

“In 2009, there was a substantial deficit — I think it was like $1.2 million,” Barrios said.  “Last year, we cut the operating deficit to $300,000 — shrunk it by about $900,000 — and this year, I’m happy to say, we’re running ahead of budget … most notably, our national presenting sponsor has already renewed for next year. That typically doesn’t happen until January. It’s already happened for next year. We’re very pleased. Our corporate revenues this year are substantially higher than last year, which were higher than the year before.”

Perper’s main purpose for appearing on Signorile’s show, however, was to question the reasoning behind GLAAD’s unexpected statement voicing support for the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. GLAAD joined unions, advocacy organizations and other LGBT-specific organizations like the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Out At Work in supporting the merger. These three organizations joined the NAACP, and the National Education Association in pushing the FCC for the merger.

Perper points to this as evidence that AT&T may have “bought influence with these” non-profits to advocate for the merger with the FCC.

Hours after his conversation with the Blade, Barrios appeared on Chicago’s “Feast of Fun” podcast with Marc Felion and Fausto Fernos. The issue of GLAAD’s curious support of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger and Perper’s statements regarding that merger soon came up, and Barrios seemed to change his story on a long-forgotten episode from more than a year ago when GLAAD released two letters regarding the principles of “net-neutrality” and expressed support for expanding Internet access. The second letter was later retracted.

At the time, Barrios wrote the FCC asking the letter to be removed from the public record, stating that he’d not given his permission for the letter to be submitted and that the signature is “not in my hand.” However, while speaking with “Feast of Fun,” his story seemed to change.

“It was like January of 2010. And it, it sort of supported the telecom industry’s position on net neutrality, which was not GLAAD’s position,” Barrios said. “In fact, GLAAD, at the time and still, doesn’t endorse bills and doesn’t endorse regulatory actions. So, it would have been impossible for us to do that.”

When reached by phone last week, Richard Ferraro explained why GLAAD cannot take a position on net neutrality.

“As a 501(c)3 there’s a question about whether or not we can,” Ferraro told the Blade. “It’s obvious where we stand [on universal access] … mergers are different.”

On “Feast of Fun,” Barrios shifted his story about the letter’s submission, after taking the position a year earlier that the organization had no knowledge of the letter prior to its submission.

“After an investigation, we determined that it was an administrative error, internally at GLAAD, and I’ll own that, and we withdrew the letter. At the time we withdrew the letter, we didn’t know that, so I was — you can imagine reading a letter in a public submission with your name on it that you had never seen, and it wasn’t your signature — after we did an internal investigation, we realized it was an internal error, an administrative error.”

“[The letter] was pulled, one, because it’s an anti-net-neutrality letter,” Ferraro clarified for the Blade. “Two, because at that point and currently, GLAAD does not take positions on legislation or regulation.”

In January, when the letter had been submitted and subsequently retracted, the narrative that emerged was that the letter had been forged. However, after the Feast of Fun statements, Bil Browning of Bilerico Project sought a clearer explanation about the letter.

In an interview last week with Browning, Barrios revealed his personal assistant — a woman Bilerico identified as Jeanne Christiano who has worked for Barrios consistently for seven years, and goes back to his days as a Massachusetts state senator — had called him while he was on the road, and in a hurry, he gave the letter his approval thinking that the two were discussing the previous letter with language Barrios had approved.

“We made a mistake. I authorized my assistant over the phone to sign and submit a letter that I understood to be a re-filing of the October letter in support of broadband proliferation,” Barrios told Browning. “When I realized she had inadvertently submitted an anti-net neutrality letter, I withdrew it … at the time, I had never seen the letter that was filed, and did not recognize the signature.”

Last week, after the story broke of the retracted letter to the FCC supporting the telecom’s position on net-neutrality, the Blade again spoke with Ferraro, this time about the new information emerging about the FCC letter.

“There’s an October letter that Jarrett wrote to the FCC that’s on the FCC site,” Ferraro told the Blade, “that very broadly talks about broadband proliferation, and speaks to our statement Friday about net-neutrality, which is that we don’t currently have a position, but we support universal access … we support the ideas behind, the principles behind net-neutrality – that we can do.”

According to Ferraro, GLAAD board member and communications law professor at American University, Anthony Varona, noticed the subtle pro-telecom messages in the letter after having served as a lawyer at the FCC in the past and immediately contacted the organization’s leadership asking why GLAAD was supporting the telecom industry’s anti-net-neutrality stance.

“When Tony Verona — who speaks FCC language — read this,” Ferraro explained, “he said ‘Why the heck did you send in a letter anti-net-neutrality?’ Jarrett of course said, ‘I never read that letter, I never said I’m against net-neutrality.’”

According to Ferraro, the suggested language is believed to have come directly from AT&T, and was copied verbatim by Barrios’ assistant, Jeanne Christiano.

Ferraro explained, “He was traveling, as he still does [a lot] … she’s more than an assistant — they’ve worked together for seven years. … I was not on the call, so can’t speak with certainty, but he said she called him and said something along the lines of ‘so I have the letter on broadband. They want the letter, do you want me to go forward with it?’ and he said, ‘yeah yeah,’ thinking it was the October letter.”

Ferraro agreed there must have been a major communication breakdown at GLAAD.

“He never saw the letter, and he said, ‘yeah, send it in.’ And obviously he didn’t mean to send it in, because as soon as the board member [questioned the letter], he said, ‘huh? I never saw that letter. I didn’t sign that letter. That’s not my signature.’ and he didn’t authorize it. The thing that he’s been trying to do is he doesn’t want to throw her under the bus. This was his mistake. He should have read the letter — he didn’t.”

The controversy raises the question: will GLAAD start weighting in on other FCC-related matters if a business has any ties to the LGBT community?

“One thing that has happened since Jarrett came on board, is that we’ve been more engaged with the FCC, which is a government agency that needs to hear more from the LGBT community … since then, you did hear us weigh in on the NBC merger, you did hear us weigh in on AT&T and we did file an FCC complaint about ‘Jose Luis Sin Censura,’ which is the most anti-gay program on television today,” Ferraro said.

Some activists argue there are larger issues at play than GLAAD’s support of the AT&T merger, or whether or not GLAAD can take a position on net-neutrality. Some leaders in the community are wondering if GLAAD is ready to unravel. Laurie Perper herself called for the dissolution of GLAAD, and discussed it with Signorile when she appeared on his show.

When the Blade asked Perper if GLAAD could survive this controversy, she said it would require a massive change in personnel and makeup of the board.

“One of the things that has come forward is GLAAD’s brand name has been heavily tied to the media awards and people feel that GLAAD is owned by the broadcasters,” Perper said. “The word transparency gets thrown around a lot and unfortunately I found in trying to manage Jarrett that he was far from transparent. So I was actually there for five months with him, and that was long enough for me to see that he was going to make decisions against the board, without consulting the board, the co-chairs and against their will.”

Perper also believes a narrower focus would help GLAAD recover.

“I think that they’ve expanded their programmatic work too much and therefore don’t have a solid impact in any one area, so I think they need to retract a little bit in this difficult economy, decide where they want to make an impact, and truly come out with thoughtful statements, rather than the flip-flopping I’ve seen them do with Adam Lambert, with the AT&T situation. … So they just need a consistent message and vision that they can put forth, that people can understand, and then they need to act on it as hard as they can.”

She continued, “I’ve had a lot of discussions with people who happen to be aware of a lot of the situation that’s going on with GLAAD and a lot of the controversy,” she continued, “and they all feel very strongly about the GLAAD brand name and that it still has tremendous value in the marketplace. So when I talk about the dissolution of it, I do it with a really heavy heart, not ‘how do you ever rebuild a brand name like that,’ but thinking ‘how do you get rid of a president and half of the board members who have helped enable him to bring such tarnish to the name?’”

Barrios, however, sees the organization heading in the right direction.

“We’ve enjoyed some of our highest profile victories ever in the last 18 months,” said Barrios. “So where we’re going is down that path … we’ve had some major victories with the ‘Today’ show, the marriage contest last year. A number of victories with our ‘no two sides’ campaign last year … Mostly that work is happening behind the scenes.”

When members of the media continued to pursue answers to the questions left unanswered at the onset of last weekend, GLAAD tried to shift attention to the Tracy Morgan scandal on Friday. GLAAD backed off from a promise to have Barrios chat on the phone with the Blade in regard to the new confusion brought about by the Friday morning Bilerico report and the Thursday morning Feast of Fun interview.

What’s still unclear is how the suggested language ended up in an official letter on GLAAD letterhead. GLAAD would not comment on whom from AT&T delivered the suggested language, noting only that “AT&T is the source.” However, with a former AT&T lobbyist on the board of directors, who now consults for telecom companies including AT&T, some wonder if Troupe Coronado was the conduit for this “suggested language” that turned GLAAD into an anti-net-neutrality advocate for the telecom industry.

Also unanswered is how unauthorized language was allowed to be submitted by an assistant to a government agency. If this specific language was not approved, why was there no protocol in place to prevent a scenario where an employee of the organization can sign the president’s name to an official document and send it as an agent of the entire group?

There are also nagging questions about Troupe Coronado’s influence and role in the controversy. In January 2006, the Washington Post’s Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Thomas B. Edsall investigated Coronado for allegedly exceeding the gift-giving limits on lobbyists when schmoozing lawmakers. He was still with BellSouth at the time. BellSouth is now part of AT&T. In addition, lists him as a “revolving door personnel,” someone who has bounced from industry lobbying jobs, to government jobs and back again.

Coronado’s connections to the telecom industry and GLAAD’s subsequent misfires in the field of telecom regulation and corporate dealings is troubling for many activists, even if those connections are tenuous and possibly only coincidental.



Calif. school district meeting over LGBTQ studies turns violent

Police officers and protestors clashed outside Glendale Unified School Board meeting



(YouTube screenshot from KCAL)

Police officers and protestors clashed outside a meeting of the Glendale Unified School Board over LGBTQ studies and the GUSD polices on addressing LGBTQ related issues.

News footage from CBS Los Angeles KCAL showed approximately 50 Glendale police officers attempting to keep the two groups separated and then fists were thrown as both sides engaged in physical assaults. A Glendale police spokesperson confirmed that some arrests had been made but wouldn’t comment further.

Witnesses and news crews noted that many of those protesting against the LGBTQ community were from the same group that had protested at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood, angered over a Pride month assembly. Officers from the LAPD’s North Hollywood Community Station responded and there were physical assaults as well.

The situation in Glendale has become increasingly acrimonious. Last year during Pride month, a third grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Tammy Tiber, had enraged some parents after speaking to her students about LGBTQ topics on Zoom. The GUSD officials later transferred her because Tiber had told them she no longer felt safe.

A spokesperson for the district said that all materials are vetted by the GUSD, and are in full compliance with curriculum that deals with LGBTQ history, mandated under California’s FAIR Education Act, which was signed into law on July 14, 2011, and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

It amends the California Education Code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful reference to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community in history and social studies curriculum.

Last month on May 18, a man who is not the parent of a child in the district, accused GUSD school board vice president Jennifer Freemon of concealing consistent attempts to “indoctrinate” students on LGBTQ issues.

“They are saying boys can be girls and girls can be boys,” Henry said during the board meeting. “If you believe in that, that is your opinion, and if that is your official policy, Jennifer, that is indoctrination because it offends a lot of people’s actual doctrine.”

As an example of instructing students to “behave inappropriately,” Henry referenced an alleged recent incident involving a student with special needs. GUSD student Thelma Gonzalez, who spoke later in the meeting, was allegedly asked to provide the definition of “scissoring” during a health lesson, despite her mother requesting that she be excused.

“A violation of their doctrine, their Christian doctrine,” Henry said, referring to Gonzalez and her mother. “Regardless of what you think, what I think, what the community thinks about any faith, you violated that. And if you don’t condemn that today, Jennifer, you are a hypocrite and a liar.”

He then mounted an attack on district polices regarding its transgender students.

“If you think they value your children, you’re more than entitled to think that,” Henry said. “They will not lie to you about your child, they will lie to these parents. They will conceal that private information from parents. You have enshrined that into doctrine, into policy, which is a misinterpretation of the law.”

It is not immediately clear what policy Henry was referring to. However, GUSD’s anti-discrimination policy states the district will only disclose a student’s “transgender or gender-nonconforming status” with their consent. It also mandates that a district official may discuss with that same student “any need” to confide in their parents or guardians.

Inside the Tuesday GUSD board meeting, pro- and anti-LGBTQ protesters faced off over how schools teach gender and sexuality, attendees were suddenly told to shelter in place as the violence outside escalated. The interruption came after about an hour of public comments, most of them in defense of the LGBTQ community and the district’s handling of materials and policies.

Protesters fight outside Glendale school district meeting about LGBTQ studies:


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Anti-LGBTQ laws, drag bans loom over Pride celebrations

Organizers in Florida, Texas, Montana, Tennessee coping with new restrictions



A drag queen performs at Lubbock Pride in Lubbock, Texas, in 2022. (Image courtesy Topher Covarrubio of NeverEnding Memories Photography)

Anti-LGBTQ and anti-drag laws that Republican governors have signed have prompted Pride organizers to reconsider or even cancel their events this year.

The Bozanich Photography Collaborative, which organizes St. Cloud Pride in Florida, in its statement that announced the cancellation of its June 10 event noted the state “has recently passed a number of laws that target the LGBTQIA+ community” and they have “created a climate of fear and hostility for LGBTQIA+ people.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia — signed bills that ban gender-affirming health care for minors, restrict pronoun usage in schools and require public buildings and other facilities’ restrooms and locker rooms to have “separate facilities for men and women based on biological sex.” DeSantis on that day also signed House Bill 1438, which “protects children from explicitly adult performances in all venues — including drag shows and strip clubs” and “imposes fines and license suspension for hotels and restaurants that admit a child into an adult performance.”

The Republican presidential candidate last year filed a complaint against a Miami restaurant after LibsofTikTok broadcast a video of children attending a drag show.

The DeSantis administration this year has sought to revoke the liquor license of the Hyatt Regency Miami and filed a complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation after children attended drag shows at the respective locations. 

Tampa Pride on May 18 announced the cancellation of its “Pride on the River” event. Organizers of Pridefest in Port St. Lucie only allowed those who were at least 21 years old to attend their annual event that took place in April. 

Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando has sued DeSantis over HB 1438.

The 2022 Stonewall Pride parade in Wilton Manors, Fla. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The annual Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival is scheduled to take place in Wilton Manors on June 17.

Stonewall Pride CEO Jeffrey Sterling on Monday during a telephone interview with the Washington Blade pointed out Wilton Drive, the road on which the parade and festival will take place, is a state road.

He said performers and vendors will have to abide by a series of rules that include no nudity, no lewd conduct and no vulgarity or overtly sexual language. Sterling admitted HB 1438 and the other anti-LGBTQ bills that DeSantis signed “indirectly” prompted Stonewall Pride to implement them, but he stressed they do not apply to those who attend the parade and festival. 

Sterling denied reports that suggest drag queens will not be allowed to perform.

“We need to be proud of the beauty of our culture while keeping in mind who we are entertaining,” he said. “Our standards should be that which we would use around our own children or our families’ nieces or nephews. We are performing for all ages, so the youngest in the audience should dictate the minimum standards we should adhere to.”

Miami Beach Pride took place on April 16, less than a week after Equality Florida and the Florida Immigrant Coalition issued a travel advisory for the state. The event took place before DeSantis signed HB 1438 and the three other anti-LGBTQ laws.

The annual Miami Beach Pride parade took place in Miami Beach, Fla., on April 16, 2023. (Screenshot from video courtesy of Yariel Valdés González)

The third annual PensaPride will take place in Pensacola in Florida’s Panhandle on June 24.

Sydney Robinson, who is a member of PensaPride’s board of directors, during a June 1 telephone interview with the Blade noted the all-day festival is a sober event and “family-friendly, open to all ages.”

She noted drag queens typically perform at PensaPride, but organizers are “still sort of grappling to try and do something or if we want to avoid it altogether because of the new law.” Robinson was nevertheless adamant that Pride events should continue to take place in Florida, despite DeSantis and the anti-drag bill he signed.

“I’m really disappointed with any Pride events that cancel for that reason because I think there is a way to have a vibrant Pride event that doesn’t have drag,” she said. “If you really want to follow the law, if that’s your main concern, you could easily do a wonderful Pride event and just not have that element involved.” 

“On the other end it’s like well Pride is a protest,” added Robinson. “That was the basis of Pride from the start.”

A performer at PensaPride in Pensacola, Fla., in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Ashcraft/PensaPride)

‘We’re more motivated than ever’

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on May 22 signed a bill that bans drag story hours in public schools and libraries and restricts “sexually oriented performances” on public property. (His nonbinary child urged him to veto anti-LGBTQ bills that reached his desk during this year’s legislative session.) 

Missoula Pride will take place from June 16-18.

“We’re more motivated than ever to put on just one big hell of a Pride festival,” Andy Nelson, executive director of the Western Montana LGBTQ+ Community Center, which organizes Missoula Pride, told the Blade on June 2 during a telephone interview. “This legislative session here in Montana has been devastating and we just need to come together as a community more than ever.”

Nelson noted the bill that Gianforte signed is specific to public libraries and schools. Nelson said drag queens will perform at Missoula Pride as they normally do.

“As far as drag performers performing at our street party in downtown Missoula, we’re good to go,” Nelson told the Blade. “And so we’re going to have a bunch of queens up there, like usual, doing their thing. They’ll be in the parade and we’re still going to have multiple drag events throughout the weekend.”

Missoula Pride participants in Missoula, Mont., in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Lo Hunter Photography)

A document the Department of Homeland Security shared with law enforcement and government agencies on May 11 notes anti-LGBTQ threats are increasing and are linked to “drag-themed events, gender-affirming care and LGBTQIA+ curricula in schools.” The document also warns of the potential increase in attacks against health care providers and businesses that specifically cater to LGBTQ people.

Police in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho last June arrested 31 armed white nationalists who were protesting a Pride event

“We were definitely on edge,” said Nelson, who noted Coeur d’Alene is less than three hours from Missoula and the arrests took place days after Missoula Pride. “What happened there is not out of the question, that it could happen here as well.”

Nelson noted a small group of neo-Nazis with AR-15s in March protested an International Trans Day of Visibility event that took place at Missoula’s courthouse. He said a private security team and members of the Missoula Police Department will be on hand during Pride. 

“We’re definitely keeping safety and security top of mind,” said Nelson.

Missoula Pride participants in Missoula, Mont., in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Lo Hunter Photography)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on March 2 signed Senate Bill 2, which imposes fines and even jail time for “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest” on public property or where children are present.

Friends of George’s, a Memphis-based LGBTQ theater company, challenged SB 2 in federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on June 2 declared SB 2, which is also known as the Adult Entertainment Act, unconstitutional. The same federal judge temporarily blocked the law hours before it was to have taken effect.

Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders on Monday noted to the Blade that Pride events took place in Memphis, Cookeville and in other cities across the state over the past weekend.

Sanders said drag queens performed in a public park during Columbia Pride that took place on Sunday. He noted some Pride celebrations “probably did make some contingency plans or change the way their celebration went on, but many continued to have drag as part of their celebrations.”

Sanders told the Blade that activists in Tennessee remain “extremely stressed, particularly about the anti-trans laws.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the state law that bans gender-affirming care for anyone who is under 18 years old. Sanders noted that statute “continues to hang over everything,” but Parker’s ruling was something to celebrate. 

“People got a bit of relief, obviously, because of the drag ruling and people are very excited about that,” said Sanders.

Texas anti-drag bill has ‘broad and vague wording’

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on June 2 signed a law that bans gender-affirming health care for minors in his state. Senate Bill 12 — which would “regulate sexually oriented performances” and “those performances on the premises of a commercial enterprise, on public property, or in the presence of an individual younger than 18 years of age” — is currently awaiting the Republican governor’s signature.

Nick Harpster, the public relations and advocacy coordinator of Lubbock Pride, on June 1 noted to the Blade during a telephone interview that SB 12 would take effect after his city’s Pride events if Abbott were to sign it into law. 

He said SB 12 has “such a broad and vague wording and it’s left up to so much interpretation,” and questioned how it may specficially impact the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. Harpster said Texas lawmakers have definitely targeted drag queens with SB 12 and another bill that sought to defund public libraries that host drag queen story hours.

“That’s been the goal from the get go,” said Harpster.

Harpster said Lubbock Pride “may have to do some things differently” next year if Abbott signs SB 12. In the meantime, drag performances and drag story times are among the events that will take place during this year’s Lubbock Pride that will take place on June 10.

A band performs at Lubbock Pride in Lubbock, Texas, in 2022. (Image courtesy Topher Covarrubio of NeverEnding Memories Photography)

Dawn Ennis, Christopher Kane, Michael Key and Brody Levesque contributed to this story.

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Federal judge halts enforcement of Fla. trans healthcare ban

Advocacy groups challenged Senate Bill 254



A federal judge has halted enforcement of a Florida law that bans gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

In his 44 page ruling, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida has barred the state from any further enforcement action against transgender youth or their parents from seeking appropriate gender-affirming care.

Hinkle’s ruling allows Florida parents challenging the ban to access necessary medical care for their trans children while the legal challenge to the bans continues. The ruling blocks enforcement of Florida state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine rules banning established medical care for trans adolescents as well as provisions in Senate Bill 254 that codify those rules into state law with added criminal and civil penalties.

In his summary Hinkle wrote: “Gender identity is real. Those whose gender identity does not match their natal sex often suffer gender dysphoria. The widely accepted standard of care calls for evaluation and treatment by a multidisciplinary team. Proper treatment begins with mental health therapy and is followed in appropriate cases by GnRH agonists and cross-sex hormones. Florida has adopted a statute and rules that prohibit these treatments even when medically appropriate.”

In today’s ruling the court indicated that the plaintiff parents are likely to succeed in their claims that SB 254 and the Boards of Medicine rules unconstitutionally strip them of the right to make informed decisions about their children’s medical treatment and violate the equal protection rights of trans youth by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare.

The challenge to the Boards of Medicine and SB 254 healthcare bans is likely to proceed quickly to trial.

The families are represented by Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign, which issued the following statement:

“Today’s ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children. The court recognized the profound harm the state of Florida is causing by forcing parents to watch their kids suffer rather than provide them with safe and effective care that will allow them to thrive. We are incredibly relieved that these Florida parents can continue to get healthcare for their children while we proceed to challenge these bans and eventually see them fully overturned.”

Read the ruling:

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