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HRC launches ‘LGBT Equality’ bus tour

Tour to focus on conservative states in Midwest, South

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HRC hits the road this summer. (Photo courtesy HRC)

The Human Rights Campaign announced this week that it will launch a nationwide “LGBT Equality” bus tour in August with stops planned for 17 cities in 11 mostly conservative states in the Midwest and South over a 12-week period.

The national LGBT rights group says its aim is to draw attention to the fact that LGBT people lack legal protections in these states in employment, housing and public accommodations.

A lack of legal protection for same-sex relationships, including LGBT families with children, will also be discussed through workshops, forums and other events in the locations where the bus will stop, HRC said.

“We are in the midst of a cultural tipping point on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and our job is to push the scale as far and as fast as we can toward fairness,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “The tour will serve as a powerful visibility tool and support the work of creating real and lasting change in these communities.”

Upon announcing the bus tour on July 25, HRC released the results of a nationwide poll it commissioned showing that a majority of Americans nationwide support legal protections for LGBT people, including the legal right to marry.

But the poll also shows that support for LGBT equality is not as strong in certain parts of the country, including the Midwest and South. For example, while the poll shows support for equal marriage rights of gays and lesbians at 51 percent nationwide, it shows that support dropping to 43 percent in the Midwest and South.

The poll was conducted by polling and political consulting firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

It found that 79 percent of its respondents nationwide support non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations. The poll found that 79 percent of respondents nationwide believe anti-gay discrimination is a problem and 74 percent believe anti-transgender discrimination is a problem.

In a telephone press briefing on Tuesday, HRC’s director of communications, Fred Sainz, said HRC believes the polling numbers show that most Americans are ahead of their elected officials and the nation’s politicians when it comes to supporting legal protections for LGBT people.

He noted that while the poll shows that voters in the Midwest and South don’t support LGBT equality to the degree shown by voters in the Northeast and West, it shows that support for LGBT legal protections among the people who live in the Midwest and South is considerably higher than that of the politicians elected to represent them in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.

Dave Walker, an official with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner who worked on the poll, echoed Sainz’s assessment of the polling data.

“Even in the most conservative parts of the country, where the majority of people are clearly opposed to marriage equality, there’s a lot of attitudes toward lesbian and gay people that are well ahead of where legislation is,” Walker said. “And there’s a degree of acceptance, which is growing nationally, even if it’s growing unevenly.”

Among the 11 states selected for the bus tour, none has adopted through its state legislature a non-discrimination law based on sexual orientation or gender identity. None of the states has adopted laws recognizing same-sex relationships through marriage, domestic partnerships or civil unions.

Each of the 11 states has adopted, over the past decade, laws or state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

Sainz said HRC hopes to use the equality bus tour to remind otherwise supportive voters in these states that LGBT people lack legal protections that the voters believe should be in place.

A schedule released by HRC shows that the tour kicks off on Aug. 12 in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the bus and HRC participants will stay for three days.

From there, the bus will travel to Omaha and Lincoln, Neb.; Lawrence, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo.; New Orleans, La.; Austin and College Station, Texas; Little Rock, Ark.; Louisville and Lexington, Ky.; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and Jacksonville and Orlando, Fla. The tour ends in Orlando on Oct. 30.

“At each tour stop, HRC will work with the local community to hold a variety of events,” according to a statement released by HRC. “The bus will be accompanied by an exhibit offering primers on everyday life topics including: your family, your health, your rights, your community, your faith, your workplace and your story,” the statement says.

“Separate from the bus, HRC will also offer a verity of workshops and educational seminars with particular emphasis on workplace and healthcare equality, schools and bullying issues and religion and faith,” the statement says.

Sainz acknowledged that some of the cities on the tour are more progressive and LGBT-supportive than the state as a whole. But he said nearly all cities on the bus tour are represented at least in part by a Republican that is not likely to be supportive of LGBT equality.

“Nonetheless, the cities were chosen because they are geographic centers with larger media markets so that we could reach as many people as possible with the message of there being a need for equality,” he said.

Sainz didn’t respond to a question asking how much the bus tour project will cost HRC.

“This is obviously an investment in equality that will have tremendous impact going into the future,” he said. “We are headed into areas of the country where it’s still difficult for LGBT people live their lives openly, honestly and without fear of recrimination, so we think that it’s a worthwhile investment to make.”

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Vigil held after Wilton Manors Pride parade accident

Fort Lauderdale mayor expressed ‘regret’ over initial terrorism claim

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A vigil in the wake of the accident at the Stonewall Pride Parade took place at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — More than 100 people on Sunday attended a prayer vigil in the wake of an accident at a Wilton Manors Pride parade that left one person dead and another injured.

The vigil took place at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

Clergy joined activists and local officials at a vigil at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

A 77-year-old man who was driving a pickup truck struck two men near the Stonewall Pride Parade’s staging area shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday. One of the victims died a short time later at a Fort Lauderdale hospital.

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

The driver of the pickup truck and the two men he hit are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sunday described the incident as a “fatal traffic crash” and not a terrorism incident as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis initially claimed.

“As we were about to begin the parade, this pickup truck, this jacked up white pickup truck, dashed across, breaking through the line, hitting people, all of us that were there could not believe our eyes,” said Trantalis as he spoke at the vigil.

Trantalis noted the pickup truck nearly hit Wasserman Schultz. He also referenced the arrest of a 20-year-old supporter of former President Trump earlier in the week after he allegedly vandalized a Pride flag mural that had been painted in an intersection in Delray Beach, which is roughly 30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale.

“I immediately knew that something terrible was happening,” said Trantalis, referring to the Stonewall Pride Parade accident. “My visceral reaction was that we were being attacked. Why not? Why not feel that way?”

“I guess I should watch to make sure there are no reporters standing by when I have those feelings, but that was my first reaction and I regret the fact that I said it was a terrorist attack because we found out that it was not, but I don’t regret my feelings,” he added. “But I don’t regret that I felt terrorized by someone who plowed through the crowd inches away from the congresswoman and the congressman, myself and others.”

Trantalis also told vigil attendees that “I guess we forgive” the pickup truck driver.

“But I regret that his consequences resulted in the death of an individual who was innocent and who was there to have a good time, like the rest of us, and I regret there is a man who is in serious condition … fighting for his life and there,” added Trantalis.

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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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