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National news in brief: September 30

The NFL adds sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy, new standards for transgender health, and a new bill seeks to end HIV criminalization

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NFL adds sexual orientation to non-bias language

NEW YORK — In its latest collective bargaining agreement with its players union, the National Football League has quietly added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination statement.

According to LGBT issues sports blogger and sports law expert, Pete Olsen in the ‘Wide Rights’ blog, the league that governs the lucrative professional football teams in the United States this week added the two words to a 2006 non-discrimination statement that previously included race, religion and national origin.

Outspoken NFL LGBT ally and a Player Association rep to the talks from the Cleveland Browns team, Scott Fujita said the lawyers are responsible for the change, rather than any representatives from the groups at the table.

“Our counsel is pretty progressive [and] on top of such issues,” Fujita told Olsen on Twitter, “so I imagine this was worked out during the ‘lawyer’ discussions when players weren’t around.”

According to blogger Olsen, Perry v. Schwarzenegger lead counsel Ted Olson and David Boies were also present on opposite sides of the contract talks, with Boies representing the team owners and Olson representing the players.

Trans org unveils standards of care recommendations

ATLANTA — The World Professional Association for Transgender Health unveiled new standards of care for transgender and transsexual individuals Sunday at the largest annual meeting of transgender health advocates in the country.

According tothe Georgia Voice, the organization released the seventh version of the standards of care, removing “gender identity disorder,” and replacing it with “gender dysphoria.” The new standards were greeted with applause from the audience.

Bill would curb criminalization of people with HIV

WASHINGTON — A new bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would bar states from creating laws that target HIV-positive individuals with harsher punishment based on their HIV status.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced the bill last week in hopes of eliminating laws that unevenly affect HIV-positive individuals, such as stricter punishments attached to disclosure laws, and punishments on behaviors that have no risk of spreading infection, as is the case with an HIV-positive Texas man given a 35-year sentence for spitting on a police officer. Thirty-four states have laws that criminalize non-disclosure of HIV.

Ind. election includes three out gay candidates

INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time in the city’s history, openly gay Democratic candidates are running in the Indianapolis City Council elections.

The City Council race, which has never seen an openly gay major party candidate, now has three openly gay candidates vying for one at-large seat and two district spots. On the ballot are Zach Adamson, who was endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund for his at-large race against three other candidates for four open seats, as well as Jackie Leigh Butler and Todd Woodmansee, who are both running against Republican incumbents.

“The historical significance of it is the fact that it doesn’t matter,” Woodmansee told the Indianapolis Star. “We can have people running regardless of what their sexual orientation is, regardless of what their race is and regardless of what their religion is.”

Retailers backing away from anti-gay ‘charity’ marketer

SEATTLE — With the aid of online petition sites like Change.org, several LGBT advocates have successfully pressured major retailers to cut ties with an Internet marketing firm that gives a portion of purchases made through its portal to anti-gay charities.

In a recent New York Times profile, Seattle activist Stuart Wilber recalled discovering that portions of purchases made through CVN.com run by the Christian Charity Give Back Group aided anti-gay groups like SPLC certified hate group the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. The purchases could be made through retailers like Macy’s, Barney’s New York, Microsoft, Apple and Netflix. All have since left the network, leaving companies like Office Max, Office Depot and Elizabeth Arden.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, Microsoft,’” Wilber told the Times, about launching his petitions.

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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court rules to preserve access to abortion medication

Case is Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA

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The abortifacent drug mifepristone is marketed under the brand name Mifeprex (Photo courtesy of Danco Laboratories)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a much-anticipated decision against efforts by conservative doctors and medical groups challenging access to mifepristone, one of two pharmaceuticals used in medication abortions. As a result of the high court’s decision, access to the drug won’t change.

Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the court, reversed a lower court decision that would have made it more difficult to obtain the drug, which is used in about two-thirds of U.S. abortions. The ruling however was narrow in scope as it only addressed what is known as legal standing in a case.

SCOTUSblog senior court reporter Amy Howe noted that Kavanaugh acknowledged what he characterized as the challengers’ “sincere legal, moral, ideological, and policy objections” to elective abortion “by others” and to FDA’s 2016 and 2021 changes to the conditions on the use of the drug.

But the challengers had not shown that they would be harmed by the FDA’s mifepristone policies, he explained, and under the Constitution, merely objecting to abortion and the FDA’s policies are not enough to bring a case in federal court. The proper place to voice those objections, he suggested, is in the political or regulatory arena.

“Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue,” Kavanaugh wrote.

“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision in this incredibly important case. By rejecting the Fifth Circuit’s radical, unprecedented and unsupportable interpretation of who has standing to sue, the justices reaffirmed longstanding basic principles of administrative law,” said Abigail Long, a spokesperson for Danco. “The decision also safeguards access to a drug that has decades of safe and effective use.”

The White House released a statement from President Joe Biden on Supreme Court Decision on FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine:

“Today’s decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues. It does not change the fact that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom. It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states.
 
It does mean that mifepristone, or medication abortion, remains available and approved. Women can continue to access this medication – approved by the FDA as safe and effective more than 20 years ago. 
 
But let’s be clear: attacks on medication abortion are part of Republican elected officials’ extreme and dangerous agenda to ban abortion nationwide. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Republican elected officials have imposed extreme abortion bans in 21 states, some of which include zero exceptions for rape or incest. Women are being turned away from emergency rooms, or forced to go to court to plead for care that their doctor recommended or to travel hundreds of miles for care. Doctors and nurses are being threatened with jail time, including life in prison, for providing the health care they have been trained to provide. And contraception and IVF are under attack.
 
The stakes could not be higher for women across America. Vice President Harris and I stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to make deeply personal health care decisions. We will continue to fight to ensure that women in every state get the health care they need and we will continue to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law — that is our commitment.”

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, in a ruling a year ago, waved aside decades of scientific approval, ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration improperly approved mifepristone more than 20 years ago in 2000.

Kacsmaryk, appointed to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump, in his 67 page opinion wrote that the FDA’s two-decade-old approval violated a federal rule that allows for accelerated approval for certain drugs and, along with subsequent actions by the agency, was unlawful.

The suit, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the North District of Texas in mid-November by Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+ legal organization.

Applauding Kacsmaryk’s ruling, Erik Baptist, speaking for the Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement: “By illegally approving dangerous chemical abortion drugs, the FDA put women and girls in harm’s way, and it’s high time the agency is held accountable for its reckless actions.”

Erin Hawley, a senior attorney for the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom who argued the case at the Supreme Court, said the opinion was “disappointing,” but told reporters in a press gaggle after the ruling that the explicit mention of conscience protections was a victory.

“The Supreme Court was crystal clear that pro life doctors do have federal conscience protections, even in emergency situations,” Hawley said. “So that’s a huge win for the pro-life cause. The Supreme Court clearly said that our doctors are entitled to those federal conscious protections that are based on their religious beliefs.”

The case now returns to the lower courts, and the dispute over access to the drug likely is not over. 

SCOTUSblog also reported that Nancy Northrup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, praised the decision but conceded that the dispute could continue even after Thursday’s ruling. She, too, noted that the three states “could still attempt to keep the case going, including taking it back up to the Supreme Court,” and she warned that access to mifepristone “is still at risk nationwide.”

The Hill notes that for instance, the same district court in Texas that originally ruled against the FDA said a group of three red states—Missouri, Idaho and Kansas— can intervene in the lawsuit.

“I would expect the litigation to continue with those states raising different standing arguments than made by our doctors,” ADF’s Hawley told reporters.

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, emailed the Blade the following statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang in response to a unanimous ruling by the United States Supreme Court:

“We appreciate today’s unanimous decision to uphold access to the abortion drug mifepristone, authored by a conservative Justice. This ruling reinforces the critical importance of maintaining accessible reproductive healthcare and highlights the necessity of safeguarding these rights from baseless legal attacks.

However, it is imperative to recognize that the Court should never have accepted this case. The so-called Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine lacked the standing to initiate this challenge. Moreover, federal conscience exemptions already exist for healthcare providers who object to offering abortion-related care. 

Medication abortions involving mifepristone constitute the majority of abortions in America, including those sought by LGBTQ+ people. Our community understands the necessity of bodily autonomy and the right to make decisions regarding our own medical care, including reproductive care. Patients deserve access to the medications they need, and providers should be able to deliver that care without unwarranted interference from extremist courts or politicians.   

Attacks on abortion do not end with this decision; millions of people nationwide are still unable to get abortion care and abortion opponents remain focused on their end goal of a nationwide abortion ban. 

Equality California will continue to work with our legislative partners in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., as well as organizational allies, like Planned Parenthood, to help protect and expand access to abortion and reproductive healthcare.”

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National

McBride clears Dem field, poised to become first trans member of Congress

Primary opponent drops out of Delaware race

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Sarah McBride (Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride has become the Democratic frontrunner for Congress after her primary opponent dropped out of the race. This sets up McBride to possibly become the first transgender member of Congress if elected in November. 

Eugene Young announced on Wednesday he suspended his campaign for Delaware’s At-Large congressional district, leaving McBride as the only Democratic candidate running for the seat. Young’s announcement leaves Republican challenger Donyale Hall as McBride’s only obstacle to the House of Representatives.

As the new Democratic frontrunner, McBride is slated to win the strongly Democratic state’s sole House seat, which is currently held by Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester. Blunt Rochester is leaving the House to run for Thomas Carper’s seat in the Senate who will be retiring at the end of the year. 

According to McBride’s campaign, she has raised more than $2 million and does not appear to be slowing down. Not only could McBride become the historic first trans member of Congress, but her campaign has raised record-breaking amounts — more than any candidate for an open congressional seat in state history.

McBride currently holds a seat in the First State Senate District of Delaware and has used that momentum to mobilize her supporters.

LPAC, an organization that works to get LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary candidates elected to public office, has endorsed McBride’s run for Congress as well as her past campaigns. LPAC’s Executive Director Janelle Perez released a statement regarding McBride’s path to the House.

“LPAC is thrilled that Sarah McBride has cleared the Democratic field and is on a clear path to making history in November as the first out trans person ever elected to the U.S. Congress,” Perez wrote in her statement. “This did not happen by accident: Sarah has actively cleared the field by building an undeniably formidable campaign, connecting deeply with voters and out-raising every candidate in the field by a longshot.”

Other candidates have until July 8 to enter the race, although that is unlikely given McBride’s fundraising advantage and growing momentum. 

“It is no surprise to me that Sarah has reached this point — she is a compassionate leader who truly cares for her community and has a tangible impact on everyone around her,” Perez added. “This is a groundbreaking moment for LGBTQ+ representation in our country and I know that Sarah McBride will make an incredible member of Congress.”

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Pennsylvania

Philadelphia man sentenced to 15-30 years in prison for gay journalist’s murder

Robert Davis pleaded guilty to shooting Josh Kruger last October

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Josh Kruger (Photo courtesy of Kruger's Facebook page)

The man responsible for murder of gay journalist Josh Kruger, 39, last October in Philadelphia was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison on Monday.

Robert Davis, 20, who lived the city’s Point Breeze neighborhood, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and related offenses in a plea bargain worked out with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office prosecutors.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Davis’s guilty plea before Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Barbara A. McDermott also included counts of aggravated assault and illegal gun possession for firing a gun at someone on a SEPTA platform in late September.

Davis’s lawyer, Andrea Konow, could not be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner acknowledged Davis’s sentencing, but declined further comment.

Lieutenant Hamilton Marshmond of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Unit at the time of the shooting told reporters that Kruger was found lying in the street outside his Point Breeze home suffering from seven gunshot wounds. Responding officers rushed Kruger to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Davis’s older brother Jaylin Reason, told the Inquirer his brother appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and was acting erratically. While trying to calm Davis down, Reason said, they got into a fight. He realized, he said, that the best assistance he could offer his brother was helping him surrender to police.

“I didn’t want him to keep living outside and going around and doing something to put himself in a deeper hole,” he added. Reason told the paper that he calmed Davis down, and then asked his other brother to call the police. Together, they went outside, sat on the steps, and waited for 17th District officers to arrive. Davis surrendered and was taken into custody.

In a series of interviews in early October with the Inquirer, Davis’s family told the paper that a years-long sexual relationship involving drugs factored into the murder. Davis’s mother and older brother are alleging Kruger began a sexual and drug relationship with the teenager four years ago when Davis was 15.

Robert Davis, 20 (Booking photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Police Department)

Kruger wrote for publications like the Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, the Philadelphia Citizen, and the Philly Voice about LGBTQ rights, addiction, AIDS, and homelessness. He worked for the city of Philadelphia, including at the Office of Homeless Services, for five years.

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