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National news in brief: Jan. 6

Washington Guv. supports marriage rights, Johnny Weir reveals New Years wedding, Gay Games group sees more conflict

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Christine Gregoire, Governor of Washington, gay news, gay politics dc

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire told reporters this week that she now supports full marriage rights for same-sex couples. (Photo by Evan Derickson)

Washington guv to support marriage rights

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Christine Gregoire, a longtime LGBT rights supporter, announced Wednesday that she supports extending full marriage rights to same-sex couples in Washington state, according to Reuters.

Several Democrats are expected to introduce a bill extending full marriage rights to same-sex couples in the next legislative session. Democrats hold a sizable majority in both houses in the state whose domestic partnerships have since 2009 offered almost all of the same state rights to same-sex couples as those offered to married opposite-sex couples.

In a historic first, that domestic partnership law was upheld by the voters of Washington state in November 2009, when they approved Referendum 71.

“The speculation is that she’ll support marriage equality and we are looking forward with great anticipation to her speech,” Josh Friedes, director of marriage equality for Equal Rights Washington, told Reuters.

The change in law could be a boon for Washington if it follows New York’s lead. According to the Wall Street Journal, since legalizing marriage in June, the New York City clerk’s office reported a 14 percent increase in new marriage licenses.

Efforts to legalize full marriage for same-sex couples in 2012 are anticipated in Maine, Maryland and California as well.

Conservative Colo. group to push for civil unions

DENVER — A self-described group of conservative Republicans has formed to help push Republican lawmakers to support an effort to pass same-sex civil unions in Colorado, according to the Denver Post.

The mostly heterosexual leadership of Coloradans for Freedom — which includes business leaders, political activists, lobbyists and former and current lawmakers — plans to lobby lawmakers in support of a civil unions bill in 2012. A similar bill passed the Colorado Senate but died in the House in 2011.

“The point is not to create conflict within the Republican Party,” Republican Jefferson County attorney Mario Nicolais, who believes the ability to form a civil union is a matter of personal freedom, told the Post. “It’s to provide resources to people interested in the conservative argument for civil unions.”

Tenn. group wants exemption from bullying law

NASHVILLE — The Family Action Council of Tennessee is seeking a religious exemption from an anti-bullying law in that state, an exemption LGBT advocates call a “license to bully.”

According to the state’s most prominent newspaper, the Tennessean, the changes to the law would protect religious speech that some may consider offensive or insulting, which LGBT advocates charge is aimed at giving a pass to anti-gay rhetoric in the classroom. Teachers and administrators in Tennessee are already barred from discussing LGBT issues in the classroom.

In addition, the proposed changes would remove the protected classes in the state’s anti-bullying law, and instead focus on specific behaviors, which opponents of the changes say is another blow to protecting students bullied for either real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We need to be focusing on ways to ensure that Tennessee students receive an education free from bullying, harassment and intimidation,” Tennessee Equality Project board president Jonathan Cole wrote on the group’s website in regard to the proposed legislation. “The health and welfare of Tennessee children may depend on it.”

Detroit LGBT activist and MCC pastor dies

DETROIT — Former Detroit Metropolitan Community Church pastor Mark Bidwell — who stepped down in September after a scandal involving a drug overdose death at his home — died on Tuesday, according to Michigan’s LGBT weekly, Between the Lines. He was 52.

Bidwell was also forced to resign from his position as Ferndale police chaplain at the time of the death of Steven Michael Fitch.

Bidwell took over the Ferndale-based church in 1989. Detroit’s MCC was founded in the 1970s and flourished in the gay-friendly Detroit suburb under Bidwell. The pastor was well known for performing same-sex union ceremonies on the steps of the Ferndale City Hall during Motor City Pride throughout the 2000s.

In 2011, Motor City Pride moved from Ferndale to the Detroit riverfront, returning to the city for the first time in 10 years. According to MCC’s website, funeral services are set for Saturday.

Johnny Weir at LA Pride 2011, gay news, gay politics dc

Weir rings in New Year with NYC wedding. (Photo by Dan Leveille)

Weir rings in New Year with NYC wedding

LOS ANGELES — Ringing in an especially joyful new year, on Jan. 1 at midnight in New York City, Olympic skater Johnny Weir said ‘I do’ to his partner Victor Voronov, whom the skater has known for many years, but only began dating this summer.

“[Victor is] kind of everything that I’ve ever looked for and aspired to be in a relationship with,” the 27-year-old Weir told Icenetwork.com in late December, during an interview about his plans to return to competition. “I’m very happy with my personal life and also my professional life, and I thank God I can be exactly where I’m at.”

The second season of “Be Good Johnny Weir” returns to the Logo network this year.

Gay Games leader resigns over reunification

SEATTLE — The former Federation of Gay Games communications co-chair, has resigned his position on a crucial planning group for the 10th global LGBT sports event to take place in 2018, over a major impasse, according to the Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco.

Kelly Stevens left the 1 Quadrennial Event Working Group — which is planning an event that will bring back together for the first time since 2006 the International Gay Games and the Outgames — over the decision to bring athletes together to choose the 2018 city at the 2013 Outgames in Antwerp, rather than the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. Stevens believes holding the vote in Antwerp rather than Cleveland will detract from the 2014 event. The schism between the Federation of Gay Games — which hosts the Gay Games — and the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association — which hosts the Outgames — stems from a disagreement between the FGG and the Montreal 2006 planning committee, leading to the 2006 games being revoked from Montreal and awarded to second choice, Chicago.

The two organizations have been at odds for many years, but overtures of reconciliation have led to the possibility of hosting a combined event at the end of this decade.

Washington, D.C. was a finalist for the 2014 games, but lost out to Cleveland in the vote at the 2010 games in Cologne.

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Florida

Federal judge blocks Fla. trans health care ban and restrictions

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to appeal ruling

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The Florida Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

BY JACKIE LLANOS | Florida’s ban on puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for transgender minors and restrictions for adults are both unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who presided over the case in Tallahassee, sided with the plaintiffs in the class action — parents of trans minors and trans adults — who argued the measure violated the U.S. Constitution because it solely targeted trans people.

“The federal courts have a role to play in upholding the constitution and laws. The state of Florida can regulate as needed but cannot flatly deny transgender individuals safe and effective medical treatment — treatment with medications routinely provided to others with the state’s full approval so long as the purpose is not to support the patient’s transgender identity,” Hinkle wrote.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. (Florida Channel screenshot)

Those restrictions came into place following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approval of Senate Bill 254 in May 2023 and promulgation of rules from the Florida Board of Medicine and Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine enacting that law. Those boards and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo were named as defendants.

The measures banned minors’ use of puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, common treatments for gender dysphoria. Additionally, the law said only physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists could treat adults seeking gender-affirming care, with the added requirements of frequent in-person visits, tests, and authorization through a consent form that contained false information about the harms of hormone replacement therapy.

However, the law didn’t impose the same restrictions on cisgender women needing to take testosterone or cisgender men needing to take estrogen.

Appeal incoming

The state plans to appeal the ruling, said Jeremy Redfern, press secretary to DeSantis. An appeal would go to the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals.

“Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida acted to protect children in this state, and the court was wrong to override their wishes,” Redfern wrote in a statement to Florida Phoenix.

“We disagree with the court’s erroneous rulings on the law, on the facts, and on the science. As we’ve seen here in Florida, the United Kingdom, and across Europe, there is no quality evidence to support the chemical and physical mutilation of children. These procedures do permanent, life-altering damage to children, and history will look back on this fad in horror.”

Redfern wrote that the state would continue to “fight to ensure children are not chemically or physically mutilated in the name of radical, new age ‘gender ideology.’”

In his 105-page ruling, Hinkle noted that “there were no complaints from patients, no adverse results in Florida, just a political issue.”

However, the ruling does not lift the state ban on gender-affirming surgery for minors and restrictions on surgery for adults. That’s because the plaintiffs didn’t challenge the statutes relating to surgery for minors, and the adult plaintiff had not sought surgery and so lacked standing to challenge those restrictions.

Relief for plaintiffs

Plaintiff Gloria Goe (they used pseudonyms to protect the privacy of their children) is the mother of an 8-year-old (at the opening of the case) trans boy. During the opening day of the trial on Dec. 13, she testified that she feared her son would be swallowed by depression if forced to go through puberty without medical treatment.

“This ruling lifts a huge weight and worry from me and my family, knowing I can keep getting Gavin the care he needs, and he can keep being the big-hearted, smiling kid he is now. I’m so grateful the court saw how this law prevented parents like me from taking care of our children,” Goe wrote in a press release.

Attorneys with GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Southern Legal Counsel, and the Lowenstein Sandler law firm represented the plaintiffs.

Hinkle compared the discrimination trans people face nowadays to racism and misogyny.

“Some transgender opponents invoke religion to support their position, just as some once invoked religion to support their racism or misogyny,” Hinkle wrote. “Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs. But they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender. In time, discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished.”

Editor’s note:

In a statement made to the Los Angeles Blade after Tuesday’s rule, Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights said:

“This decision is important because is the first federal court to rule on a law restricting healthcare for transgender adults and because it finds that Florida’s laws are plainly based on anti-transgender bias, not science. This victory shows that we can and must keep fighting these dangerous laws, notwithstanding the deeply flawed rulings of some conservative appellate courts.

Judge Hinkle ruled in favor of the transgender plaintiffs in this case even after the negative 11th Circuit ruling that reversed our initially successful challenge to a similar ban in Alabama. He was able to do so because the evidence showing that these laws have no medical justification and are rooted in false stereotypes and bias was so strong. This is a huge victory, and one that shows that we can win these battles even in red states.”   

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Jackie Llanos is a recent graduate of the University of Richmond. She has interned at Nashville Public Radio, Virginia Public Media, and Virginia Mercury.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Florida Phoenix and is republished with permission.

The Phoenix is a nonprofit news site that’s free of advertising and free to readers. We cover state government and politics with a staff of five journalists located at the Florida Press Center in downtown Tallahassee.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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National

New poll: 60 percent of Americans oppose bending gender-affirming care for young people

Gallup researchers conducted poll.

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Upwards of 1,000 people took part in the March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy in D.C. on March 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A new Gallup poll out this week found that six in 10 U.S. adults oppose laws banning gender-affirming care for minors. The poll also found that a steady 51 percent of Americans think changing one’s gender is morally wrong, while 44 percent say it is morally acceptable.

According to the researchers at Gallup: There are significant demographic differences in Americans’ views of the morality of changing one’s gender. Majorities of political liberals (81 percent), Democrats (72 percent), those who do not identify with a religion (67 percent), those who do not attend religious services regularly (59 percent), young adults aged 18-29 (56 percent), and college graduates (53 percent) believe changing genders is morally acceptable. Less than half of their counterparts say the same.

While slightly less than half of women believe in the moral acceptability of changing genders, they are significantly more likely than men to think as much (48 percent vs. 39 percent, respectively.)

In data published by the Human Rights Campaign, as of May, 39 percent or 117,600 transgender youth aged 13-17 are living in the 25 states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care. This includes 18,500 youth living in the three states — Florida, Ohio, and Montana — where bans are currently on hold or blocked from enforcement through court orders.

In its survey, Gallup researchers gauged Americans’ support for laws banning such care for minors with two questions, each asked of half of the total sample. One question asks about bans in general terms, on “treatments and medical procedures,” while the other spells out some of the specific treatments that could be banned, such as “psychological support, hormonal treatments and medical surgeries” to help minors align with their gender identity.

Gallup researchers found that on both questions, Republicans are more supportive than Democrats and independents of bans on gender-affirming care for minors.

On the more specific question that includes psychological support, hormonal treatments and medical surgeries, a majority of Republicans (53 percent) but far fewer Democrats (25 percent) and Independents (34 percent) favor a ban.

On the more general question, Republicans are somewhat less likely to support a ban on treatments and medical procedures (45 percent), while Democrats’ and Independents’ responses remain unchanged from the more specific question.

Gallup researchers measured U.S. adults’ gender identity in all of its surveys; an average of 0.9 percent of U.S. adults in 2023 identified as trans. Trans identification among adults is highest (2.8 percent) for those in Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2005).

The Gallup polling data also revealed:

A slim majority of Americans believe that changing one’s gender is morally wrong. Yet, a majority also oppose laws banning gender-affirming care to help minors align with their gender identity.

This discrepancy could be because the questions about gender-affirming care specifically mention minors, while the question about the morality of changing one’s gender does not. In addition, the relatively low support for banning laws on gender-affirming care may be attributable to Americans’ general distaste for bans, a pattern that can be seen in Gallup trends on banning cigarette smoking and handguns.

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The White House

Advocacy groups condemn Biden immigration executive order

Directive ‘catastrophic’ for LGBTQ asylum seekers

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President Joe Biden (X screen capture)

President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued an executive order that prohibits migrants from asking for asylum in the U.S. if they “unlawfully” cross the Southern border.

Senior administration officials on Tuesday told reporters before Biden announced the directive that it will take effect “when high levels of encounters at the Southern border exceed our ability to deliver timely consequences, as is the case today.” The Associated Press reported this figure is 2,500 “border encounters between ports of entry” a day. 

“Today, I’m announcing actions to bar migrants who cross our Southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum,” said Biden at the White House. “Migrants will be restricted from receiving asylum at our southern border unless they seek it after entering through an established lawful process.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, U.S. Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), and Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) joined Biden at the White House alongside San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, El Paso (Texas) Mayor Oscar Leeser, Edinberg (Texas) Mayor Ramiro Garza, Harlingen (Texas) Mayor Norma Sepulveda, Laredo (Texas) Victor Treviño, Brownsville (Texas) Mayor John Cowen, Bexar County (Texas) Sheriff Javier Salazar, and Santa Cruz County (Ariz.) Supervisor Manuel Ruiz.

El Paso, Edinberg, Harlingen, Laredo, Brownsville, and Santa Cruz County border Mexico.

U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) in February unveiled an immigration overhaul bill they described as “the strongest border security package in decades to reassert control of the border, end catch and release, enhance security, fix the asylum system, and support border communities.” Senate Republicans blocked the measure.

“I’m moving past Republican obstruction and using the executive authorities available to me as president to do what I can on my own to address the border,” said Biden.

“Frankly, I would have preferred to address this issue through bipartisan legislation, because that’s the only way to actually get the kind of system we have now — that’s broken — fixed, to hire more Border Patrol agents, more asylum officers, more judges,” he added. “But Republicans have left me with no choice.” 

Biden stressed migrants who “come to the United States legally … by making an appointment and coming to a port of entry” will still be able to ask for asylum.

“If an individual chooses not to use our legal pathways, if they choose to come without permission and against the law, they’ll be restricted from receiving asylum and staying in the United States,” he said. 

“This action will help us to gain control of our border, restore order to the process,” Biden added. 

Biden further stressed the ban “will remain in place until the number of people trying to enter illegally is reduced to a level that our system can effectively manage.”

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) in a statement sharply criticized the executive order.

“By reviving Trump’s asylum ban, President Biden has undermined American values and abandoned our nation’s obligations to provide people fleeing persecution, violence, and authoritarianism with an opportunity to seek refuge in the U.S.,” said the California Democrat.

The Council for Global Equality said the executive order is “catastrophic for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and other asylum seekers from vulnerable populations — and it’s highly unlikely to help move the electoral needle.” Immigration Equality Director of Law and Policy Bridget Crawford reiterated this point.

“President Biden is playing craven political games with the lives of refugees, including LGBTQ people fleeing persecution, instead of implementing workable solutions,” she said.

The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration works with LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexicali and other Mexican cities that border the U.S. 

ORAM Executive Director Steve Roth in a statement to the Washington Blade said the executive order will harm “LGBTIQ asylum seekers and other vulnerable individuals seeking refuge from persecution.” He also said the directive “will put more LGBTIQ asylum seekers in harm’s way in dangerous Mexican border towns and puts added pressure on refugee-serving organizations throughout Mexico.”

The State Department currently advises Americans not to travel to Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, which borders Texas, because of “crime and kidnapping.” It also recommends Americans to reconsider travel to the country’s Baja California, Sonora, and Chihuahua states that border California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas respectively. 

“President Biden’s unlawful policy flies in the face of U.S. refugee law and removes the critical protections and paths to safety of these asylum seekers, leaving them vulnerable and with no resources,” Roth told the Blade.

Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Impact Officer Terra Russell-Slavin noted Biden issued the executive director days after he issued a Pride Month proclamation. Russell-Slavin, like other activists, also referenced the previous administration’s policies they said harmed LGBTQ migrants and asylums seekers.

“The Biden administration cannot have it both ways: They cannot ‘celebrate’ Pride Month while turning their backs on LGBTQ+ individuals who are seeking the rights our movement is based on,” said Russell-Slavin. “We strongly condemn this executive order, and urge the president to immediately reverse this harmful action.”

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