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Pelosi, Hoyer rebuke Boehner for defending DOMA in veteran case

BLAG set to intervene on behalf of anti-gay portions of Title 38 for first time

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

House Democratic leaders are continuing to criticize Speaker John Boehner for defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court and accuse him of going beyond his existing authority ahead of his planned intervention in a lesbian veteran’s litigation against the statute.

In a letter dated March 30, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) write to the speaker to express concern about Boehner intervening on behalf of DOMA in the case of Cooper-Harris v. United States.

“This latest decision not only ignores the civil rights of LGBT Americans but opens a new, direct assault on veterans,” Pelosi and Hoyer write. “The men and women of our Armed Forces serve with courage and dignity on behalf of our safety and security. They risk their lives for the country they love – and they should not face prejudice at home because of whom they love. These brave soldiers deserve nothing less than our gratitude, our respect, and the benefits they have earned in battle.”

On Feb. 1, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit against DOMA in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of Tracey Cooper-Harris, who’s seeking benefits as a disabled Army veteran her spouse, Maggie Cooper-Harris. The two were married in California in 2008 before Proposition 8 took effect.

Boehner’s attorney’s has yet to file the intervention, but the Washington Blade has obtained documents revealing their intent to intervene in the lawsuit. Informed sources are expecting a formal filing of the intervention next week.

Boehner will be defending not just DOMA in court, but Title 38, a law governing veteran benefits that as written precludes same-sex married couples from obtaining benefits. It’s the first time the speaker has elected to defend this statute in addition to DOMA.

In a letter last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder notified Congress that the Obama administration would no longer defend portions of Title 38 related to same-sex couples as it has with DOMA.

It’s taking on defense of Title 38 that Pelosi and Hoyer belief are beyond Boehner’s authority. In the letter, the lawmakers request a formal Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group vote on defending Title 38 and ask that any extension of the existing legal contract receive prior examination by the Committee on House Administration and the House Ethics Committee.

Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesperson, issued a statement saying the speaker’s intervention in the case against Title 38 is aligned with House rules.

“It was determined through consultations with each office — the process used to make such decisions regularly under then-Speaker Pelosi — that a majority of the BLAG believes the constitutionality of this statute, which the Attorney General described as ‘identical in material respect to the language of Section 3 of DOMA,’ should be determined by the judicial branch, not through a unilateral decree of the President,” Buck said.

Tracey (left) & Maggie Cooper-Harris (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Tracey Cooper-Harris was diagnosed in 2010 with multiple sclerosis, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has determined is connected to her military service in Iraq and Afghanistan, She’s been receiving disability benefits as a veteran, but is unable to receive spousal benefits that she would otherwise be entitled to if she were in an opposite-sex marriage. Among them are disability benefits meant to ensure the financial stability of spouses.

Christine Sun, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said her organization is pleased House Democratic leaders are taking interest in its lawsuit.

“We are pleased that Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are getting involved in the Cooper-Harris case and standing with veterans,” Sun said. “It is astonishing that Rep. John Boehner and his colleagues are continuing this shameful crusade against our brave men and women in uniform and is nothing short of disgusting.”

After the Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend DOMA in court last year, Boehner directed House General Counsel Kerry Kircher to defend the statute after BLAG voted 3-2 on a party-line basis to take up defense of the law.

According to Leader Pelosi’s office, the Cooper-Harris case marks the 12th time Boehner has intervened to defend. Earlier this week, officials testified this week that House defense of DOMA thus far has cost $742,000, although Boehner has raised the cost cap to $1.5 million.

The full text of Pelosi and Hoyer’s letter to Boehner follows:

March 30, 2012

The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House of Representatives
United States Capitol
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

Today, we were notified that the House, through outside counsel acting at your direction, has decided to intervene in a case challenging the constitutionality of laws denying federal benefits to military spouses on the basis of their sexual orientation.  As members of the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), who were not consulted prior to this unwise decision, we strongly object to spending taxpayer money to intervene in this case against a decorated veteran, Tracey Cooper-Harris, and her spouse, Maggie Cooper-Harris.  This decision clearly exceeds the scope of the original BLAG authorization, with which we initially disagreed.

This intervention once again puts the House of Representatives on the wrong side of the future – supporting discrimination, unfairness, and the denial of basic equality to all Americans.  We have objected to prior decisions by the House Republican BLAG members to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to defend discrimination.  This latest decision not only ignores the civil rights of LGBT Americans but opens a new, direct assault on veterans.   The men and women of our Armed Forces serve with courage and dignity on behalf of our safety and security.  They risk their lives for the country they love – and they should not face prejudice at home because of whom they love.  These brave soldiers deserve nothing less than our gratitude, our respect, and the benefits they have earned in battle.

The plaintiffs in Cooper-Harris v. U.S. argue that federal law, including Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 1 U.S.C. § 7, and portions of the Veteran’s Benefits title of the United States Code, 38 U.S.C. § 101(3) and (31), denies them equal protection under the law by failing to uphold our promises to our servicemembers to care for them and their families.  We agree, and note that the U.S. Department of Justice has notified Congress that Section 3 of DOMA – as well as the definitional portions in Title 38 dealing with military and veterans’ benefits – “cannot be constitutionally applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law.”  We applaud the decision of the Attorney General against defending indefensible discrimination.

Federal district courts have already deemed DOMA unconstitutional, and the Justice Department will not defend the law.  We call upon the Republican members of the BLAG to rescind your unilateral decision to expand your defense of DOMA to cases involving veterans.  If you insist upon continuing this costly and wasteful use of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds, we request: (a) a formal vote of the BLAG on extending your defense of discrimination to veterans and their families, and (b) any extension of the existing legal contract, any new contract, and any additional expenditure of public funds on behalf of outside counsel receive full prior examination by the Committee on House Administration and the House Ethics Committee.

We look forward to receiving your response to this and the several previous letters from House Democrats on this subject.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Best regards,

NANCY PELOSI               STENY H. HOYER

Democratic Leader          Democratic Whip

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Me

    March 31, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    I’m no longer affiliated with either party…I’m 55 and a Vet…I applaud anyone who stands against homosexual marriage and behavior…I’m also in favor of expelling any government officials who advance the homosexual agenda…the citizenary has a duty to dismantled and or engage in civil disobiedence wherever homosexual marriage and or behavior are illegally mandated as a civil right. It is not, at all. I’m not speaking hatefully as much as I’m speaking very very strongly in opposition to it. And if I’m correct, the overwhelming majority of states that now allow homosexual marriage and or promote it’s behavior are states where the people (group conscious) had the vote over turned thru legalistic trickery. We all know that Law is perverted. There are those who know how to exert the right kind of pressure to bend court decisions thru bribery and or political extortion. So in no way can or should it be presented that homosexual marriage or behavior is acceptable or becoming more so. In this regard I’m pleased that Russia and China will not bow to international political coercion to accept or endorse homosexual marriage. Also Im ashamed our President dares to voice and through the weight of the Presidency behind it. So much concerned in guarding and protecting sexual conduct…So, at all costs I’m in league with any and all means to maintain a homosexual free society, i.e., no legal marriage or civil unions. It is a choice that if one makes that’s fine…but those who make it are engaged in an act defined as ill moral and no civil right of marriage is to be extended. Those who condone it are equally ill moral. This is not being homophobic. This is being appropriately distanced and apart from. I’m sure there are very nice alcoholics and addicts…but I can’t be part of it and enable them. I’m sure there are very very nice and intelligent, banks robbers (like white color criminals on wall street) but I cannot knowingly associate with them and enable or condone the behavior…same with murders, and the whole gambit. Quit the reverse. To be homosexual is to be accutely heterophobic. The real course of action here should be putting all that psychoanalysis power we have over the homosexual and examine closely where in each homosexuals past did they cross the line…what trauma was experienced such that a man or woman would turn from the natural to the un natural use of the body…THIS IS EXACTLY WHERE A 12 STEP PROGRAM could be useful. For we are suppose to be a Nation under God…we have veered of the course…sexual obsession has creeped into every fabric of society…music is outta control with explicitness…TV, movies commercials alike…sex is not, let alone homosexuality, something that high school and junior high school students should be even concerned with or taught that it’s perfectly fine. It is not. Homosexuality is something to heal from. It is not to be something promoted as acceptable.
    So, I said to much and yet not enough.
    But I’m serious about the expelling thing.

    • Keith

      April 2, 2012 at 5:02 am

      I think Homophobic bigots like you need to be expelled from this country. I am a 49 year old Vet. Who served his country and was Honorably Discharged from service. And I am GAY!!! And damn proud of it. You have your narrowminded bigoted opinion. Its time you kept it to yourself. I am an American citizen. I pay my taxes. I DEMAND to Marry someone of my choosing. And not a damn soul has the right to take away my freedoms. So go back under the bigoted rock you crawled out from under. Because I for one am not being silent anymore.

    • Rev. Geoff Brewster

      April 2, 2012 at 11:06 am

      How can you compare a homosexual with a murderer or a bank robber? Do you know any homosexual people? Have you engaged in dialogue with them? Have you read any material on the subject that is not from a propaganda producing source? Dude – seriously. Get informed. There never has been or never will be such a thing as a “homosexual free society.” Its a scientific fact that about 10% of the population in every culture and every society are purely attracted to the same sex. In asking or arguing for a homosexual free society, you are doing so out of a misinformed position.

      And in regards to teaching sex education in JH and HS, seriously?! These students are pumped full of sexual hormones and you think it is wise to not inform and educate them about what is going on with their bodies and how to respond to these changes in physically and emotionally healthy ways??? What planet do you live on???

    • CSA

      April 2, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Why are you posting such homophobic garbage on a gay website? Why do you even *visit* a gay website?

    • missabee

      April 2, 2012 at 11:38 am

      1. This is the very definition of homophobic. You fear the growth and prominence of homosexuality in what you are assuming is YOUR society. You have disgust for the behavior and wish to deny those who are homosexual a part of their identity because you simply don’t like it. Let’s not pretend you aren’t something that you are.

      2. Homosexuality has been psychoanalyzed and researched for quite some time, and in case you were wondering, was taken OUT of the DSM back in 1974 (almost 40 years ago). All highly credible psychology organizations agree that is it not a mental disorder and the “12 step program” that you suggest (i.e. ex-gay therapy) DOES NOT WORK. It is unnecessary and actually CAUSES psychological damage to the individual.

      3. Not all people who have a different sexual orientation have had anything traumatic happen to them. Most grow up in loving, caring families without any real struggles that would cause them to “veer off the path” in any way. It’s also important to note that those AGAINST the LGBTQIA community put the MOST emphasis on the sexual aspect of individuals who are not straight. You do realize that there are plenty of people who have same-sex attractions that do not engage in sexual activity willy nilly. There are several LGBTQIA people who are religious and which to wait until marriage, just like a portion of heterosexuals do. There is absolutely no difference between a homosexual person and a heterosexual person, except for with whom they happen to fall in love.

      4. I hope that you find true enlightenment some day and let go of the hatred and fear you carry in your heart because those are terrible burdens to bear. I’m assuming that you are religious simply because you mentioned God, and no matter what that religion may be, there is one thing that remains a truth in all of them: Treat all people with respect and love. There is only one judge when it comes to life matters, and it’s not you.

  2. Paul

    April 2, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Wow ME, that’s quite a long comment (too long to read in detail btw)…seems to me you have some kind of chip on your shoulder…perhaps some repressed feelings?? I have a newsflash – you are not the Almighty – you have no business in my taxes, in my healthcare, in my childcare, nor in my bedroom. Don’t like it? TFB!

  3. Jeffrey Marks

    April 2, 2012 at 11:04 am

    There was some concern a while back as to whether Boehner had violated the law by signing a contract with Clements without an appropriation. Has this changed? Does anyone know the status of this?

  4. Michael Johnson Jr

    April 2, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Me, you got some SERIOUS problems. I wonder how you would feel if you had gay and lesbian children? Or perhaps gay and lesbian aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and cousins. Which you may actually have but who are so afraid of your rhetoric to ever tell you. You mention all of the things that are ostensibly wrong with homosexuality, by equating them to being alcoholics, drug addicts, and even murderers. Are you kidding me? You clearly don’t know any gay or lesbians, so how in the world can you speak with any factual accuracy about what they are like as a group. And if THAT is so, then you everything that you have to say on the issue is completely ignorant and thus invalid. We are NOT a nation under God. Have you read the First Amendment’s actual language? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”. “God” is never mentioned anywhere in there, only religion AND the fact that it is NOT the role OF THE GOVERNMENT to establish or interfere with people’s faith. What amazing me (beyond the historical amnesia that you display quite impressively) is that you mention you’re a veteran. This article is about a veteran with Multiple Sclerosis that THE MILITARY decided was related to her military service. Whether you like it or not, gays and lesbians have always been in the services; can now live openly in the services (and so far the military hasn’t hardly collapsed) and deserve equal treatment. How did that happen? CONGRESS VOTED TO APPROVE IT. As a veteran I’m completely appalled that you are now equating Russia and Communist China as nations to which we should look up to. Unbelievable. The APA, AMA and all the major health professional organizations have (since the 1970s) agreed that homosexuality is a normal variation found in the human species. But that fact which you ignore isn’t that surprising because you apparently have zero knowledge about the state of America’s youth which are far and away ahead of all of us about this issue. They have sex at earlier and earlier ages. It’s a fact, like it or not. Bemoaning the state of things today, does nothing to remedy that young adolescents ARE having sex and will find ways to experiment with their bodies. Something thinking that keeping them locked up, ignorant and inept about sexuality is a “good” thing, only illustrates the fundamental flaw in your entire argument – you are out of touch. I strongly suggest that you sit down with a group of teenagers from wherever you life and ask them some serious questions about sexuality to understand what our Nation’s future believe about personal autonomy. Clinging (as so many older people tend to do) with a death grip on the nostalgic view that American’s falling apart at the seems, reflects a complete lack of engagement with the very people who, in a decade or two, will be making decisions about OUR health care, OUR property rights, OUR future.

    M. Johnson Jr. Ph.D., Capt. USAF, 1993-1997 Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB, TX

  5. Justin

    April 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    [EXPLETIVE REMOVED] web trolls man.

  6. Jennifer

    April 2, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Dear Me,

    I would like to first and foremost apologize for my rather informal beginning. I would have much rather preferred to respond to your comment with your name and rank/title, such is only polite and appropriate, but as ‘Me’ was the only designation you deigned appropriate to assign your comment, I’m afraid my rather inappropriate opening must suffice.

    Secondly, I would like to thank you for you service to our country. I have, as a family member and friend to many active and retired service members, the utmost respect for those willing and able to serve in our armed forces. Again, thank you.

    That being said, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies for the terrible misinformation you have been given regarding the citizens of this county to whom you refer to as “the homosexual.” I am not implying that this unfortunate event is entirely your fault. Citizens of the world did believe, after all, that the world was flat for centuries and perpetuated this discrepancy until the truth was revealed to them. As such, I would like to extend an offer of assistance in clarifying some of the many inaccuracies in the information you have received and, sadly, repeated.

    Let’s begin with something rather simple. You’ve stated that, “To be homosexual is to be accutely (sic) heterophobic.”
    I would like to make sure that I am as thorough as possible, so I feel obligated to mention two grammatical items about your statement. You did misspell ‘acutely,’ but I felt it necessary to quote you exactly rather than have you feel misquoted in any manner. I’m more than comfortable in my belief that your misspelling was a simple keystroke error, however, so don’t beat yourself up about it later; it happens to the best of us, Me. Also, I would like to point out the high probability of ‘heterophobic’ not actually being a true word. Microsoft Word did not recognize it when I typed it in my program out of curiosity. I have, however, added it to my library on the off chance that my version of Word is not entirely up to date with today’s technical vernacular.

    I digress.

    Homosexuals are not, I am saddened to inform you, acutely heterophobic. There are some heterosexuals that homosexuals do have an aversion to and will avoid said heterosexuals if and when possible. These heterosexuals are referred to as ‘homophobes.’ I have also known such individuals to be referred to as ‘bigots,’ but keep in mind that not all bigotry is confined to homophobia, so please refrain from the mistake of also assuming all homophobes and bigots are one in the same. I can see how one may be able to construe the belief that homosexuals’ aversion to these particular heterosexuals could be applicable to all heterosexuals, but such a leap in assumption is incorrect.

    Homosexuals are, in fact, rather fond of heterosexuals. Parents, sibling, various other family members, coworkers, neighbors, and other peers of homosexuals are, in many cases, actually heterosexuals. Last known consensus was that roughly 90% of said peers heterosexual. Homosexuals do not, as your statement suggests, wish to avoid any and all contact with or maintain an ill will towards all heterosexuals. Quite the contrary, Me. Homosexuals very much enjoy a majority or their interactions with heterosexuals. I have found that many homosexuals are rather fond of accompanying their heterosexual companions to a variety of events, including, but not limited to: dining out, attending concerts/plays, visiting theme parks, family gatherings, and patronage of retail shops. It is simply the sexual interactions with heterosexuals of the opposite gender that homosexuals wish to avoid. Again, I can see how that may have misconstrued and incorrectly conveyed to you, but I hope to have shed some light on this particular item.
    Next item. “It is a choice that if one makes that’s fine…” I am going to make the fearful decision to make an assumption. Not usually the action of choice, I know, Me, but one that cannot be avoided at this junction of our lesson. I am going to assume that you mean to convey that homosexuals make the choice to be homosexual. I am truly beginning to have great sympathies for those whom you’ve received such inaccurate information. They have done you, one our countries’ veterans, a dishonor by allowing you to go forth in the world believing this statement it also correct when it could not be further from the truth.

    Homosexuals do not make a conscious choice to be homosexual, Me. Shocking, I know. I’ll let you sit for a moment and let this new information marinade.

    I would like to now ask you at what point in your adolescence you chose to be heterosexual, Me. Take your time, think back to your first innocent, school yard crush and try to remember at what point you actively decided to give that young lady your affection instead of the young man next to her.

    If you can accurately pinpoint this moment in your life, the one where you tipped the scales to heterosexuality, by all means, share. You will be the first I have known to be able to, with 100% assurance, declare they actively chose one sexuality over the other. I suggest you write a memoir about the experience, it has best-seller potential. Fiction category, of course, but potential none the less.

    Next item. “The real course of action here should be putting all that psychoanalysis power we have over the homosexual and examine closely where in each homosexuals past did they cross the line…what trauma was experienced such that a man or woman would turn from the natural to the un natural use of the body…THIS IS EXACTLY WHERE A 12 STEP PROGRAM could be useful.”

    My goodness, Me, you really should check your informational sources more thoroughly in the future. I am again, pained to inform you that this statement is rife with inaccuracies. There have been a vast amount of studies in what causes homosexual behavior; it has been deemed, as Dr. Johnson pointed out, a natural occurrence in not just our species, but dozen of species. I propose a topic for you to think on: if homosexuality can be found in nature, how can it be unnatural? As for the suggested 12-step program you have in mind, there are many organizations that offer reparative therapy, but many of these programs have recently admitted that their therapy does not actually make a homosexual no longer homosexual, merely they tout their ability to help their ‘patients’ not to act on their natural homosexual urges. Yes, you did read my last statement correctly, they can only help homosexuals to try and not act on their natural homosexual urges.

    I have many more items to discuss with you regarding your comment, Me, but I have more pressing items already on my agenda for the day and must get back to them. I do hope that I have helped, in some manner, in clearing up some things for you, Me. I am more than happy to continue this lesson later if you so desire. Simply post another comment that you would like me to expand some more, and I will be honored to continue teaching you the truth about homosexuals.

    With warm regards from your friendly lesbian,
    Jennifer

  7. Kimberly

    April 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Dear “Me”:
    I am not homosexual, nor am I a veteran. I am a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and I am a law student who is writing a research paper on the differing rights provided for same-sex couples in those states that provide some form of same-sex union, as well as examining the different rationales offered to support the provision of those rights.

    From a psychological standpoint, homosexuality has been long understood as an innate tendency for attraction to the same sex, which attraction usually begins to felt first around the onset of puberty (though the stigma placed on attraction to the same sex by society sometimes complicates and / or delays this realization of sexuality).

    I cannot help but find your comments misguided in another way, as well. As has been mentioned, our country’s government was intended to have an inherent separation of church and state; i.e., religion and government were (and are still) forbidden to be mixed because that was the intention of our founding fathers, the writers of our Constitution. That separation is grounded in the religious oppression experienced by the settlers before they left England and the firm conviction that having your beliefs dictated to you by another is unjust, that the citizens of our country should be granted the freedoms to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    It may or may not surprise you to learn that surveys over the last several years have shown not only an increasing support for same-sex unions, but at least one survey (I apologize for not having the citation available as I write this) indicated that a majority of our country’s citizens (voting age and older) are in favor of same-sex unions and marital rights for homosexual couples.

    While it may be hard to understand, or approve of, from your vantage point, this shift merely represents the principle that it is unfair to deprive two people who love each other of the rights bestowed upon other loving couples who are unrelated (in a familial way), of age, and of sound mind to decide for themselves. Without a legitimate government interest (and I would even argue a higher standard of a compelling government interest) in preventing same-sex couples from marrying, as well as no other less restrictive means of furthering a legitimate or compelling government interest, it is federally unconstitutional for the government to deprive same-sex couples of the marital rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. I believe that the Supreme Court will sooner or later hold that substantive due process forbids denial of fundamental liberty rights to same-sex couples, or possibly that equal protection of the laws is a firm ground on which to premise the recognition of same-sex marriage by the government. It is well-established that animus (or feeling of moral distaste) toward homosexuality is insufficient to meet the standard of a legitimate government interest, and laws have already been struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional because the sole government interest involved was animus toward the targeted conduct. (See Lawrence v. Texas case in 2003).

    I do not expect any of this to change your mind, but I felt it imperative to clear up a few misconceptions as someone without an ax to grind, but someone who has some particular knowledge about the subject matter.

    Sincerely,
    Kimberly (Candidate for Juris Doctor degree in 2012)

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Alarming numbers of Texas Trans kids in crisis over litany of anti-Trans bills

“Under the guise of protecting children- Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender & nonbinary youth”

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LGBTQ youth protest anti-Trans bills at the Texas Capitol building (Photo Credit: Equality Texas)

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project received nearly 4,000 crisis contacts from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas in 2021, with many directly stating that they are feeling stressed and considering suicide due to anti-trans laws being debated in their state.

This new data comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

The Texas State Senate passed its anti-trans sports ban SB3 this week, and the companion bill HB10 is now moving forward in the Texas House. 

Republican Texas Governor Abbott has prioritized SB 3 and called for a third consecutive special session of the legislature to consider this bill, which would ban transgender student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

“The Trevor Project’s crisis counselors have been hearing from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas who are scared and worried about anti-trans laws being debated in their state — and some have even expressed suicidal thoughts. This is a crisis. We urge Texas lawmakers to consider the weight of their words and actions — and to reject HB10/SB3,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project.

  • Between January 1 and August 30, 2021, The Trevor Project received more than 10,800 crisis contacts (calls, texts, and chats) from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support. More than 3,900 of those crisis contacts (36%) came from transgender or nonbinary youth.
  • Crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas seeking support have grown over 150% when compared to the same time period in 2020.
  • While this volume of crisis contacts can not be attributed to any one factor (or bill), a qualitative analysis of the crisis contacts found that:
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas have directly stated that they are feeling stressed, using self-harm, and considering suicide due to anti-LGBTQ laws being debated in their state.
  • Some transgender and nonbinary youth have expressed fear over losing access to sports that provide important acceptance in their lives.

“As a transgender young person in Texas, this new data from the Trevor Project is not surprising, but it’s nonetheless harrowing and alarming to see this representation of the detrimental impact Texas Lege is having on our community — especially our kids. Lawmakers and proponents of bills like SB3 and HB10 should be alarmed by these statistics, too,” Landon Richie a Trans youth activist and GenderCool Youth Leader from Houston told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Under the guise of protecting children and promoting fairness, Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender and nonbinary youth, denying them the dignity, respect, and childhoods that they deserve. It’s never an exaggeration to say that the passage — and merely debate — of these bills will cost lives,”  Richie added.

National mental health organizations like The Trevor Project and state LGBTQ equality groups including Equality Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) are raising concerns about the impact of such legislation on the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and nonbinary youth.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. Further, Trevor released a new research brief earlier this month on LGBTQ youth participation in sports, which found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (nearly 66%) do not actively participate in sports — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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2nd largest school district in Utah bans Pride & BLM flags as ‘too political’

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can”

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Davis School District Offices in Farmington Utah (Photo Credit: Davis School District)

FARMINGTON, Ut. – Administrators this week in the Davis School District, which is Utah’s 2nd largest school district with 72,987 students, banned LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, saying they are ‘politically charged.’

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Davis Schools spokesperson Chris Williams told the paper; “No flags fly in our schools except for the flag of the United States of America.” Williams later walked that statement back adding a clarification that some of the Districts schools have flags from sports team or international countries which are considered “unrelated to politics.”

“What we’re doing is we’re following state law,” said Williams. “State law says that we have to have a classroom that’s politically neutral.”

Amanda Darrow, Director of Youth, Family, and Education at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, told multiple media outlets the school district is “politicizing the rainbow flag” which doesn’t belong on a political list.

“That flag for us is so much more,” said Darrow. “It is just telling us we’re included in the schools, we are being seen in the schools, and we belong in these schools.”

KUTV CBS2 News in Salt Lake City checked with the Utah State Board of Education. In an email, spokesman Mark Peterson said, “There is nothing in code that specifically defines a rainbow flag as a political statement so it would be up to district or charter school policies to make that determination.”

The local Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in saying in a statement;

Whether or not a school district has the legal ability to ban inclusive and supportive symbols from classrooms, it is bad policy for them to do so,” the advocacy organization said in a statement. “Utah schools have an obligation to ensure that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identify, feel welcome inside a classroom. We urge school administrators and teachers to adopt policies that make all students feel safe and included.”

Williams insisted the policy is not meant to exclude anyone and that all students are loved and welcomed – they just want to keep politics out of school he told the Tribune and KUTV.

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can,” said Williams.

A Utah based veteran freelance journalist, writer, editor, and food photographer weighed in on Twitter highlighting the negative impact of the Davis Schools decision on its LGBTQ youth.

Davis County School District bans LGTBQ and BLM flags as ‘too political’

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Non-binary person reports assault by Proud Boys near Portland

‘They nearly killed me’

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Juniper Simonis (Photo by Mariah Harris)

It was a typical day for Juniper Simonis. The freelance ecologist decided to break from work for lunch at about 3 p.m. to take their service dog, Wallace, to the local dog park and grab a bite to eat.  

But a planned peaceful afternoon quickly turned ugly. Simonis says they survived a gang assault of about 30 perpetrators in Gresham, Ore., a suburb outside of Portland. The Oregon resident encountered the group for only minutes but suffered a concussion, sprained jaw, extensive car damage and verbal assaults, they said. 

“They nearly killed me,” they said.

Simonis said they turned into a parking lot to pick up lunch in Gresham, Ore., and stumbled upon a rally that included several members of the Proud Boys — a far-right, ultra-nationalist organization known for its anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminism and neo-fascist ideologies. 

There was a “Flag Ride” right-wing rally in a parking lot earlier that day. Simonis was under the impression the event had ended after checking reports on Twitter. After pulling into the lot, originally to look for lunch options, Simonis saw a large gathering still in the lot. 

Simonis decided to take pictures of what was happening to post online to warn others and was intentional in keeping their distance, they said. As Simonis was preparing to leave the area, they yelled from inside the car, “Fuck you, fascists, go home.” 

“I did not expect this to escalate into violence,” they said. 

The attack itself only lasted about three minutes, Simonis said. Simonis was quickly surrounded by several people and physically blocked from leaving the lot. People stepped in front of the parking lot exit, then a car was moved to barricade Simonis. People began to shout homophobic slurs at Simonis, they said. 

“I’m in serious trouble now and I know it,” they said. 

Simonis was then punched while inside their vehicle and was briefly knocked out. They regained consciousness a few seconds later, and a cinder block was thrown at the car and shattered the back window of their car inches away from their service dog, Wallace. 

Simonis got out of the car to assess the damage and make sure their service dog was safe. They quickly got back in their car and was able to leave the lot by maneuvering around the blocked exit, Simonis said. 

Wallace, Juniper Simonis’ service dog. (Photo by Mariah Harris)

Looking back at the photos and videos Simonis took before the assault, Simonis said they saw people looking into the camera and acknowledging them taking photos. 

“I honestly don’t know if I hadn’t said anything, that … things would have gone any different,” they said. 

Last year, Simonis was targeted and arrested by federal police in Portland during the tumultuous Black Lives Matter protests in the city. They were denied medical attention, misgendered, jumped and aggressively handcuffed while taken into custody. 

Simonis is still working through legal proceedings in a multi-plaintiff lawsuit. 

A witness to the event called the Gresham Police Department, which was only a few blocks away from the incident. But the call went to voicemail and the witness did not leave a message, Simonis said. 

Another witness called 911, Simonis said, which led to an officer calling Simonis about 45 minutes after the accident to take a report.   

In the police report obtained by the Blade, Simonis is consistently misgendered. Simonis’ sex is also listed as “unknown” in the report. The incident was labeled as vehicle vandalism. 

Simonis said the conversation with the officer was filled with victim-blaming and the officer wrote in the report that Simonis should avoid “approaching groups of this nature.”  

“At no point in this conversation does he treat me as an actual victim of a crime,” Simonis said.

The Gresham Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. 

Weeks after the assault, Simonis is struggling mentally and physically, they said. 

The concussion makes working on a computer virtually impossible because of light sensitivity and trouble focusing, Simonis said. The pain caused by the sprained jaw makes it difficult to focus, as well. 

Simonis is not able to begin physical therapy for their jaw until November because of long medical wait times, they said. The cost to repair the car damages will be about $8,000, as well, they said.  

The times where Simonis is able to focus are usually taken up by piecing together what happened that day, they said. 

“The part of my brain that I use for work has been hijacked functionally by the part of the brain that needed to know what happened to me,” they said. “There is such a painful need to understand what happened to me.”

Because of past traumatic events, like the experience of being in federal custody last year, Simonis said processing and living with the trauma is a bit easier to handle. But their ability to work will be forever changed yet again, they said. 

“I’m not able to work at the pace that I used to work at before I was assaulted by DHS. I’ll never be,” they said. “And this is just a further knockdown.” 

The trauma of the event has increased Simonis’ hyper-vigilance, as well. 

“Every time I hear a car go by, I’m double-checking,” they said. 

Even though Simonis has the tools to process and live with the immense trauma, they will never be the same person, they said. 

“They fucking changed my life forever. Point blank,” they said. “Not just mentally, but physically and physiologically. I can’t go back to where I was before. I’m lucky that I survived.”

Simonis has reported the attack to the FBI and is pursuing legal action with two specific goals in mind: to heal and to prevent similar crimes from happening.

“I am somebody who believes in abolishing the carceral system and the justice system as it exists and policing,” Simonis said. “But also a 37-year-old trans and disabled person who somehow managed to survive this long. And so naturally has become pragmatic about the world.”

Because of the reaction of the Gresham Police Department, Simonis did not want to work with local officers and instead went to the federal level. But because of the alleged assault by agents in Portland last year, this decision wasn’t easy for them.

Perpetrators in the assault threatened to call the police on Simonis,  even though Simonis did not commit a crime. Reporting the crime to the federal level is also a layer of protection, they said. 

“All of this is forcing my hand,” they said. There is no easy decision in the situation, they added. 

“We all know that crimes are underreported. We hear about it all the time,” they said. And there are reasons why people don’t report crimes and they’re totally understandable. A lot of victims are very concerned about what will happen if they break anonymity. In my situation, I’ve already broken anonymity.”

With recent arrests and crackdowns on the Proud Boys and other hate groups in the United States, Simonis is bracing for a long process. 

“This isn’t just going to go on a shelf,” they said. 

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