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Latino civil rights group endorses ENDA exec order

MALDEF becomes first non-LGBT civil rights group to support directive

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An organization known as the “law firm for the Latino community” has become the first non-LGBT civil rights group to announce support for an executive order that would require federal contractors to have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies.

In a letter dated April 5, Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, calls on President Obama to take administrative action to prohibit companies that do business with the U.S. government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I write to urge you to build on your successful ‘We Can’t Wait’ initiative in one concrete way,” Saenz said. “Specifically, MALDEF asks that you sign an executive order to ban federal contractors from engaging in workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, including LGBT Latinos.”

Saenz urges the president to issue the order because the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would bar job bias against LGBT people, has stalled in Congress for years.

“In recent years, multiple Congresses have failed to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban workplace bias based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” Saenz writes. “MALDEF believes the time is now right to promote workplace fairness for LGBT individuals by taking strong executive action.”

Making the case for the order, Saenz recalls that previous presidents — from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton — have issued executive orders barring workplace discrimination. He also cites the military contractor DynCorp LLC, which  implemented an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy after it came under scrutiny for anti-gay harassment on the job; and he notes that top government contractors, such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing already have such policies in place.

Since the executive order is similar in its goal to ENDA, the directive has sometimes been referred to as the “ENDA” executive order. However, the order would be more limited in scope because it only affects federal contractors.

Multiple sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told the Blade the Labor and Justice Departments have cleared such a measure, but the White House has remained silent on whether it will take such action. A White House spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Since its founding in 1968, MALDEF has aimed to promote social change in the areas of education, employment and immigrant rights. One victory came in 1982, when a MALDEF-backed lawsuit known as Plyler v. Doe prompted the Supreme Court to strike down a Texas law that allowed school districts to charge children tuition if their parents were undocumented immigrants.The organization has also won legal victories to make the drawing of Texas congressional districts more fair to the Latino community.

MALDEF has also taken part in helping advance LGBT rights. The organization has filed “friend-of-the-court” briefs in favor of overturning California’s Proposition 8 and is part of a coalition supporting the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. MALDEF has worked to support passage of the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign spouses for residency in the United States, and was among the first organizations to stand with Immigration Equality in calling for the passage of LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

According to polling made public last week by the Human Rights Campaign, Latinos across America strongly support of the executive order. The poll, which found 73 percent of Americans support the directive, also found the order polls at 72 percent among likely Latino voters in the 2012 election.

Additionally, the letter comes on the heels of the publication Thursday of the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2011 National Survey of Latinos poll showing 59 percent of Hispanic voters believe homosexuality should “be accepted by society.” According to the report, the data is in line with the general public. Among the public at large, 58 precent say homosexuality should be accepted.

The letter makes the group the first non-LGBT civil rights organization to endorse the executive order, but not the first non-LGBT group. Last fall, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which bills itself as an organization for “rank and file” workers adopted a pro-LGBT resolution that includes support for an executive order protecting LGBT people against workplace discrimination. Mary Kay Henry, a lesbian and president of the Service Employees International Union, endorsed the order in an interview with the Washington Blade in June during Netroots Nation.

Support for the idea of the executive order is building. Earlier this week, a group of 72 U.S. House members sent a letter to Obama calling on him to issue the directive, saying the measure would “extend important workplace protections to millions of Americans, while at the same time laying the groundwork for Congressional passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act .” Rep Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who drafted the letter, distributed it among colleagues.

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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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