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House panel rejects LGBT protections in domestic violence bill

Measures offered by Polis, Nadler, Quigley voted down



Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Republican-controlled House panel beat back measures on Tuesday that would have made LGBT protections part of legislation aiming to extend federal authorization for domestic violence programs.

The House Judiciary Committee voted down several measures that would have made the House version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization LGBT-inclusive.

One amendment that was offered by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) — voted down on a 14-18 vote — would have prohibited domestic violence programs receiving funds under VAWA from discriminating against someone based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The Violence Against Women Act needs to be an inclusive bill that covers all of today’s families, whether those families are composed of a man and a woman, or two women or two men, and that’s why I’m offering this amendment,” said Polis, who’s gay.

Polis continued, “It doesn’t say anything about a particular lifestyle that members of the committee may not agree personally agree with. It simply says the law needs to be applied equally.”

Prior to the vote on the amendment, anti-gay Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) voiced opposition, saying other characteristics such as race and sex are immutable, but sexual orientation and gender identity are “self-professed” identifications.

“I also make the point that this is supposed to be the Violence Against Women Act,” King said. “Even though that is the case and that needs to be the subject of this discussion; we still are bringing up the subject of sexual orientation and gender identity when people no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity are covered under this bill.”

King called for more data that LGBT non-discrimination protections are needed for domestic violence programs and said other vehicles would be more appropriate for dealing with this bias other than the Violence Against Women Act.

But Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) responded by saying the committee shouldn’t be “in the business of limiting” protections that would be afforded under the legislation.

Another amendment came from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) that would have explicitly included the LGBT community in VAWA’s “STOP Grant Program.” It was voted down along party lines by a 12-15 vote.

“With this addition, STOP grant recipients would be able to offer programs to target members of the LGBT community who are not otherwise being served,” Nadler said. “This would not be a requirement of any STOP grant recipient, but would allow entities to use STOP grants for this purpose if they so choose.”

The “STOP Grant Program” is the largest program funded under the law and provides funding to care providers who collaborate with prosecution and law enforcement officials to address domestic violence.

Yet another amendment from Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) would have explicitly included sexual orientation and gender identity as part of the underserved groups protected under VAWA. Like the others, the measure was voted down on a party-line basis, 13-16.

In his remarks introducing the amendment, Quigley criticized the House version of VAWA reauthorization for not going far enough to protect LGBT victims of domestic violence as well as other groups.

“Domestic violence affects people from all walks of life, whether they are gay, straight, immigrants or tribal members,” Quigley said. “Everyone deserves to be protected. Sadly the bill being considered by the committee today fails to meet the mark.”

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) voiced opposition in particular to the Quigley amendment, saying “there is little data” to support the need for “special protected status” for LGBT people.

“There’s nothing under current federal law to prevent LGBT victims of domestic violence from receiving federal resources and services,” Smith said.

The House version of VAWA aims to extend programs authorized under the existing law — first enacted in 1994 — to assist victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. But civil rights groups have criticized the House version of the bill for not going far enough and failing to provide explicit protections for minorities, including LGBT people.

Data exists showing that LGBT people are victims of domestic violence and suffer from discrimination when seeking help at shelters. According to a 2010 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 44.6 percent of LGBT domestic violence survivors were turned away by a shelter and 54.4 percent of LGBT survivors seeking an order of protection were denied help.

Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized Republicans for refusing to adopt the Polis amendment.

“LGBT victims of domestic violence often face significant discriminatory barriers when attempting to access services,” Thompson said. “The Polis amendment would have addressed this problem of LGBT exclusion by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to VAWA’s nondiscrimination provision. This is a matter of basic fairness and commonsense. It is unfortunate that a majority of the House Judiciary Committee disagreed.”

Harsh words also came from Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

“The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee have failed victims of domestic violence,” Solmonese said. “Republicans on the committee ignored key priorities identified by nearly 2,000 service providers and victim advocates by moving forward with a bill that disregards many victims, including LGBT victims.”

After rejecting the pro-LGBT measures, the committee voted to report out the legislation by a vote of 17-15 — again on largely a party-line basis with Republicans voting to move their bill.

The language of House Democrats’ amendments are found in the Senate version of the bill, which was passed by that chamber April 26 on bipartisan vote of 68-31 along with LGBT-inclusive language. Because the Senate version of the legislation has LGBT language that isn’t found in the House version of the bill, the two chambers will have to come an agreement on the LGBT provisions in conference committee before the House and Senate vote on a final version of the bill.

Despite the failure of the committee to adopt the pro-LGBT amendments, Thompson expressed optimism that the LGBT language would survive the conference committee and the final round of voting based on the bipartisan support with which the Senate version of the bill passed.

“The reality is that the Senate’s version of VAWA reauthorization addresses a range of important civil liberties issues, including coverage for the LGBT community, and passed out of that chamber with the support of 68 senators, including significant Republican support,” Thompson said. “I believe there is majority support in Congress for a VAWA reauthorization that would ensure that domestic violence protections extend to all who suffer its harms.”

Other members on the House panel spoke out against the lack of LGBT protections in the House version of the bill, including Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking Democrat on the panel, as well as Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas).

But the House Democrats’ measure weren’t the only pro-LGBT initiatives that Republicans rejected. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking Democrat on the committee, offered a substitute bill that was modeled on a version of VAWA introduced by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and other House Democrats. That legislation has the same LGBT protections found in the Senate version of the bill.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) refused to allow Conyers’ substitute to come up after Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) objected to it on the basis that it was non-germane. In the House, amendments must be germane to the legislation at hand for them to come up for a vote.

The committee rejected the pro-LGBT initiatives after HRC and the ACLU wrote letters objecting to the lack of LGBT protections in the House version of the legislation.

In a letter dated May 7, Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, and Vania Leveille, senior legislative counsel, talked about the importance of the LGBT protections found in the Senate bill in addition to expressing other concerns.

“H.R. 4970 does nothing to address the unacceptable discrimination that LGBT people often face when attempting to access services for those who experience intimate-partner violence, and nothing to change the fact that the LGBT community is undeserved in this area,” Murphy and Leveille write.

NOTE: This post has been updated.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure



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

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

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, or by texting START to 678678. 

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NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone



NCAA, gay news, Washington Blade
The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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Transgender rights group’s Los Angeles office receives bomb threat

[email protected] Coalition evacuated



(Public domain photo)

A bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday afternoon to the Wilshire Boulevard Koreatown offices of the [email protected] Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, the president and CEO of the non-profit organization told the Los Angeles Blade.

According to Salcedo, an unidentified male caller told the staff person who answered at approximately 3 p.m., while delivering the threat said; “You’re all going to die.” The staff immediately evacuated everyone from their offices and then contacted the Los Angeles Police Department for assistance.

Officers, specialists and detectives from the Rampart Division of the LAPD responded and swept the building. A spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed that the incident is under active investigation but would make no further comment.

On a Facebook post immediately after the incident the non-profit wrote; “To ensure the safety of our clients and staff members, we ask that you please NOT come to our office.”

In a follow-up post, Salcedo notified the organization and its clientele that the LAPD had given the all-clear and that their offices would resume normal operations Thursday at 9:00 a.m. PT.

“Thank you for your messages and concern for our staff and community,” Salcedo said.

“No amount of threats can stop us from our commitment to the TGI community,” she added.

The [email protected] Coalition was founded in 2009 by a group of transgender and gender non-conforming and intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles as a grassroots response to address the specific needs of TGI Latino immigrants who live in the U.S.

Since then, the agency has become a nationally recognized organization with representation in 10 different states across the U.S. and provides direct services to TGI individuals in Los Angeles.

In 2015, the [email protected] Coalition identified the urgent need to provide direct services to empower TGI people in response to structural, institutional, and interpersonal violence, and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness was born.

Since then, the organization has secured funding from the state and local government sources as well as several private foundations and organizations to provide direct services to all TGI individuals in Los Angeles County.

The [email protected] Coalition’s primary focus is to change the landscape of access to services for TGI people and provide access to comprehensive resource and services that will improve the quality of life of TGI people.

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