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Obama won’t attend Int’l AIDS Conference

President to prepare video message for attendees instead

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President Obama won’t attend the 19th international AIDS conference (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Obama will prepare a video message for attendees at the 19th International AIDS Conference in lieu of making a live appearance at the event, according to the White House.

In a notice issued on Monday, the White House announced that Obama is set to provide a brief video message for the conference, which will take place next week in D.C., as part of “[c]ontinuing his personal engagement on this issue.” Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, confirmed this video message will be in lieu of a live appearance at the event.

“The president will not be speaking at the conference,” Inouye said. “He will provide a brief video message to welcome Conference attendees from around the world to Washington.”

Organizers for the conference had invited the president to deliver remarks at the event as HIV/AIDS advocates had publicly expressed their desire to see him make an appearance and call for an end to the epidemic. They also wanted him to talk about achievements of his administration, such as laying out the first-ever National AIDS Strategy and creating more opportunities to cover people with HIV/AIDS under the Medicaid expansion of the health care reform law.

The statement announcing the video message touts the Obama administration’s efforts at combatting HIV/AIDS.

“Under the president’s leadership, the administration has increased overall funding to combat HIV/AIDS to record levels,” the statement says. “We have launched the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States to prevent and treat HIV in America. Globally, the Obama Administration has committed to treating 6 million people by the end of 2013 and is increasing the impact and sustainability of our investments.”

According to the statement, the White House will also host a reception on July 26 to honor people living with HIV and to thank individuals who have fought against the disease.

Other high-ranking administration officials are set to attend the event, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby; Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy Grant Colfax; and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Former President Clinton is slated to speak as is former first lady Laura Bush; former President George W. Bush, who set up the fund known as U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, was invited to speak but hadn’t responded to the invitation as of Tuesday, according to organizers.

HIV/AIDS advocates had varying reactions in response to Obama’s decision to prepare a video message as opposed to making an appearance at the event.

Brian Hujdich, executive director of HealthHIV, expressed disappointment, but appreciated that the president would address attendees via video.

“While we are disappointed that President Obama will be unable to address the International AIDS Conference in person, his decision to address attendees via video demonstrates the importance he places on AIDS 2012 and HIV,” Hujdich said. “As the first president to set a comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy and pass meaningful healthcare reform, his commitment to addressing HIV prevention care and treatment is strongly demonstrated.”

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, called Obama’s decision not to attend “a kick in the teeth” to attendees.

“It’s less than a mile from the White House to the convention center,” Weinstein said. “He’s flying back into town on Friday night. I think he’s making an intentional statement by not attending, and he’s either waiting for a better offer or he doesn’t feel like he’d get a good reception and doesn’t want to expose himself to that, or he’s consciously wanting to [let it be] known that this is not a priority for him, which he’s done a pretty good job at for the last three-and-a-half years.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that President George W. Bush was confirmed to speak. He was invited to speak but as of Tuesday, he had not responded to the invitation, organizers told the Blade.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Micheal Alexander

    July 17, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Micheal Weinstein needs to get over himself. In case he hasn’t noticed, our president is a little busy in a highly contested re-election campaign. He has proven that he is on our side, and the first sitting president to ever vocalize nationally his support for same sex marriage.

    • Stuart Grow

      July 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      Mr. Alexander, you possibly need to “get over yourself”. Seems that the president has time to got to basketball & baseball games, broadway shows, golf an awful lot. But no time for the things that actually matter in America, the econmy, jobs, and addressing the country about the Aids empdemic that is still occuring. AIDS is not only a problem for the “Same-Sex” community but for the entire country/world as a whole. Maybe he should finaly do something right for the entire world and not just his insolated world.

  2. Joe Plumber

    July 17, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    The Blade needs to get over Michael Weinstein. Not sure why they give him enough credibility to quote his politically motivated rants. The guy personally makes more than $350,000 a year off AIDS, and all we see from him are politics and rants. He’s a businessman. Don’t treat him like a statesman.

  3. Christl Meyer

    July 19, 2012 at 4:40 am

    President Obama had to take together with his wife an official “HIV-test” in Africa and tell the nations that “…if we can do it you can do it either.” (there is a film about this “ceremony”). If he had denied it, he just would not have been promoted any longer by the “background sponsors”. He does know, that no virus exists, about the false tests and the consequences. Without this submission he never would have become president.

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

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Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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