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Dems approve marriage-equality inclusive platform

Next step is approval by delegates in Charlotte

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A committee of more than 100 Democrats unanimously approved on Saturday a version of their party’s platform that includes a plank endorsing marriage equality as well as other pro-LGBT language.

The full platform committee, which consists of around 120 Democrats, gave the OK to the manifesto following a meeting in Detroit, Mich., that was chaired by retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the first woman to reach the rank of three-star general, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. During the several hour long meeting, members offered views on principles to advocate for within the party and proposed amendments to the platform.

Language on marriage equality — which is being included in the Democratic Party platform for the first time — was accepted without amendment and without significant discussion.

Minnesota State Sen. Scott Dibble (photo courtesy Dibble)

Among the committee members who delivered remarks was Scott Dibble, a gay state senator from Minnesota, who said he’s “extremely pleased” with the marriage equality plank, saying the language “should be taken as an affirmation on something that we all value and cherish, and that is what marriage means and that marriage really matters.”

“This has certainly been a journey for many people in this country,” Dibble said. “It’s been a journey for our president, and I’m very proud of our president [for] having stood and said all families matter. And Mr. Chair and Madam Chair and members, young people are looking for a political home right now and that has become one of the defining moral questions of our time and our moment.”

Speaking with the Washington Blade by phone after the vote, Dibble said he wasn’t surprised the full platform committee accepted the marriage equality without any challenges.

“I wasn’t surprised, but I was pretty happy that there was no discussion, no controversy,” Dibble said. “I wasn’t sure whether or not I was expected any, but it was great. There seemed to be a lot of good feeling and felt a lot of really positive energy around on the the idea of including the plank.”

The Washington Blade first reported on July 30 that the Democratic Party platform drafting committee had agreed to adopt a marriage equality plank in the platform as well as language rejecting the Defense of Marriage Act and affirming the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The platform hasn’t officially been made public, nor has any language related to LGBT issues. However, language first reported by Buzzfeed and later confirmed by the Blade has shown it affirms marriage equality, rejects DOMA while respecting religious liberties.

“We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law,” the language states. “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.”

The language continues, “We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.”

Other pro-LGBT language related to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and bullying was also left intact by the committee. Some advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, were hoping for an explicit endorsement of anti-bullying bills like the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe School Improvement Act, but that language isn’t in the platform.

“We know that putting America back to work is job one, and we are committed to ensuring Americans do not face employment discrimination,” the languages states. “We support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because people should not be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The language continues, “President Obama and the Democratic Party are committed to ensuring all Americans are treated fairly. This administration hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and we must continue our work to prevent vicious bullying of young people and support LGBT youth. The President’s record, from ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in full cooperation with our military leadership, to passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to ensuring same-sex couples can visit each other in the hospital, reflects Democrats’ belief that all Americans deserve the same chance to pursue happiness, earn a living, be safe in their communities, serve their country, and take care of the ones they love.”

But additional LGBT language was placed into the platform during the hearing. The immigration reform language was amended to include the following: “the administration has said that the word ‘family’ in immigration includes LGBT relationships in order to protect binational families threatened with deportation.” The amendment was offered by Tobias Wolff, a gay University of Pennsylvania law professor and member of the platform committee.

The next step in the process is sending the platform to delegates at the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Charlotte, N.C., during the week of September 3. Delegates at the convention will vote on giving the platform final approval.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, whose organization has been leading the fight for the marriage equality plank in the platform, praised committee for giving its approval for an inclusive document.

“Today’s vote to include language supporting the freedom to marry in the Democratic Party ‘s National Platform is a victory for fairness and families, and a historic moment long in the making,” Wolfson said. “Support for the freedom to marry puts the party on the right side of history, and in the solid mainstream of the majority of the American people. Freedom to Marry applauds the Democratic Party for its fidelity to bedrock American values of the pursuit of happiness, liberty, and justice for all, and for its vision of an America that respects all families and honors commitment and love.”

Darlene Nipper, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, also had good words to say about the LGBT language in the platform.

“Support for marriage equality and ENDA, as well as against DOMA, in the draft platform is good politics and makes good sense,” Nipper said. “It is fully in step with how the entire country is moving on marriage, and the public has overwhelmingly supported employment protections for LGBT people for many years.”

NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that LGBT language was added to the immigration section of the platform and that it was offered by Tobias Wolff.

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

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure

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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 TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, 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

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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

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(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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