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Log Cabin chief to step down

Cooper planned departure months ago

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R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade
R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

R. Clarke Cooper will step down as Log Cabin chief at the month’s end (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The head of National Log Cabin Republicans is set to step down from his position on Monday and will be temporarily replaced by an interim executive director until a more permanent replacement is found.

The organization’s board announced in a statement Friday that Gregory Angelo, who’s chair of Log Cabin Republicans of New York State, will serve as interim chief starting Wednesday after current executive director R. Clarke Cooper departs.

Speaking to the Washington Blade, Cooper said his decision to leave Log Cabin wasn’t a recent one, although it wasn’t publicly announced before Friday.

Cooper said he informed the board he would depart the organization at the year’s end during an Oct. 20 meeting at the California Republican Party headquarters in Burback. Cooper said his announcement kept in line with earlier stated plans to leave Log Cabin in that time frame.

“Back then, I said, verbatim, ‘Win, lose or draw, I want to leave at the end of the year,'” Cooper said. “A lot of that was just predicated on I promised to work two cycles. So, going back to when I came on in 2010, I said, ‘You get me for the mid-term, and you get me for the general.'”

Sources familiar with Log Cabin, who spoke on agreement on anonymity, affirmed that Cooper had indicated on the Oct. 20 meeting that he would leave Log Cabin at the end of the year and that it was consistent with earlier plans for him to leave the organization at that time.

Cooper, an Army Reserve officer and Iraq War veteran, took on the role as executive director of Log Cabin Republicans as the legislative effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was underway and a lawsuit from the group resulted in a federal court instituting a 10-day temporary stay in enforcing the military’s gay ban. Cooper said he worked full-time as Log Cabin chief as he occasionally took leave for training and other Army Reserve duties.

Under Cooper’s tenure, Log Cabin gave a “qualified endorsement” to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and was credentialed to participate in the drafting process for the 2012 Republican Party platform, although the document ended up including anti-gay language that endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment.

The Oct. 20 meeting at which Cooper indicated he would leave took place just three days before Log Cabin announced its board had voted to endorse Romney in the presidential election. Cooper said the decision to endorse Romney actually took place over a teleconference earlier in the month — not at the Burbank meeting — and his decision to leave was unrelated to the Romney endorsement.

Cooper wouldn’t publicly announce his plan for what he occupy himself with upon his departure from Log Cabin, although he said he has several potential courses of action. Cooper said he intends to maintain his role in the finance committee for the Republican National Committee and remain active in the D.C. Republican Party.

“As far as from that perspective, I have built in or allowed capacity to have time and freedom to do political engagement, but this is not going to be my work-work,” Cooper said.

Angelo, who’s already executive director of Log Cabin’s educational 501(c)(3) arm known as Liberty Education Forum, said in a statement he’s “humbled and thrilled” to follow Cooper as head of Log Cabin.

“It has never been more critical to advocate for equality to Republicans, as Republicans,” Angelo said. “As the Interim Executive Director of this esteemed organization, I will do everything I can to work for Republican victories that return the party to its roots of freedom, fairness, and liberty for all.”

Cooper said the recruitment process for selecting a new executive director could change from what happened previously, but his selection was done by a formal committee search. One of the anonymous sources familiar with Log Cabin said the issue will come up at the next board meeting in January.

Charles Moran, chair of the California Log Cabin Republicans, said new leadership at Log Cabin presents the opportunity for a more centralized approach to the operation that would harken back to years past.

“When Patrick Guerriero centralized it in the 2000s, he really ramped up a lot of field staff, a lot of money and the organization was very centralized in Washington D.C.,” Moran said. “They’ve been kind of parsing that out over the years and returning us to more of a confederation model, but the problem is how do you maintain brand identity … when you don’t have anyone who’s setting that messaging? It’s a challenge. I think the next six months are going to be pretty critical. Like with the GOP, I think Log Cabin is going to have to figure out where it is and where we fit into the greater conversation.”

Log Cabin runs full-page ad against Hagel

The announcement comes the day after Log Cabin published a full-page in opposition to former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, whom Obama is reportedly considering for the role as defense secretary. The ad states, “Chuck Hagel: Wrong on Gay Rights, Wrong on Iran, Wrong on Israel.”

The ad also includes an anti-gay quote attributed to Hagel from 1998 in which refers to James Hormel, who went on to become the first openly gay U.S. ambassador, as “openly aggressively gay.” In a statement last week, Hagel apologized for the statement and said he supports open service and LGBT military families. Afterwards, Hormel questioned the sincerity of the apology in interviews with the Washington Post and the Washington Blade, but seemed to retract his doubt in a Facebook posting hours afterward.

As with the Romney endorsement, Cooper said the ad was unrelated to the announcement on Friday that he would step down as the Log Cabin’s leader.

“That ad was teed up way before Christmas; we had that lined up for a while,” Cooper said. “It’s no different than us having [new Republican DOMA repeal co-sponsors] Richard Hanna and Charlie Bass teed up for Election Day.”

Questions persist about the ad — particularly how a small organization such as Log Cabin with a relatively limited budget could afford to run a full-page in the New York Times.

Cooper said he couldn’t immediately recall the cost of the ad, but said it was done over the holiday week at a special rate and was financed by Log Cabin donors who are also organization members.

During the week of the Republican National Convention, Log Cabin ran a similar full-page ad in the Tampa Tribune in favor of marriage equality. Cooper said the Hagel advertisement was financed in the same manner.

Notably, Log Cabin is running an ad against Hagel even though he changed his position on the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment and didn’t vote on the measure in 2006. Just months before, the organization endorsed Romney even though he campaigned on the Federal Marriage Amendment during the Republican presidential primary.

The ad is somewhat in opposition to a quote from Cooper in a Gay City News article published on Dec. 14 in which he has favorable words for Hagel. Cooper was quoted as recalling Hagel’s experience in the battlefield and saying, “Hagel voted with us most of the time and there was no question he was committed to advancing America’s interests abroad.”

Asked by the Blade to explain why the Gay City News comments were different from the content of the anti-Hagel ad, Cooper said at that time Log Cabin hadn’t yet reached a final decision on Hagel.

“What is consistent is where I’ve been on non-proliferation of nuclear capability in Iran, or Iran writ-large,” Cooper said. “When I talked with a reporter from Gay City News a while back, he said, ‘Where are you on this?’ I said, ‘We’re looking at a lot of things with our coalition partners, I worked with Chuck Hagel, but we’re going to be putting out something soon.'”

Cooper added he had an early version of the copy of what would appear in the New York Times at the time Gay City News interviewed him, but didn’t want to tip off the reporter.

“As you can appreciate, I’m not going to tell one of your peers about something that we’re ready to roll out,” Cooper said. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why would I tell Gay City News that we’re about to do a roll-out in the New York Times? It doesn’t make sense.”

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Biden names civil rights veteran to U.S. Education Dept.

Catherine Lhamon’s portfolio will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct, racial discrimination

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Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon. (Photo public domain))

The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has nominated Catherine Lhamon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Lhamon currently serves as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity at the White House, where she manages the President’s equity policy portfolio. She is a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and served as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2017 to 2021.

She has also served as Legal Affairs Secretary to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Her portfolio at Education, where she previously served in the same position under former President Barack Obama, will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct and racial discrimination in the nation’s K-12 schools, universities and colleges. Lhamon was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, to which President Obama nominated her and the Senate confirmed her in 2013.

“I am thrilled that President Biden is nominating Catherine Lhamon to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Catherine has devoted her career to ensuring equity is at the core of all her work,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement released by his office Thursday.

“She has a strong record of fighting for communities of color and underserved communities, whether as the current Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, or as a civil rights educator at Georgetown University. We are thrilled to have Catherine serving as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and know she will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and justice for all of America’s students.”

Lhamon has also litigated civil rights cases at National Center for Youth Law, Public Counsel Law Center, and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.  Lhamon taught federal civil rights appeals at Georgetown University Law Center in the Appellate Litigation Program and clerked for the Honorable William A. Norris on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Catherine Lhamon is the right choice to lead the Department of Education’s civil rights division at such a critical time for the country and the agency. There is much work to do in order to roll back the harmful policies and legacies of Betsy DeVos, from her attacks on transgender students to her unconscionable revocation of discriminatory discipline guidance and rewrite of Title IX rules,” Adele Kimmel, Director of the Students’ Civil Rights Project at Public Justice told the Blade in an email.

“During her previous tenure in the same job, Catherine embraced equality, enforced Title IX and ensured students had an ally inside the federal government. She will do so again, and the Senate should move to quickly confirm her so she can begin the work of restoring the Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights and dignity of students and implementing the Biden Administration’s pledge to undo the damage that DeVos has done,” Kimmel added.

Born in Virginia and raised in California, Lhamon graduated from Amherst College and Yale Law School. Lhamon and her husband and two daughters are transitioning between California and Maryland.

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Family of transgender woman who died in ICE custody sues federal government

Roxsana Hernández passed away in N.M. in 2018

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A picture of Roxsana Hernández, a transgender Honduran woman with HIV who died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in 2018, hangs on a wall inside the offices of Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa, an LGBTQ advocacy group in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

 

The family of a transgender woman with HIV who died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in 2018 has sued the federal government.

The Transgender Law Center and two immigration lawyers — Daniel Yohalem and R. Andrew Free — in 2020 filed a lawsuit in U.S. District for the District of New Mexico against five private companies who were responsible for Roxsana Hernández’s care.

The lawsuit named Management and Training Corporation, LaSalle Corrections, Global Precision Systems, TransCor America and CoreCivic as defendants. The Transgender Law Center, Yohalem and Grant and Eisenhofer Law on Wednesday petitioned the court to add the federal government to the lawsuit.

“This amended complaint adds the United States, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to the list of entities who had a direct role in Roxsana’s death,” said the Transgender Law Center in a press release.

Hernández, who was from Honduras, entered CBP custody on May 9, 2018, when she asked for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego. She arrived at the Cibola County Correctional Center, a facility in Milan N.M., that CoreCivic operates, a week later.

Hernández was admitted to Cibola General Hospital in Grants, N.M., shortly after she arrived at the privately-run detention center. Hernández died at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M., on May 25, 2018.

The lawsuit, among other things, alleges Management and Training Corporation personnel “denied Roxsana and her fellow detainees food, water and restroom access throughout their transfer” from California to a facility in San Luis, Ariz., that LaSalle Corporations operates. The lawsuit also states Hernández did not receive necessary medical care from LaSalle Corporations, Global Precision Systems and TransCor personnel as they transported her to the Cibola County Correctional Center.

CoreCivic officers, according to the lawsuit, delayed Hernández’s medical care once she was hospitalized.

An autopsy the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator performed concluded Hernández died from Castleman disease associated with AIDS.

A second autopsy that former Georgia Chief Medical Examiner Kris Sperry performed at the Transgender Law Center’s request concluded the cause of death was “most probably severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection, with the probable presence of one or more opportunistic infections.” The second autopsy also found “evidence of physical abuse” that included bruising on Hernández’s rib cage and contusions on her body.

“Defendants’ discriminatory, negligent, and reckless acts and omissions: (a) caused Roxsana to suffer severe emotional and physical distress; (b) created an unreasonable risk that Roxsana’s condition would deteriorate, especially in light of her known HIV-positive status; (c) caused Roxsana’s condition to deteriorate; (d) diminished the opportunity for Roxsana’s condition to improve; (e) caused her to lose her chance to survive and participate in the federal immigration process; and (f) ultimately, caused her death,” reads the motion the Transgender Law Center filed on Wednesday.

“My sister came to the U.S. in search of safety and protection from the horrific violence she experienced as a trans woman in Honduras, and what she found instead was abuse, discrimination and neglect,” said Hernández’s sister, Jenny Hernández Rodríquez, in the Transgender Law Center press release. “The tragic fact that she is no longer with us is a direct result of that discrimination and neglect.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security — which oversees ICE and CBP — with whom the Washington Blade spoke on Thursday declined to comment.

The Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Hernández’s death sparked widespread outrage among immigration advocates. Her case also intensified calls for ICE to release all trans women in their custody.

The Transgender Law Center, the Rapid Defense Network and the Ballard Spahr law firm in April 2020 filed a class action lawsuit that demanded the release of all trans people in ICE custody.

More than 40 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2020 called for ICE to release all trans people in their custody. Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley on Thursday during a House Appropriations Committee hearing asked Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson about the treatment of trans people in his agency’s custody.

“We have made some efforts on sort of improving our training and identifying specific facilities which would focus on housing these individuals in a less restrictive environment but there’s always more work we can do,” said Johnson. “We’re looking at all aspects of our vulnerable population to include transgender, and this is going to continue to be a priority for us as we move forward in assessing our detention framework.”

A unit for trans women in ICE custody opened at the Cibola County Correctional Center in 2017. It closed in 2020.

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Biden administration to ban discrimination against LGBTQ patients

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The Biden administration announced on Monday it would enforce civil rights protections under Obamacare to prohibit discrimination in health care against patients for being LGBTQ, reversing policy during the Trump years excluding transgender status as a protected characteristic under the law.

The Department of Health & Human Services declared it would enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of sex, and begin to take up cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement the Supreme Court has “made clear that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

“Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” Becerra said. “It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”

The move is consistent with the executive order President Biden signed on his first day in office directing federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the furthest extent possible. Federal agencies were directed to comply within 100 days of the executive order, which is about now and a short time after Biden’s first 100 days in office.

The announcement with respect to Section 1557 comes on the same day as the hearing took place this morning in Bagly v. HHS, a case before a federal court in Massachusetts challenging Trump’s undoing of transgender protections under the law. An attorney with the U.S. Justice Department announced a new notice of proposed rule-making is coming with respect to Section 1557.

Sharita Gruberg, vice president for the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement the change “assures LGBTQ people that their rights will be upheld at the doctor’s office, vaccine sites, and everywhere else they seek health care and coverage.”

“The administration’s announcement that it will enforce these protections are a critical step toward addressing vaccine hesitancy among LGBTQ people, a population that has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and seriously harmed by the previous administration’s attempts to permit discrimination against LGBTQ patients, Gruberg added.

The past three administrations have instituted policy on LGBTQ protections based on their interpretation of Section 1557. Each move had varying implications and directions for LGBTQ patients.

The Obama administration issued a rule in 2016 interpreting Section 1557 to apply to cases of anti-transgender discrimination and discrimination against women who have had abortions, which was consistent with court rulings at the time. However, that move was enjoined by a nationwide court order in Texas as a result of litigation filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The Trump administration, shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock, made final a regulation proposed last year rescinding the Obama administration’s transgender protections under Section 1557. Faced with criticism, the Trump administration defended itself by saying its move was consistent with the court order in Texas, although it seemed to ignore the decision from the higher court.

The new rule from HHS goes above and the beyond the Obama administration by instituting protections based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the proposed rule would be a new regulation entirely, or seek to modify the changes that were made in the two previous administrations. The Blade has placed a request seeking comment with HHS.

Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement the new HHS rule is a welcome change after the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgender patients.

“It’s unfortunate that such an obvious step had to be taken; the AMA welcomes this common-sense understanding of the law,” Bailey said. “This move is a victory for health equity and ends a dismal chapter in which a federal agency sought to remove civil rights protections.”

Discrimination in health care is an experience transgender people commonly report. The U.S. Transgender Survey in 2015 found one-third of responders said they had at least one negative experience in health care related to being transgender. Further, 23 percent of responders said they didn’t seek health care because they feared being mistreated and one-third said they didn’t go to a provider because they couldn’t afford it.

A Center for American Progress survey from 2018 had similar findings with respect to transgender people and patients with being gay, lesbian and bisexual or queer. Eight percent of responders said a doctor refused to see them because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, while 28 percent of providers said a doctor refused to see them because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Hospitals, especially religiously affiliated providers, refusing to provide transition-related care, including gender assignment surgery, is another frequently reported incident for transgender patients. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, has filed litigation against hospitals under Section 1557 for refusing to perform the procedure.

Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to obtain Senate confirmation, hailed the HHS rule change in a statement.

“The mission of our Department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. All people need access to healthcare services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health, and screen for cancer risk,” Levine said. “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”

Although the Biden administration’s announcement is a welcome move for LGBTQ advocacy groups, the change is not without critics.

John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University who declares himself a supporter of transgender rights, said the policy could have unintended consequences, which he said has become evident in the British health system.

“[Transgender] individuals with a penis but no vagina are being asked to have medical tests on their non-existent cervices, while [transgender] persons with a vagina and cervix will not be asked, under new guidelines which appear to place lives at risk and encourage a physically impossible medical exam on organs which simply do not exist,” Banzhaf said. “And, carrying this absurdity to its totally illogical conclusion, a patient with a penis and a full beard was offered a cervical test because, despite his clearly masculine appearance and style of dress, he registered himself as being gender neutral.”

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