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Still no White House comment on Prop 8 lawsuit

Deadline for DOJ to take action is Feb. 28

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney continues to have no comment on the Prop 8 case (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney continues to have no comment on the Prop 8 case (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney continues to stay mum on whether the Obama administration will participate before the Feb. 28 deadline in pending litigation before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8.

Asked on Tuesday by NBC News’ Peter Alexander if the White House would “publicly advocate” against Proposition 8 — as well as the right for same-sex couples to have federal benefits precluded under the Defense of Marriage Act — Carney deferred comment to the Justice Department while reiterating the Obama’s previous action against DOMA.

“For comment on specific Supreme Court cases, I would point you to the Department of Justice,” Carney said. “On the issue of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, the administration’s position on this is well known, and has been. And that’s the President has determined that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional and that his administration will no longer defend equal protection challenges against it in the courts, and the DOJ has participated in the DOMA cases consistent with that position and asked the Supreme Court to resolve the question. So that is the DOMA issue.”

Carney had fewer words in regards in the lawsuit against Prop 8, saying, “On Prop 8, the administration is not a party to that case, and I have nothing for you on that.” Pressed for more information by NBC News, Carney reiterated he has no information.

In 2011, the Obama administration stood down from defending DOMA in court. Since that time, the Justice Department has filed legal briefs against the law and sent Justice Department attorneys to litigate against the statute in oral arguments before various federal courts.

The same isn’t true for Prop 8. While President Obama came out for marriage equality last year — and during his 2008 presidential campaign called Prop 8 “unnecessary” — the administration hasn’t yet taken a position on the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, or whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond on Tuesday to the Washington Blade’s request for an update whether the Obama administration will participate in the Prop 8 litigation. Like the White House, the Justice Department has previously stated the administration isn’t a party to the case and is withholding comment.

Rick Jacobs, chair of the California progressive grassroots group known as the Courage Campaign, renewed on Tuesday his call for the Obama administration to speak out against the constitutionality of Prop 8. His group has launched an online petition calling for action, which the organization says has more than 15,000 signatures.

“The time has come for the President to put the weight of his Administration behind the Supreme Court’s consideration of Prop 8,” Jacobs said. “The Justices and the nation need to hear from the Executive Branch that it supports the rulings of the district and appellate courts, stating clearly that President Obama and his Administration officially oppose Prop 8.”

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would hear oral arguments in the Prop 8 lawsuit, known as Hollingsworth v. Perry, on March 26, and for DOMA lawsuit, known as Windsor v. United States, on March 27. Under the rules of the court, as pointed out by Prop 8 Trial Tracker, the deadline for the Obama administration to submit a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court against Prop 8 is Feb. 28.

Other LGBT groups — ranging from the Human Rights Campaign to Lambda Legal — have called on the Obama administration to take part in the lawsuit by filing a friend-of-the-court brief against the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and to assert a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. Ted Olson, one of the co-counsels in the Prop 8 case, said intervention from the Obama administration would have “great effect” in the lawsuit.

Carney has repeatedly declined to comment on the Prop 8 case. He refused comment when asked by the Washington Blade about it in September, and again days after the Supreme Court in December agreed to take up the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban.

In an interview last month with “Time” Magazine, Obama withheld comment on the Prop 8 case, saying “And I think the Prop 8 case, because the briefs are still being written, I should probably be careful about making any specific comments on it.”

The transcript between NBC News and Carney follows:

NBC News: We hear within the last year that the President says he supports gay marriage. He said at that time that that issue would be worked out at the local level. But given the fact that the Supreme Court has now said that it will hear arguments just two months from now in March, should we expect the President to publicly advocate against Proposition 8, and would he also advocate for same-sex couples to have the right to federal benefits?

Jay Carney: Well, let’s be clear about a couple of things. For comment on specific Supreme Court cases, I would point you to the Department of Justice.  On the issue of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, the administration’s position on this is well known, and has been. And that’s the President has determined that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional and that his administration will no longer defend equal protection challenges against it in the courts, and the DOJ has participated in the DOMA cases consistent with that position and asked the Supreme Court to resolve the question. So that is the DOMA issue. On Prop 8, the administration is not a party to that case, and I have nothing for you on that.

NBC News: Whether he would seek out —

Carney: Again, I have nothing for you on that.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. romon

    January 9, 2013 at 3:09 am

    The world is very sinful sex is for reproduction dame sex cant rrproduce in anyway at sll.

  2. peter rosenstein

    January 9, 2013 at 9:16 am

    There are a number of different and interesting amicus briefs being prepared regarding the Prop 8 case and the Justice Department may be holding off comment until what those are is clear. The President has been very clear on his position on DOMA section 3 and since the Justice Department has until the end of February to file something attacking them now for not doing it is a little premature.

  3. Kevin Kerr

    January 11, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    President Obama can support same sex marriage and believe that same sex marriage is not a constitutional right. If his statements on this issue are to be believed this would seem to be his position.

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National

Alarming numbers of Texas Trans kids in crisis over litany of anti-Trans bills

“Under the guise of protecting children- Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender & nonbinary youth”

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LGBTQ youth protest anti-Trans bills at the Texas Capitol building (Photo Credit: Equality Texas)

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project received nearly 4,000 crisis contacts from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas in 2021, with many directly stating that they are feeling stressed and considering suicide due to anti-trans laws being debated in their state.

This new data comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

The Texas State Senate passed its anti-trans sports ban SB3 this week, and the companion bill HB10 is now moving forward in the Texas House. 

Republican Texas Governor Abbott has prioritized SB 3 and called for a third consecutive special session of the legislature to consider this bill, which would ban transgender student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

“The Trevor Project’s crisis counselors have been hearing from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas who are scared and worried about anti-trans laws being debated in their state — and some have even expressed suicidal thoughts. This is a crisis. We urge Texas lawmakers to consider the weight of their words and actions — and to reject HB10/SB3,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project.

  • Between January 1 and August 30, 2021, The Trevor Project received more than 10,800 crisis contacts (calls, texts, and chats) from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support. More than 3,900 of those crisis contacts (36%) came from transgender or nonbinary youth.
  • Crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas seeking support have grown over 150% when compared to the same time period in 2020.
  • While this volume of crisis contacts can not be attributed to any one factor (or bill), a qualitative analysis of the crisis contacts found that:
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas have directly stated that they are feeling stressed, using self-harm, and considering suicide due to anti-LGBTQ laws being debated in their state.
  • Some transgender and nonbinary youth have expressed fear over losing access to sports that provide important acceptance in their lives.

“As a transgender young person in Texas, this new data from the Trevor Project is not surprising, but it’s nonetheless harrowing and alarming to see this representation of the detrimental impact Texas Lege is having on our community — especially our kids. Lawmakers and proponents of bills like SB3 and HB10 should be alarmed by these statistics, too,” Landon Richie a Trans youth activist and GenderCool Youth Leader from Houston told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Under the guise of protecting children and promoting fairness, Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender and nonbinary youth, denying them the dignity, respect, and childhoods that they deserve. It’s never an exaggeration to say that the passage — and merely debate — of these bills will cost lives,”  Richie added.

National mental health organizations like The Trevor Project and state LGBTQ equality groups including Equality Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) are raising concerns about the impact of such legislation on the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and nonbinary youth.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. Further, Trevor released a new research brief earlier this month on LGBTQ youth participation in sports, which found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (nearly 66%) do not actively participate in sports — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

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/Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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2nd largest school district in Utah bans Pride & BLM flags as ‘too political’

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can”

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Davis School District Offices in Farmington Utah (Photo Credit: Davis School District)

FARMINGTON, Ut. – Administrators this week in the Davis School District, which is Utah’s 2nd largest school district with 72,987 students, banned LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, saying they are ‘politically charged.’

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Davis Schools spokesperson Chris Williams told the paper; “No flags fly in our schools except for the flag of the United States of America.” Williams later walked that statement back adding a clarification that some of the Districts schools have flags from sports team or international countries which are considered “unrelated to politics.”

“What we’re doing is we’re following state law,” said Williams. “State law says that we have to have a classroom that’s politically neutral.”

Amanda Darrow, Director of Youth, Family, and Education at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, told multiple media outlets the school district is “politicizing the rainbow flag” which doesn’t belong on a political list.

“That flag for us is so much more,” said Darrow. “It is just telling us we’re included in the schools, we are being seen in the schools, and we belong in these schools.”

KUTV CBS2 News in Salt Lake City checked with the Utah State Board of Education. In an email, spokesman Mark Peterson said, “There is nothing in code that specifically defines a rainbow flag as a political statement so it would be up to district or charter school policies to make that determination.”

The local Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in saying in a statement;

Whether or not a school district has the legal ability to ban inclusive and supportive symbols from classrooms, it is bad policy for them to do so,” the advocacy organization said in a statement. “Utah schools have an obligation to ensure that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identify, feel welcome inside a classroom. We urge school administrators and teachers to adopt policies that make all students feel safe and included.”

Williams insisted the policy is not meant to exclude anyone and that all students are loved and welcomed – they just want to keep politics out of school he told the Tribune and KUTV.

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can,” said Williams.

A Utah based veteran freelance journalist, writer, editor, and food photographer weighed in on Twitter highlighting the negative impact of the Davis Schools decision on its LGBTQ youth.

Davis County School District bans LGTBQ and BLM flags as ‘too political’

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Non-binary person reports assault by Proud Boys near Portland

‘They nearly killed me’

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Juniper Simonis (Photo by Mariah Harris)

It was a typical day for Juniper Simonis. The freelance ecologist decided to break from work for lunch at about 3 p.m. to take their service dog, Wallace, to the local dog park and grab a bite to eat.  

But a planned peaceful afternoon quickly turned ugly. Simonis says they survived a gang assault of about 30 perpetrators in Gresham, Ore., a suburb outside of Portland. The Oregon resident encountered the group for only minutes but suffered a concussion, sprained jaw, extensive car damage and verbal assaults, they said. 

“They nearly killed me,” they said.

Simonis said they turned into a parking lot to pick up lunch in Gresham, Ore., and stumbled upon a rally that included several members of the Proud Boys — a far-right, ultra-nationalist organization known for its anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminism and neo-fascist ideologies. 

There was a “Flag Ride” right-wing rally in a parking lot earlier that day. Simonis was under the impression the event had ended after checking reports on Twitter. After pulling into the lot, originally to look for lunch options, Simonis saw a large gathering still in the lot. 

Simonis decided to take pictures of what was happening to post online to warn others and was intentional in keeping their distance, they said. As Simonis was preparing to leave the area, they yelled from inside the car, “Fuck you, fascists, go home.” 

“I did not expect this to escalate into violence,” they said. 

The attack itself only lasted about three minutes, Simonis said. Simonis was quickly surrounded by several people and physically blocked from leaving the lot. People stepped in front of the parking lot exit, then a car was moved to barricade Simonis. People began to shout homophobic slurs at Simonis, they said. 

“I’m in serious trouble now and I know it,” they said. 

Simonis was then punched while inside their vehicle and was briefly knocked out. They regained consciousness a few seconds later, and a cinder block was thrown at the car and shattered the back window of their car inches away from their service dog, Wallace. 

Simonis got out of the car to assess the damage and make sure their service dog was safe. They quickly got back in their car and was able to leave the lot by maneuvering around the blocked exit, Simonis said. 

Wallace, Juniper Simonis’ service dog. (Photo by Mariah Harris)

Looking back at the photos and videos Simonis took before the assault, Simonis said they saw people looking into the camera and acknowledging them taking photos. 

“I honestly don’t know if I hadn’t said anything, that … things would have gone any different,” they said. 

Last year, Simonis was targeted and arrested by federal police in Portland during the tumultuous Black Lives Matter protests in the city. They were denied medical attention, misgendered, jumped and aggressively handcuffed while taken into custody. 

Simonis is still working through legal proceedings in a multi-plaintiff lawsuit. 

A witness to the event called the Gresham Police Department, which was only a few blocks away from the incident. But the call went to voicemail and the witness did not leave a message, Simonis said. 

Another witness called 911, Simonis said, which led to an officer calling Simonis about 45 minutes after the accident to take a report.   

In the police report obtained by the Blade, Simonis is consistently misgendered. Simonis’ sex is also listed as “unknown” in the report. The incident was labeled as vehicle vandalism. 

Simonis said the conversation with the officer was filled with victim-blaming and the officer wrote in the report that Simonis should avoid “approaching groups of this nature.”  

“At no point in this conversation does he treat me as an actual victim of a crime,” Simonis said.

The Gresham Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. 

Weeks after the assault, Simonis is struggling mentally and physically, they said. 

The concussion makes working on a computer virtually impossible because of light sensitivity and trouble focusing, Simonis said. The pain caused by the sprained jaw makes it difficult to focus, as well. 

Simonis is not able to begin physical therapy for their jaw until November because of long medical wait times, they said. The cost to repair the car damages will be about $8,000, as well, they said.  

The times where Simonis is able to focus are usually taken up by piecing together what happened that day, they said. 

“The part of my brain that I use for work has been hijacked functionally by the part of the brain that needed to know what happened to me,” they said. “There is such a painful need to understand what happened to me.”

Because of past traumatic events, like the experience of being in federal custody last year, Simonis said processing and living with the trauma is a bit easier to handle. But their ability to work will be forever changed yet again, they said. 

“I’m not able to work at the pace that I used to work at before I was assaulted by DHS. I’ll never be,” they said. “And this is just a further knockdown.” 

The trauma of the event has increased Simonis’ hyper-vigilance, as well. 

“Every time I hear a car go by, I’m double-checking,” they said. 

Even though Simonis has the tools to process and live with the immense trauma, they will never be the same person, they said. 

“They fucking changed my life forever. Point blank,” they said. “Not just mentally, but physically and physiologically. I can’t go back to where I was before. I’m lucky that I survived.”

Simonis has reported the attack to the FBI and is pursuing legal action with two specific goals in mind: to heal and to prevent similar crimes from happening.

“I am somebody who believes in abolishing the carceral system and the justice system as it exists and policing,” Simonis said. “But also a 37-year-old trans and disabled person who somehow managed to survive this long. And so naturally has become pragmatic about the world.”

Because of the reaction of the Gresham Police Department, Simonis did not want to work with local officers and instead went to the federal level. But because of the alleged assault by agents in Portland last year, this decision wasn’t easy for them.

Perpetrators in the assault threatened to call the police on Simonis,  even though Simonis did not commit a crime. Reporting the crime to the federal level is also a layer of protection, they said. 

“All of this is forcing my hand,” they said. There is no easy decision in the situation, they added. 

“We all know that crimes are underreported. We hear about it all the time,” they said. And there are reasons why people don’t report crimes and they’re totally understandable. A lot of victims are very concerned about what will happen if they break anonymity. In my situation, I’ve already broken anonymity.”

With recent arrests and crackdowns on the Proud Boys and other hate groups in the United States, Simonis is bracing for a long process. 

“This isn’t just going to go on a shelf,” they said. 

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