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New Post owner gave $2.5 million for marriage initiative

Amazon CEO says paper’s current leadership team to stay

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Jeff_Bezos_Washington_Post_gay_marriage_insert_c_Steve_Jurvetson_via_wikimedia

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeffrey Bezos this week purchased the Washington Post; he and his wife are prominent supporters of same-sex marriage.

The Washington Post’s new owner, Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeffrey Bezos, gave $2.5 million last year in support of a ballot measure to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington State.

The contribution made jointly by Bezos and his wife, which is believed to be the highest ever single contribution for the cause of marriage equality, was viewed with interest this week by LGBT activists following the surprise announcement on Monday that Bezos is buying the Post for $250 million.

Most political and media observers are predicting the type of news coverage the Post has provided under the leadership of the Katherine Graham family and its liberal-progressive leaning editorial positions will continue under Bezos – at least for the near future.

The Post in recent years has expanded its news coverage of LGBT issues and has expressed strong support for LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage, on its editorial page.

In separate statements, the Post and Bezos made it clear that the Seattle-based Amazon Company won’t play any role in the purchase or operation of the Post.

“Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days,” the Post reported. “The Post Co. will get a new, still-undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without the Post,” according to the Post story.

Records from the U.S. Federal Election Commission show that Bezos has given only $83,000 to federal candidates running for public office since 2001. Most of his contributions have been to progressive Democrats, such as his two current home state senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).

However, FEC records show he has also contributed money to the campaigns of a few moderate Republicans, including former Sen. Slade Gordon (R-Wash.) and former Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.).

During his tenure as CEO of Amazon.com, the Human Rights Campaign has given Amazon overall high marks in the LGBT rights group’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates Fortune 500 U.S. corporations on their policies related to LGBT employees. In its recently released corporate index for 2012, HRC gave Amazon a rating of 90 out of a possible score of 100.

According to HRC’s write-up accompanying Amazon’s rating, the company includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its employee non-discrimination policy and provides health benefits to employees’ same-sex partners. Amazon also includes the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity in its diversity training program for employees and managers.

Rod Hearne, a board member of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Equal Rights Washington, said that while Amazon is well known as an LGBT-friendly employer, the company and Bezos have taken a low profile on controversial political issues. Bezos made an exception to that posture a few years ago, Hearne said, when he made a large donation to the campaign opposing a ballot measure to put in place a state income tax for large businesses.

Hearn said Bezos and his wife’s mega donation to the marriage equality initiative last year came in response to a request from an out lesbian who was a retired employee and who had worked with Bezos shortly after Amazon’s founding.

“She had sent Bezos a short, heartfelt email asking for a donation in the $100,000 range,” Hearn told the Blade. “He responded quickly with a short note saying that he’d discussed it with his wife, that the issue was important to them, and they were in for $2.5 million,” said Hearn. “Everyone was blown away because they had never taken such a bold, public stance on an issue like marriage equality.”

Hearn, who says he’s friends with several LGBT Amazon employees, doubts that Bezos will exert “heavy-handed editorial control” over the Post.

“I don’t think Bezos is buying it out of charity, but he’s perfectly comfortable sustaining short-term operating losses while building out a broad customer base for a long-term payoff,” Hearn said. “While I doubt Bezos will be pushing a particular editorial agenda, I think the editors will not get any pushback at all from their new publisher when it comes to support for LGBT civil rights and marriage equality.”

Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andrew Tobias, who’s gay, said the FEC records show that Bezos has not been a very large contributor to candidates running for public office.

“But his marriage contribution seems to tell us all we need to know on this topic,” Tobias said.

Like many of the nation’s large daily newspapers, the Post has struggled in recent years as the circulation of its print edition has declined. Information released by the Post on Monday showed that the Post pulled in $582 million in revenue last year but incurred an operating loss of $53.7 million.

Bezos, whose personal net worth is said to be about $25.2 billion, can afford to own a paper that loses money, but he is likely to take steps to make the Post profitable, industry analysts said this week.

“The values of the Post do not need changing,” Bezos said in a statement published on the Post website Monday afternoon. “There will, of course, be change at The Post over the coming years,” he said in his statement. “That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership.”

He added that he will remain in Seattle as Amazon’s CEO and won’t be running the Post on a day-to-day basis.

“Besides that, the Post already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.”

Curtis Tate, president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association’s Washington, D.C. chapter, said many of NLGJA’s friends and members work at the Post.

“Changes in ownership can create a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty, as journalists across the country know all too well,” he said. “However, we hope that the new ownership will allow the paper’s great journalism traditions to continue. Our Post colleagues should be proud of what they have accomplished, and we wish them nothing but the best.”

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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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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)

 

MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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