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Gay Iowa man denied relief under HIV-criminalization law

Court rules Rhoades could have infected partner through unprotected oral sex



National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that a gay Iowa man was at risk of infecting his partner through unprotected oral sex. (image via wikimedia).

A gay HIV-positive man in Iowa was unable Wednesday to obtain relief from his conviction under a state HIV criminalization law because he received unprotected oral sex while withholding his HIV status.

In a 3-0 ruling, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Nick Rhoades is ineligible for post-conviction relief because he may have transmitted HIV to his sexual partner in 2008 through oral sex. Judge Richard Doyle wrote the opinion.

“Sexual intercourse may be committed through oral sex, and oral sex is a well-recongized means of transmission of HIV,” Doyle writes. “The person exposed to HIV need not become infected with the virus in order for the infected person to be prosecuted under section 709C.1(4).”

In 2008, Rhoades had a one-night-stand with Adam Plendi. After meeting online at, Rhoades went to Plendi’s home in Cedar Falls and the two had consensual sex. Rhoades received unprotected oral sex, and then the two had protected anal sex in which Plendi was the receptive partner. Rhoades is HIV-positive, but didn’t disclose that information to Plendi, who wasn’t infected by the encounter.

After later learning that Rhoades is HIV-positive, Plendi contacted the police, who charged Rhoades with criminal transmission of HIV. Under advice from his attorney, Rhoades pled guilty to the charges and was given the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and classified as a sex offender. Several months later the court reconsidered the decision, suspended Rhoades’ prison sentence and placed him on supervised probation for five years.

In March 2010, Lambda Legal on behalf of Rhoades applied for post-conviction relief, arguing his attorney who advised him to plead guilty had failed to inform him of the specifics of the statute. Rhoades contended he didn’t violate the law because the anal sex was protected and during oral sex he didn’t intend to ejaculate.

In December 2011, the district court denied the application. The court of appeals decision on Wednesday affirmed that denial.

“[T]hat Rhoades may not have ejaculated during the unprotected oral sex is irrelevant,” the decision states. “Here, the minutes of testimony unequivocally establish Rhoades engaged in unprotected oral sex with A.P., and consequently, Rhoades’s claim that he did not ejaculate provides no support to his argument there was a lack of a factual basis regarding the ‘intent element’ of ‘intimate contact.’ We therefore conclude a factual basis existed to support Rhoades’s plea of guilty.”

The general consensus of research indicates while HIV infection through unprotected oral sex is possible, it’s extremely unlikely. According to the website for the Minnesota AIDS Project, the risk of HIV transmission is very low because the mouth is an unfriendly environment for HIV.

“Saliva contains enzymes that break down the virus and the mucous membranes in the mouth are more protective than anal or vaginal tissue,” the website states. “There are a few documented cases where it appears that HIV was transmitted orally and those cases are attributed to ejaculation into the mouth.”

The website for the Centers for Disease Control says “it is possible” to infect someone with HIV through performing or receiving oral sex and there have been a few reported cases of transmission, but it’s a less common mode of transmission than anal and vaginal sex.

Christopher Clark, Lambda’s senior staff attorney, said his organization is “extremely disappointed” because the conviction is the result of “a misinterpretation of the plain language of the statute.”

“Someone who engages in safe sex, as Nick did, does not have the intent required to support a conviction under Iowa’s law concerning the criminal transmission of HIV,” Clark said.

Clark said Lambda is reviewing possible options with Rhoades in the aftermath of the ruling, which includes a potential appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

According to Lambda, 39 states have HIV-specific criminal statutes or have brought HIV-related criminal charges, resulting in more than 160 prosecutions in the United States in the past four years. The laws have been criticized for creating a disincentive for HIV testing and potentially discouraging the disclosure of HIV status.

Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director for Lambda Legal, said the court decision demonstrates the harm of HIV-criminalization laws.

“This decision is another example of how our outdated perceptions of and misunderstandings about HIV are still driving public policy, leading to horrifying criminal penalties for the person living with HIV, even in situations where no harm was intended or actually occurred,” Schoettes said.

Sean Strub, a native Iowan and founder of POZ Magazine, said the court decision is based on “misconceptions” over HIV transmission.

“There’s never been a documented, proven case where HIV was transmitted through anal sex from someone known to have an undectable viral load, let alone oral sex as was under consideration in this ruling,” Strub said. “It hasn’t even been established for certain that HIV is ever transmitted through oral sex, even when a person has a detectable viral load, except when there are open sores or other extreme circumstances.”

Legislation is pending before the Iowa Legislature that would modify the state’s HIV criminalization law. It passed the Iowa State Senate Judiciary Committee last year by an 11- 2 vote with bi-partisan support. Strub said he’s hopeful in this next legislative session the bill will pass and be signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad.

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GOP senator willing to delay school meal funding over LGBTQ+ rights

Funding for school meal & nutrition programs is set to expire July 30, a delay could lead to a hunger crisis for millions of schoolchildren



Photo of a typical school lunch via the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

A bipartisan piece of legislation for school meal programs is at risk after one U.S. senator has signaled he may delay its passage over LGBTQ-related guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Keep Kids Fed Act, released Tuesday by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), has already garnered support from both sides of the aisle as it seeks to provide roughly $3 billion in continued funding for pandemic-era universal school nutrition programs.

“My agreement with Senator Boozman, Representative Scott and Representative Foxx will help keep kids fed and is fully paid for,” Senator Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said in a statement. “With 90% of our schools still facing challenges as they return to normal operations, this will give our schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to deal with ongoing food service issues.”

The legislation would provide additional federal funding to programs established during the COVID-19 outbreak designed to waive financial requirements for all students and allow them to access free school meals throughout the year.

However, guidance issued in May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that prohibits school nutrition programs receiving federal dollars from discriminating against the LGBTQ community has sparked reservations in Congress that could endanger the funding’s ability to pass before its deadline.

On Wednesday, one day after the bipartisan deal was announced, Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) signaled that he would consider objecting to the bill for fear that the USDA guidance would ultimately exclude schools in his state from being eligible to receive the funding.

“This administration is holding women’s sports as ransom for the radical woke agenda,” Marshal said at a press conference on Thursday. “Now, they’re going to do the same thing with school lunches. They want kids to go hungry at school that don’t fall in line with letting boys play girls sports.”

Further indicating his opposition to the USDA guidance that could persuade him to object to the meal funding, Marshall attempted to turn the tables on the Biden administration for not allowing meal programs in schools to act on their discriminatory beliefs. 

“In these trying times where families are faced with rising inflation, the Biden administration is considering taking food out of the mouths of hungry children over their woke agenda,” Marshall said.

But while the press conference was centered around the 50th anniversary of the landmark anti-sex-discrimination Title IX legislation and the issue of transgender athletes in school sports, the USDA guidance only pertains to discrimination within school nutrition programs funded with federal dollars. Under the language of the guidance, equal access and non-discrimination would be required toward only those involved with the meal programs, like LGBTQ students. 

Other programs under a school district’s jurisdiction like sports programs, that may attempt to limit participation by transgender athletes, would not have any relevance to nor would affect the school’s ability to receive federal meal funding like that in the Keep Kids Fed Act.

Current pandemic-era funding for school meal and nutrition programs is set to expire on July 30. Although the funding has bipartisan support, the looming deadline to pass more funding increases the chances that a delay could lead to a hunger crisis for millions of schoolchildren around the nation.

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Caitlyn Jenner celebrates FINA ban on Trans swimmers on Twitter

“[…] what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period,” Jenner tweeted



Screenshot/YouTube Fox News

Former Olympian and one-time California Republican gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner enraged Trans activists Monday after she tweeted her approval of the FINA vote Sunday that essentially bans Trans women from participating and competing as collegiate swimmers.

“It worked! I took a lot of heat – but what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period,” Jenner tweeted Sunday after the international athletic organization announced its vote to ban trans athletes.

The Swimming’s world governing body voted to restrict transgender athletes from elite women’s competitions. The final vote tally of the representatives was 71.5% approval for the new policy which requires transgender athletes show that “they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later.”

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” FINA’s president, Husain Al-Musallam, said in a statement.

The organisation is maintaining that it was necessary to use sex and sex-linked traits to determine eligibility criteria because of the “performance gap” that appears between males and females during puberty.

Jenner’s appearances on the Fox News Network over the past six months have been unrelenting attacks on Trans athletes, especially University of Pennsylvania Women’s Team swimmer Lia Thomas. Jenner also appeared on the network to defend her attacks on Trans athletes.

“We must protect women’s sports. We cannot bow down to the radical left wing woke world and the radical politically charged agenda of identity politics,” Jenner tweeted. In another tweet she said;

“Thank you @seanhannity and @HeyTammyBruce for having a conversation grounded in common sense. All we want to do is protect women’s and girls sports! It’s that simple. And calling out the libelous, defamatory lies of @PinkNews and @emilychudy@benjamincohen

Jenner has been asked about her position on the multiple pieces of anti-Trans youth sports legislation across the United States. She responded that she saw it as a question of fairness saying that she opposed biological boys who are Trans- competing in girls’ sports in school.

“It just isn’t fair,” Jenner said adding, “and we have to protect girls’ sports in our school.”

In April the Fox network hired Jenner as on-air contributor role with her first appearance on Hannity.

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Biden to sign wide-ranging executive order on conversion therapy, LGBTQ youth

Directive stands against state anti-LGBTQ measures



President Biden is set to sign a wide-ranging executive order on LGBTQ youth and conversion therapy.

President Biden, in recognition of Pride month during a reception with LGBTQ leaders and advocates at the White House, is set to sign Wednesday a wide-ranging executive order advancing his administration’s goals for LGBTQ policy, which includes new prohibitions on widely discredited conversion therapy and resources for parents and children in states enacting laws against transgender youth.

The executive order is the latest measure from the Biden administration building on its reputation for steadfast support for transgender and non-binary youth, who are the targets of more than 300 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation in state legislatures and new state laws. Many of these measures ban transgender girls from sports consistent with their gender identity or penalize medical providers and parents for providing transition-related care for youth.

Key components of Biden’s order direct U.S. departments and agencies, including the Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Education, to develop regulations and policies that would counteract the state measures, according to a White House fact sheet.

Among the components of the directive:

  • HHS and the Department of Education are tasked with developing sample policies for states on expanding access to health care for LGBTQ youth and developing policies for “achieving full inclusion for LGBTQ students”;
  • HHS is tasked with leading an initiative against conversion therapy, which is set to clarify federal funds cannot be used for the practice, increase public awareness about its harms and provide support to survivors;
  • the secretaries of State, Treasury, and HHS are directed to develop an action plan to promote an end to conversion therapy overseas and ensure that U.S. foreign assistance dollars don’t fund the practices;
  • HHS is set to publish a “Bill of Rights for LGBTQI+ Older Adults” as well as guidance on the non-discrimination protections for older adults in nursing homes and other long-term care settings.

In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday ahead of the signing of the executive order, senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity laid out the key components of the measure and put the executive order into context of the Biden administration’s broader mission for equity and inclusion.

Asked by the Washington Blade if the White House is anticipating a response from states that have enacted laws against transgender and non-binary youth, many of which have taken the Biden administration to court over federal policies, a senior administration official declined to say.

“We don’t know,” the official said. “The focus is not really on what their response will be. What we’re focused on is responding to the frankly un-American policies they’re pushing through state legislatures. They’re going after kids, they’re going after families just because of who they are, and the president has said repeatedly that he will stand with LGBTQI youth and families and people across the country. That’s what this executive order is going to do.”

The executive order, however, falls short of the Biden campaign’s pledge to sign the Equality Act into law, which in the 2020 election he promised he would do within the first 100 days of his administration. Although the comprehensive LGBTQ legislation has cleared the House, it is all but dead in the Senate and has yet to come up for a vote.

Asked by a reporter about why Biden hasn’t placed as much emphasis on the Equality Act as other legislative measures, such as the Build Back Better package or voting rights legislation, a senior administration official shot back that was at odds with the facts.

“The president is a strong supporter of the Equality Act and he has not wavered in that,” the official said. “He continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act. You heard him renew that call during the State of the Union address … Any assertion that he hasn’t been full-throated on that is just completely at odds with the facts. The president today will reiterate the need to sign this legislation into law.”

Read the White House fact sheet on the executive order here.

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