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Calif. trans law ‘unlikely’ to qualify for referendum

Only 75 percent of required signatures deemed valid

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California, LGBT, Gay News, Washington Blade
California, Gov. Jerry Brown, Gay News, Washington Blade

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that says schools must allow trans students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms and play on sports teams that match their gender identification. (Photo public Domain)

A recently signed transgender student rights law in California may be secure as one LGBT advocate says it’s unlikely opponents of the law have submitted enough legitimate signatures to put the measure up for referendum.

A total of 504,760 signatures were due last Thursday, which are required to place the law, known as the School Success & Opportunity Act, on the ballot for the 2014 election. Opponents of the measure, led by the Privacy for All Students Coalition, submitted 613,120 signatures from a majority of state counties in favor of overturning the law.

But they’re averaging just 75 percent authenticity in the random sample as of Friday, which is significantly below the average ultimately needed to qualify. If the number of valid signatures is less than 95 percent of the 504,760 needed, the measure would fail to qualify for the ballot.

John O’Connor, executive director of Equality California, said “it’s unlikely, [but] it’s not impossible” that the measure will come up for referendum given the signature validation percentage at this point.

“They’re going to need an 81.41 percent validity rate to qualify for the ballot,” O’Connor said. “You can see that they’re well below it currently. That 81.41 percent would be well above the average for any signature gathering activity. So, I mean there’s very real reason to hope that they’re not going to, but nothing’s conclusive itself until the process ends, and, sadly, we just have to give it it’s time to work.”

Although the results of 11 counties have been examined, the signatures from 47 counties have yet to be reviewed. Of these 47, three have yet to report their signature data — Amador, Mono and Mariposa — but they’re small and the signatures there are unlikely to affect the outcome of the validation process.

The deadline for the California Secretary of State to complete the random sample validation is Jan. 8.

If opponents of the law were found to have between 95 and 110 percent valid names in the random sample of the required total, the California Secretary of State would require a full check of signatures, which could mean the verification process could go into mid-March.

A random sample in which more than 110 percent of the names were deemed valid of the required total would mean the measure would immediately qualify for the ballot.

The law, signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Aug. 13, requires California public schools to respect students’ gender identity and ensures transgender students have access to school activities, facilities and sports teams in accordance with their gender identity.

O’Connor said “it’s terrible”  that opponents of the law would even make the attempt to strip it from the books.

“This is an attack on perhaps the most vulnerable population in our community,” O’Connor said. “They’ve solidly lost on marriage, and so now they’re going to try to go after transgender kids. It’s just despicable.”

While the referendum on the law may be doomed, it’s still possible for opponents of the law to repeal it through the ballot initiative process. Moreover, opponents could go a step further and completely remove gender identity from non-discrimination laws if they so desired. A statutory ballot initiative would require 504,760 signatures to qualify for the ballot; a constitutional amendment would require 807,615 names.

But the time period to gather signatures for the ballot initiative process has already begun. Opponents of the student law would have to submit signatures before six months passes after Brown signed the measure into law, which means that four months remain for them to take action.

O’Connor said he doesn’t know if opponents of the law will pursue this course, but noted it’ll be more difficult as time goes by.

“The fact that the clock has been ticking and they’re losing time right now, it’s curious to me, it makes me wonder what they’re up to,” O’Connor said. “It makes me uncertain whether they will or they won’t.”

The Privacy for All Students Coalition didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the assessment of the signature validation process or whether the group intends to pursue a ballot initiative.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she shares the optimism that efforts to repeal the California student law will fail.

“While we wait for the official results of the signature verification, we’re optimistic that, because of our friends in California, the ballot initiative will fail,” Keisling said. “The Transgender Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality California, among others, moved quickly to counter the repeal effort. And what we’ve shown is that campaigning against transgender kids won’t win in California or anywhere else.”

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Delaware

AIDS Walk Delaware to be held in Wilmington, Rehoboth

Events will raise money for HIV testing, treatment

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This year’s AIDS Walk Delaware will be held Sept. 17 in two locations: Brandywine Park in Wilmington, and Grove Park in Rehoboth Beach. The annual event seeks to promote awareness surrounding HIV and raise money for HIV testing, management, and education programming through the state.

Hosted by AIDS Delaware and the Delaware HIV Consortium, AIDS Walk Delaware is the oldest and largest HIV fundraiser in the state, drawing more than 600 attendees in previous years, according to an Aug. 9 press release. The theme of this year’s walk is “Step Up, Step Out: Remove Stigma, Eliminate HIV, Improve Lives.”

Check-in will begin in each park at 9 a.m. with walks beginning at both locations at 10 a.m. Registration for the event is free, and those who raise $30 or more will receive a complimentary commemorative T-shirt.

In the press release, John Beckley, director of development and marketing for AIDS Delaware, noted that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected those living with HIV, who might have especially vulnerable immune systems.

“Many are struggling with isolation, depression and anxiety,” Buckley said in a statement. “This year, we walk with those folks in our hearts.”

“AIDS Walk Delaware is more important than ever,” the press release continued. “It is more important for people who have lived with compromised health for a long time. People who have just learned they are HIV-positive. People who love someone who is HIV-positive. People for whom the best and broadest prevention efforts still elude them.”

Those interested in participating in the walk, making a donation, or learning more can visit aidswalkdelaware.org for more information.

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Latin America

Brazil police call for Bolsonaro to face charges over false COVID-19 claims

Country’s president claimed vaccines increase AIDS risk.

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Anti-Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro flyers on Paulista Avenue in São Paulo, on March 13, 2022. Federal prosecutors have asked for Bolsonaro to be charged with incitement over his false COVID-19 claims that include an assertion that people who are vaccinated are at increased risk for AIDS. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Federal police in Brazil have called for prosecutors to charge President Jair Bolsonaro with incitement for spreading false information about COVID-19.

O Globo, a Brazilian newspaper, on Wednesday reported a Federal Police investigator in a letter to the Federal Supreme Court specifically cited Bolsonaro’s claim that people who receive a COVID-19 vaccine are at increased risk for AIDS. 

Bolsonaro made the comment on Oct. 21, 2021, during a live social media broadcast. Several HIV/AIDS service providers and LGBTQ and intersex activists with whom the Washington Blade spoke in March while reporting from Brazil noted it.

O Globo reports Bolsonaro could face up to six months in prison if convicted of incitement.

The first round of Brazil’s presidential election will take place on Oct. 2.

Bolsonaro — a former Brazilian Army captain who represented Rio de Janeiro in the country’s Congress from 1991-2018 — is running against former President President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro has been widely criticized over his rhetoric against LGBTQ and intersex Brazilians, women and other underrepresented groups in the country. Bolsonaro has also faced criticism for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his stance towards people with HIV/AIDS, among other things.

Polls indicate Da Silva, who is a member of Brazil’s Workers’ Party, is ahead of Bolsonaro. The incumbent president has sought to discredit Brazil’s electoral system amid growing concerns that violence could erupt if he does not accept the election results if he loses.

“I do believe it is extremely important to create a medicine to stop this man,” Mariah Rafaela Silva, a transgender woman of indigenous descent who works with the Washington-based International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, told the Blade on Thursday after news that federal prosecutors have called for Bolsonaro’s indictment.

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Massachusetts

Boston Children’s Hospital targeted by violent anti-LGBTQ threats

‘We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms’

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(Screenshot/YouTube WBZ)

Anti-LGBTQ far right extremists are targeting Boston Children’s Hospital, threatening its employees and medical staff after falsehoods and disinformation spread online recently about the healthcare facility’s treatment of transgender youth.

In a statement posted online, a spokesperson for Boston Children’s Hospital wrote: “In response to commentary last week critical of our Gender Multispeciality Service (GeMS) Program, Boston Children’s Hospital has been the target of a large volume of hostile internet activity, phone calls and harassing emails including threats of violence on our clinicians and staff fueled by misinformation and a lack of understanding and respect for our transgender community.”

The statement notes that the false information, with special attention being cast on the lies that Boston Children’s Hospital was performing hysterectomies (transgender care related) on minors. The age of consent for that gender-affirming procedure is 18.

“We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms, and we reject the false narratives upon which they are based,” the hospital continued. “We are working with law enforcement to protect our clinicians, staff, patients, families and the broader Boston Children’s Hospital community and hold the offenders accountable. We will continue to take all appropriate measures to protect our people.”

Journalist Martha Bebinger with WBUR,  Boston’s NPR news station, noted the campaign started last week with criticism of a video posted on the hospital’s website about hysterectomies. Several conservative social media accounts shared posts about the video on Twitter. The hospital performs hysterectomies on patients 18 and older, but not on children as some of the posts claimed.

The social media account Libs of TikTok, which has often promoted “groomer” discourse that falsely linked LGBTQ teachers and parents to pedophilia, began to make a variety of false claims. One allegation included the lie about Boston Children’s Hospital offering gender-affirming hysterectomies to children under 18 years old.

Surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital have said they would consider performing other procedures, including phalloplasty, or penis construction, on 17-year-old male trans patients. But hospital staff say that hasn’t happened because no 17-year-old has met the required legal and other criteria.

Conservative journalist and anti-LGBTQ+ activist Christopher Rufo, who has helped incite white Christian nationalist right-wing uproar over the critical race theory being taught in the nations’ secondary schools and also fabricated a story that queer theory was also being taught to kindergarteners up through high school, took aim at Boston Children’s Hospital in a tweet Wednesday.

Then adding to the far-right extremist pile-on, Media Matters for America reported Wednesday that anti-trans pundit Matt Walsh also attacked the hospital.

Christina Buttons, a Nashville-based radical anti-LGBTQ far-right journalist for the Canadian anti-LGBTQ conservative publication, the Post Millennial, which features other transphobic writers, attacked NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny on Twitter over her reporting on Boston Children’s Hospital.

A spokesperson for Twitter told the Washington Blade Wednesday afternoon that the company support team was looking into the reports of harassment.

Zadrozny reported: Anti-trans activists also targeted the individual doctors who appeared in the YouTube videos from Boston Children’s Hospital, leaving vulgar and harassing comments on their social media accounts and flooding their online pages with negative reviews. Some hospital staff have since made their social media profiles private.

This isn’t the first time that far-right activists have targeted doctors and medical institutions — or even Boston Children’s Hospital.

Lee Leveille, co-director of Health Liberation Now, a trans rights advocacy group that investigates the effects of policy on trans health, said the hospital was also a target in May 2021 for providing gender-affirming care amid a similar wave of targeted harassment on medical facilities.

“The original organized network that jump started the clinic protests has been slowing down a bit and is more decentralized,” Leveille said over email. “Local pockets will still operate here and there, but they’re less connected to a central organized push than the original ones. Now we’re seeing new faces rallying the cause — including the likes of Matt Walsh and Libs of TikTok.”

A spokesperson for the Boston Police Department said the department is aware of the threats and is working with hospital staff.

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