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Paraguayan police clash with LGBT advocates

At least 10 injured during protest ahead of OAS meeting

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Paraguay, gay news, Washington Blade

Paraguay, gay news, Washington Blade

Paraguayan police on Monday clashed with LGBT rights advocates who protested in the South American country’s capital. (Photo by Felipe Mendez; courtesy Creative Commons)

At least 10 LGBT rights advocates were injured on Monday during a protest in the Paraguayan capital that took place ahead of the start of the Organization of American States’ annual meeting.

Officers with the Paraguayan National Police clashed with members of Somosgay and Lesvos — two LGBT advocacy organizations in the landlocked South American country — in Asunción as they protested President Horacio Cartés’ decision to oppose a proposed OAS declaration that would have indicated support of “diverse families.”

A video that Somosgay posted to YouTube shows protesters waiving rainbow flags before police in riot gear approached and struck some of them with batons. The clip also shows two journalists who appear to have been injured during the confrontation.

Sergio López of Somosgay told the Washington Blade during a Skype interview from Asunción on Monday that a pregnant woman was among those injured.

“We suffered repression by the national police,” said López.

The clashes took place as a much larger group of anti-gay protesters gathered outside the hotel where the three-day OAS meeting began on Tuesday under the banner “development through social inclusion.”

A police spokesperson acknowledged to a Paraguayan radio station that clashes took place between the officers who were protecting the anti-gay protesters and the LGBT rights advocates. He said members of Somosgay and Lesvos provoked the officers to respond.

“Some 60 gay people appeared out of nowhere,” said the spokesperson as Hoy, a Paraguayan newspaper, reported. “We spoke with them, they understood, they passed and we again asked them to disperse but they did not want to do so. We insisted a lot, spoke with them a lot, we then sent in a platoon to divide them, but they became aggressive when the blue helmets (riot police) came.”

López described the protest to the Blade as “peaceful.”

Caribe Afirmativo, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group whose members are attending the OAS meeting in the Paraguayan capital, was quick to condemn the police.

“Caribe Afirmativo rejects the attacks by the police who victimized our colleagues with the organization Somosgay of Paraguay a few hours ago,” said the group on its Facebook page. “They were protesting in a peaceful way in front of the venue where we are meeting.”

Esteban Paulón, president of the LGBT Federation of Argentina, told the Blade that a member of his organization is attending the OAS meeting in Asunción. It remains unclear whether she attended the protest.

“We emphatically reject these acts of homophobic violence in Paraguay,” Paulón told the Blade.

LGBT Paraguayans lack basic legal protections found in neighboring Argentina and other South American countries.

López and Somosgay CEO Simón Cazal petitioned a Paraguayan judge to register their Argentina marriage, but she denied their request last year.

Somosgay in 2013 opened Paraguay’s first men’s health clinic in Asunción, but Cazal told the Blade the landlocked South American country has limited resources to combat HIV/AIDS among at-risk groups. Discrimination and violence against trans Paraguayans remains pervasive.

An OAS spokesperson declined to comment on the clashes.

A member of an anti-LGBT group earlier on Tuesday posted a picture to Facebook from a forum that said “groups from the gay and abortion lobby attack and offend while our life and family delegation presents our document.” López told the Blade that he and other advocates had planned to meet with officials to discuss the protest.

The OAS adopted an anti-discrimination resolution that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression during its 2013 meeting that took place in Guatemala.

Caribe Afirmativo called upon the OAS to condemn the clashes between police and protesters. The group also urged the Paraguayan government to punish the officers who were involved.

“Unfortunately the Paraguay of President Cartés casts a negative light over a continent that wants to advance towards more equality,” said Paulón. “We clearly support the organizations Somosgay and Lesvos and we commit our resources to built together with them an egalitarian Latin America.”

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Florida

Over 100 LGBTQ-themed books in a Florida school district labeled with advisory warning

They warn: “this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students.”

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Advisory Notice (via Twitter)

A southwest Florida district put parental “advisory notice” on over 100 books, many of which are race or LGBTQ-themed. 

A great number of books in Collier County Public Schools, either digital or physical, now have warning labels writing “Advisory notice to parents,” according to an NBC report,

The label, tweeted by nonprofit free-speech-promoting group PEN American, states, “This Advisory Notice shall serve to inform you that this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students. This book will also be identified in the Destiny system with the same notation. The decision as to whether this book is suitable or unsuitable shall be the decision of the parent(s) who has the right to oversee his/her child’s education consistent with state law.” 

Stephana Ferrell, co-founder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project, which means to fight book banning, told NBC that she had a call from Elizabeth Alves, the associate superintendent of teaching and learning for Collier County Public Schools. In the call, Alves told her that the district added the labels starting in February. 

These measures, which Alves described as a “compromise,” happened after the district’s legal representative talked with the Florida Citizens Alliance, a conservative group which initiated a “Porn in Schools Report” project last year. The report included a list of books that “promote gender self-identification and same-sex marriage” as well as titles that include “indecent and offensive material,” as the group explained. 

Chad Oliver, the Collier County Public Schools spokesperson, on the other hand offered a different story. 

Oliver sent an email to NBC News and said, “Based upon advice from the General Counsel, we placed advisory notices on books about which parents and community members had expressed concern and in accordance with the recently passed Parents’ Bill of Rights Law (HB 241).” 

The law referred by Oliver is also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

According to PEN America, there are 110 labeled books in total, and the list greatly overlaps with the one Florida Citizens Alliance inquired about with Collier County Public Schools. 

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National

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney introduces bill to make monkeypox testing free

Health insurers would be required to cover costs

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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has introduced legislation to make monkeypox testing free to the public. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), amid the ongoing monkeypox affecting gay and bisexual men, has introduced legislation in the U.S. House seeking to make testing for disease free to the public.

Maloney, one of seven openly gay members of Congress and chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement the measure, called the No Cost for Monkeypox Testing Act, would testing amid the monkeypox outbreak would be accessible to all.

“It is critical that we eliminate cost as a barrier to testing for monkeypox to ensure we can identify cases and prevent further spread,” Maloney said. “This legislation takes the lessons we learned from past public health emergencies and protects those at risk of contracting monkeypox by making tests accessible to everyone.”

The legislation would require private health insurers as well as Medicare and Medicaid to cover the costs of monkeypox testing at no expense to the patients, either through deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance.

The bill introduction comes the week after the Biden administration declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency and the same it has issued new guidance to enhance to the accessing of existing vaccines doses amid criticism federal officials were too slow in distributing shots.

The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the Centers for Disease Control seeking comment on the legislation. Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra said Tuesday the federal government has the capacity to conduct an estimated 80,000 tests each week.

Maloney has been representing New York’s 18th congressional district, but after redistricting is now seeking re-election in the 17th district. Amid controversy over a potential showdown between Maloney and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who’s Black, another openly gay member of Congress and the current representative of that district, Jones has since opted to run for re-election in the New York’s 10th congressional district. Maloney is now running unopposed in the 17th.

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Politics

Out Vermont state senator wins Democratic primary race

Tuesday’s victory makes her likely to become the first woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress

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Screenshot via Becca Balint for Congress

The Green Mountain State’s state Senate president pro tempore has won the Democratic nomination for the state’s at-large congressional seat, the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Becca Balin is running to succeed U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Tuesday’s victory makes her likely to become the first woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress if elected in November. Vermont is the only state that has never had a female member of its congressional delegation.

The VTDigger, a statewide news website, reported; “Balint, 53, is the first openly gay woman elected to the Vermont Senate and the first woman to serve as its president. The former middle school teacher and stay-at-home mother won her first political contest in a race for her southeastern Vermont Senate seat in 2014

She rose quickly through the ranks of the Democrat-controlled chamber, becoming majority leader in 2017, at the start of her second term. Four years later, in 2021, she was elected pro tem — the top position in the Senate.”

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