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Repeal of Utah anti-gay school law heads to governor

‘No Promo Homo’ law subject to ongoing lawsuit in federal court

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Gary Herbert, Utah, gay news, Washington Blade, Republican Party
Gary Herbert, Utah, gay news, Washington Blade, Republican Party

A bill to repeal an anti-gay school law is headed to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. (Photo public domain).

The Utah legislature on Wednesday sent legislation to the desk of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert that would an repeal an anti-gay law barring school officials from talking about homosexuality.

The Republican-controlled Utah legislature approved the legislation, number Senate Bill 196 and sponsored by Sen. J. Stuart Adams, with overwhelming bipartisan support. The legislation passed by a 27-1 vote in the Senate on Wednesday. The House has already approved the bill by a 68- 1 vote.

Nicknamed the “No Promo Homo” law, the anti-gay school law in Utah prohibits teachers from discussing homosexuality in a positive way, which has resulted in schools and teachers ignoring the bullying of kids perceived as gay.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said in a statement the legislature’s approval of the repeal bill represents “a historic day for LGBTQ students in Utah.”

“We commend Sen. Adams and the Utah Legislature for recognizing that LGBTQ students should be treated with the same respect and dignity as other students,” Williams said. “The removal of this discriminatory language from the school curriculum laws will send a positive message that all students are valued in Utah.”

The anti-gay school law is currently being challenged in federal court as a result of a lawsuit filed in October by the National Center of Lesbian Rights and the global law firm Ropes & Gray LLP on behalf of Equality Utah and three anonymous Utah-based plaintiffs: Two students and a former student.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, identified as John Doe, is a gender non-conforming seven-year-old who sometimes wears girl’s clothes and was subjected to bullying at school. One day, John’s main tormentor followed him into the school bathroom during recess. When John was found, he was highly upset and visibly shaken. He later experienced vomiting and severe panic attacks. He wouldn’t tell his mother what happened to him in the bathroom, and still refuses to talk about this incident years later.

The complaint says the boy drew a picture afterwards of how the incident made him feel, which was a page of angry scribbles. His mother reported this incident to school authorities, but they didn’t adequately investigate it as a result of the law. After this incident, the boy didn’t return to school.

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a Utah native, commended the Utah legislature for approving the anti-gay school law and said it could make the litigation unnecessary.

“We applaud Sen. Adams and the Utah legislature for acting in the interest of Utah students and repealing this outdated law,” Kendell said. “These public officials performed a great public service by recognizing that this statue serves no good purpose and actively harms LGBT students. This is a very gratifying development and a significant step forward in resolving our litigation challenging this stigmatizing and unconstitutional law.”

Earlier this year, the parties in the lawsuit agreed to put it on hold while the Utah legislature considered a legislative solution. Gov. Gary Herbert may get his state out of costly lawsuit by signing the repeal bill.

Under the Utah constitution, the governor must sign or veto legislation within 20 days of it passage or it becomes law on its own accord.

Kirsten Rappleye, a Herbert spokesperson, said “the governor and his team have not yet begun to review this bill” in response to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on what action he’d take on the legislation.

 

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Texas

Abbott tells UN to ‘pound sand’ amid criticism of anti-LGBTQ policies in Texas

Governor signed seven anti-LGBTQ laws last year

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Texas Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs the “Save Women’s Sports Act” on Aug. 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday dismissed news coverage of a letter issued last month to the United Nations that expressed alarm over the “deteriorating human rights situation” for LGBTQ people in the Lone Star State.

Signed by Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and the University of Texas at Austin School of Law Human Rights Clinic, the letter details how Texas legislators introduced 141 bills targeting the LGBTQ community, passing seven into law.

“The UN can go pound sand,” Abbott wrote in a post on X.

In 2023, the governor signed a ban on gender affirming care for transgender youth, a ban on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at public universities, a ban on transgender athletes competing in college sports, a law allowing schools to use religious chaplains for counseling services, a ban on “sexually oriented performances” on public property accessible to minors (which targets drag shows), a law allowing schools to restrict LGBTQ books, and a ban on nondiscrimination ordinances by local governments.

The groups argued in their letter that these policies constitute a “systemic discriminatory policy” in violation of international human rights laws, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a multilateral treaty whose tenets are enforced by the UN Human Rights Committee.

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National

WATCH: Washington Post grills transphobic Libs of TikTok creator

Chaya Raichik reaffirmed anti-trans views

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Chaya Raichik, founder of Libs of TikTok is interviewed by Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz.in California. (Screenshot/YouTube The Washington Post)

Grilled on a range of topics during an interview with Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz, Chaya Raichik, spoke about the great replacement theory, the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary in high school student in Oklahoma, why she won’t delete her false accusations about the Uvalde shooter and other mass-shooters, her views on gender, feminism and more.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Guilty verdict in first federal murder trial based on gender identity

Dime Doe killed in S.C. in 2019

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Dime Doe (Family photo)

A federal jury on Friday handed down a guilty verdict of a man accused of murdering a Black transgender woman in what is classified as the first in the nation federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity.

After a 4-day trial in a federal hate crime case, a jury found a South Carolina man, Daqua Lameek Ritter, guilty of all charges in the indictment, which included one hate crime count, one federal firearms count and one obstruction count, all arising out of the murder of Dime Doe.

“Acts of violence against LGBTQI+ people, including transgender women of color like Dime Doe, are on the rise and have no place in our society,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer. “The Justice Department takes seriously all bias-motivated acts of violence and will not hesitate to hold accountable those who commit them. No one should have to live in fear of deadly violence because of who they are.”

According to court documents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, evidence presented at trial showed that Ritter was upset that rumors about his sexual relationship with Dime Doe were out in the community. On Aug. 4, 2019, the defendant lured Doe to a remote area in Allendale, S.C., and shot her three times in the head. At trial, the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ritter murdered Doe because of her gender identity. Ritter then burned the clothes he was wearing during the crime, disposed of the murder weapon and repeatedly lied to law enforcement. 

This was the first trial under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for violence against a trans person. The Shepard-Byrd Act is a landmark federal statute passed in 2009 which allows federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“A unanimous jury has found the defendant guilty for the heinous and tragic murder of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The jury’s verdict sends a clear message: Black trans lives matter, bias-motivated violence will not be tolerated and perpetrators of hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This case is historic; this defendant is the first to be found guilty by trial verdict for a hate crime motivated by gender identify under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We want the Black trans community to know that you are seen and heard, that we stand with the LGBTQI+ community and that we will use every tool available to seek justice for victims and their families.”

Ritter faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering federal sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

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