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Minnesota to keep N.C. travel ban as other states demur

Gov. Dayton enacted policy in protest over HB2

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Mark Dayton, Minnesota, Democratic Farmer Labor Party, gay news, Washington Blade
Mark Dayton, Minnesota, Democratic Farmer Labor Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Mark Dayton will keep the travel ban to N.C. (Photo public domain)

Minnesota has become the first state to announce it will retain its travel ban to North Carolina enacted in protest over anti-LGBT bill House Bill 2 despite the governor signing into law a replacement measure.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the travel ban in April, directing state employees not to travel to North Carolina for nonessential business, after the enactment of HB2 in the state.

Although North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a fellow Democrat, has signed into law a replacement measure he says alleviates the situation, Sam Fettig, a Dayton spokesperson, told the Washington Blade on Wednesday, “No, we are not going to lift the ban.”

Criticized by LGBT rights supporters as a deal that doubles down on discrimination, the agreement between Cooper and Republican leaders in the legislature was reached amid an ongoing economic boycott of state as result of HB2.

The new law, House Bill 142, prohibits municipalities, state agencies and the University of North Carolina from the “regulation of access” to bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the legislature’s permission. It also bans municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination measures that would apply to private employment or public accommodations until 2020.

Numerous cities that had enacted similar travel bans in protest of HB2 — the District of Columbia, New York City, Oakland, Seattle, San Fransisco, Santa Fe, Salt Lake City and Cincinnati — have declared those bans will remain in place in the aftermath of the deal because of the discriminatory impact of the new law.

But the states haven’t been as forthcoming. At least six — California, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Washington State — had enacted travel bans to North Carolina as a result of HB2.

A spokesperson for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, stopped short of affirming the ban will remain in place, although he said it remains for the time being.

“Our review of the new North Carolina law is ongoing, and the Governor’s Executive Order ‎currently remains in effect,” Azzopardi said.

In Washington State, the travel ban has actually expired as a result of the new law in North Carolina. The memo that Inslee signed in 2016 states the travel ban would remain in effect “so long as the recently approved HB2 exists in its current form.”

Tara Lee, an Inslee spokesperson, confirmed that as a result of the deal Cooper signed into law “the travel ban no longer applies.”

“However, the governor feels that the changes to their state law are a disappointing half-measure towards the equal protections every person should receive,” Lee said.

In response to a follow-up inquiry on whether Inslee is considering putting a new travel ban in place, Lee replied, “We are considering options.”

California has ban on travel to North Carolina as result of Assembly Bill 1887, a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that allows the attorney general to maintain a list of states with laws rolling back LGBT rights and prohibit state-sponsored travel to those states. An official with Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said his office is reviewing whether North Carolina no longer warrants inclusion on the travel restriction list after the HB2 deal.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy is also reviewing the new law in North Carolina before making a decision on whether to affirm the travel ban he signed last year, a spokesperson said.

“We don’t have an update, yet,” said Malloy spokesperson Kelly Donnelly. “We are still reviewing the new legislation.”

The offices of Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, didn’t respond to a request for comment on the travel ban former Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, enacted last year.

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State Department

State Department releases annual human rights report

Antony Blinken reiterates criticism of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

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(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday once again reiterated his criticism of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act upon release of the State Department’s annual human rights report.

“This year’s report also captures human rights abuses against members of vulnerable communities,” he told reporters. “In Afghanistan, the Taliban have limited work opportunities for women, shuttered institutions found educating girls, and increasing floggings for women and men accused of, quote, ‘immoral behavior,’ end quote. Uganda passed a draconian and discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act, threatening LGBTQI+ individuals with life imprisonment, even death, simply for being with the person they loved.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court earlier this month refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” More than a dozen Ugandan LGBTQ activists have appealed the ruling.

Clare Byarugaba of Chapter Four Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTQ rights group, on Monday met with National Security Council Chief-of-Staff Curtis Ried. Jay Gilliam, the senior LGBTQI+ coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, in February traveled to Uganda and met with LGBTQ activists who discussed the Anti-Homosexuality Act’s impact. 

“LGBTQI+ activists reported police arrested numerous individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity and subjected many to forced anal exams, a medically discredited practice with no evidentiary value that was considered a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and could amount to torture,” reads the human rights report.

The report, among other things, also notes Ugandan human rights activists “reported numerous instances of state and non-state actor violence and harassment against LGBTQI+ persons and noted authorities did not adequately investigate the cases.”

Report highlights anti-LGBTQ crackdowns in Ghana, Hungary, Russia

Ghanaian lawmakers on Feb. 28 approved the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill. The country’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has said he will not sign the measure until the Ghanaian Supreme Court rules on whether it is constitutional or not.

The human rights report notes “laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults” and “crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex persons” are among the “significant human rights issues” in Ghana. 

The report documents Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and members of his right-wing Fidesz party’s continued rhetoric against “gender ideology.” It also notes Russia’s ongoing crackdown against LGBTQ people that includes reports of “state actors committed violence against LGBTQI+ individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly in Chechnya.”

The report specifically notes Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 24 signed a law that bans “legal gender recognition, medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person, and gender-affirming care.” It also points out Papua New Guinea is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The Hungarian Parliament on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his right-wing Fidesz party in 2023 continued their anti-LGBTQ crackdown. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Cook Islands and Mauritius in decriminalized homosexuality in 2023.

The report notes the Namibia Supreme Court last May ruled the country must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside the country. The report also highlights the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling against marriage equality that it issued last October. (It later announced it would consider an appeal of the decision.)

Congress requires the State Department to release a human rights report each year. 

The Biden-Harris administration in 2021 released a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad.

The full report can be read here.

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National

Same-sex couples vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change

Williams Institute report based on Census, federal agencies

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Beach erosion in Fire Island Pines, N.Y. (Photo courtesy of Savannah Farrell / Actum)

A new report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law finds that same-sex couples are at greater risk of experiencing the adverse effects of climate change compared to different-sex couples.

LGBTQ people in same-sex couple households disproportionately live in coastal areas and cities and areas with poorer infrastructure and less access to resources, making them more vulnerable to climate hazards.

Using U.S. Census data and climate risk assessment data from NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, researchers conducted a geographic analysis to assess the climate risk impacting same-sex couples. NASA’s risk assessment focuses on changes to meteorological patterns, infrastructure and built environment, and the presence of at-risk populations. FEMA’s assessment focuses on changes in the occurrence of severe weather events, accounting for at-risk populations, the availability of services, and access to resources.

Results show counties with a higher proportion of same-sex couples are, on average, at increased risk from environmental, infrastructure, and social vulnerabilities due to climate change.

“Given the disparate impact of climate change on LGBTQ populations, climate change policies, including disaster preparedness, response, and recovery plans, must address the specific needs and vulnerabilities facing LGBTQ people,” said study co-author Ari Shaw, senior fellow and director of international programs at the Williams Institute. “Policies should focus on mitigating discriminatory housing and urban development practices, making shelters safe spaces for LGBT people, and ensuring that relief aid reaches displaced LGBTQ individuals and families.”

“Factors underlying the geographic vulnerability are crucial to understanding why same-sex couples are threatened by climate change and whether the findings in our study apply to the broader LGBTQ population,” said study co-author Lindsay Mahowald, research data analyst at the Williams Institute. “More research is needed to examine how disparities in housing, employment, and health care among LGBT people compound the geographic vulnerabilities to climate change.”

Read the report

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Federal Government

Lambda Legal praises Biden-Harris administration’s finalized Title IX regulations

New rules to take effect Aug. 1

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U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (Screen capture: AP/YouTube)

The Biden-Harris administration’s revised Title IX policy “protects LGBTQ+ students from discrimination and other abuse,” Lambda Legal said in a statement praising the U.S. Department of Education’s issuance of the final rule on Friday.

Slated to take effect on Aug. 1, the new regulations constitute an expansion of the 1972 Title IX civil rights law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.

Pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County case, the department’s revised policy clarifies that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes sex-based discrimination as defined under the law.

“These regulations make it crystal clear that everyone can access schools that are safe, welcoming and that respect their rights,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said during a call with reporters on Thursday.

While the new rule does not provide guidance on whether schools must allow transgender students to play on sports teams corresponding with their gender identity to comply with Title IX, the question is addressed in a separate rule proposed by the agency in April.

The administration’s new policy also reverses some Trump-era Title IX rules governing how schools must respond to reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, which were widely seen as imbalanced in favor of the accused.

Jennifer Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said during Thursday’s call that the department sought to strike a balance with respect to these issues, “reaffirming our longstanding commitment to fundamental fairness.”

“We applaud the Biden administration’s action to rescind the legally unsound, cruel, and dangerous sexual harassment and assault rule of the previous administration,” Lambda Legal Nonbinary and Transgender Rights Project Director Sasha Buchert said in the group’s statement on Friday.

“Today’s rule instead appropriately underscores that Title IX’s civil rights protections clearly cover LGBTQ+ students, as well as survivors and pregnant and parenting students across race and gender identity,” she said. “Schools must be places where students can learn and thrive free of harassment, discrimination, and other abuse.”

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