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Lawmakers planning ways to block Trump’s trans military ban

Senate could act on amendment to defense bill as soon as next week



John McCain, Values Voter Summit, gay news, Washington Blade, United States Senate, Republican Party, Arizona
John McCain, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is seen as key to an amendment against Trump’s transgender military ban. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Now that Congress has returned from August recess, lawmakers are in discussions about a legislative response to thwart President Trump’s ban on transgender military service, according to Capitol Hill sources and LGBT advocates who spoke to the Washington Blade on condition of anonymity.

Action could come in the U.S. Senate as soon as next week when the chamber begins debate on the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill, a major defense policy bill that could be a vehicle for overriding Trump’s directive to the Pentagon to ban transgender people from the armed forces.

As the Washington Post reported, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who championed efforts in 2010 for the legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” are planning an amendment to the defense authorization bill targeting the transgender ban. Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Susan Davis (D-Calif.) are crafting standalone legislation along the same lines.

The plan in the Senate could work despite Republican control. If Collins and the entire Democratic caucus support the measure, 11 more Republicans would be needed to obtain the 60-vote threshold to overcome a likely filibuster. Any number of the Republicans who objected to Trump’s transgender military ban — either the substance or the process — could be candidates, such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) or Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

But one LGBT advocate said even a vote that falls short of the 60-vote requirement would still be helpful from a political standpoint if at least a majority of senators were on the record in opposition to Trump’s transgender military policy.

“At a minimum, we want a majority of the Senate, or a supermajority of the Senate, to say they disagree with the president’s approach, they disagree with a ban on trans service, and so that’s the minimal we’re going to try to get, and if we can get a little more, that’s what we want,” the LGBT advocate said.

One lingering issue about the plan is the scope of the amendment. One option, a non-discrimination measure that would require the U.S. military to accept transgender troops, may not obtain as much support among lawmakers in a Republican-controlled Senate compared to an amendment that would more modestly roll back Trump’s directive.

The extent of the rollback would also be an issue. Overriding the portion of Trump’s policy barring funding for gender reassignment surgeries, for example, may not be palatable to Ernst, who said she opposed U.S. military funds for that treatment.

“When you look at some of the statements of the conservative Republicans like Joni Ernst, for example, she didn’t wholly endorse trans service and I don’t think they are ready to sort of say we’re going to tell the Pentagon to have trans service,” one LGBT advocate said. “Hopefully, we can get to a point where the Pentagon is sort of given a free hand to look at what is best from a military readiness standpoint.”

One Capitol Hill source said as of the end of this week a determination on content of the amendment hasn’t been made final, although the more modest proposal to reverse the Trump ban seems more likely as opposed to a military civil rights bill.

Neither Gillibrand nor Collins’ office responded to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on their plan for an amendment against Trump’s transgender military ban.

Key to the success of the amendment and whether it will even be allowed for consideration is McCain, who as Senate Armed Services Committee chair will have considerable sway over whether an amendment on transgender military service will be permitted on the floor. Recently diagnosed with brain cancer, McCain may be ending his time in the Senate and working on his final authorization bill.

“We’re going back and forth in discussions with McCain staff and other Republicans to see what will be consistent with their statements when the ban was announced and be substantively helpful in keeping the ban from being fully implemented,” one LGBT advocate said.

Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has authority on determining whether legislation will have amendments, he’d give McCain significant deference, the LGBT advocate said.

“If we have his support on an amendment, I think there’s a high likelihood it gets a vote regardless of what Mitch McConnell wants,” one LGBT advocate said.

McCain’s office didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on whether he’d support — or at least favor allowing to come up — an amendment against Trump’s transgender military ban.

Concurrent with a legislative process is litigation seeking to overturn Trump’s transgender military ban. In one of the lawsuits filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders, the legal team has sought a preliminary injunction, which could come down at any time and effectively lift Trump’s policy.

The impact of a preliminary injunction, one LGBT advocate said, could go either way on legislation, either taking “the wind of out of the sails” for that course or giving more space to lawmakers to vote against the policy after the judiciary repudiated it.

“Generally, I think it might be less helpful, but it’s hard to say, and we could see a preliminary injunction at any time, but there’s no guarantee we see one at all,” the advocate said.

Even if the Senate approved an amendment against Trump’s transgender military ban as part of the defense authorization bill, many obstacles could prevent it from becoming law.

For starters, the provision could be stripped out in conference committee when House and Senate lawmakers agree to a final version of the defense bill. The House already approved its version of the legislation, which contains no provision on transgender service. (The House voted down an amendment proposed by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) to bar funding in the U.S. military for transition-related care, including gender reassignment surgery).

If the amendment survives the entire process in Congress, Trump would then be in a position of having to sign a defense bill into law that includes a measure overriding his directive to ban transgender military service, which the president would likely not be keen to do.

One LGBT advocate said he wouldn’t sugar coat the difficulties in making an amendment against Trump’s transgender military ban a success because there’s no strategy for “a guaranteed win.”

“I do think House Republicans are going to be resistant to it,” the LGBT advocate said. “We don’t know what the final NDAA process is going to be. There are a lot of issues around the bill unrelated to any of our issues as far as what the DOD funding level is going to be. There are other issues around specific weapons. It is very possible that the final bill is going to need Democratic votes in the House, which will give us tremendous leverage at that point, but those are sort of unknowables at this point”

One Capitol Hill source was nonetheless optimistic about the potential to override Trump’s anti-trans directive through the legislative process — at least in the House — based on rejection of the Hartzler amendment.

“I think people recognize that this is a ridiculous overreach by the president that literally no one asked for,” the source said. “Even Vicky Hartzler, her floor amendment was on health care, and in committee she pulled the amendment that would have been an outright ban. Even Vicky Hartzler was not asking for this in her amendment. I would feel pretty good about how this would go if it comes back over to the House, but obviously I can’t speak to what the count is like in the Senate.”



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Five easy tips to help you avoid common risks



Be sure to install baby gates if you have stairs in your home with young children. (Photo by Kasia Bialasiewicz/Bigstock)

Your home is more than just a place to eat and sleep; it’s your safe haven. As much as you might cherish your home, you should probably also recognize the potential hazards within its familiar walls. Accidents can happen in an instant, yet with a little foresight and some simple adjustments, you can transform your house into a safer haven. 

Accidents can happen anywhere, and with a few simple tweaks, you can lower risks in your space. Below you’ll find five tips for each room in your home to help prevent injuries, falls, and other mishaps. In short, home safety. 

This article was inspired by a shower in a rental we managed that began leaking through the kitchen ceiling below. If only the landlord had installed grab bars, right!? Below, we’ll guide you through the steps to fortify your bathroom, making it a place of relaxation without the fear of slips and falls. Then, we’ll venture into the room where the magic happens, where proper planning can ensure great nights and peaceful mornings. We’ll show you how to prevent accidents while you experiment becoming the next Gordon Ramsey. And we’ll include a few surprising solutions for those other rooms that hold their own unique hazards, offering solutions to safeguard against unexpected mishaps.

Bathroom Safety

Install Grab Bars: Adding grab bars near the shower and toilet can provide essential support for family members of all ages. Not only can they help with getting in and out, but they can help provide stability when washing. Make sure they are securely anchored to the wall.

Non-Slip Mats: Place non-slip mats inside the shower and bathtub to prevent slips. They’re a small investment that can save you from falls and head injuries.

Adjust Water Temperature:  Ensure your hot water is set to a safe temperature to avoid scalding. The hot water heater should be set to around 120°F (49°C)l, the middle setting on many water heater settings. 

Medicine Cabinet Locks: If you have young children, use childproof locks on your medicine cabinet to keep harmful substances out of reach.

Proper Lighting: Ensure there’s adequate lighting in the bathroom to avoid trips and falls during nighttime visits. Nightlights can be a simple and effective solution. 

Bedroom Safety

Clear Pathways: Keep pathways in the bedroom clutter free to prevent tripping. Ensure there’s enough space to move around comfortably, particularly getting around the bed.  Be aware where all furniture is when walking around to avoid stubbed toes, particularly at night.

Secure Rugs: If you have throw rugs, use rug grippers or double-sided tape to keep them from slipping. Loose rugs are a common trip hazard. 

Bed Rails: For anyone at risk of falling out of bed, consider installing bed rails to provide extra support and prevent falls.

Nightstands with Drawers: Opt for nightstands with drawers to keep essential items.  This reduces the need to get out of bed at night, minimizing the risk of falls, as you race to grab what you need and not lose a moment’s rest.

Fire Safety: Install battery-operated smoke detectors in the bedrooms if there are none. Make sure to install them 36 inches away from an air vent or the edge of a ceiling fan.  Also six inches away from the joint between the wall and ceiling.  And test smoke detectors regularly.

Kitchen Safety

Non-Slip Flooring: Choose slip-resistant rugs in the kitchen, especially in areas where spills are common. Mats near the sink and stove can also help and you can often buy them fairly cheaply at Costco.

Childproof Cabinets: If you have little ones, use childproof latches on cabinets and drawers to prevent them from accessing potentially hazardous items.

Anti-tip brackets: Install an anti-tip bracket behind the range. These are often used when children are in the home. Although they are less likely to open the oven door and use it as a step stool to get to the stove-top, adults can also benefit from installing these. 

Adequate Lighting: Proper lighting is crucial in the kitchen to avoid accidents. Under-cabinet lighting can illuminate work areas effectively.

Secure Heavy Items: Ensure heavy pots and pans are stored at waist level to prevent straining or dropping them from high shelves.

Sharp Object Storage: Keep knives and other sharp objects in a secure drawer or block. And handle all sharp items with extreme care, even when washing and drying. These steps reduce the risk of accidental cuts.  

Other Safety Tips

Furniture Anchors: Secure heavy furniture, like bookshelves and dressers, to the wall to prevent tip-overs, especially if you have young children.

Adequate Outlets: Check for damaged outlets and replace them promptly. Avoid overloading circuits with too many devices. Install placeholder plugs in outlets to prevent young curious fingers (or tongues?) from going inside an electrical outlet.

Stair Gates: If your home has stairs, install safety gates at the top and bottom to prevent falls, especially if you have toddlers or pets to keep them off of the stairs when you cannot monitor them.

Emergency Escape Plan: Develop and practice an emergency escape plan with your family, including a designated meeting place outside.

Carbon Monoxide Detector:  If your home burns any fossil fuels for heating or appliances, install carbon monoxide detectors in common areas of your home to detect this odorless gas. The D.C. building codes require this if you use a fireplace or if you have an attached garage. In essence, if there is any potential source of carbon monoxide in the home, be sure to install these detectors.

Remember, a safer home not only prevents accidents but also provides peace of mind for you and your family. Implement these simple tips to create a secure environment in every room of your house.

With these practical tips and a few adjustments, you can significantly reduce the risk of injuries and falls in your home. Enjoy peace of mind in your now much safer haven.

Scott Bloom is owner and senior property manager of Columbia Property Management.

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Celebrity News

Lizzo makes $50K donation to Marsha P. Johnson Institute

Singer is vocal LGBTQ ally



Lizzo at the 65th Grammy Awards (Screenshot from the Grammy Awards)

When Lizzo sings “If I’m shinin,’ everybody gonna shine,” in her hit song, “Juice,” she means it. Proof of that came this week on Instagram when the LGBTQ ally announced the first winner of her annual Juneteenth Giveback Campaign is the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, a national nonprofit based in Richmond, Calif., dedicated to the protection and defense of Black transgender people. 

And she did so in song: “On the first day of Juneteenth, Lizzo gave to me,” she sang in her video, posted Tuesday, as she revealed her $50,000 gift to MPJI.

“That’s right, we know who Marsha P. Johnson is. We know what Marsha P. Johnson has done for the LGBTQ, emphasis on that ‘T,’ Q community,” said Lizzo to her 13.5 million followers. “Thank you so much to the people at the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. You deserve this, and I hope this helps you so much as you help protect our Black trans family.” 

“What the Marsha P. Johnson Institute does is protects and defends the rights of Black transgender people. They do this by organizing community, advocating for the people, and creating an intentional healing community, developing transformative leadership and promoting collective power,” she said. 

“We are overjoyed for the shoutout from Lizzo today, the generosity of her sharing her platform and the recognition of MPJI and its work,” said Elle Moxley, MPJI’s executive director. “The resources from this campaign will ensure the protection and defense of Black transgender people continue at a time where it is so vitally needed. We are so grateful for the support of Lizzo and her fans.”

As one of Time Magazine’s Persons of the Year for 2019 and a 2023 Grammy winner, Lizzo is more than a pop star but an inspiration to millions of fans for her body-positive attitude, her self-confidence on stage and in her videos, her empowering music and her activism. She’s also the founder of her own clothing line, Yitty. In 2021, she made headlines when she publicly corrected a paparazzo for using “she/her” pronouns and misgendering Demi Levato.

As part of her campaign, now in its 4th year, Lizzo recognizes Black-led grassroots organizations and businesses and encourages her fans to join her in supporting each of the five organizations she highlights this week. Fans who take action by donating are  entered into a drawing for an all-expenses paid trip to see her perform at Fuji Rock in Japan later this year. 

This week’s other nonprofits receiving gifts are: Black Girls Smile, Sphinx Music, the University of Houston and Save Our Sisters United.

Find out more about Lizzo’s 4th annual Juneteenth Giveback Campaign by clicking here.

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Celebrity News

Anne Heche dies after removal from life support

Actress dated Ellen DeGeneres in late 1990s



(Screenshot/YouTube Inside Edition)

Actress Anne Heche died after she was removed from life support on Sunday, nearly two weeks after her Mini-Cooper crashed through a two-story house in Los Angeles’ Mar Vista neighborhood. Investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department believe she was intoxicated at the time.

She sustained a severe anoxic brain injury along with severe burns and was being treated at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital, near Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley.

The 53-year-old actress who was a star of films like “Donnie Brasco,” the political satire “Wag the Dog” and the 1998 remake of “Psycho,” had been declared legally dead under California law on Friday, however, her family kept her alive long enough to be an organ donor.

In a statement Friday, the LAPD announced that: “As of today, there will be no further investigative efforts made in this case. Any information or records that have been requested prior to this turn of events will still be collected as they arrive as a matter of formalities and included in the overall case. When a person suspected of a crime expires, we do not present for filing consideration.” LAPD detectives had previously made public that investigators into the crash found narcotics in a blood sample taken from Heche.

The actress’s family released a statement on Friday:

“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend. Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact,” the statement added.

Heche was married to camera operator Coleman Laffoon from 2001 to 2009. The two had a son, Homer, together. She had another son, named Atlas, during a relationship with actor James Tupper, her co-star on the TV series “Men In Trees.”

Laffoon left a moving tribute on an Instagram reel in which he also gave an update on how their 20-year-old son Homer Laffoon is coping with the loss of his mother.

“I loved her and I miss her, and I’m always going to,” he said adding: “Homer is okay. He’s grieving, of course, and it’s rough. It’s really rough, as probably anybody can imagine. But he’s surrounded by family and he’s strong, and he’s gonna be okay.”

“Rest In Peace, Mom, I love you, Homer,” the actor’s 20-year-old son, Homer, said in a statement after Heche was declared legally dead on Friday.“ My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom,” read the statement. “After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness. Hopefully, my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom. Over those six days, thousands of friends, family, and fans made their hearts known to me. I am grateful for their love, as I am for the support of my Dad, Coley, and my stepmom Alexi who continue to be my rock during this time. Rest In Peace Mom, I love you, Homer.”

Tupper, a Canadian actor who starred alongside Heche in “Men in Trees,” had a 13-year-old son, Atlas, with her. “Love you forever,” Tupper, 57, wrote on his Instagram post’s caption with a broken heart emoji, which shared an image of the actress from Men in Trees.

Between 1997 and 2000, Heche was also in a relationship with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

“This is a sad day,” DeGeneres posted on Twitter. “I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.” The year after her break-up with the comedian, in September 2001, Heche recounted in her memoir “Call Me Crazy,” about her lifelong struggles with mental health and a childhood of abuse.

KTLA’s entertainment reporter Sam Rubin noted that over the past two decades, Heche’s career pivoted several times. In 2017, she hosted a weekly radio show on SiriusXM with Jason Ellis called “Love and Heche.”

In 2020, Heche made her way into the podcast world. She launched “Better Together” which she cohosted alongside Heather Duffy Boylston. The show was described as a way to celebrate friendship. 

She also worked in smaller films, on Broadway, and on TV shows. She recently had recurring roles on the network series “Chicago P.D.,” and “All Rise” and was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”

People magazine reported that several of Heche’s acting projects are expected to be released posthumously.

These include “Girl in Room 13,” expected to be released on Lifetime in September, “What Remains,” scheduled to be released in 2023, and HBO Max TV series “The Idol,” created by Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson.

In her Instagram post from earlier this year Heche stands between her sons Atlas, 13 and Homer, 20.

From KTLA:

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