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Trump fires all members of HIV/AIDS council without explanation

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Trump Pence, gay news, Washington Blade

President Trump has fired all members of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

With no explanation, the White House has terminated members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS amid widespread discontent with President Trump’s approach to the epidemic.

After six members of PACHA resigned in June, the White House on Wednesday terminated the remaining 16 members without explanation via a letter from FedEx.

Scott Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist and senior attorney for Lambda Legal, was one of the six who resigned in June over Trump’s inaction on HIV/AIDS and said on Twitter the remaining members were fired.

“No respect for their service,” Schoettes said. “Dangerous that #Trump and Co. (Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed.”

Sources with knowledge of PACHA said many council members were fired even though additional time remained on their terms as advisers. The terminated members, sources said, were given the option to reapply after Tuesday.

Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of the Riverside, Calif.,-based LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution, was a remaining member of PACHA and confirmed they were fired, but said the “explanation is still unclear.”

“I can only speculate,” Maldonado said. “Like any administration, they want their own people there. Many of us were Obama appointees. I was an Obama appointee and my term was continuing until 2018.”

Maldonado said “ideological and philosophical differences” with the administration are a potential reason for the terminations.

As an example, Maldonado cited a recent Washington Post report the Centers for Disease Control is banned from using words like “diversity” and “transgender” in budget documents. The CDC director has denied those words are banned.

“I was co-chair of the disparities committee, so much of my advocacy and policy references surrounded vulnerable populations, addressing issues of diverse communities, specifically looking at the impacts of the LGBT community, namely, the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS to people of color, gay men, transgender women,” Maldonado said. “And a lot of those key vulnerable populations are not being prioritized in this administration.”

Maldonado added he intends to publish an open letter to the community about his termination on Friday.

Also among the terminated members was Patrick Sullivan, a professor of epidemiology at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.

“My reaction is that our focus should be on the policies that PACHA addresses,” Sullivan said. “These issues are critical to people’s health, and are critical to making new HIV infections rare. At PACHA’s last meeting in August, the Council urged the Administration to affirm the National HIV/AIDS Strategy through 2020. Doing this would be a great way for the administration to set the tone and lay out national roadmap of priorities for a new PACHA.”

Created in 1995, PACHA has provided advice starting in the Clinton administration and into the George W. Bush and Obama administrations on policy and research to promote effective treatment and prevention for HIV — maintaining the goal of finding a cure.

In September, Trump signed an executive order that renewed PACHA along with 31 other presidential bodies for an additional year.

Trump’s termination of council members isn’t the first time an administration cleaned house on PACHA. The Obama administration eliminated all of George W. Bush’s appointees before making new appointments.

Kaye Hayes, executive director of PACHA, affirmed the council members were terminated on Wednesday, but said there’s more to the story.

“They were also thanked for their leadership, dedication and commitment to the effort,” Hayes said. “Changing the makeup of federal advisory committee members is a common occurrence during Administration changes. The Obama administration dismissed the George W. Bush administration appointees to PACHA in order to bring in new voices. All PACHA members are eligible to apply to serve on the new council that will be convened in 2018.”

Jim Driscoll, a gay Nevada-based HIV/AIDS activist who supported Trump in 2016, said replacement of PACHA members “is standard practice” for a new administration.

“Now they need to find bonafide community people with appropriate expertise and the ability to adapt to the changed political circumstances,” Driscoll said. “It is fully understandable why a president would not want people who oppose his policies and might be happy to see him impeached serving as his HIV advisors. That would serve the needs of neither the president nor of people living with HIV-AIDS.”

But Maldonado said the termination of PACHA members during the Trump administration is only partially consistent with the Obama years.

“It is common for appointees to be terminated and for folks to kind of want their own people in,” Maldonado said. “I think where the discrepancy comes in is why a year later, No. 1? Two, many of us, our terms were over earlier this year and we were sworn back in, and three were stayed on nearly four months after an executive order was signed continuing the council.”

In June, six members of PACHA resigned their posts in protest over what they called inaction from Trump on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. An estimated 1.2 million people have HIV/AIDS in the United States and 37 million have the disease worldwide.

Chief among the reasons was the absence of leadership at the White House on HIV/AIDS. To date, the White House has yet to appoint a director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, which was one of the reasons the six members of PACHA resigned in June.

Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal also sought massive cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, including $150 million on HIV/AIDS programs at the Centers for Disease Control and more than $1 billion in cuts from global programs like the PEPFAR Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria. The Republican-controlled Congress has thus far continued to fund these programs at previous levels.

Maldonado noted the PACHA terminations are taking place at the year’s end after the June resignations, which he said is “a little too coincidental.”

“The timing is a little bit unorthodox compared to what the Obama administration’s approach was,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado said he represented a younger demographic on PACHA as the only member under the age of 30, which he said is where the majority of new HIV infections are occurring, and as a young, black gay man.

“I just am coming to the acknowledgment that the traditional tactics of politicking and policy and strategy and negotiation, the kind of standard tools that we’re trying to use, that the status quo is no longer acceptable,” Maldonado said. “The tactics that we had are kind of obsolete, and now we need to craft new strategy to address the troubling and unsettling revelations, particularly around the silence and inaction that have taken place around HIV and AIDS.”

Since the resignations in June, Trump has made public statements on HIV/AIDS consisting of proclamations on National HIV Testing Day and World AIDS Day. Neither statement included an explicit mention of LGBT people, who have faced the brunt of the disease.

The White House deferred comment to the Department of Health & Human Services, which provided the statement from the PACHA executive director.

New appointments may be coming soon. The Blade reported in October gay Republicans familiar with HIV/AIDS issues and LGBT issues have been among those contacted by a Trump administration official for possible appointments to PACHA.

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59 Comments

59 Comments

  1. BobSF_94117

    December 29, 2017 at 8:38 am

    I don’t find any notice or news article about Obama summarily firing the entire membership of PACHA with no explanation, no notice, no new appointees announced. When a journalist makes a statement that Trump’s actions have precedent, the journalist is obligated to explain how and why, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Neil Baker

      December 29, 2017 at 8:51 am

      “It is common for appointees to be terminated and for folks to kind of want their own people in,” Maldonado said. “I think where the discrepancy comes in is why a year later, No. 1? Two, many of us, our terms were over earlier this year and we were sworn back in, and three were stayed on nearly four months after an executive order was signed continuing the council.”

      • Thisoldspouse

        December 29, 2017 at 6:14 pm

        Sounds like they should count their blessings, then.

    • Mark Hatchett

      December 29, 2017 at 9:36 am

      `You can’t expect an agenda driven “journalist” like Chris to be fair to President Trump.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 5:33 pm

        Trump is fair to no one but his special interest! If you don’t like what you read no one obligates you to troll here! Stick to your right-wing news sites that regurgitate the lies and BS your fake potus peddles!

      • Thisoldspouse

        December 29, 2017 at 6:13 pm

        It’s “rules for thee but not for me” with this bunch.

        • Mark Hatchett

          December 29, 2017 at 7:18 pm

          Everyone is entitled to an opinion however the Washington Blade should change its masthead to America’s LGBT Opinion Source. It’s way past time the B and T were dropped as well.

          • lnm3921

            December 29, 2017 at 7:37 pm

            How about dropping you instead since you do nothing for the community! The N for NAMLBA was dropped decades ago so why do you hang on?

            Further everything you say is opinion so who are you to whine? You hate the blade’s NEWS yet are glued to it and keep returning! What a joke you are!

    • Simon Dibley

      December 29, 2017 at 10:46 am

      “Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of the Riverside, Calif.,-based LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution, was a remaining member of PACHA and confirmed they were fired.”
      That’s the named source. Another un-named source was quoted. This is in addition to the tweet by Scott Schoettes. Chris Johnson also approached the White House for comment, but so far has not received any.

      Did you read this article?

      • BobSF_94117

        December 29, 2017 at 11:20 am

        I don’t know what you’re talking about (nor do you, it appears). Maldonado confirmed the firing of HIS OWN group, today, by Trump.

        I was looking for notice that OBAMA did anything similar or in a similar fashion, or with similar timing, and found nothing.

  2. obelus

    December 29, 2017 at 11:54 am

    It makes no sense to swear members back in upon expiration of their terms if you are cleaning house for patronage sake. This is likely more an attempt to gut the council’s effectiveness, and is entirely consistent with the Trump administration’s effort to dismantle government. In my opinion, this is further verification that Putin’s interest in our elections is entirely hostile, and Trump a malignancy on our nation.

    • Mendota2

      December 29, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      These people have different ideology from Trump administration. Can you explain what goals these people want to achieve other than collecting paychecks from taxpayers?

      If they have any decency, these Obama leftovers should have resigned long time ago.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 5:29 pm

        people don’t work for nothing! Most people need a paycheck! Meanwhile you have trump cronies wasting tax payer funds to take lavish plane trips they can pay for themselves yet you don’t want them fired because they push your agenda!

        • Mendota2

          December 29, 2017 at 6:12 pm

          That person was fired. These Obama leftovers should resign and find a new job in Dumbcrazy field to making a living. Stealing taxpayers money isn’t decent.

          • lnm3921

            December 29, 2017 at 6:21 pm

            Trump should resign! He’s toxic as his supporters are crazy!

      • obelus

        December 29, 2017 at 7:21 pm

        That is not how government agencies work. Let’s discuss now the People’s business as it takes precedent above all else. That means it comes before an officials party affiliation, their campaign funders, their own careerism or well being. It is the proverbial elephant in the room. There are a number of laws that specifically forbid government agency personnel from front running their own interests ahead of the People’s. Similarly, unless you are entirely self employed, your ability to front your own interests ahead of your bosses is curtailed or soon will be. We are not all entirely free agents in our dealings. Sometimes you are the agent for other interests and you have to serve them with fidelity. It is undermining for any organization with ongoing work to experience a sea change sweeping everyone out with each election. The effectiveness of organizations that serve the People’s interest is considered paramount to what an election outcome may be. Real world stuff still needs to get done in an orderly way —

      • icposse2k

        December 29, 2017 at 7:31 pm

        I can absolutely explain what goals they have. They want to reduce the spread of HIV and the development of AIDS through education and proven interventions such as condoms and needle exchange programs. These programs save lives, period. They want to expand pre-exposure prophylaxis and get people treated so that they don’t develop AIDS and we treat their infection through once-a-day pills rather than expensive hospital stays. It’s really not that complicated.

      • Allegra

        December 29, 2017 at 8:11 pm

        PACHA members are not paid–a fact you could have easily looked up. https://files.hiv.gov/s3fs-public/pacha-charter.pdf

        PACHA members receive travel allowances and per diem which are strictly controlled by the General Services Administration–but this is standard for ALL Federal Advisory Committees. That is not “collecting paychecks from taxpayers” or “stealing taxpayers’ money.” Federal Advisory Committee Members donate their time and expertise to help guide government policy in many critically important areas. You really should get your facts straight before you go mouthing off in public….

    • BigGaySteve

      December 29, 2017 at 5:46 pm

      Obama removing the HIV travel ban let in drug resistant AIDS from Africa last year. Hopefully Trump fills the positions with people who want less AIDS in the US. Maybe he will even get a Murse that says that, and will rattle the cages of those who jack up HIV drug prices from $13 a pill to over $700 a pill.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 5:53 pm

        We have a global pandemic because of the failures of the GOP. Reagan and social conservatives to act and show compassion during the onset of the disease because it was labeled a gay disease! Stop trying to distort history with revisionist lies to push your agenda!

        Worry instead about the size of your waistline and butt and maybe you won’t be “big”!

    • Thisoldspouse

      December 29, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      Oh, please. They’re a money-sucking bureaucracy set up to create an appearance of “caring,” nothing more. The money can be better spent elsewhere, like fighting breast cancer.

    • Zaidi

      December 29, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      The “counsil’s effectiveness” is measure by the Republican House’s support and funding of it!!!

  3. Pizza!

    December 29, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    “Gays For Trump” are the Trumpette section for anti-gay action.

  4. notyetagm

    December 29, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Best. President. For. LGBT. Ever!

    /s

    • lnm3921

      December 29, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      Only if you’ve been labotomized!

    • BigGaySteve

      December 29, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      If he reinstates the HIV travel ban & stops importing moslems at taxpayer expense to shoot up gay bars, he might be.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 5:57 pm

        The fake potus will NEVER be great only obese! Your Muslim hysteria tactics will never change that! He’s failed to prevent terrorism repeatedly since Las Vegas! He’s a fraud!

  5. Danny Douglas

    December 29, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    LORD help the USA, because you have allowed the most despicable man alive to attain the office of president. He may, or may not have performed this disservice, but the very fact of his statements and actions lead one to easily believe so. And from the sources, we can only believe it.

    • Thisoldspouse

      December 29, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      I thought that Scott Lively was the most despicable man alive.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 7:24 pm

        Thinking and you are an oxymoron and YES because I said so and I’m sure many would agree!

  6. wil9000

    December 29, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Terrifyingly enough, this may be one more attempt to make him “Reaganesque”. Reagan ignored the epidemic completely.

    • Thisoldspouse

      December 29, 2017 at 6:12 pm

      Lie. He did not ignore the epidemic completely. But that sounds so convenient for your agenda.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 7:01 pm

        You’re the liar trying to revise history! It’s you pushing the agenda!!

        Reagan ignored the epidemic encouraged by Christian conservatives pushing their anti-gay agenda! All Reagan did was unrealistically tell people to practice abstinence!

        • Thisoldspouse

          December 29, 2017 at 7:02 pm

          LOL! I’m a liar because you say so? What a maroon.

          From Wikipedia:
          President Reagan issued Executive Order 12601 creating the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic on June 24, 1987.[1] On June 26, he appointed Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry, CEO of the Mayo Clinic, to chair the commission. Jeff Levi, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force objected to the appointment of someone with no experience with the disease, but others praised Mayberry’s experience in both medical research and clinical services.

          • lnm3921

            December 29, 2017 at 7:14 pm

            The disease emerged on the community in 1982 so you’re telling me it took Reagan FIVE years to appoint a commission! That’s a failure in leadership after millions had been infected and many died!

            The only reason Reagan did that was that children in particular babies were being born with it! The lives of gay men did not matter to him and I defy you to show me something that proves he did this for them!

          • icposse2k

            December 29, 2017 at 7:34 pm

            1987. Do you know when Reagan took office? Do you have any idea how many Americans were dead of AIDS by 1987? No, of course you don’t. It was tens of thousands before Reagan even uttered the words HIV or AIDS.

          • obelus

            December 29, 2017 at 7:50 pm

            As you pursue you little Wikipedia scholarship, please be aware that there may be people on this thread who knew people that died while the Reagan administration carefully steered their inaction into a corner where it could do no good. We will patiently wait for you to acquaint yourself with meatier research and come up with a cogent point. We have time.

          • Count Dracula

            December 29, 2017 at 10:01 pm

            Actually your AIDS will probably kill you soon…so you don’t have time.

  7. Thomas Cassel

    December 29, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Not since Reagan’s days has HIV been this political. HIV doesn’t know political party. It doesn’t know sexual orientation.

    This is about bringing new transmissions down to zero and curing those who have it. Anything short of that increases long term health care costs for everyone. That is what everyone doesn’t realize.

  8. Terje Anderson

    December 29, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    It is not “standard practice” to prematurely terminate members’ terms on these councils — I was a member of President Clinton’s PACHA and I continued to serve out the remember of my appointment for the first year+ of the George W Bush administration.

  9. Gaius Octavius

    December 29, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Without explanation? Seriously? What rock have you been hiding under these past 12 + months, Mr. Johnson? This is what Trump promised to do; whether you like it or not he is keeping his word to “drain the swamp”.

    …and yes, this useless committee is part of the muddy, stinking swamp that needs to be drained.

    • lnm3921

      December 29, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      Trump is the creature from the black lagoon and only fills the swamp! You’re distortions can’t change the reality people see and hear themselves from your fake potus and his evil administration!

    • sTv0

      December 29, 2017 at 9:59 pm

      Drain the Swamp? Woo-Hoo! I’d say it’s getting drained! Walsh, Bharara, Yates, Flynn, Comey, Shaub, Dubke, Spicer, Priebus, Scaramucci, Bannon, Gorka, Price, and Manigault.

      Who’s next? Drain that Swamp, baby!

  10. Helen Wallace

    December 29, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Donald Trump is a great man like King Cyrus of the Torah who will be used as God’s instrument to lead the nation back to him and punish the sodomites with death

    • lnm3921

      December 29, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      La Honnie soit qui mal y Pense! Sanctimonious s”trump”ette!

    • sTv0

      December 29, 2017 at 9:35 pm

      Well, your god certainly has punished a lot of babies with death. Like, the millions, perhaps billions, he drowned in Genesis. Or the forty-two he had mauled to death by two she-bears in 2 Kings. Or (and this is soooo special to you Christians), the time he threatened to kill a baby in 2 Samuel…first he made it sick after it was born, then he tortured it for seven days…then he killed it.

      I’d say your god has a lot for which to answer, HW. And according to our secular laws, he should be locked up and the key thrown away.

    • icposse2k

      December 29, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (1 Timothy 2:12)

  11. Chaim Green

    December 29, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    The president have a right and obligation to his supporters to purge the goverment of all employees who effectively are commiting treason by working against the presidents agenda

    • sTv0

      December 29, 2017 at 9:14 pm

      Right On, bro! Can’t wait to watch Eric and Donnie, Jr. do the perp walk. Yay! Go, President Moron!

  12. Frank Roper

    December 29, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    The president is doing what should of been did 30 years ago, let natural law extingish the homosexuals and the aids virys

    • sTv0

      December 29, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      “should of” ≠ “should have”. Go to the back.

    • icposse2k

      December 29, 2017 at 10:39 pm

      Learn to spell virus and maybe someone will listen to you, ignorant thought you are.

  13. Rick Boxer

    December 29, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    I’m just going to “guess” that, since Trump is certainly no friend to the LGBTQ community, that this mass firing is simply another one of his ways to hit back at Obama, anything or anyone else who gets in the way of THAT agenda be damned. Lastly, I eagerly await the day Mueller can develop enough investigative material to force the impeachment of Trump.

    • Thisoldspouse

      December 29, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      Were Obama’s mass firings his way to “hit back” at GW Bush?

      Don’t be consistent or anything like that.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 7:33 pm

        Obama was open to hiring people from both parties!

      • icposse2k

        December 29, 2017 at 10:38 pm

        Obama’s firings were to replace people who thought ‘abstinence only’ was a realistic method for controlling the spreading HIV/AIDS epidemic. He replaced them with people who supported interventions that actually work, like condoms, needle exchange programs, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), etc. In other words people who evaluate interventions based on scientific evidence (can I say that in the CDC now?) as opposed to ideology.

  14. Thisoldspouse

    December 29, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Isn’t it strange that on the whole homosexuals were never healthier than when their behavior was universally condemned by society?

    • lnm3921

      December 29, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      Are you homosexual? Frank roper’s comment is typical of what can be expected from social conservatives in regards to gay men! A reason why the community cannot trust them and never support them!

  15. sapience

    December 29, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    If Pence has any input don’t be surprised if these positions remain vacant or this council completely disappears.

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Comings & Goings

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Troy Cline, gay news, Washington Blade
The 'Comings & Goings' column chronicles important life changes of Blade readers.

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Shin Inouye, gay news, Washington Blade
Steven McCarty

Congratulations to Steven McCarty on being named president of the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C. He said, “I’m honored to be installed as the president of the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C. and to be able to shepherd our programs and volunteers to impact youth where they are needed most. Our club’s new partnership with SMYAL has already turned a portion of their Youth Center in Southeast D.C. into the first Clinical Services Department in the District that offers free and affirming mental healthcare to LGBTQ Youth. As an openly gay man, I’m proud to further our club’s mission with radical empathy and inclusion.” McCarty has also recently been awarded Kiwanis’ highest honor, the George Hixson award.

McCarty is a Technical Program Specialist at stac labs in D.C. He is also founder and campaign manager at Abolish Racism 2020. He worked as a Senior Customer Success Manager,  Crowdskout. He was a workplace equality intern at Human Rights Campaign and a summer fellow at Michigan State AFL-CIO, in Lansing, Mich. 

McCarty earned his bachelor’s in Political Science and Communications Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Congratulations also to Shin Inouye on his appointment as Executive Vice President of Communications, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Human Rights, The Leadership Conference Education Fund. 

Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund said, “We are thrilled Shin Inouye will be taking on even greater responsibilities on our senior leadership team. His incredible talent and commitment to this organization and our work are truly outstanding, and his strategic leadership will no doubt continue moving us forward in the fight to protect and advance civil and human rights.”

Inouye has held a number of positions with the organization including Managing Director of Communications. Inouye also held a number of high-level positions in the Obama administration, including Press Secretary and Acting Senior Adviser for Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Adviser for Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Executive Office of the President; White House Office of Communications: Director of Specialty Media; and served as an authorized spokesperson for the Obama Inaugural Committee, with a focus on specialty media outlets, including LGBTQ, AAPI, Native American, Youth/College, Faith, and Jewish press. Prior to that Inouye was Communications Director in the Office of Congressman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and has also worked for the ACLU and as a summer intern with the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. 

Inouye received a number of honors including being named One of 25 “LGBTI next generation leaders to watch” by Out in National Security and the Atlantic Council; and One of “40 Asian American Pacific Islander National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders” by New America and the Diversity in National Security Network.

Shin Inouye
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World

Petition urges White House to develop plan to protect LGBTQ Afghans

Taliban regained control of country on Aug. 15

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Two men in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munzahim)

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition that urges the Biden administration to do more to help LGBTQ Afghans who remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country.

The Human Rights Campaign; the Council for Global Equality; Immigration Equality; Rainbow Railroad; the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration and the International Refugee Assistance Project on Friday presented to the White House the petition that urges the administration to adopt “a 10-point action plan … to expedite and ease the refugee and asylum process for LGBTQI Afghans.”

The same six groups last month urged the Biden administration to adopt a plan that would “prioritize the evacuation and resettlement of vulnerable refugee populations, including LGBTQI people, and ensure that any transitory stay in a third country is indeed temporary by expediting refugee processing.” The groups, among other things, asked the White House to “speak out forcefully against human rights abuses by the new Taliban regime and any increased targeting of vulnerable communities, including LGBTQI people, and use existing mechanisms to sanction and hold accountable perpetrators of human rights abuse.”

The Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Aug. 15 and regained control of the country.

A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan.

Rainbow Railroad and Immigration Equality are among the other groups that have continued their efforts to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans since American troops completed their withdrawal from the country on Aug. 30. Some of the 50 Afghan human rights activists who Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar, has been able to help leave the country are LGBTQ.

“We reiterate our call for President Biden to adopt the 10-point policy plan which will expedite and ease the refugee process for LGBTQI Afghans,” said Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof in a press release. “The 10,000+ people who signed our petition have demonstrated that they want the United States, long a beacon of refuge for those fleeing persecution, to take action to protect LGBTQI Afghans—a vulnerable group who risk oppression, even death, simply for who they are or who they love. Now is the time for action.”

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Utah

VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights

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(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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