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Senate Dems object to removal of LGBT health data from gov’t websites

Tammy Baldwin leads lawmakers in calling for restoration of info

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Tammy Baldwin, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is raising concerns about the removal of LGBT health data from websites. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A group of 17 Senate Democrats led by Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) have expressed “serious concerns” with the Trump administration about the removal of LGBT health data from government websites and are calling for the restoration of the information.

In a letter to the White House dated April 12, the lawmakers decried the recently reported removal of information on LGBT health data from the Department of Health & Human Services website for the Office of Women’s Health as well as and the removal of LGBT population-based data reports from the Federal Committee of Statistical Methodology website for the Office of Management & Budget.

“We are troubled by these recent actions, which, coupled with other actions your administration has taken to restrict information for LGBT people, reveal a pattern of censorship that fosters discrimination and undermines access to evidence-based health care resources that aid millions across the country,” the senators write. “These actions could seriously compromise the health of LGBT individuals, who have less access to health care than the general population and suffer disproportionately from of a wide range of health conditions and disparities due to societal stigma and discrimination.”

According to Politico, HHS said the pages and links, some of which were first posted in 2012, were taken down as part of a routine update. However, the Sunlight Foundation, a government accountability non-profit, determined existing health topic pages do not appear to have been updated with new material and the now-missing lesbian and bisexual health content wasn’t integrated elsewhere.

The removal of LGBT information from U.S. government websites has been a consistent theme over the course of the Trump administration. As the Washington Blade has previously reported, LGBT information on U.S. government websites found during the Obama years was removed from the White House and Small Business Administration websites.

The senators pose seven questions to the White House on the removal of LGBT health data from the HHS and OMB websites.

1. Why did HHS elect to remove or change the LGBT resources on the OWH website? Why did these changes occur without providing any notice or explanation to site users or the public?
2. What plans do you have to communicate these changes to site users and the public?
3. Were these actions taken in consultation with HHS stakeholders and partners? If so, with whom, and what feedback did they provide?
4. It was reported by HHS that the OWH pages were removed as part of a routine update. However, existing health topic pages do not appear to be updated, and the missing content has not been integrated into other areas of the site, as reported by an HHS spokesperson. What efforts are being made to update the materials, and on what date will this information in its entirety be available again on the OWH website?
5. Why were policy papers and reports on sexual orientation and gender identity data collection efforts removed or rendered inaccessible from the FCSM website? What federal departments were involved in making this decision?
6. Why was the FCSM website relocated from the OMB website to the National Center for Education Statistics within the Department of Education website?
7. Will the information on sexual orientation and gender identity data collection from the former FCSM site be made available on the new website within the National Center for Education Statistics? If so, when?

In addition to seeking answers to these questions, the senators urge the White House to restore the LGBT health data to the websites.

“You have repeatedly broken your campaign promises to support and protect the LGBT community, and this latest assault on a vulnerable population could further compromise the health of more than ten million LGBT people,” the senators conclude. “We are concerned that you are putting politics ahead of science and access to evidence-based health care that is critical for millions, and so we call on you to reverse course to ensure that our federal programs serve the needs of all people.”

The Blade has placed a request in with the White House seeking comment on the letter.

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United Kingdom

British prime minister backs transgender athletes ban

Boris Johnson made comments during Commonwealth meeting in Rwanda

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(Screenshot/YouTube Al Jazeera)

During a break between sessions during the first summit meeting of the Commonwealth nations since the coronavirus pandemic in the Rwandan capital this past weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked by a reporter about the FINA ban on transgender women athletes.

The prime minster’s response was that there were “particular problems” around “issues of gender.”

“Look it’s very, very important that as a society we should be as understanding of everybody else as possible. I’ve always stood for that. When it comes to, when you start to move from issues of sexuality to issues of gender, you start to raise particular problems,” Johnson told reporters.

In a follow-up question the prime minster was also asked whether women can be born with a penis, he replied: “Not without being a man.”

“I think I’ve spoken of three concerns I’ve had in the past. They are to do with the age at which you can deem it competent to transition, the question of safe spaces for women, and the difficulties you have with sporting competitions,” Johnson continued.

“These are all very difficult problems and you have to be very sensitive. But these are the areas.”

Pressed on whether he backed the swimming ban, Johnson said: “I haven’t studied it in detail but I see no reason to dissent. That follows from what I’ve previously said.”

British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries in a column published this past weekend by the Mail on Sunday wrote:

“I have the greatest compassion for anyone who finds themselves living in a body they don’t recognize. But we can’t pretend that sex doesn’t matter. Sex has biological consequences. If you’re born a male, and you go through puberty as a male, your body develops natural physical advantages over a woman’s. That makes you stronger and faster.

I’m setting a very clear line on this: competitive women’s sport must be reserved for people born of the female sex. Not someone who was born male, took puberty blockers or has suppressed testosterone, but unequivocally and unarguably someone who was born female. I want all of our sporting governing bodies to follow that policy.”

The Guardian UK noted that Dorries, said she will make it “crystal clear” to British sporting bodies that competitive women’s sport must be reserved for people born of the female sex when she meets them on Tuesday to discuss their trans policies.

Dorries will urge organizations representing football, cricket, rugby, tennis, athletics and other sports to follow the lead of FINA, the governing body of swimming, by barring from female events trans women who have “gone through male puberty.”

PinkNewsUK reported Monday that since FINA announced its revised trans eligibility policy, several national and international sporting administrators have followed.

The International Rugby LeagueFIFA and World Athletics, among others, have either temporarily banned or launched reviews into their trans inclusion policies.

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Russia

Brittney Griner’s trial scheduled to begin July 1

WNBA star detained in Moscow airport in February

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(Screenshot from Russian television)

A Russian court on Monday said detained WNBA star Brittney Griner’s trial will begin on July 1.

The Associated Press reported the Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife, Cherelle Griner, will remain in custody through the duration of her trial. 

Officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February detained Brittney Griner after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department has determined that Russia “wrongfully detained” her.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 14 spoke with Cherelle Griner. 

Officials with the State Department’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on June 13 met with Brittney Griner’s teammates to discuss her detention and efforts to secure her release.

Brittney Griner on June 18 was unable to speak with her wife on their fourth anniversary because the phone at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that she called went unanswered. A State Department spokesperson later admitted a “logistical error” prevented Brittney Griner from speaking with Cherelle Griner.

Brittney Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.

The Human Rights Campaign and the Council for Global Equality are among the dozens of advocacy groups who signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week that urged them to do more to secure Brittney Griner’s release. 

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Virginia

Equality Loudoun hosts its first Pride celebration

‘Our plans for next year are going to be bigger, bolder’

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A scene from Loudoun Pride on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A year after a controversial brawl between parents and administration officials regarding the implementation of trans-friendly policies in public schools in Loudoun County, Va., a local LGBTQ organization hosted its inaugural Pride festival in solidarity with the area’s LGBTQ community.

“Pride means a chance to show this county that the loud voices who have been standing against LGBTQ equality do not represent the voices of [everyone] in the [county],” said Cris Candiace Tuck, president of Equality Loudoun. “[A lot of us] here believe in equality.”

Equality Loudoun hosted its Pride celebration on June 26 at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Va. 

When planning for Pride month festivities, the organization designed the events to reflect the diverse interests and identities of Loudoun County’s queer population. There was a wide collection of vendors selling Pride merchandise, advocacy non-profit organizations and musical acts featured on the main stage. 

There was also a “Loudoun Pride Drag Stage” event where the “hottest of Loudoun Royalty” showcased their musical talents. 

“We want everyone to … recharge emotional batteries that have been drained,” said Tuck.

Planning Equality Loudoun’s Pride festival did not come without its fair share of surprises. Initially, the organization had planned for a smaller event. However, when more individuals began showing interest, the organization was forced to switch to a bigger venue to allow more vendors to attend.

“We had many vendors call in and we had to turn a [number] away,” said Tuck.

The organization planned its festivities in 90 days, two weeks during which it raised $45,000 — three times as much as it had originally expected.

Equality Loudoun has its sights set on getting LGBTQ community members and allies connected to the resources the organization offers through education and health advocacy.

“Pride [will always be] a celebration of our heritage,” said Tuck. “It’s a moment to recognize what we have gained and lost.”

Tuck said that ideas for next year are already underway.

“Our plans for next year are going to be bigger, bolder and brighter,” he said.

Click HERE to see more photos from the event.

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