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Barr declares ‘zero tolerance’ for hate crimes in Pride Month statement

Barr only Trump official to recognize Pride Month .

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U.S. Attorney General William Barr declares “zero tolerance” for anti-LGBT violence within the Justice Department. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Attorney General William Barr affirmed on Thursday his position of “zero tolerance” for hate crimes against LGBT people in a statement to Justice Department employees recognizing Pride Month.

In the statement, which was sent to Justice Department employees on Thursday and shared with the Washington Blade, Barr declares the department is “fortunate to have many talented and dedicated LGBT public servants who work hard on behalf of the American people.”

“While we recognize and celebrate these employees’ contributions to the department and the nation, it remains the fact that LGBT individuals are too often subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence,” Barr continues. “The department has zero tolerance for violence that is motivated by hatred for our fellow citizens, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We will vigorously prosecute such hate crimes.”

The statement echoes testimony Barr gave in his confirmation hearing when he said he’d have “zero tolerance” for hate crimes, including violence against LGBT people, and would enforce the 2009 Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Barr also points in the statement out he updated the Justice Department equal opportunity statement statement affirming non-discrimination for LGBT employees at the Justice Department.

“All employees deserve to be treated with respect and to be judged on merit alone,” Barr says.

Barr updated the EEO statement amid complaints of discrimination against LGBT employees within the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Prisons, which were brought to his attention by DOJ Pride, the affinity group for LGBT employees within the department.

“As Pride month concludes, I want our LGBT colleagues to know that I value their dedication, integrity and the contributions they make to the pursuit of justice,” Barr writes.

A Justice Department spokesperson confirmed the accuracy of the statement, which Barr issues during the first Pride Month that has occurred since his confirmation as U.S. attorney general.

Nothing in the statement recognizes the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which the LGBT community is celebrating this year concurrent with Pride Month.

The Pride Month recognition comes just weeks after he met with LGBT attorneys and law enforcement officials within DOJ Pride for Pride Month, as exclusively reported by the Washington Blade. The statement is also issued shortly after LGBT employees at the Justice Department took part in an official ceremony recognizing Pride Month, which included a showing of the 2010 PBS documentary “Stonewall Uprising.”

Although the Pride statement recognizes anti-LGBT violence, it says nothing in particular about violence against transgender people, especially transgender people of color, who are afflicted with violence at disproportionate rates.

On the same day Barr issued his statement, news emerged that Brooklyn Lindsay, a 32-year-old trans woman, was found beaten to death in Kansas City. At least 11 black transgender women have been the victims of fatal violence in 2019, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

But the statement is far and beyond what other Trump administration Cabinet officials have done for Pride Month. The Blade is unaware of any other Cabinet-level Trump official issuing a Pride Month statement. Trump recognized Pride Month via tweet, but issued no official proclamation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has faced criticism from LGBT groups for not issuing a Pride Month statement for 2019. Instead, Pompeo reissued to employees an old statement he issued in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department continues to maintain anti-LGBT litigation positions and defends in court the transgender military ban.

The Justice Department during the Trump administration has previously asserted LGBT people aren’t protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in the workforce.

It remains to be seen whether the Justice Department will reverse its litigation position regarding Title VII now that the issue is before the Supreme Court, but that seems unlikely.

The full statement follows:

STATEMENT FROM THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Colleagues-

During the month of June, the Federal Government and communities across the United States acknowledge the outstanding contributions and accomplishments of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans.  The Department of Justice is fortunate to have many talented and dedicated LGBT public servants who work hard on behalf of the American people. 

While we recognize and celebrate these employees’ contributions to the Department and the Nation, it remains the fact that LGBT individuals are too often subjected to discrimination, harassment, and violence.  The Department has zero tolerance for violence that is motivated by hatred for our fellow citizens, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  We will vigorously prosecute such hate crimes.  As Attorney General, I have also reaffirmed the Department’s commitment to keeping our workplace free from discrimination and harassment, including against LGBT employees.  All employees deserve to be treated with respect and to be judged on merit alone.

As Pride month concludes, I want our LGBT colleagues to know that I value their dedication, integrity, and the contributions they make to the pursuit of justice.  Thank you for your service.

William P. Barr

Attorney General

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee essentially kills three anti-transgender bills

Measures would ban transition-related health care for minors

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Tuesday essentially killed three bills that would have banned transition-related health care for minors in the state.

Equality Virginia in a tweet noted the Senate Health Subcommittee “recommended killing” state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 960, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s Senate Bill 791 and state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County)’s Senate Bill 1203. 

“We expect these bills to be officially dead after the full committee meets on Thursday,” said Equality Virginia.

Democrats have a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, and they have said they will block any anti-LGBTQ bill that reaches their chamber. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly transgender woman seated in a state legislature in the U.S., on Tuesday reiterated this point.

“With the defeat of these bills in the Senate, our (Virginia Senate Democrats) made it clear that *any* bills in the House targeting trans kids during the final week before crossover will not become law if they make it to the Senate,” she tweeted. “Let’s focus on feeding kids, not singling them out.”

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The White House

Doug Emhoff visits monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin

Second gentleman marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Auschwitz

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The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism in Berlin on July 23, 2022. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff visited the memorial on Jan. 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Tuesday visited a monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin.

A readout from Emhoff’s office notes he visited the Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism with Philipp Braun of the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ and intersex rights group. Christopher Schreiber and Alexander Scheld of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Federation were also with Emhoff.

“The Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under Nazi Socialism is intended to honor the homosexual victims of National Socialism and at the same time ‘set a constant sign against intolerance, hostility and exclusion towards gays and lesbians,'” notes the readout.

Emhoff on Tuesday visited other memorials that honor the Sinti and Roma and people with disabilities who the Nazis killed. The second gentleman also visited Berlin’s Holocaust memorial before he met with five people who survived it.

The second gentleman earlier in the day participated in a roundtable with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and met with Ukrainian refugees at Berlin’s New Synagogue. Emhoff on Monday participated in a meeting at the city’s Topography of Terror Museum that focused on antisemitism.

International Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1945, took place on Jan. 27. 

Emhoff, who is Jewish, traveled to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum and participated in ceremonies that commemorated the camp’s liberation. He later attended a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, visited Oscar Schindler’s factory and met with Ukrainian refugees at a U.N. Refugee Agency community center before he traveled to Germany.

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National

Memphis police release Tyre Nichols arrest, fatal beating video

29-year-old Black man died after traffic stop

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(Screenshot from NBC News Now)

Three videos consisting of both body cam footage and street surveillance footage were made public by the Memphis Police Department Friday evening showing the violent arrest and beating of Memphis resident 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

Nichols died three days after he was beaten by police in a traffic stop in the Hickory Hill neighborhood around 8:22 p.m. on Jan. 7, in an altercation Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis described, saying “in my 36 years in law enforcement, I don’t think I have witnessed the disregard for a human being displayed in this video.” 

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced Thursday that five now-former Memphis police officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr., and Justin Smith — were fired for misconduct, indicted by a grand jury and taken into custody.

Each is charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and official oppression. By Friday morning, they had posted bond.

Left: Justin Smith, top center: Emmitt Martin III, top right: Desmond Mills Jr., center left: Demetrius Haley, right bottom: Tadarrius Bean (Photos provided by Memphis Police Department)

As news of the beating and death spread beyond Tennessee, officials expressed concern that release of the footage would touch off violent protest in reaction.

The attorneys and family of Nichols asked for justice for their son, and peace in their city, at a press conference in Memphis on Friday, WREG News 3 reported.

Speakers included family members, attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Van Turner, president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP.

Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said that he initially wanted first-degree murder charges against the officers, but the family is satisfied with second-degree murder.

He pleaded for peace in Memphis Friday night.

“We want peace. We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance,” Wells said. “Please, please, protest, but protest safely.”

Protests took place in Memphis after police released more than an hour of footage in the case with some major highways temporarily shut down.

Other protests were organized in New York, as well as D.C., Sacramento, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Seattle, with police at the ready for potential violence.

“Tonight, I stand with the millions of Americans sending condolences and love to the family of Tyre Nichols as the navigate this unimaginably difficult tragedy,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement. “We are a nation traumatized by violence, especially violence against Black Americans. We don’t even need to see the video to feel outraged that those five former officers, sworn to protect their community and now arrested and charged with murder, killed Tyre. But tonight, many people will see the video and it will elicit strong feelings — from sadness and anger to confusion and despair. Tonight, we are a city and country united by tragedy, but we are also determined — to deliver justice for Tyre and change for our nation.”

The White House held a joint emergency call Friday with the mayors of at least 16 cities before the video’s release “to brief them on federal preparations in support of state and local leaders.”

“Participating mayors shared their perspectives on how important it is to recognize the pain felt by communities across this country, be prepared in advance with a game plan to provide adequate community support, and to reinforce the importance of peace and calm during these difficult moments,” the White House said in a statement about the call, which included cities from New York City, to Atlanta, Los Angeles, D.C., Seattle and Portland.

The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement condemning the actions of the Memphis officers and calling for demonstrations to remain peaceful.

“The accounts of the circumstances of this heinous crime and the criminal actions of those involved are reprehensible,” the LAPD said.

“The department will do all within its power to ensure the lawful expression of the public’s anger and frustration is protected and prepared to facilitate those wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told local media that it is preparing for the possibility of disturbances after the footage is made public. and is coordinating with other state, local and federal agencies.

“Our patrol stations and specialized units remain in a state of readiness to respond to any disturbances that might occur,” the LASD said.

“The sheriff’s department supports the First Amendment and the people’s right to protest.”

Speaking with reporters as he prepared to depart for Camp David at the White House Friday evening, President Joe Biden said that he had spoken with Nichols’ mother prior to the video footage release for about 10 or 15 minutes.

“I spoke with Tyre’s mother and expressed my condolences and told her that I was going to be making the case to the Congress to pass the George Floyd Act. We should get this under control. I can only do so much on the executive order at the federal level,” Biden said. “I was really pleased that she called for peaceful protest, no violence,” he added.

When asked about the potential for violence Biden said:

“I’m obviously very concerned about it. But I think she has made a very strong plea. She’s obviously in enormous pain. I told her I had some idea of what that loss is like and although it is impossible to believe now, a time will come when his memory brings a smile before a tear.” 

The White House released a statement from the president that said in part:

“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death. It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day. 
 
My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols’ family and to Americans in Memphis and across the country who are grieving this tremendously painful loss. The footage that was released this evening will leave people justifiably outraged. Those who seek justice should not to resort to violence or destruction. Violence is never acceptable; it is illegal and destructive. I join Mr. Nichols’ family in calling for peaceful protest.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement in response to the Memphis Police Department’s body camera footage being released, showing the deadly actions that took the life of Nichols, a Sacramento native, and led to the charging of five since fired Memphis law enforcement officers.

“Jennifer and I send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tyre Nichols. Tyre Nichols should be alive today. The video released shows abhorrent behavior and these officers must be held accountable for their deadly actions and clear abuse of power,” said Newsom. “Today, we are a country in mourning, and must continue our work nationwide to push reforms to prevent excessive use of force and save lives.”

“Tonight, we saw ferocious violence from an out-of-control herd,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

Late Friday evening Vice President Kamala Harris’ office released a statement from the vice president on Nichols:

“Tyre Nichols should have made it home to his family. Yet, once again, America mourns the life of a son and father brutally cut short at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. The footage and images released tonight will forever be seared in our memories, and they open wounds that will never fully heal.
 
The persistent issue of police misconduct and use of excessive force in America must end now. 

I join President Biden in his call for accountability and transparency. We must build trust—not fear — within our communities.”

VIDEO COURTESY OF KTLA:

TYRE NICHOLS VIDEO VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED, GRAPHIC CONTENT AND LANGUAGE WARNING.

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