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Rand Paul blasts letting transgender kids in school sports as ‘bizarre’

But Biden education pick holds firm on trans-inclusive access

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted allowing transgender kids in school sports. (Screen capture via CSPAN)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), questioning President Biden’s pick for education secretary on Wednesday, lambasted the inclusion of transgender kids in school sports as “bizarre,” falsely claiming non-discrimination policies in education would amount to allowing boys to compete in girls’ athletics.

Paul brought up the issue with Education Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, decrying policies against anti-trans discrimination he said would put girls at a disadvantage.

“Frankly, some boy that’s 6’2″ competing against my 5’4″ niece doesn’t sound very fair,” Paul said. “I think most people in the country think it’s bizarre. It’s just completely bizarre and unfair that people, and you’re going to run the Department of Education, you’re going to run the Department of Education and got no problem with it. That concerns me.”

Paul was responding to the initial comment on the issue from Cardona, who sought to address Paul’s inquiry respectfully while insisting transgender kids should have full access to school activities.

“I recognize and appreciate the concerns and the frustrations that are expressed,” Cardona said. “I’ve as commissioner of education have had conversations with families who have felt the way you just described and families of students who are transgender, so I understand that this is a challenge.”

Pressed by Paul on whether it’s “fair to have boys running in the girls track meet,” Cardona held firm.

“I think it’s appropriate for — I think it’s the legal responsibility of schools to allow students to participate in activities and this includes students who are transgender,” Cardona said.

Paul, however, wasn’t satisfied and said “this kind of thing is going to lead to just the vast majority of Americans just wondering who are these people that think it’s OK.”

“From what planet are you from to think it’s OK for boys to compete with girls in a track meet and that somehow would be fair?” Paul said. “I wonder where feminists are on this. I wonder where the people who supported women’s sports are on this. Are we all going to be OK with hulking 6’4″ guys wrestling against girls? It just makes no sense whatsover. And so, I think the fact that you seem to be afraid to answer the question — or basically do answer the question by saying it’s OK without saying it’s OK is a statement to a real problem we have and a disconnect what Middle America and what most Americans actually believe.”

Just before concluding his time for questioning, Paul suggested Cardona’s response alone would be enough to vote “no” on him as education secretary.

“I’m disappointed in the answer and just can’t imagine we’re going to have a policy like that nationally,” Paul said.

The questioning comes the heels of an executive order Biden signed on his first day in office calling on federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of a sex discrimination. The text of the order includes language asserting children should have access to bathrooms, locker rooms and sports free from discrimination, signaling to the Department of Education should provide for trans-inclusion in schools.

Lucas Acosta, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, criticized Paul for his remarks in a statement as spreading misinformation harmful to transgender kids.

“Transgender girls are girls – plain and simple,” Acosta said. “There are thousands of issues facing students across the country during the pandemic, from reopening schools and restarting in-person learning to addressing and protecting the mental health of our children. Yet, despite all of those pressing crises, Sen. Rand Paul chose to exclusively use all of his allotted time to attack transgender children: misgendering, spewing misinformation, and insinuating malintent among children who are just seeking to participate in sports.”

Meanwhile, states are advancing legislation that would biological boys from competing with girls in schools sports, essentially attempting to block transgender kids from participating. Legislation along those lines has advanced in Montana, South Dakota and Mississippi.

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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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Youngkin reiterates opposition to marriage equality

Va. gubernatorial candidate says issue ‘legally acceptable’ in state

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(Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Glenn Youngkin in an interview with the Associated Press has reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Youngkin—a Republican who is running against Democrat Terry McAuliffe to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam—said in an interview published on Friday that he feels “called to love everyone.” Youngkin then reiterated his opposition to marriage equality before he added it is “legally acceptable” in the state.

“I, as governor, will support that,” Youngkin told the AP.

McAuliffe was Virginia’s governor from 2014-2018.

Same-sex couples began to legally marry in Virginia a few months after McAuliffe took office.

McAuliffe in 2014 became the first governor of a Southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding. The lesbian couple who McAuliffe married recently appeared in one of his campaign ads.

McAuliffe on Friday criticized Youngkin. “As governor, I worked my heart out to keep Virginia open and welcoming to all,” said McAuliffe in a tweet. “This type of bigotry and intolerance has no place in our commonwealth.”

The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as an extremist group, earlier this month endorsed Youngkin, but Log Cabin Republicans are among the groups that have backed his campaign. The Human Rights Campaign in 2019 named Youngkin’s former company, the Carlyle Group, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.

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