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Biden name-checks LGBTQ service members in Pentagon speech

End to transgender military ban also referenced

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Biden thanks LGBTQ service members in Pentagon speech. (Screen capture via CSPAN)

President Biden name-checked LGBTQ service members in a speech at the Pentagon geared toward expressing gratitude at the start of a new administration civilians and troops who for the Defense Department.

Biden also referenced the end to the transgender military ban, which he ordered within his first week in office, saying the new leadership is “dedicated to ensuring that every single person is treated with dignity and respect.”

“That’s why we moved so quickly to overturn the discriminatory ban on transgender service, and why Gen. Austin’s first memo was a directive to take sexual assault in the military seriously,” Biden said.

Biden referenced LGBTQ service members as part of a general recognition of minorities within the armed forces.

“Every single person, no matter their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or religious background, deserves to feel safe in the ranks and to have their contributions valued,” Biden said.

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One person dead after pickup truck hits Wilton Manors Pride parade participants

Vehicle narrowly missed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

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Stonewall Pride Festival in Wilton Manors, Fla., on July 19, 2021, hours before a pickup truck struck two parade participants. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

WILTON MANORS, Fla. — At least one person died on Saturday when a pickup truck ran over them during a Pride parade in Wilton Manors, Fla.

South Florida Gay News, WPLG and other South Florida media outlets reported the incident took place shortly before 7 p.m. after the Stonewall Pride Parade began on Wilton Drive.

Christian De La Rosa, a WPLG reporter, told his television station a white pickup truck that was lined up with other parade floats hit the excellerator and ran over two people. WPLG reported the vehicle narrowly missed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was in a convertible participating in the parade.

“I want to thank our first responders for their heroic efforts as both police and emergency medical personnel stepped into action quickly,” tweeted the congresswoman after the incident.

“We’re praying for the victims and their loved ones as law enforcement investigates, and I am providing them with whatever assistance I can,” she added. “I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration. May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”

“This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT community,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis told WPLG shortly after the incident took place, without any apparent confirmation. “This is exactly what it is. Hardly an accident. It was deliberate, it was premeditated and it was targeted against a specific person. Luckily they missed that person, but unfortunately, they hit two other people.”

Detective Ali Adamson of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department told reporters near the scene the “investigation is active and we are considering and evaluating all possibilities.”

“We owe it to our community to conduct a thorough and complete investigation,” she added.

Adamson confirmed her department is “working with” the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is “evaluating all possibilities.” The pickup truck’s driver remains is in custody.

“We have to look at all the angles and that’s what we are doing,” said Adamson. 

Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus President Justin Knight told WPLG reporter Liane Morejon that the two victims and the driver who struck them were members of his organization. Knight in his statement also said to his knowledge the incident “was not an attack on the LGBTQ community.”

“We anticipate more details to follow and ask for the community’s love and support,” added Knight.

Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones, who is openly gay, in a tweet said he is “heartbroken and in shock over what has happened at Wilton Manors Pride.”

“Praying for and sending love to everyone there, including many friends,” he said.

Washington Blade Senior News Reporter Lou Chibbaro, who is currently on vacation in Wilton Manors, was along the parade route when the incident took place.

The Stonewall Pride Festival had begun earlier in the day. Chibbaro said Pride organizers cancelled the parade.

The incident took place a week after the 5th anniversary of the massacre at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month signed a bill that bans transgender athletes from participating in high school and college sports teams that correspond with their gender identity and vetoed funding that activists say would have funded programs for Pulse survivors and homeless LGBTQ youth.

“We are heartbroken by the news of loss of life and multiple injuries at Wilton Manors Pride tonight,” said Equality Florida, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, in a series of tweets. “Our hearts go out to all those impacted. Our staff and volunteers at Pride are all safe and accounted for.”

“We are, with the rest of the community, awaiting additional info on whether this was a tragic accident or an intentional act of hate,” added Equality Florida.

Equality Florida also said “fears are heightened at a time when Gov. DeSantis and GOP legislators are fanning the flames of anti-LGBTQ hatred for political gain.”

“We can’t help but think of the awful bill passed this session enabling people to use vehicles as weapons against demonstrators. And, just days after the Pulse remembrance, we know dangerous rhetoric comes with real costs,” said Equality Florida. “But let us await the full story and send hope and healing to those injured and grieving tonight.”

The Blade will provide additional details as they become available.

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ACLU and Justice Department to jointly challenge anti-Trans laws

Recently passed anti-transgender laws in West Virginia and Arkansas violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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U.S. Department of Justice, Robert F. Kennedy Building (Photo Credit: GSA U.S. Government)

WASHINGTON – In court documents filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia and in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, the U.S. Department of Justice, in Statement of Interest filings, joined the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU), arguing that recently passed anti-transgender laws in West Virginia and Arkansas violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The suits filed by the ACLU challenges an Arkansas law that bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth and a West Virginia law banning transgender youth from participating in school sports.

Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBTQ & HIV Project, issued the following statement responding to the Department of Justice submitting a statement of interest in two federal courts supporting transgender youth;

“Today’s filings from the Department of Justice send a powerful message that discrimination against transgender youth is not just wrong, it is also plainly unconstitutional. These filings from the Department of Justice confirm what we have been telling legislatures all year: Banning trans youth from sports and denying trans youth health care violates the Constitution and federal law. We hope that state legislatures finally get the message.” 

Law and Crime reported that in the West Virginia case filing, the Justice Dept. argued that House Bill 3293, which bans transgender athletes at public schools from competing in female sports at the middle school, high school, and collegiate level, violates both the Equal Protection Clause and  Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by the parents of transgender girl who said their daughter was unlawfully prohibited from trying out for the school’s cross-country track team because of the measure.

In Arkansas, the Justice Dept. backed an ACLU-filed lawsuit challenging a state law (Act 626) which bans gender-affirming health care for transgender youths. The DOJ also claims that state ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Law & Crime reported.

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Pride flags vandalized, stolen in Loudoun County town

‘Bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand’

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Vandals destroyed or stole several Pride flags that had been displayed at homes in Lovettsville, Va. (Screen capture via WUSA9))

Vandals this week destroyed or stole Pride flags that Lovettsville residents had displayed on their homes.

Calvin Woehrie told WUSA the vandals used a blade to slash the Pride flag that was hanging from his house. The D.C. television station reported the vandals also targeted Woehrie’s neighbors who are a lesbian couple with four children.

The Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office said the vandals damaged five Pride flags from three homes and they stole two more. A spokesperson for the Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office told WUSA the vandalism is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

“I wanted to address events that happened over the weekend, that are deplorable and devastating to the entire community,” said Lovettsville Mayor Nate Fontaine in a letter he sent to town residents on June 16. “Over the weekend, there was destruction of property that specifically targeted our LGBTQ community. To make this even more heinous is that the destruction of property was done during Pride Month. To have property destroyed targeting members of our community is horrible and can be frightening for those targeted.” 

“For the individuals who committed these crimes, know that your bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand,” added Fontaine. “We are working closely with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and this has also been added as an agenda item for our June 24th Council meeting.”

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, on Saturday described the vandalism as “absolutely unacceptable.”

“Whether someone is voicing an opinion or flying a flag, as Virginians — and as human beings — we must be respectful of one another,” wrote Youngkin in a Facebook post.

“Politicians always seem to be pitting neighbor against neighbor, but I am committed to bringing people together around our shared values, like treating others the same way you want to be treated,” he added. “We must all do better by respecting others’ right to live their lives freely, without being targeted because of who they are.”

WUSA reported Lovettsville residents bought Pride flags to replace the ones that had been vandalized and stolen.

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