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Efforts to pass federal LGBTQ protections boosted with $6.5 million donation

Donations seek to duplicate success of marriage-equality movement

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Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) speaks at a news conference for the Equality Act. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Efforts to pass a measure expanding the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people under federal law have gotten a big boost with a nearly $6.5 million donation from a coalition of non-profits for an education campaign, the Washington Blade has learned exclusively.

The San Francisco-based Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund coordinated the grants, which seek to duplicate the success of the movement that achieved same-sex marriage nationwide to enact federal non-discrimination protections this year.

The contributions are intended “to educate the public and policymakers about the need for a federal response to anti-LGBTQ discrimination,” according to a statement.

“It’s long past time for the federal government to respond to the profound harms caused by pervasive discrimination against LGBT people,” Cathy Cha, CEO of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund said in a statement.

The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund for more than two decades has been at the forefront of supporting LGBTQ rights, including non-discrimination protections. It was the first foundation to embrace same-sex marriage as a priority and contributed more than $39 million to the marriage equality movement, according to a statement.

Other groups that have contributed to the $6.5 million in donations are the Gill Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Horizons Foundation, the Overbrook Foundation, the Pride Foundation and other philanthropic institutions. The contribution builds on the $1 million the Gill Foundation gave in support at the start of this year.

Scott Miller, co-chair of the Gill Foundation, said in a statement “the funders and advocates who helped win the right to marry for LGBTQ people have joined forces again and expanded our coalition in pursuit of equality for all Americans.”

“This alliance speaks to the unprecedented opportunity – and the long overdue need – to make sure everyone in this country is equal under the law,” Miller added.

The donations are announced as LGBTQ rights supporters are seeking to pass the Equality Act in Congress. The measure has cleared the House, but faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate, where 10 Republicans would be needed to overcome a filibuster.

The contributions, however, aren’t directed at passing the Equality Act per se because the contributors are 501(c)3 tax-exempt foundations and are unable to endorse any particular piece of legislation. The campaign is more generally geared toward supporting a solution for non-discrimination protections at the federal level.

Groups specifically seeking to pass the Equality Act, however, praised the $6.5 million as a welcome addition to the effort.

Kasey Suffredini, CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement the LGBTQ community is “closer than it has ever been to completing its nearly 50-year pursuit of nationwide nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ people.”

“Since the first federal non-discrimination measure was introduced in Congress in 1974, the generous contributions of foundations and major donors have powered our ability to show our fellow Americans who we are and challenges we face, opening hearts and changing minds in the process,” Suffredini said. “With a very short window to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity, we are grateful again to these philanthropists for rising to the moment to carry our community over the finish line.”

In terms of where the money is going exactly, one-third of the Fund’s grants have been made to national organizations, including $800,000 to Freedom for All Americans Education Fund. 

Additionally, money will go toward “empowering constituents to have conversations with lawmakers in more than 12 states, including Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas,” according to a statement. State groups are seen as key in the effort to convince moderate senators to support an LGBTQ non-discrimination measure.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser of the American Unity Fund, echoed the praise for the donations. In addition to supporting the Equality Act, his organization is pushing for the Fairness for All Act, the Republican compromise measure for LGBTQ rights and religious freedom.

“This is the best moment we’ve ever had to win full freedom for LGBTQ Americans, and we can win as long as we come together with allies all across the political spectrum and respectfully address everyone’s reasonable concerns,” Deaton said.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure

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The Florida State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, the Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone

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NCAA, gay news, Washington Blade
The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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Transgender rights group’s Los Angeles office receives bomb threat

[email protected] Coalition evacuated

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(Public domain photo)

A bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday afternoon to the Wilshire Boulevard Koreatown offices of the [email protected] Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, the president and CEO of the non-profit organization told the Los Angeles Blade.

According to Salcedo, an unidentified male caller told the staff person who answered at approximately 3 p.m., while delivering the threat said; “You’re all going to die.” The staff immediately evacuated everyone from their offices and then contacted the Los Angeles Police Department for assistance.

Officers, specialists and detectives from the Rampart Division of the LAPD responded and swept the building. A spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed that the incident is under active investigation but would make no further comment.

On a Facebook post immediately after the incident the non-profit wrote; “To ensure the safety of our clients and staff members, we ask that you please NOT come to our office.”

In a follow-up post, Salcedo notified the organization and its clientele that the LAPD had given the all-clear and that their offices would resume normal operations Thursday at 9:00 a.m. PT.

“Thank you for your messages and concern for our staff and community,” Salcedo said.

“No amount of threats can stop us from our commitment to the TGI community,” she added.

The [email protected] Coalition was founded in 2009 by a group of transgender and gender non-conforming and intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles as a grassroots response to address the specific needs of TGI Latino immigrants who live in the U.S.

Since then, the agency has become a nationally recognized organization with representation in 10 different states across the U.S. and provides direct services to TGI individuals in Los Angeles.

In 2015, the [email protected] Coalition identified the urgent need to provide direct services to empower TGI people in response to structural, institutional, and interpersonal violence, and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness was born.

Since then, the organization has secured funding from the state and local government sources as well as several private foundations and organizations to provide direct services to all TGI individuals in Los Angeles County.

The [email protected] Coalition’s primary focus is to change the landscape of access to services for TGI people and provide access to comprehensive resource and services that will improve the quality of life of TGI people.

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