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Gina Ortiz Jones gets nod to become Air Force under secretary

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Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian Air Force veteran who served in the Iraq war before twice making an attempt to win a congressional seat representing Texas’ 23rd congressional district in the U.S. House, has obtained the nod from President Biden to become the next Air Force under secretary.

Jones, whose nomination is subject to confirmation in the U.S. Senate, was announced as Biden’s nominee for the role on Tuesday in a White House statement announcing a slew of choices for roles in the service. If confirmed, Jones will become the first woman of color to serve as Air Force under secretary.

During her 2020 congressional run, Jones ran in a district right on the U.S.-Mexico border as President Trump’s immigration policy was front-and-center in the media

Jones told the Washington Blade in July 2019 the zero-tolerance border policy under President Trump was “shortsighted at best” and “cruel at worst.”

“It’s an economic crisis,” Jones said at the time. “It’s certainly a moral crisis when you think about what’s happening in some of these detention centers and Texas 23 is on the frontline of this, I mean literally and figuratively.”

When the National Republican Congressional Committee posted a picture of Jones with her spouse on its website for potential attacks against the candidate, LGBTQ rights advocates condemned it as homophobic attack. Jones ended up raising around $100,000 in campaign funds in the aftermath of the controversy.

The White House announcement on Jones comes days after news Biden intends to nominate two other LGBTQ nominees to high-ranking defense roles. Brenda Sue Fulton, a lesbian activist who fought for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, obtained the nod to become assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, while Shawn Skelly, a transgender national security expert, obtained the nomination to become assistant secretary of defense for readiness,

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, praised the selection of Jones as Air Force under secretary and said she “served her country both in and out of uniform.”

“If confirmed, Ms. Jones would be the first woman of color to serve as Under Secretary of the Air Force, marking yet another historic nomination as the Biden-Harris administration continues to prove their commitment to building a diverse Department of Defense that reflects the American population,” Smith said.

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South America

Daniel Zamudio murderer’s parole request denied

Raúl López Fuentes convicted of murdering gay man in Chilean capital in 2012

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Daniel Zamudio (Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Vera)

Chile’s Parole Commission on Tuesday rejected a request to allow one of the four men convicted of murdering Daniel Zamudio in 2012 to serve the remainder of his sentence outside of prison.

Raúl López Fuentes earlier this month asked the commission to release him on parole. Zamudio’s family and members of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBTQ rights group, had gone to court to block the request.

Among the arguments put forward that influenced the commission’s decision is what Movilh categorized as his “high risk of recidivism, linked to the adherence of an antisocial behavior with a tendency to minimize his acts transgressing social norms.” 

The commission pointed out that López has psychopathic traits because he is aware of the damage he did to Zamudio and his family. 

“In addition, he maintains a high risk of violence, not being advisable to grant the benefit,” the report said.

Zamudio was a young Chilean man who became a symbol of the fight against homophobic violence in his country and around the world after López and three other young men with alleged ties to a neo-Nazi group beat him for several hours in Santiago’s San Borja Park on March 2, 2012. Zamudio succumbed to his injuries a few weeks later.

The attack sparked widespread outage in Chile and prompted a debate over homophobia in the country that highlighted the absence of an anti-discrimination law. Lawmakers in the months after Zamudio’s murder passed a law that bears Zamudio’s name.

López in 2013 received a 15-year prison sentence after he was convicted of killing Zamudio. Patricio Ahumada received a life sentence, while Alejandro Angulo Tapia is serving 15 years in prison. Fabían Mora Mora received a 7-year prison sentence.

Zamudio’s mother, Jacqueline Vera, exclusively told the Washington Blade after the commission rejected López’s request that “we as a family are calmer.”

“Even with my husband we were in a lot of pain at the beginning. It was like a blow of very strong emotions, so we tried to stay calm because we still had to solve the problem,” Vera said. “We had four days to solve it.”

López will have to serve the remaining three years of his sentence before his release.

“I will continue working to improve the Zamudio Law and so that this murderer does not leave prison because he is a danger to society, he does not represent repentance and people like this cannot be free,” she said. “For the same reason, we have to work so that hate crimes have life imprisonment and that is what we will concentrate on.” 

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Maryland

Montgomery County police chief discusses arrest of trans student charged with planned school shooting

County executive tells news conference student’s trans identity is irrelevant to criminal charge

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(Photo by jiawangkun/Bigstock)

Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief Marcus Jones joined other county and law enforcement officials at a news conference on Friday, April 19, to provide details of the police investigation and arrest of an 18-year-old high school student charged two days earlier with threats of mass violence based on information that he allegedly planed a mass shooting at the high school and elementary school he attended in Rockville, Md.

In charging documents and in a press release issued on April 18, Montgomery County Police identified the arrested student as “Andrea Ye, of Rockville, whose preferred name is Alex Ye.”

One of the charging documents states that a friend of Ye, who police say came forward as a witness who played a crucial role in alerting authorities to Ye’s threats of a school shooting, noted that Ye told the witness that Ye identified as the transgender student he wrote about as character in a 129-page manifesto outlining plans for a school shooting. Police have said Ye told them the manifesto was a fictional story he planned to publish.  

At the news conference on Friday, Police Chief Jones and other law enforcement officials, including an FBI official and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, referred to the student as Alex Ye and Mr. Ye. None of the officials raised the issue of whether Ye identified as a transgender man, seven though one of the police documents identifies Ye as a “biological female.”

County Executive Elrich appeared to express the views of the public officials at the news conference when one of the media reporters, during a question-and-answer period, asked Elrich why he and the others who spoke at the news conferment failed to “admit that this individual was transgender.”

“Because it’s not a lead,” Elrich replied, asking if the press and law enforcement authorities should disclose that someone arrested for murder is “a white Christian male who’s heterosexual.” Elrich stated, “No, you don’t – You never publish somebody’s sexual orientation when we talk about this. Why you are focusing on this being a transgender is beyond me. It’s not a news story. It is not a crime to  be transgender.”

The reporter attempted to respond but was cut off by the press conference moderator, who called on someone else to ask the next question.

In his remarks at the press conference Chief Jones praised the so far unidentified witness who was the first to alert authorities about Ye’s manifesto appearing to make threats of a mass school shooting.

“Now, this is a situation that highlights  the critical importance of vigilance and community involvement in preventing potential tragedies,” Jones said. “I commend the collaborative efforts of the Montgomery County Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation,  the Rockville City Police Department, and the Montgomery County Public Schools, as well as Montgomery County Health and Human Services,” he told the gathering.

“Thanks to their swift action and cooperation a potentially catastrophic event was prevented,” Jones said.

Jones pointed out that during the current school year, police have received reports of 140 threats to the public schools in Montgomery County. He said after a thorough investigation, none of them rose to the level where an arrest was made. Instead, police and school officials took steps to arrange for the student making the threats and their parents to take remedial action, including providing  mental health services.

“But this case is different,” Jones said. “This case is entirely different that takes it to a different level. It was a concerned witness who brought this matter to light by rereporting the suspect’s manifesto to the authorities. This underscores the value of community engagement and the ‘see something say something’ approach,” he said.

Jones mentioned at the press conference that Ye was  being held without bond since the time of his arrest but was scheduled to appear in court for a bond hearing on Friday shortly after the press conference took place to determine whether he should be released while awaiting trial or continue to be held.

In his manifesto obtained by police, Ye writes about committing a school shooting, and strategizes how to carry out the act. Ye also contemplates targeting an elementary school and says that he wants to be famous.

In charging documents reported on by WJLA 7 and WBAL 11, the 129-page document, which Ye has referred to as a book of fiction, included writings that said, in part:

“I want to shoot up a school. I’ve been preparing for months. The gun is an AR-15. This gun is going to change lives tomorrow … As I walk through the hallways, I cherry pick the classrooms that are the easiest targets. I need to figure out how to sneak the gun in. I have contemplated making bombs. The instructions to make them are surprisingly available online. I have also considered shooting up my former elementary school because little kids make easier targets. High school’s the best target; I’m the most familiar with the layout. I pace around my room like an evil mastermind. I’ve put so much effort into this. My ultimate goal would be to set the world record for the most amount of kills in a shooting. If I have time, I’ll try to decapitate my victims with a knife to turn the injuries into deaths.”

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Federal Government

Lambda Legal praises Biden-Harris administration’s finalized Title IX regulations

New rules to take effect Aug. 1

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U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (Screen capture: AP/YouTube)

The Biden-Harris administration’s revised Title IX policy “protects LGBTQ+ students from discrimination and other abuse,” Lambda Legal said in a statement praising the U.S. Department of Education’s issuance of the final rule on Friday.

Slated to take effect on Aug. 1, the new regulations constitute an expansion of the 1972 Title IX civil rights law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.

Pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County case, the department’s revised policy clarifies that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes sex-based discrimination as defined under the law.

“These regulations make it crystal clear that everyone can access schools that are safe, welcoming and that respect their rights,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said during a call with reporters on Thursday.

While the new rule does not provide guidance on whether schools must allow transgender students to play on sports teams corresponding with their gender identity to comply with Title IX, the question is addressed in a separate rule proposed by the agency in April.

The administration’s new policy also reverses some Trump-era Title IX rules governing how schools must respond to reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, which were widely seen as imbalanced in favor of the accused.

Jennifer Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said during Thursday’s call that the department sought to strike a balance with respect to these issues, “reaffirming our longstanding commitment to fundamental fairness.”

“We applaud the Biden administration’s action to rescind the legally unsound, cruel, and dangerous sexual harassment and assault rule of the previous administration,” Lambda Legal Nonbinary and Transgender Rights Project Director Sasha Buchert said in the group’s statement on Friday.

“Today’s rule instead appropriately underscores that Title IX’s civil rights protections clearly cover LGBTQ+ students, as well as survivors and pregnant and parenting students across race and gender identity,” she said. “Schools must be places where students can learn and thrive free of harassment, discrimination, and other abuse.”

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