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Texas governor calls for 2nd special session, anti-trans bill on agenda

Democrat lawmakers said they plan return but they will not return to the Texas Capitol to attend any future special sessions called by Abbott

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Screenshot of Texas House Chamber via KXAN NBC Austin, Texas

AUSTIN – In a statement released Thursday, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott announced that he was calling the state legislature back into a second special session commencing at noon on Saturday—twelve hours after the first special session ends.

The first special session ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday and was effectively stalled in taking legislative action after the majority of the Democratic Texas House Caucus boarded flights to Washington D.C. on July 12 and have remained out of state denying Republicans from a quorum.

Abbott released a 17-item agenda expanding his priorities like the election bill that caused the House Democrats to flee the state at the start of the first special session, which ends Friday. But it also features six additions, including the spending of federal COVID-19 relief funds and potentially changing the legislative rules regarding quorums, the Texas Tribune reported.

There is also a new item on public education during the pandemic including masks which is an increasingly volatile issue as parents prepare to send their kids back to school with the virus on the rise statewide.

Among the Governor’s legislative priorities is once again focused on denying Transgender youth in the Lone Star state the ability to participate in athletics on teams or intermural sports in their chosen gender.

“Legislation identical to Senate Bill 29 as passed by the Texas Senate in the
87th Legislature, Regular Session, disallowing a student from competing in
University Interscholastic League athletic competitions designated for the sex
opposite to the student’s sex at birth.”

From the Proclamation by texas governor greg abbott published thursday, august 5, 2021

Trans teen activist Landon Richie told the Blade Thursday that “Once again, Governor Abbott is wasting money, time, resources, and energy on attacking trans youth in sports – kids who just want to be a part of a team and spend time with their friends. What trans kids – and adults – are told by this announcement is that the state’s leadership has no regard for our well-being, safety, or lives,” he said.

“What we need instead is to be treated not as second-class citizens, but as the valuable, beautiful, loved people that we are. The Governor would rather make it harder for trans kids to live, for people of color to vote, for students to learn about systemic racism, for immigrants to seek safety, and for people to access reproductive healthcare in our state than to protect us from COVID and extreme weather events; his actions will not be forgotten when it’s time to vote him out in 2022,” Richie added.

Photo: Late journalist and Trans activist Monica Roberts with Landon Richie

The Tribune also reported that with Thursday’s announcement, Abbott is following through on a statement he made toward the start of the quorum break, saying he would make sure the second special began the day after the first one ends. For the second special session, lawmakers will have to start over on every item, including filing bills and holding committee hearings.

Democrats and Republicans remain at a stalemate over the elections bill, which would restrict local voting options and place new statewide rules on early voting and mail-in ballots. GOP leaders have suggested they are not in the mood to further tweak the bill, while House Democrats have abandoned hope for meaningful negotiations while using their time in the nation’s capital to advocate for federal voting rights legislation.

Abbott and the legislative Republican leadership have been thwarted from passage of their agenda as the Texas Democratic lawmakers have blocked every effort by the GOP in advancing bills through to the governor. f

First in the end of the regular legislative session in May, they walked off the state House floor, leaving Republicans without the quorum they needed to approve the voting legislation in the final hours before a midnight deadline. Then in July by leaving the state altogether.

The push to pass the elections reform legislation comes as Republicans in Texas have sought to join Florida, Georgia and other GOP-controlled states that have seized on former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election and adopted new restrictions that will make it harder for some of their residents to vote CNN reported.

Texas House Democrats say that they remain steadfast in their opposition to Abbott’s agenda and will likely stay in Washington where they have held a number of meetings with other Democrats including Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. This past week CNN reported that the Texas Democratic lawmakers were joined by more than 100 state legislators from across the country as part of a planned “week of action” on voting rights.

“A vast majority, enough to break quorum, have committed to each other to not be in the Capitol when the second called session happens,” said state Representative Eddie Rodriguez, (D-51)  who serves on the House Committees on Calendars, State Affairs and Ways & Means.

Other lawmakers indicated that while they eventually plan return to Texas have told multiple media outlets that they will not return to the Texas Capitol to attend any future special sessions called by Abbott.

Gov. Greg Abbott announces plans for a second special session, 17 agenda items

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Politics

Pete Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson over attack

Fox News host mocked transportation secretary over paternity leave

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Washington Blade file photo)

Appearing remotely on MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace’s politics program Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called out Fox News host Tucker Carlson for the attack on his parental leave.

“This attack is coming from a guy who has yet to explain his apparent approval for the assassination of Harvey Milk, ” Buttigieg said.

During his Thursday evening program Carlson said, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child—paternity leave, they call it—trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went. But now he’s back in office as the transportation secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

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National

Biden recognizes National Coming Out Day as time to honor LGBTQ people

White House statement denounces ‘bullying and harassment’

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President Biden recognized Oct. 11 as National Coming Out Day in a statement on Monday calling the occasion a time to celebrate the “courage of LGBTQ+ people who live their lives with pride, create community with open arms and hearts, and showcase the strength of being your authentic self.”

Biden ticked off in the statement the achievements on LGBTQ policy, including signing an executive order on his first day in his office ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year against anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the furthest extent possible.

“Despite the extraordinary progress our nation has made, our work to ensure the full promise of equality is not yet done. Anti-LGBTQ+ bills still proliferate in state legislatures,” Biden said. “Bullying and harassment — particularly of young transgender Americans and LGBTQ+ people of color — still abounds, diminishing our national character. We must continue to stand together against these acts of hate, and stand up to protect the rights, opportunities, physical safety, and mental health of LGBTQ+ people everywhere.”

Read Biden’s full statement below:

Statement by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on National Coming Out Day

Today, we celebrate National Coming Out Day and the courage of LGBTQ+ people who live their lives with pride, create community with open arms and hearts, and showcase the strength of being your authentic self. Today and every day, I want every member of the LGBTQ+ community to know that you are loved and accepted just the way you are – regardless of whether or not you’ve come out.

My Administration is committed to ensuring that LGBTQ+ people can live openly, proudly, and freely in every corner of our nation. I am proud to lead an Administration with LGBTQ+ officials serving openly at the highest levels of government — and prouder that together we have made historic progress advancing protections and equal opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. From acting on Day One to prevent and combat discrimination, to enabling all qualified Americans – including transgender Americans – to serve their country in uniform, to defending the human rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world, my Administration has been clear that we will continue to champion the dignity, equality, and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Despite the extraordinary progress our nation has made, our work to ensure the full promise of equality is not yet done. Anti-LGBTQ+ bills still proliferate in state legislatures. Bullying and harassment — particularly of young transgender Americans and LGBTQ+ people of color — still abounds, diminishing our national character. We must continue to stand together against these acts of hate, and stand up to protect the rights, opportunities, physical safety, and mental health of LGBTQ+ people everywhere. From defeating discriminatory bills to passing the Equality Act, we have more work to do to ensure that every American can live free of fear, harassment, and discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.

To LGBTQ+ people across the country, and especially those who are contemplating coming out: know that you are loved for who you are, you are admired for your courage, and you will have a community — and a nation — to welcome you. My Administration will always have your back, and we will continue fighting for the full measure of equality, dignity, and respect you deserve.

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News

Senators to Rachel Levine: Issue guidance on mental health for trans youth

New instructions sought as more than half of trans youth contemplate suicide

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Sen. Chris Murphy (left) is leading the call on Assistant Secretary of Health Rachel Levine to offer guidance on trans health care.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is leading a group of senators who are urging Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender person to win Senate confirmation as a presidential appointee, to issue new guidance on mental health care needs for trans youth.

In a letter dated Sept. 30 and obtained Tuesday by the Washington Blade, the senators make the case current standards are insufficient for trans and gender expansive, or TGE, adolescents, including exploring, non-binary, agender, genderfluid and queer youth.

“Our goal is to help mental health providers offer the best care they can to the nation’s TGE youth without a delay in treatment,” the letter says. “The focus of this request is for the pressing needs of hospital or residential care even as we recognize the need for guidance across all settings of mental health care.”

Specifically, the senators call on the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, or BHCC, and experts in the field of adolescent trans care to offer guidance on best practices for inpatient mental health care among these youth.

The senators address the letter to Levine, who in addition to being trans has a background in care for adolescent youth, and Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use.

Cited in the letter are findings from the Trevor Project, an organization that supports LGBTQ youth, which determined more than half of trans and non-binary youth seriously contemplated killing themselves in 2020.

“While behavioral health and pediatric organizations have published resources regarding TGE health care, we have heard from hospital providers they are seeking guidance on best practices for serving gender diverse youth in community residential and inpatient mental health settings,” the letter says.

The seven senators who signed the letter along with Murphy are Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

An HHS spokesperson for Levine’s office, in response to the letter, told the Blade: “We have received the letter and will be reviewing it.”

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