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Madeleine Albright passes away at 84

Trailblazing secretary of state extended benefits to domestic partners

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Madeleine Albright speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as a U.S. secretary of state, has died at 84 after battling cancer.

Albright was nominated on Dec. 5, 1996, by then-President Clinton to become the 64th secretary of state after serving as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Jan. 22, 1997, and sworn in the next day. Albright served as secretary of state for four years, ending her service on Jan. 20, 2001, upon the inauguration of former President George W. Bush.

Albright had a long and distinguished career as a U.S. envoy.

As secretary of state, she was the first State Department head to allow domestic partners, including same-sex partners, to accompany overseas staff, and require that foreign governments officially accredit them. In 1999, the secretary advocated that Clinton go ahead with his decision to appoint the first openly gay U.S. ambassador, James Hormel, as a recess appointment, as the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.

In her role as secretary of state, Albright was a trailblazer that set an example that would be followed by two other prominent American women, former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.

Speaking with CNN during a 2005 interview, Albright acknowledged her role as a trailblazer and often spoke of the challenges of being the first woman to lead the State Department.

“I think that there were real questions as to … whether a woman could be secretary of state. And not just in terms of dealing with the issues, but in terms of dealing with the people, especially in hierarchical societies … I found, actually, that I could do that,” she told CNN. “And people, I think, now can understand that is perfectly possible for a woman to be secretary of state, and I am delighted that there is second one,” a reference to Rice.

CNN also noted Albright’s trademark personal accessories for which she was famous. Throughout her career, Albright was known for wearing brooches or decorative pins to convey her foreign policy messages.

When she found out that the Russians had bugged the State Department, she wore a large bug pin when she next met with them. When Saddam Hussein referred to Albright as a snake, she took to wearing a gold snake pin; when she was called a witch, she proudly brandished a miniature broom.

When she slammed as “completely un-American” then-acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli’s suggestion that only immigrants who can “stand on their own two feet” are welcome in the U.S., Albright wore a Statue of Liberty pin.

After her tenure as secretary of state, she went on to publish seven New York Times bestsellers including her 2003 autobiography “Madam Secretary”. Albright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from then-President Obama on May 29, 2012.

She also was chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, she founded in 2009, part of Dentons Global Advisors, and served as a professor in the practice of diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

Albright was born Marie Jean “Madlenka” Korbel on May 15, 1937, in Prague. Her father, Josef, was a member of the Czechoslovak Foreign Service and served as press attaché in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and later became ambassador to Yugoslavia.

After the Communist coup in 1948, the family immigrated to Denver. Albright Americanized her name to Madeleine, became a U.S. citizen in 1957, and earned a B.A. in political science with honors from Wellesley College in 1959. She earned the Ph.D. in Public Law and Government at Columbia University in 1976.

Albright served as chief legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Maine) from 1976-1978. From 1978-1981, she served as a staff member in the White House under President Carter and on the National Security Council under then-National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

In 1982 she was appointed Research Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and director of its Women in Foreign Service Program. In 1993 she was appointed ambassador to the U.N. by Clinton and served in the position until her appointment as secretary of state in 1996.

One writer, based in D.C., described Albright’s life as “Along the way, the Czech girl — whose parents brought her to the U.S. as a refugee from Communist rule, and who only much later discovered that members of her family died in the Holocaust — became a role model and a pathbreaker for professional women and for women in top government positions.”

President Biden traveling aboard Air Force One en route to Brussels for an emergency NATO meeting over the crisis in Ukraine on Wednesday issued a statement remembering Albright:

“Madeleine Albright was a force.
 
Hers were the hands that turned the tide of history.
 
As a young girl, she found a home in the United States—after her family fled their home country of Czechoslovakia during World War II, and the Iron Curtain came down across Central and Eastern Europe. Her father, a diplomat, was marked for death by the Soviet regime. She spent the rest of her days defending freedom around the world and lifting up those who suffered under repression.
 
She was an immigrant fleeing persecution. A refugee in need of safe haven. And like so many before her—and after—she was proudly American.
 
To make this country that she loved even better—she defied convention and broke barriers again and again.  As the devoted mother of three beloved daughters, she worked tirelessly raising them while earned her doctorate degree and started her career.  She took her talents first to the Senate as a staffer for Sen. Edmund Muskie, followed by the National Security Council under President Carter. And then to the United Nations where she served as U.S. Ambassador, and ultimately, made history as our first woman Secretary of State, appointed by President Clinton.
 
A scholar, teacher, bestselling author and later accomplished businesswoman, Secretary Albright continued to advise presidents and members of Congress with matchless skill and diplomatic acumen. In every role, she used her fierce intellect and sharp wit—and often her unmatched collection of pins—to advance America’s national security and promote peace around the world. America had no more committed champion of democracy and human rights than Secretary Albright, who knew personally and wrote powerfully of the perils of autocracy.
 
Working with Secretary Albright during the 1990s was among the highlights of my career in the United States Senate during my tenure on the Foreign Relations Committee. As the world redefined itself in the wake of the Cold War, we were partners and friends working to welcome newly liberated democracies into NATO and confront the horrors of genocide in the Balkans.
 
When I think of Madeleine, I will always remember her fervent faith that America is the indispensable nation.
 
In the years after she left government, Albright never stepped away from that belief. As the chairman of the National Democratic Institute for over two decades, and through other organizations she advised, she continued to champion democratic principles as vitally important to America’s interests in freedom, prosperity and security.
 
She continued to mentor and nurture new generations of foreign policy experts at Georgetown University, the Korbel Center for International Studies at the University of Denver, named after her father, and beyond. As always, she shared her insight and wisdom widely, but she was especially dedicated to supporting the next generation of women leaders, including through the establishment of the Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College.
 
Madeleine was always a force for goodness, grace and decency—and for freedom.
 
Jill and I will miss her dearly and send our love and prayers to her daughters, Alice, Anne and Katie, her sister Kathy, her brother John, her six grandchildren and her nephews and grandniece.”

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Florida

Federal judge blocks Fla. trans health care ban and restrictions

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to appeal ruling

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

BY JACKIE LLANOS | Florida’s ban on puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for transgender minors and restrictions for adults are both unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who presided over the case in Tallahassee, sided with the plaintiffs in the class action — parents of trans minors and trans adults — who argued the measure violated the U.S. Constitution because it solely targeted trans people.

“The federal courts have a role to play in upholding the constitution and laws. The state of Florida can regulate as needed but cannot flatly deny transgender individuals safe and effective medical treatment — treatment with medications routinely provided to others with the state’s full approval so long as the purpose is not to support the patient’s transgender identity,” Hinkle wrote.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. (Florida Channel screenshot)

Those restrictions came into place following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approval of Senate Bill 254 in May 2023 and promulgation of rules from the Florida Board of Medicine and Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine enacting that law. Those boards and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo were named as defendants.

The measures banned minors’ use of puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, common treatments for gender dysphoria. Additionally, the law said only physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists could treat adults seeking gender-affirming care, with the added requirements of frequent in-person visits, tests, and authorization through a consent form that contained false information about the harms of hormone replacement therapy.

However, the law didn’t impose the same restrictions on cisgender women needing to take testosterone or cisgender men needing to take estrogen.

Appeal incoming

The state plans to appeal the ruling, said Jeremy Redfern, press secretary to DeSantis. An appeal would go to the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals.

“Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida acted to protect children in this state, and the court was wrong to override their wishes,” Redfern wrote in a statement to Florida Phoenix.

“We disagree with the court’s erroneous rulings on the law, on the facts, and on the science. As we’ve seen here in Florida, the United Kingdom, and across Europe, there is no quality evidence to support the chemical and physical mutilation of children. These procedures do permanent, life-altering damage to children, and history will look back on this fad in horror.”

Redfern wrote that the state would continue to “fight to ensure children are not chemically or physically mutilated in the name of radical, new age ‘gender ideology.’”

In his 105-page ruling, Hinkle noted that “there were no complaints from patients, no adverse results in Florida, just a political issue.”

However, the ruling does not lift the state ban on gender-affirming surgery for minors and restrictions on surgery for adults. That’s because the plaintiffs didn’t challenge the statutes relating to surgery for minors, and the adult plaintiff had not sought surgery and so lacked standing to challenge those restrictions.

Relief for plaintiffs

Plaintiff Gloria Goe (they used pseudonyms to protect the privacy of their children) is the mother of an 8-year-old (at the opening of the case) trans boy. During the opening day of the trial on Dec. 13, she testified that she feared her son would be swallowed by depression if forced to go through puberty without medical treatment.

“This ruling lifts a huge weight and worry from me and my family, knowing I can keep getting Gavin the care he needs, and he can keep being the big-hearted, smiling kid he is now. I’m so grateful the court saw how this law prevented parents like me from taking care of our children,” Goe wrote in a press release.

Attorneys with GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Southern Legal Counsel, and the Lowenstein Sandler law firm represented the plaintiffs.

Hinkle compared the discrimination trans people face nowadays to racism and misogyny.

“Some transgender opponents invoke religion to support their position, just as some once invoked religion to support their racism or misogyny,” Hinkle wrote. “Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs. But they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender. In time, discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished.”

Editor’s note:

In a statement made to the Los Angeles Blade after Tuesday’s rule, Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights said:

“This decision is important because is the first federal court to rule on a law restricting healthcare for transgender adults and because it finds that Florida’s laws are plainly based on anti-transgender bias, not science. This victory shows that we can and must keep fighting these dangerous laws, notwithstanding the deeply flawed rulings of some conservative appellate courts.

Judge Hinkle ruled in favor of the transgender plaintiffs in this case even after the negative 11th Circuit ruling that reversed our initially successful challenge to a similar ban in Alabama. He was able to do so because the evidence showing that these laws have no medical justification and are rooted in false stereotypes and bias was so strong. This is a huge victory, and one that shows that we can win these battles even in red states.”   

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Jackie Llanos is a recent graduate of the University of Richmond. She has interned at Nashville Public Radio, Virginia Public Media, and Virginia Mercury.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Florida Phoenix and is republished with permission.

The Phoenix is a nonprofit news site that’s free of advertising and free to readers. We cover state government and politics with a staff of five journalists located at the Florida Press Center in downtown Tallahassee.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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National

New poll: 60 percent of Americans oppose bending gender-affirming care for young people

Gallup researchers conducted poll.

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Upwards of 1,000 people took part in the March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy in D.C. on March 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A new Gallup poll out this week found that six in 10 U.S. adults oppose laws banning gender-affirming care for minors. The poll also found that a steady 51 percent of Americans think changing one’s gender is morally wrong, while 44 percent say it is morally acceptable.

According to the researchers at Gallup: There are significant demographic differences in Americans’ views of the morality of changing one’s gender. Majorities of political liberals (81 percent), Democrats (72 percent), those who do not identify with a religion (67 percent), those who do not attend religious services regularly (59 percent), young adults aged 18-29 (56 percent), and college graduates (53 percent) believe changing genders is morally acceptable. Less than half of their counterparts say the same.

While slightly less than half of women believe in the moral acceptability of changing genders, they are significantly more likely than men to think as much (48 percent vs. 39 percent, respectively.)

In data published by the Human Rights Campaign, as of May, 39 percent or 117,600 transgender youth aged 13-17 are living in the 25 states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care. This includes 18,500 youth living in the three states — Florida, Ohio, and Montana — where bans are currently on hold or blocked from enforcement through court orders.

In its survey, Gallup researchers gauged Americans’ support for laws banning such care for minors with two questions, each asked of half of the total sample. One question asks about bans in general terms, on “treatments and medical procedures,” while the other spells out some of the specific treatments that could be banned, such as “psychological support, hormonal treatments and medical surgeries” to help minors align with their gender identity.

Gallup researchers found that on both questions, Republicans are more supportive than Democrats and independents of bans on gender-affirming care for minors.

On the more specific question that includes psychological support, hormonal treatments and medical surgeries, a majority of Republicans (53 percent) but far fewer Democrats (25 percent) and Independents (34 percent) favor a ban.

On the more general question, Republicans are somewhat less likely to support a ban on treatments and medical procedures (45 percent), while Democrats’ and Independents’ responses remain unchanged from the more specific question.

Gallup researchers measured U.S. adults’ gender identity in all of its surveys; an average of 0.9 percent of U.S. adults in 2023 identified as trans. Trans identification among adults is highest (2.8 percent) for those in Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2005).

The Gallup polling data also revealed:

A slim majority of Americans believe that changing one’s gender is morally wrong. Yet, a majority also oppose laws banning gender-affirming care to help minors align with their gender identity.

This discrepancy could be because the questions about gender-affirming care specifically mention minors, while the question about the morality of changing one’s gender does not. In addition, the relatively low support for banning laws on gender-affirming care may be attributable to Americans’ general distaste for bans, a pattern that can be seen in Gallup trends on banning cigarette smoking and handguns.

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The White House

Advocacy groups condemn Biden immigration executive order

Directive ‘catastrophic’ for LGBTQ asylum seekers

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President Joe Biden (X screen capture)

President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued an executive order that prohibits migrants from asking for asylum in the U.S. if they “unlawfully” cross the Southern border.

Senior administration officials on Tuesday told reporters before Biden announced the directive that it will take effect “when high levels of encounters at the Southern border exceed our ability to deliver timely consequences, as is the case today.” The Associated Press reported this figure is 2,500 “border encounters between ports of entry” a day. 

“Today, I’m announcing actions to bar migrants who cross our Southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum,” said Biden at the White House. “Migrants will be restricted from receiving asylum at our southern border unless they seek it after entering through an established lawful process.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, U.S. Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), and Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) joined Biden at the White House alongside San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, El Paso (Texas) Mayor Oscar Leeser, Edinberg (Texas) Mayor Ramiro Garza, Harlingen (Texas) Mayor Norma Sepulveda, Laredo (Texas) Victor Treviño, Brownsville (Texas) Mayor John Cowen, Bexar County (Texas) Sheriff Javier Salazar, and Santa Cruz County (Ariz.) Supervisor Manuel Ruiz.

El Paso, Edinberg, Harlingen, Laredo, Brownsville, and Santa Cruz County border Mexico.

U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) in February unveiled an immigration overhaul bill they described as “the strongest border security package in decades to reassert control of the border, end catch and release, enhance security, fix the asylum system, and support border communities.” Senate Republicans blocked the measure.

“I’m moving past Republican obstruction and using the executive authorities available to me as president to do what I can on my own to address the border,” said Biden.

“Frankly, I would have preferred to address this issue through bipartisan legislation, because that’s the only way to actually get the kind of system we have now — that’s broken — fixed, to hire more Border Patrol agents, more asylum officers, more judges,” he added. “But Republicans have left me with no choice.” 

Biden stressed migrants who “come to the United States legally … by making an appointment and coming to a port of entry” will still be able to ask for asylum.

“If an individual chooses not to use our legal pathways, if they choose to come without permission and against the law, they’ll be restricted from receiving asylum and staying in the United States,” he said. 

“This action will help us to gain control of our border, restore order to the process,” Biden added. 

Biden further stressed the ban “will remain in place until the number of people trying to enter illegally is reduced to a level that our system can effectively manage.”

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) in a statement sharply criticized the executive order.

“By reviving Trump’s asylum ban, President Biden has undermined American values and abandoned our nation’s obligations to provide people fleeing persecution, violence, and authoritarianism with an opportunity to seek refuge in the U.S.,” said the California Democrat.

The Council for Global Equality said the executive order is “catastrophic for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and other asylum seekers from vulnerable populations — and it’s highly unlikely to help move the electoral needle.” Immigration Equality Director of Law and Policy Bridget Crawford reiterated this point.

“President Biden is playing craven political games with the lives of refugees, including LGBTQ people fleeing persecution, instead of implementing workable solutions,” she said.

The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration works with LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexicali and other Mexican cities that border the U.S. 

ORAM Executive Director Steve Roth in a statement to the Washington Blade said the executive order will harm “LGBTIQ asylum seekers and other vulnerable individuals seeking refuge from persecution.” He also said the directive “will put more LGBTIQ asylum seekers in harm’s way in dangerous Mexican border towns and puts added pressure on refugee-serving organizations throughout Mexico.”

The State Department currently advises Americans not to travel to Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, which borders Texas, because of “crime and kidnapping.” It also recommends Americans to reconsider travel to the country’s Baja California, Sonora, and Chihuahua states that border California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas respectively. 

“President Biden’s unlawful policy flies in the face of U.S. refugee law and removes the critical protections and paths to safety of these asylum seekers, leaving them vulnerable and with no resources,” Roth told the Blade.

Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Impact Officer Terra Russell-Slavin noted Biden issued the executive director days after he issued a Pride Month proclamation. Russell-Slavin, like other activists, also referenced the previous administration’s policies they said harmed LGBTQ migrants and asylums seekers.

“The Biden administration cannot have it both ways: They cannot ‘celebrate’ Pride Month while turning their backs on LGBTQ+ individuals who are seeking the rights our movement is based on,” said Russell-Slavin. “We strongly condemn this executive order, and urge the president to immediately reverse this harmful action.”

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