The Biden administration on Tuesday will hold a meeting with a group of more than a dozen bisexual activists.
The meeting, which coincides with Bisexual Awareness Week, will take place at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in D.C.
The Washington Blade has learned National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson, Robyn Ochs, Fiona Dawson, Heron Greenesmith, Drs. Mimi Hoang and Lauren Beach, Khafre Kujichagulia Abif, Diana Adams, Nicole Holmes, Blair Imani, Tania Israel, Ellyn Ruthstrom, Belle Haggett Silverman and Ezra Young will attend the meeting that BiPlus Organizing US has coordinated.
Meeting participants will highlight three specific points
• Funding priorities for bisexual health
• Public health messaging and communications
• Intimate partner violence within bisexual communities
BiPlus Organizing US will ask the Biden administration to illuminate the White House in the bisexual Pride colors and to issue a proclamation that acknowledges Celebrate Bisexual Day, which is on Friday. The group will also seek a White House-sponsored bisexual event in D.C. and a virtual post-meeting brief.
“The Sept. 20, 2022, policy brief meeting is a small step forward since the previous administration,” said BiPlus Organizing US. “However, we wish to work with government on addressing our issues to ensure that Bisexual Awareness Week and Celebrate Bisexuality Day 2023 are given equal recognition to that of June’s annual White House Pride events, and policy, funding, communications, messaging, data collection and more are distinctly considered for the bi+ community.”
Meeting participants on Monday will attend a BiPlus Organizing US reception in D.C. Information about the meeting can be found here.
Press secretary addresses ‘gut-wrenching’ death of Nex Benedict from the briefing room
‘Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported in school’
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre began Friday’s press briefing by expressing how “absolutely heartbroken” she was to learn about the death of nonbinary Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict.
“Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported in school,” she said. “Our hearts are with Nex Benedict’s family, friends, entire school community in the wake of this horrific and gut wrenching tragedy.”
Jean-Pierre added, “I know that for many LGBTQ+ students across the country this may feel personal and deeply, deeply painful. There’s always someone you can talk to if you’re going through a hard time and need support.”
“The president and his administration launched the 988 line to help, and we have a line dedicated to serving LGBTQ+ young people that can be reached by dialing 933 and pressing 3,” she said. “Through devastating tragedies like these we must support each other and lift one another up.”
Authorities are still investigating the circumstances surrounding Benedict’s death on Feb. 8, which allegedly came the day after they were attacked in a restroom at Owasso High School, which followed months of bullying from peers.
This week, political leaders including Vice President Kamala Harris, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Jean-Pierre issued statements on X, formerly Twitter.
In recent years the state of Oklahoma has become a hotbed of anti-LGBTQ legislation, including an anti-trans bathroom bill signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2022.
Many LGBTQ advocates responded to news of Benedict’s death by calling out the escalation of hostile policies and rhetoric targeting transgender and gender-diverse communities, which advocates have warned can carry deadly consequences.
Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson has urged federal investigators at the Justice and Education Department to get involved in the case.
Biden nears Obama’s record of LGBTQ appointments to federal bench
Judge Melissa Dubose nominated for RI District Court Wednesday
President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced his nomination of Judge Melissa DuBose to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, where she would be the first person of color and the first LGBTQ judge.
If DuBose is confirmed by the U.S. Senate along with Nicole Berner, who was nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the Biden-Harris administration will have appointed 11 openly LGBTQ judges to serve on the federal bench, tying with the number who were appointed over two terms by former President Barack Obama.
U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrats of Rhode Island, recommended the appointment of DuBose, a former teacher who started her legal career as a special assistant attorney general in the criminal division of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office before serving as in-house counsel for Schneider Electric and then on the state District Court, where she was appointed by former Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo.
In a statement, Lena Zwarensteyn, senior director of the fair courts program at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, praised the president’s nomination of DuBose, along with the other picks for the federal bench who were announced on Wednesday.
“We’re thrilled that President Biden is beginning the year with a new slate of highly qualified and diverse nominees to serve on our federal bench,” she said.
Country’s first nonbinary state lawmaker participates in Gaza ceasefire hunger strike
Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner is Muslim
The country’s first nonbinary state lawmaker last week participated in a hunger strike for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip that took place in front of the White House.
Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner took part in the 5-day action alongside actress Cynthia Nixon, Virginia state Del. Sam Rasoul, Delaware state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, Michigan state Rep. Abraham Aiyash, former New York Congressional candidate Rana Abdelhamid, Muslim Girl.com Founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Adalah Justice Project Director of Strategy and Communications Sumaya Awad and Linda Sarsour. The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, Democratic Socialists of America, IfNotNowMovement, Dream Defenders, the Institute for Middle East Understanding and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee are the organizations that either participated in the hunger strike or endorsed it.
“This is the place where you should be,” Turner told the Washington Blade on Nov. 30 while they were standing in front of the White House.
Turner is from Ardmore, Okla., and has been a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives since 2021. They are the first Muslim person elected to the Oklahoma Legislature.
“Oklahoma is no stranger to genocide, displacement, uprooting communities — beautiful, vibrant, vulnerable communities — just because they could,” said Turner, referring to the treatment of Native Americans in what became Oklahoma during the 1800s and early 1900s. “Specifically as a Muslim and as an Oklahoman it is my duty to be here.”
The hunger strike took place nearly two months after Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from Gaza.
The Israeli government has said roughly 1,200 people have been killed, including at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in a kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli government also says more than 5,000 people have been injured in the country since the war began and Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 others.
Yarden Roman-Gat, whose gay brother, Gili Roman, spoke with the Washington Blade on Oct. 30 in D.C., is one of the 105 people who Hamas released during a truce with Israel that began on Nov. 24 and ended on Dec. 1.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 15,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began. Israel after Oct. 7 cut electricity and water to Gaza and stopped most food and fuel shipments.
“It’s absolutely wild to think about what is happening to the Palestinian people in Gaza and in the West Bank,” said Turner.
Turner noted the war began two days before Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“By October the 10th, when the world was really seeing what was happening in Gaza,” they said. “So many people who had celebrated specifically Indigenous Peoples’ Day had also sided with the Israeli government over the indigenous people of the land.”
‘The death of civilians is absolutely horrible’
Turner in response to the Blade’s question about the Israelis who militants killed on Oct. 7 emphatically said “the death of civilians is absolutely horrible.” Turner added they “cannot stress enough that when we back people into a corner, we don’t know what will happen.”
“The truth of the matter is our governments, our governmental officials do not have to put people in a corner,” said Turner.
Turner was particularly critical of the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza after Oct. 7.
“I don’t think there’s any place where a government has the power to shut off right water, food, healthcare supplies, things like that,” they said. “It’s just in doing so against a population that has 2 million people … that’s not anyone looking for equitability or justice. That is genocide against its people.”
Turner noted Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to publicly support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Turner told the Blade “when we oppress people over decades and decades … we cannot, we don’t get to cherry pick” or “we don’t get to tone police or however they are fighting back to be heard, to be, to live for vibrant lives.”
“We cannot tell oppressed people how to hurt out loud,” they said, specifically referring to Palestinian people. “We can create governments that care for people from a community standpoint who are thinking creatively about how we provide aid and support and we can ask our elected officials (members Congress, President Joe Biden, state and local officials) to teach truth. We can ask them to continuously make sure that we are providing the best care and understanding of the situations at hand. We can ask them to do a ceasefire to stop sending aid to the Israeli government and emboldening their military forces.”