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District of Columbia

Racine leads attorneys general challenge of Fla. ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed statute earlier this year

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D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (Photo courtesy of the Racine campaign)

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced that he is leading a coalition of 18 other states’ attorneys general opposing Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Racine, alongside New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington, filed an amicus curiae brief last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Division of Florida.

The brief makes two main points

  • Florida’s law is unconstitutional. Although Florida claims the act is intended to protect children and preserve parental choice, the attorneys general have curricula in place that allow for age-appropriate discussion of LGBTQ+ issues while respecting parental views on the topic.  
     
  • The law is causing significant harms to students, parents, teachers, and other states. Non-inclusive educational environments have severe negative health impacts on LGBTQ+ students, resulting in increased rates of mental health disorders and suicide attempts. These harms extend to youth not just in Florida, but throughout the country. 

“My office has a strong track record of fighting for LGBTQ+ rights in the District and across the country to make sure that everyone can simply be who they are and love who they love,” said Racine in a press release. “Florida’s law offers no benefit to anyone and in fact puts children and families in harm’s way. We will continue to use all of our authority to help strike down this law and any other hateful, discriminatory policies that threaten people’s fundamental freedoms.” 

The attorneys general also contend that the “Don’t Say Gay” law is causing, by example, significant harm to students, parents and teachers in other states.

This brief challenges the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which outlaws “classroom instruction” on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade entirely.

The law also requires that the state education agency write new classroom instructions for standards that must be followed by grades 4-12. But the law does not define many of its key terms, like “classroom instruction,” so Florida teachers are already censoring themselves out of fear of the law. Indeed, the law allows a parent to bring a civil claim against a school district to enforce its vague prohibitions.

 

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District of Columbia

Whitman-Walker announces leadership change

CEO Ryan Moran to become Deputy Secretary of Health in Maryland

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Dr. Ryan Moran is leaving his role as CEO of the Whitman-Walker Health System. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Dr. Ryan Moran, who has served since 2021 as CEO of the Whitman-Walker Health System, an arm of D.C.’s longtime LGBTQ and HIV health services provider Whitman-Walker Health, will be leaving his position next month after being named as Deputy Secretary of Health and Healthcare Finance and Medicaid Director for the State of Maryland.

According to a March 21 statement released by Whitman-Walker, Moran will begin his new job as a member of the Maryland Department of Health’s senior leadership team effective April 12.

The statement says Cindy Lewin, an official with nonprofit organizations for more than 25 years and who previously served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel at the AARP, will serve as interim CEO at Whitman-Walker Health System beginning April 10.

Around that time, the statement says, Whitman-Walker will begin a nationwide executive search “to secure a permanent CEO” for the top position at Whitman-Walker Health System.

The statement points out that Naseema Shafi will continue in her role as CEO of Whitman-Walker Health, the other component of Whitman-Walker that directly provides and oversees medical and health care services to patients and clients, including those from the LGBTQ community.

Whitman-Walker Health System, among other things, advances the mission of Whitman-Walker through expanding its financial and fundraising capacity through the Whitman-Walker Foundation, the Whitman-Walker Institute, and the Whitman-Walker Health System Real Property Holdings, the statement says.

“Whitman-Walker Health System is grateful for Ryan’s visionary leadership, which has advantageously positioned us for our once in a generation expansion of research and health services with our move to the Saint Elizabeth campus this year,” said Dr. Ann Bonham, the Whitman-Walker Health System Board Chair.

“While the organization will miss Ryan, his enthusiasm and passion for the work and his commitment to the mission of Whitman-Walker, I am sure he will be a transformative leader in his new role,” Bonham said.

“I am deeply grateful to Whitman-Walker for the opportunity to steward our mission-driven organization as a regional and national leader in LGBTQ+ care, advocacy, research, and education,” Moran said in the statement.

“I am honored to have contributed to this organization’s rich history, and I am proud of the work Naseema Shafi and I have accomplished together and of the exceptional board senior leadership team, and staff for their collaboration in building a strong foundation for Whitman-Walker’s future success,” he said.

The statement announcing the Whitman-Walker leadership change notes that Moran played an important role in continuing the organization’s previously started plans for opening its new Max Robinson Center at the city’s St. Elizabeth’s campus in Southeast D.C. According to the statement, the new center will provide services and programs to more than 15,000 people each year, a 300 percent increase from the existing Max Robinson Center located in Anacostia.

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District of Columbia

Trans people lost to drug overdose remembered at D.C. tribute

Citywide ‘Celebration of Life’ held at Metropolitan Community Church

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Earline Budd organized last weekend’s memorial. (Washington Blade file photo by Tyler Grigsby)

About 50 people turned out on Saturday, March 18, at D.C.’s Metropolitan Community Church for a Citywide Memorial Celebration of Life for at least seven local transgender people who lost their lives from a drug overdose within the past two months.

“We lifted up the lives of those who recently and before passed amongst the transgender community,” said longtime D.C. transgender advocate Earline Budd, the lead organizer of the event.

“The goal was to send a clear message to D.C. officials that we will not sit by silently while members of the LGBTQ community are dying as a result of the OVERDOSE epidemic here in D.C. and around the country,” Budd said in a Facebook post.

Budd told the Washington Blade this week that she and others involved in organizing the memorial celebration are planning a series of conversations with city officials and LGBTQ community stakeholders to push for strengthening the city’s overdose prevention and response programs targeting LGBTQ people at risk for a drug overdose.

Among those participating in the March 18 celebration of life event were Rev. Elder Akosua McCray of Unity Fellowship Church of D.C.; Rev. D. Amina B. Butts of New Hope Baptist United Church of Christ of D.C.; and Rev. Cathy Alexander of D.C.’s Metropolitan Community Church.

Among those who spoke at the event was Tyler Edge, the associate director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The trans people who recently lost their lives to a drug overdose and whose names were listed in the program book handed out at the memorial tribute include Diva Chole Mason, Kenneth Isaac “Candy,” Terri Holland, Lourica Potts, Cee Cee Creek, Tyneisha Phillips, and Danielle Pinkney.   

Budd said among the plans by her and community supporters to address the overdose problem faced by some in the LGBTQ community include arranging for a more targeted approach to distribute and make accessible the lifesaving medication Narcan, which reverses an opioid overdose if administered quickly through a nasal spray device. 

She said the plan also calls for pushing for a wider distribution of test kits for determining whether the deadly substance fentanyl, the cause of most drug overdose deaths, is present in recreational drugs such as cocaine, MDMA, and crystal meth.

 “That’s what our goal is, and we may end up saving some lives,” Budd said. 

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District of Columbia

D.C. government to hold ‘LGBTQIA+ Emergency Training’ event

Leaders, staff of nonprofits invited to learn how to assess threats of violence

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‘We must continue to support each other and share resources,’ said Japer Bowles. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency are inviting “all LGBTQIA+ non-profit leaders, management and event production staff” to attend a first-of-its-kind LGBTQ community Emergency Preparedness Event scheduled for April 5.

The event, officially called an LGBTQIA+ Emergency Preparedness Training, will be held at the headquarters of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency at 1015 Half St., S.E.

“Non-profit partners will receive a special briefing on potential crime trends and threats,” an announcement of the event issued by the mayor’s office says. “The Preparedness Training will teach partners how to assess behavioral threats, manage risk factors such as warning signs of violence,” the announcement continues.

“Partners will also hear more information about how to apply for non-profit security grant programs to support physical security enhancements,” according to the announcement.

Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, sent an email invitation on Tuesday, March 21, to various LGBTQ community leaders to attend the event. In his email message Bowles told of why an emergency preparedness training may be needed.

“We are a strong and diverse LGBTQIA+ community, even though we are increasingly under threat of violence for being who we are, for loving who we love, and for creating spaces for our community to do the same,” Bowles wrote. “I commend you all; we must continue to support each other and share resources!”

The training session announced by Bowles and the mayor’s office was scheduled to take place about four months after D.C. police announced they were stepping up police patrols around LGBTQ events and establishments, including gay bars, following the Nov. 19 shooting incident at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub called Club Q.

A 22-year-old lone gunman later identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich is charged with firing a rifle inside the club, killing five people, and injuring at least 25 others. One of the patrons of the club is credited with tackling Anderson and grabbing the barrel of the rifle and removing it from Aldrich’s grip as horrified patrons attempted to flee from the club.

The incident, which prosecutors have listed as a hate crime, raised concern among LGBTQ clubs across the country and prompted some, including nightlife businesses in D.C., both gay and straight, to arrange for security and active shooter training sessions for their managers and employees.

“Nightlife hospitality establishments understand the importance of being constantly vigilant about, and prepared for, any and all incidents that could occur whenever people are gathered,” said Mark Lee, the former coordinator of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a group representing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment establishments.

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