Contact: Benjamin Fritsch – o: 202-225-8050, c: 202-225-8143
March 23, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Following what appear to be new threats against two anti-discrimination bills recently passed by the District of Columbia Council, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today said that she will oppose any effort to overturn the bills in the U.S. House of Representatives as strongly as she indicated last week she would oppose the disapproval resolutions introduced in the Senate. In an interview with Roll Call, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over D.C., said about the D.C. bills, “we want to take some action in the House too” and that “we’re still working on that.” The two bills are the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, which prohibits employers in D.C. from discriminating against employees based on their personal reproductive health decisions, and the Human Rights Amendment Act, which protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students from discrimination by educational institutions in the District.
“I still hope that Chairman Chaffetz will respect D.C. home rule as he said he would when he took the chairmanship of the Committee,” Norton said. “I was not surprised that Senator Ted Cruz would leap at the opportunity to introduce two disapproval resolutions last week, perhaps in anticipation of announcing his bid for presidency at Liberty University, where reproductive choice and sexual orientation are hot-button issues. I recognize that the District’s protection of employees who do not want to answer to their employers on their reproductive choices as well as its protection of LGBT students who are singled out for discrimination at their own universities may not be the policies of other jurisdictions. We who live in the nation’s capital are American citizens and demand the same respect that is given to citizens in other jurisdictions whose local governments pass similar legislation. I appreciate the more than 50 organizations that have stepped up to oppose these disapproval resolutions. The broad coalition fully recognizes that D.C. residents not only deserve their support, but also that attempts to curtail rights here can easily spread to other parts of the country.”
Under the Home Rule Act of 1973, all D.C. bills must be transmitted to Congress for a review period before they can take effect. The anti-discrimination bills were transmitted for a 30-legislative-day review period on March 6, 2015. A bill takes effect at the expiration of the review period unless a resolution of disapproval is enacted into law during that period. Norton has prevented a disapproval resolution from being enacted into law since 1991.
More lies from Catholic Church leaders urging Congress to interfere with DC anti-discrimination legislation related to LGBT students and reproductive health. These clerics do not want religious freedom, they want religious supremacy. (Reported by Roll Call)
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) issued the following news release on March 10 (and pardon my tardiness):
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today reaffirmed her commitment to defend two anti-discrimination bills that the District of Columbia transmitted to Congress on March 6, after the Heritage Foundation and other conservative organizations once again called on Congress to pass disapproval resolutions to overturn these two bills during the congressional review period. The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act would prohibit D.C. employers from discriminating against employees based on their personal reproductive health decisions, and the Human Rights Amendment Act would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender D.C. students from discrimination.
“The Heritage Foundation and its social conservative allies are trying to start a new social issues war using District of Columbia local laws in a Congress that has yet to show it can govern the nation,” Norton said. “They picked the wrong jurisdiction, and they picked the wrong issues. We are not going to have our local citizens answering to employers on their personal reproductive health care decisions. And we are not going to have our LGBT students stigmatized and denied by their own universities and schools. We are already working with a broad coalition representing local and national organizations to defend D.C.’s local anti-discrimination laws from congressional interference.”
Bill 20-0790, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014, was transmitted to Congress on March 6 for its congressional review period. The projected Law Date is April 17.
Bill 20-0803, the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014--which was written at the request of GLAA and (among other things) repeals the congressionally-imposed Armstrong Amendment--was transmitted to Congress on the same date, and has the same projected law date of April 17.
The right-wing group Heritage Action issued an alert attacking these two bills on January 29. Its characterization of the bills is inaccurate. GLAA is working with Congresswoman Norton and allied groups to defend both bills from congressional interference.
Sometimes an apology comes too late.
New post: Will concern for states’ rights win out in subsidies battle? Today’s argument in Plain English http://t.co/ooqjQL0iK3— SCOTUSblog's Posts (@SCOTUSblogposts) March 4, 2015
Meanwhile, lots of people mistakenly think the blog is part of the Court.
A message from Alan Cumming. Second option: sign the petition to pressure the FDA to screen donors based on their exposure to risk, not on their sexual orientation.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports excellent news:
A New Jersey Superior Court judge has ruled misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder in marketing conversion therapy services violates the state’s consumer protection laws – a devastating ruling for the conversion therapy industry, which claims to “convert” people from gay to straight, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced today.
GLAA's 2015 policy brief discusses DC's bill prohibiting conversion therapy for minors, which is currently undergoing congressional review. We are part of a nationwide movement to protect youth from this fraudulent and harmful practice.
Right Wing Watch reports on the latest recklessness from Glenn Beck.
Justin Fox of Bloomberg explains that Refusing to vaccinate isn't just a personal choice.
Mike DeBonis at WaPo reports on the Death with Dignity Act, introduced by Ward 3 CM Mary Cheh and endorsed by GLAA.
I am quoted in the article, which also links to GLAA's 2015 policy brief. Councilmember Yvette Alexander, to whose Health committee the bill was assigned, said her Catholic faith, which she cited in opposing marriage equality, will not influence her handling of this bill. That remains to be demonstrated.
Olivia Nuzzi at The Daily Beast reports on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's history of being "pro choice" on whether parents should vaccinate their children. This means he is fine with people endangering the health of other people's children by embracing junk science. Because everyone is entitled to their own truth. Or something. Could there be a virus that only kills stupid people? That's just an idle thought.
Above, Shepard Smith of Fox News calls anti-vaxxers science deniers and tells them to get their kids vaccinated and stop endangering public health. Below, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) shocks everyone by saying something crazy.
My column looking at the year ahead appears in this week's Blade, revised a bit. Here's an excerpt:
2015 promises continued fights against right-wing aggressions that include vagina policing and other gender-based discrimination; attacks on church-state separation; xenophobia; quackery disguised as science; biased profiling and excessive force by police; and criminalization of healthcare issues.
None of these will be resolved by the likely nationwide victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, in the words of Ella Baker, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." Here are some thoughts for the work ahead.
Curb the language cops. We will win the marriage fight even if some use the misleading phrase "gay marriage." If people who are not belligerent use the wrong pronouns or otherwise display their ignorance, be like my amazingly patient transgender friends and politely clue them in. Creating change requires the politics of addition; we must always seek new ways to connect with people.
My look at the year ahead in LGBT activism is now up at Bay Windows. Here's an excerpt:
From a liberal perspective, 2015 promises continued fights against right-wing aggressions that include vagina policing and other gender-based discrimination; attacks on church-state separation; xenophobia; quackery disguised as science; biased profiling and excessive force by police; and criminalization of healthcare issues.
None of these will be resolved by the likely nationwide victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, in the words of Ella Baker, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." Here are some thoughts for the work ahead.
Jo Barrow and Tom Namako at BuzzFeed report on this sad story that reminds us how much support our youth need. Below, the Trevor Project's Lifeline.
You are not alone. If you need help, please call our 24/7 Lifeline to speak with a trained counselor: 866-488-7386.— The Trevor Project (@TrevorProject) December 30, 2014
My year-in-review is now up at the Washington Blade. Here is an excerpt:
Military and international. The transition to openly gay military service has gone so smoothly it has generated little news. The fight to end discrimination against transgender service members continues; two dozen have been discharged in the past two years. The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit by Sexual Minorities Uganda against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity can proceed. In diplomatic news, Ted Osius III joined a growing list of openly gay envoys when he was sworn in as ambassador to Vietnam.
Health. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led 80 senators and House members in urging an end to the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with men, calling for science to replace stereotypes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for wider use of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, despite strong opposition by Michael Weinstein of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. There have been no new HIV infections among more than 500 Kaiser Permanente customers using PrEP. New York and the District of Columbia adopted rules forbidding health insurers from denying medically necessary treatment to transgender people. D.C. joined California and New Jersey in passing legislation banning "ex-gay" conversion therapy for minors.
Media. Schadenfreude was rampant after Sean Eldridge failed in his bid to buy a congressional seat and husband Chris Hughes provoked a mass walkout at The New Republic by sacking top editors. Hughes was faulted for wrecking a century-old magazine in his effort to create a "vertically integrated digital media company," that is, a word salad. Former TNR writer Jamie Kirchick at The Daily Beast dubbed them "America's worst gay power couple," but their youthful hubris and confusion of wealth for wisdom transcend sexual orientation.
Vox.com reports. Basically, if you've been celibate for the past year, step right up. I can hear Frank Kameny denounce this from beyond the grave. And he doesn't have a grave. Never mind, sore subject.
This morning, I was honored to attend on behalf of GLAA as Mayor Vince Gray signed Bill 20-501, the Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act. Thanks to Gray, bill introducer Mary Cheh, and all who worked in support of this important legislation to protect our youth from a dangerous and discredited outgrowth of anti-gay junk science. It now goes to Capitol Hill for the requisite congressional review period before becoming law.
Read GLAA's testimony from last June.
In a victory for gay rights advocates in China, a Beijing court ruled on Friday that a Chinese clinic must pay compensation to a gay man who sued it for giving him electric shocks intended to change his sexual orientation.
Stating that homosexuality is not a mental illness, the Haidian District People’s Court ordered the Xinyupiaoxiang Counseling Center in the southwestern city of Chongqing to pay 3,400 renminbi, or $560, for costs incurred by the plaintiff, Yang Teng. It also ordered Baidu, China’s leading search engine, which was also named in the lawsuit, to remove the advertisement that Mr. Yang said led him to the clinic.
China bears watching. Now the world's largest economy, it has been a friendlier place for gay activists than one might have expected from a totalitarian state. Congrats to Yang and best of luck to his comrades for continued progress.
GLAA sent letters like this one to all D.C. Council members on Monday afternoon:
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
Fighting for equal rights since 1971
P.O. Box 75265, Washington, DC 20013
Monday, December 15, 2014
The Honorable Phil Mendelson, Chairman
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Chairman Mendelson:
We urge you to vote against the Office of Contracting and Procurement's recommendation to award the new five-year D.C. Jail healthcare contract to Corizon, a for-profit company with a bad track record.
This is especially scary for people with HIV, transgender people, and anyone with mental health or medical issues. Quality mental healthcare during incarceration is important to successful reintegration into society.
The latest from Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.
Today, the District of Columbia Council unanimously approved a bill that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.
When signed into law, Washington, D.C. will become the third jurisdiction—behind California and New Jersey—to pass legislation protecting LGBT youth from practices that are known to cause severe depression and even suicide.
“Today, the DC Council sent a powerful message to LGBT youth and their families that they are accepted, supported, and loved,” said Samantha Ames, NCLR staff attorney and coordinator of the #BornPerfect campaign at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). “The Council has used its authority to protect our most vulnerable youth from dangerous and discredited pseudoscience that tells them who they are is wrong, and reaffirmed the consensus of every major medical and mental health organization that all children are born perfect, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
NCLR, in conjunction with other organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, played a key role in organizing the coalition behind the bill, which was authored by Councilmember Mary M. Cheh. A broad range of groups supported the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, including national LGBT organizations, mental health organizations, faith leaders, youth advocates, reproductive justice groups, and civil rights organizations.
Earlier this year, NCLR launched the #BornPerfect campaign to protecting LGBT youth across the country from conversion therapy over the next five years by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices.
Learn more about #BornPerfect at www.NCLRights.org/BornPerfect.
GLAA is proud to be part of the coalition that pushed for this bill. Now it goes to Mayor Gray for his signature, then to the Hill for the requisite congressional review period. Our youth will be that much safer for our collective effort, and the national movement to protect minors from these dangerous practices will get a boost.
Thanks to NCLR and all our coalition partners. Special kudos to Alison Gill, formerly of the Trevor Project and now Senior Legislative Counsel with the Human Rights Campaign, who served as coordinator.
Lambda Legal issued this by news release:
On World AIDS Day 2014, Lambda Legal urges those tasked with enforcing U.S. criminal law - from governors to prosecutors to police detectives - to halt the criminal prosecution of people based on their HIV status, thereby assisting efforts to combat the misconceptions, fear, stereotypes, discrimination and stigma faced by people living with HIV that fuel the epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.
HIV criminalization is a striking example of how misinformation, stereotypes and unfounded fears affect people living with HIV and of the government engaging in discrimination that perpetuates these stigmatizing messages. Imposing unjustified and unnecessary criminal prohibitions on people with HIV has led to a society where people are - among other forms of oppression - imprisoned, classified as felons and forced to register as sex offenders, based on outdated and inaccurate information regarding HIV.
We have not come nearly far enough in educating the public about HIV and in reducing stigma and discrimination. Fear and ignorance about HIV and discrimination against people living with HIV remains a serious problem that both marginalizes people and poses barriers to treatment and care.
Lambda Legal remains committed to securing equal protection and equal rights for this community - because living with HIV is not a crime. Lambda Legal's commitment to fighting HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination began more than twenty-five years ago in 1983 when we filed the nation's first challenge to AIDS discrimination and helped secure a court order stopping the efforts of neighbors to evict a doctor from his offices because he treated HIV-positive patients.
That commitment remains strong today. People living with HIV have a right to work and live free from discrimination, and laws, policies and other governmental actions should be based on sound science rather than fear and bias.
See the relevant portion of GLAA's 2014 policy brief.
Above, Helen Bygrave of Doctors Without Borders talks to AFP.
USA Today reports 7 facts about AIDS:
A federal panel voted Thursday in favor of partially lifting a 31-year ban against accepting blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
The current ban in the U.S. applies to any potential male blood donor who has had sex with another man since 1977, the start of the country’s AIDS epidemic. The FDA website states that these men are at an “increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.” The Department of Health and Human Service’s Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability examined data and heard testimony on Thursday from critics of the lifetime ban, who say it is discriminatory and now unnecessary, since technological advances have made the risk infinitesimal in most cases.
The panel then voted 16-2 in support of allowing men who have had sex with other men to give blood after being abstinent for one year, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The FDA is not obliged to follow the panel’s advice but Jennifer Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the agency, said “the meeting provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA’s deliberations.”
From Adam Taylor at WaPo, to clear things up for those who are unclear about just how small a part of Africa is having a problem with Ebola.
GLAA endorses Initiative 71, the "Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014," and urges you to vote for it.
We have included it in our ratings ad, discussed it in our policy brief, Building on Victory, and discussed it in our testimony this week before the D.C. Council Judiciary Committee decrying racial disparities in police stops:
[W]e appreciate the work of our friends at ACLU of the Nation's Capital, which reported in 2013 on the dramatic racial disparity in marijuana arrests in the District:
"Officers from fifteen different police forces … made marijuana arrests in 2010, however MPD officers made 4,996 of the 5,393 total arrests, or almost 93%.... PSA 602, located in Anacostia, had a 2010 marijuana arrest rate of 2,488 per 100,000. By contrast, PSA 204, located in Woodley Park, had a marijuana arrest rate of just 33 per 100,000."
Given the roughly equal rates of self-reported marijuana use by white and black citizens, the disparity in enforcement must be confronted by this committee. In the meantime, the people are changing the law. GLAA endorses Initiative 71, the "Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014." This will not end all problems associated with the disastrously counterproductive war on drugs, but it is a start.
Unfortunately, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, who leans conservative on many issues, is not quite with the program, judging by her comments on Twitter:
Legalize Marijuana for increased justice, opportunity, public safety and reducing racial injustice! Give me a break! That's a bit much.— Yvette M Alexander (@CMYMA) October 31, 2014
@dougsfresh All I'm saying is don't make up reasons to do it which are misleading. It won't lower incarceration rates for Black males! Smh— Yvette M Alexander (@CMYMA) October 31, 2014
I replied to her this morning:
@CMYMA Yvette, please. There's a big racial disparity in marijuana arrests. Ward 7 residents much more likely to be nabbed than west siders.— Richard Rosendall (@RickRosendall) October 31, 2014
Do not think for a moment that your vote doesn't matter. Please vote on or before November 4, and make sure to vote for Initiative 71. It will be a vote for fairness and justice.
I was looking for something else, and came upon this clip from the HBO version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Justin Kirk as Prior Walter, hospitalized with AIDS, tells his friend Belize, played by Jeffrey Wright, about the angels who are visiting him. Prior and Belize are former lovers and dear friends.
I saw both parts of Angels on a Saturday in 1994 on Broadway. I vividly remember Wright delivering the line, "My jaw aches at the memory." Wright's performance in that production won him a Tony, and his HBO reprise won him an Emmy. I appreciate having the TV version (though it lacks another Tony winner, Kathleen Chalfant, whose roles were given to Meryl Streep), because in 1994 I was in the balcony. TV gives you a front-row seat. This landmark drama was the first time I saw Wright. He has played a wide range of characters since, from MLK in HBO's Boycott to a CIA agent in the James Bond movies, to a Dominican drug lord in the Shaft remake, to the dangerous Dr. Valentin Narcisse in Boardwalk Empire. He is always compelling. If you know of a more gifted actor currently working, do tell.
Another clip, this one facing off with the dying Roy Cohn, played by the man whose performance in Dog Day Afternoon convinced Wright he must be an actor. Imagine Wright's thrill at this collaboration. If you are unfamiliar with Angels (something which you ought to correct), the ghost standing next to Belize at the end (when he says "I am the shadow on your grave") is that of Ethel Rosenberg.
Chris Caesar at Boston.com reports:
The deputy chief of staff for Senator Ted Cruz thinks he knows how Ebola got into America.
Nick Muzin quickly deleted the tweet after receiving a flood of critical comments.
This provoked plenty of responses on Twitter. For example:
(Hat tip: Joe Jervis)
My Blade column this week looks at the right wing's political exploitation of Ebola. Here's a portion:
Obama Derangement Syndrome spiked again last week over Ebola, after a man from Liberia was diagnosed with the viral disease in Dallas, Texas.
Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham asked, "Why did Obama let the Ebola virus into the U.S.?" Another radio demagogue, Michael Savage, said Obama "wants to infect the nation with Ebola" as part of a war on white people. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said that the American troops being sent to West Africa to help fight the Ebola outbreak are really being sent "to go catch Ebola and die." Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) managed to connect the Dallas Ebola case with ISIS, the IRS, and Benghazi. Fox News host Steve Doocy asked Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Tim Frieden, "Why should we believe you when you're telling us this stuff?" since Frieden works for Obama.
It is difficult enough to confront resurgent diseases without an explosion of unhinged conspiracy mongering.
Update: I note with sorrow that the Dallas patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, has died. May he rest in peace.
It just doesn't quit. The hate, I mean.
(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)
Our friend Ernest Hopkins, San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s director of legislative affairs, writes (on FB):
Participating in the first ever White House sponsored Summit on HIV/AIDS in Gay and Bisexual Men. It's hard to believe that such a meeting has never occurred but I am pleased to be representing the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC) in a solution oriented day of action that hopefully will reintegrate HIV into the policy agenda of the LGBT advocacy community. HIV/AIDS continues to take a disastrous toll on the well being of the LGBT community, especially the low income who face a myriad of social determinants that drive poor health outcomes and among young Black gay men. If HIV advocates and public health officials are truly going to drive rates of new HIV infections towards zero, our public and private health and social justice institutions must focus on the health and well being of gay and bisexual men. I look forward to a day of tough talk that leads to actions that can be achieved during the Obama Administration.