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Washington State bans ‘ex-gay’ therapy

A federal jury in Orlando, Fla., on March 30 acquitted Noor Salman on charges that she helped her husband carry out the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Widow of Pulse nightclub gunman acquitted A jury last week acquitted Noor Salman of charges that she helped her husband carry out the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Federal prosecutors charged Salman with obstruction of justice and providing material support to a foreign terrorism organization in connection with the June 12, 2016, shooting that left 49 people dead and 53 others injured. Salman’s trial began earlier this month at a federal courthouse in downtown Orlando that is roughly two miles from the Pulse nightclub. The Orlando Sentinel reported Salman was crying after the jury reached its verdict. The newspaper also noted Barbara Poma, owner of the Pulse nightclub, and several of the victims’ relatives did not speak when they left the courtroom after Salman was acquitted. “I respect the criminal justice process, and we all have to trust that the jury made its decision free of bias and emotion,” wrote Poma on her Facebook page. “Those of us directly affected by this tragedy must find peace in our hearts and remember that he (the gunman) was the one who pulled the trigger that night. He was the perpetrator, and he should not have one more minute of power over our lives.” The massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history until a gunman on Oct. 1, 2017, killed 58 people and injured nearly 500 others during a country music festival in Las Vegas. Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Pulse nightclub massacre who is vice president of the Dru Project, a gun control advocacy group, is among the hundreds of thousands of people who participated in the “March for Our Lives” that took place in D.C. on March 24. “I have not been watching the trial,” he wrote on his Facebook page after the jury acquitted Salman. “I am not personally invested in the outcome, but I know this: True justice, in my eyes, comes from creating a world our 49 angels would be proud of. A world where we are celebrating life, not running from bullets.” “I love you all,” added Wolf. “Stay strong. We do it for them.” Poma in her Facebook post said the verdict “cannot and will not divide us.” “The survivors, families, and first responders as well as the community of Orlando and everyone around the world must now focus on the work ahead of us,” she wrote. “We will always carry the pain of what happened at Pulse, and we will never forget those who were taken. We will wrap our arms around all affected today and in the days to come.” “It will be difficult, but we will focus now on healing, and we will continue to work to help communities emerge from violence and hate,” added Poma. “It is as important today as it was 21 months ago.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law last week a ban on “ex-gay” conversion therapy, making the Evergreen State the 11th in the nation to prohibit the widely discredited practice for youth. Inslee signed the measure, SB 5722, at a ceremony in Olympia, Wash., making it illegal for licensed mental health therapists to engage in conversion therapy for individuals under the age of 18. “Conversion therapy is not so much therapy, it’s abuse, and we are today prohibiting the abuse of our children, conversion therapy, which has caused scars for decades across the country of something that is inhumane and not acceptable in the State of Washington,” Inslee said. Joining Inslee at the signing ceremony were several LGBT advocates, including Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, who commended Washington State for enacting the measure. “For far too long, con artist peddling junk science have been allowed to get away with inflicting deep, lasting and irreparable harm to far too many LGBTQ people,” Griffin said. “Make no mistake about it: So-called conversion therapy is a child abuse.” The practice of therapy aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or transgender status is considered ineffectual at best and harmful at worst. Major medical and psychological institutions, including the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, widely reject conversion therapy. Carolyn Reyes, “Born Perfect” campaign coordinator and youth counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights Youth Policy Counsel, praised Inslee for signing the bill. “We are heartened by the progress made by legislators to uphold the safety, health, and well-being of LGBTQ individuals in Washington state,” Reyes said. A total of 11 states and D.C. have banned “ex-gay” therapy for youth either by law or regulations. The 11 states are Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island and now Washington. CHRIS JOHNSON

Trump gets poor numbers in poll on LGBT rights A recent Economist-YouGov poll on President Trump and a range of other issues gives him poor numbers for his handling of LGBT rights just days after the administration reaffirmed its ban on transgender military service. A total of 29 percent of U.S. adults said they approve of the way Trump is handling gay rights, with 12 percent saying they strongly approve and 17 percent saying they somewhat approve. Meanwhile, a total of 44 percent said they disapprove of his handling of this issue, with 9 percent saying they somewhat disapprove and 35 percent saying they strongly disapprove. Twenty-seven percent had no opinion. The poll was conducted between March 25 and March 27 among 1,500 U.S. adults and has a margin of error of 3.4 percent. The poll also asked respondents about a variety of issues, including views of foreign countries, trade and social media websites. On whether respondents approved of Trump’s performance as president generally, a total of 39 percent said they approve, with 19 percent saying they strongly approve and 20 percent saying they somewhat approve. But 49 percent said they disapprove, with 9 percent saying they somewhat disapprove and 40 percent saying they strongly disapprove. Twelve percent weren’t sure. Respondents were specifically asked about their views on transgender people in the U.S. military and Trump’s attempt to ban them from the armed forces — a move he reaffirmed with a memo last week. Despite the memo, the Pentagon is continuing to assess and retain transgender service members in accordance with court orders against his earlier policy. A plurality of 49 percent said they support openly transgender service, with 31 percent saying they favor it strongly and 18 percent saying they favor it somewhat. Meanwhile, 11 percent said they oppose it somewhat, 23 percent said they strongly oppose it and 17 percent didn’t know. CHRIS JOHNSON

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