• A M E R I C A’ S
02 • JUNE 21, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gay customer calls for boycott of Langer’s Deli But restaurant’s owner says he’s pro-LGBT FROM STAFF REPORTS A gay customer is accusing the owner of a legendary Westlake District eatery of homophobia during LA Pride weekend. However, Norm Langer, owner of the 72year old Los Angeles landmark Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant, vociferously denies the charges. “Last Saturday, the weekend of L.A. Pride, I was kicked out of Langer’s Deli for being gay. My date and I had finished eating and we shared a kiss in our booth. Suddenly a man with a walkie-talkie was
standing at our table. He introduced himself as Norm Langer and told us that he ‘can’t have this in his restaurant because some of the customers don’t understand,’” Rachel Curry said in a lengthy statement to the Los Angeles Blade. “This [accusation] bothers me,” Langer told the Los Angeles Blade. “I wouldn’t have lasted [in business] if I was a bigot. Seriously, if I was anti-LGBT, it would have surfaced a long time ago. I mean, I’ve been working here since January of 1963. I wouldn’t have LGBT employees working for me now.” Langer said the kiss went from “a peck on the cheek” to making out over a 35 minuteperiod. “I have stopped heterosexual couples from making out, and I don’t care if, say, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were
making out, I’d stop them, too. The policy applies to everybody,” Langer said. “It’s a family restaurant.” Curry has a different perspective. “Norm Langer has accused us of making false accusations and tried to cover up his actions by claiming this was simply about a public display of affection (PDA) policy and not tied to homophobia,” Curry said. “It was perfectly clear to both of us that when he approached our table in an authoritative manner and told us that he ‘Can’t have this behavior in his restaurant’ because his ‘customers don’t understand’—he was saying that his customers and/or himself did not want us being visibly queer in that space and that we weren’t welcome there because of it.” “Mr. Langer did not inform us of a PDA
policy and politely ask that we respect the rules of his establishment or anything along those lines. He never said the word “policy” or mentioned “public displays of affection,” Curry added. “I totally support the LGBT community. I have LGBT employees, including my cashier who is lesbian and now even she and her partner are taking heat for this incident unfairly,” Langer said. “I did tell them my policy and they immediately were antagonistic.” The controversy sparked a #BoycottLangers protest. “We are calling for a Boycott to call Mr. Langer out and put him and his biased behavior on notice,” Curry wrote. Langer’s LGBT customers are supporting him on Facebook.
Man who threatened ‘Pulse-style attack’ arrested in Fresno Cache of weapons found at suspect’s home FROM STAFF REPORTS Fresno Police arrested a suspect on June 17, for making online threats of carrying out another “Pulse-style” mass shooting against a local LGBTQ nightclub, ABC News affiliate KFSN-ABC30 reported. On June 12, much of the nation commemorated the three-year anniversary of the mass shooting at the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 people dead and 53 others wounded. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer told reporters that the threats were made on a Facebook profile, which was later determined to be counterfeit. Terry Story, owner of the FAB Fresno nightclub, had reported the threats to police, and even though the profile disappeared the same day, detectives were able to trace it to 28-year-old Jose Lechuga, with help from the FBI and Facebook. “Lechuga certainly had the capability of carrying out this threat,” Chief Dyer said. “The information was very alarming because those posts appeared to be very, very real,” Dyer noted. “Whether he would’ve done so is unknown. But I can tell you we have prevented what could’ve been a mass
Jose Lechuga was arrested for threatening an attack against the FAB Fresno nightclub. Screengrab from KFSN/ABC30
shooting in our city.” ABC30 investigative reporter Colin Hoggard tweeted a photo of the weapons seized by Fresno Police while executing the arrest of Lechuga that were displayed during the press conference. According to ABC30, the threats occurred after a video of a woman slurring anti-gay insults at people at FAB was uploaded to the club’s social media pages. The woman can be heard on the video cursing “this is a fucking bunch of fucking queers” after she was asked to leave the club. Fresno officers
who responded to complaints didn’t arrest her, so the club’s owner decided to post the video to make sure there were some consequences. Fresno police stated that within the first 24 hours of that post going up, 27,000 Facebook users viewed the video, including a person labeling himself “Maga Shooter.” The Facebook profile photo was that of the Pulse nightclub murderer. Comments left on the nightclub’s Facebook page by the “Maga Shooter” threatened a repeat of the Pulse shooting at FAB.
Fresno Investigators said Lechuga admitted to making those threats but, ABC30’s Hoggard noted, Lechuga told detectives he didn’t plan to carry them out. Investigators said he was mad about how the video portrayed the woman, now dubbed “Nightclub Nancy.” According to police, Lechuga is dating one of her daughters, adding that the unnamed woman has not been charged in connection with the threats made against the club. Lechuga was released on bail Monday evening.
04 • JUNE 21, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
An apparent Trump win is really a huge trans victory LGBT advocates get ‘another bite at the apple’ in military fight By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com On first reading, the Reuters headline seemed like dismal news for transgender military service members and advocates fighting the Trump trans ban. “U.S. Court Lets Trump Transgender Military Ban Stand, Orders New Review,” the longtime wire service reported on a Friday ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The opening paragraph doused the wound with lemon. “A U.S. appeals court handed President Donald Trump a victory in his effort to ban most transgender people from the military, ordering a judge to reconsider her ruling against the policy, which the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to take effect,” Reuters reported. A three-judge panel issued a ruling in Karnoski v The State of Washington setting aside the positive April 18, 2018 ruling by District Court Judge Marsha Pechman saying the trans ban probably violated the constitutional rights of trans service members, those seeking promotion and recruits. The 9th Circuit seemed to side with the Justice Department’s appeal of her ruling, explicitly saying that Pechman had not given the military the due deference it usually receives in district courts. The court ordered the judge to try again. “That finding could strengthen Trump’s position, though the government still had the burden of justifying his policy,” Reuters reported, a policy that Trump announced by tweet in 2017. And therein lies the hitch upon which the trans ban twists. “We get another bite at the apple,” an excited Shannon Minter told the Los Angeles Blade. The 9th Circuit ordered Pechman—one of four federal court judges to rule against Trump’s ban—to review the case again, but this time under heightened scrutiny. That shifts the burden of proof from the trans plaintiffs and their backers
A scene from a recent protest against the transgender military ban. Photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr
to the federal government and affords an opportunity to get to the merits of the case. Last January, when the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to lift the nationwide injunction against the trans military ban going into effect, many in the LGBT community were crushed. Dreams of service, fulfilling legacies, education and job opportunities were put on hold. Trans servicemembers on the brink of coming out—as previously encouraged by the Obama administration— jumped back into the closet lest they lose their careers in a witch hunt. Trans individuals were allowed to serve in the armed forces, the Pentagon said, as long as they served in their birth sex and endured the inhumane indignity of inauthenticity. But the Pentagon insisted it did not target trans individuals for discrimination. The ban pertained more to medical issues and costs and unit cohesion—all of which had been addressed by a RAND Study commissioned by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who lifted the ban on open trans service in June 2016 with policy backing from President Barack Obama.
“As always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity,” Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokesperson, told CNN after the Supreme Court decision on Jan. 22, 2019. The Defense Department’s “proposed policy is NOT a ban on service by transgender persons. It is critical that DoD be permitted to implement personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world. DoD’s proposed policy is based on professional military judgment and will ensure that the U.S. Armed Forces remain the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world,” On Friday, the 9th Circuit said refuted the DoD, saying the government “discriminates on the basis of transgender status.” Importantly, the 9th Circuit also said that a policy that discriminates on that basis can only be upheld if it meets the same tough standard allplied to policies that discriminate based on sex. That elevates transgender people to the same protected constitutional status to gender. That’s a game-changer.
And, since nether the Supreme Court nor the 9th Circuit ruled on the merits of the case, trans advocates have an opportunity to dramatically expose the cruelty behind the targeted unconstitutional discrimination. In the meantime, all trans cases in the 9th Circuit jurisdiction must be considered under heightened scrutiny with the antitrans policies providing evidence of “exceedingly persuasive justification.” “This outcome in Karnoski v. Trump is no surprise, since the Supreme Court already lifted Pechman’s injunction,” wrote Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern. “The 9th Circuit found that Pechman hadn’t properly assessed whether former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ final implementation plan shored up the legality of the ban by providing the “considered military judgment” absent from Trump’s impromptu tweets and the resulting scramble to rationalize them.” “We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit
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06 • JUNE 21, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Kamala Harris wants your vote Longtime ally talks LGBT issues and more By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org The conflict is internal. It’s a secret struggle, really, that Kamala Harris has been forced to face in public. The Democratic presidential candidate doesn’t like to brag. It’s unbecoming, it’s immodest, it places the individual ahead of the community. Instead, Harris, who was inculcated in the spirit of the 1960s civil rights and social and economic justice movements, profoundly believes in community and coalition building. “That’s exactly how I was raised,” Harris tells the Los Angeles Blade in a June 18 phone interview. “It’s not about you. It’s about getting the job done.” The job done of winning the presidency means not taking any group or voter for granted, including the LGBT community. Harris’ struggle to tout her own achievements, which she discusses in her memoir The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, stands in sharp contrast to the man she intends to defeat, Donald Trump, the biggest chest-pounding, klieg lights-seeking braggadocio con artist the world has seen in decades. Harris, a former district attorney and California attorney general who believes Trump is a racist, thinks the House should launch impeachment proceedings into the president’s illegal behavior. She also thinks Trump should be prosecuted after he leaves office. Some wonder if Harris is “tough enough” to go up against Trump. They need only look at her precision prosecution of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. Despite being interrupted by her Republican colleagues, Harris forced the flabbergasted Sessions to throw his hands in the air. “I’m not able to be rushed this fast!” Sessions said, as if needing a fan and mint julep. “It makes me nervous.” Or juxtapose a visibly frightened Trump crouching behind a lectern during a disturbance at a rally before four burly men rushed to his rescue—to Harris who was initially surprised but sat calmly when a white man rushed the stage, grabbed her microphone and had only black lesbian
Sen. Kamala Harris at HRC/LA gala photo courtesy HRC
MoveOn.org communications director Karine Jean-Pierre for protection. Harris calmly walked off the stage, smiling, while the man was hustled away. She calmly returned to deliver her talk about pay equity. No one talks about the courage it takes for Harris to stand alone onstage, despite what one presumes is an avalanche of death threats from Trump supporters. The field of 23 Democratic presidential contenders is expected to narrow after the June 26-27 debates. But while Harris is toptier, she is not a shoo-in for the nomination, which is still a long ways away. “I hate to say this—but we need a man. Nothing against her. I’m sure she’s smart and great. But I’m going with Joe Biden. He’s got thick skin and he’s the only one who can beat Trump,” one white gay man tells the Los Angeles Blade on background. Several younger LGBT voters support South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who smartly talks about the future. They think Buttigieg, a vet who served in Afghanistan, can take down the bully Trump and shame him for ducking the Vietnam War. Harris has lots of strong LGBT backing, including longtime politicos Mark Leno,
Geoff Kors, Kate Kendell, and Kris Perry, former plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against Prop 8, whose wedding to Sandy Stier Harris officiated when Prop 8 was defeated. Perry’s son Spencer works on Harris’ presidential campaign. Harris is the walking positive personification of intersectionality, with her brilliant immigrant parents coming from Jamaica and India. She fought hard to become the first female, the first black and the first Asian-American district attorney in San Francisco. Then she fought to become California’s first female, black, and AsianAmerican attorney general. She then the second black woman in U.S. history to win a Senate seat. “I grew up exposed to many cultures, and it certainly did teach me from birth about the fact that people have so much more in common than what separates them,” Harris tells the Los Angeles Blade. “I didn’t have to learn it from reading about it. I didn’t know the word ‘intersectionality’ but I’ve always known the commonality between people. A mother’s love for her child, a parent’s desire for their family to be healthy and safe. These are universal truths, regardless of the last
name and how you spell it, or what your grandmother’s language is, or the God you pray to. That’s how I’ve always lived my life, which is knowing the commonality between people.” Kamala (comma-la) Harris was born on Oct. 20, 1964, five years before the Stonewall Rebellion, and never needed an epiphany to discover that LGBT people were OK. “I grew up in a community and a culture where everyone was accepted for who they were, so there wasn’t a moment where it was like, ‘Okay, now let’s let this person in.’ Everyone was a part of everything. It was about community,” Harris says. “It was about coalition building. It was about equality, inclusion. I mean, I had an uncle who was gay. [But] there was no epiphany” about gay people. In fact, with the exception of Buttigieg’s very presence, Harris is the only toptier presidential candidate to constantly reference homophobia and transphobia in her speeches. But some trans people are still angry over how Harris backed the Department of Corrections in its 2015 denial of gender reassignment surgery for then 51-year-old
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JUNE 21, 2019 • 07
Attorney General Kamala Harris officiating the wedding of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier at City Hall. Photo courtesy Perry
inmate Michelle-Lael Norsworthy. The Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson asked Harris about the issue in January at Harris’ first news conference after announcing her 2020 presidential bid. “I was, as you are rightly pointing out, the attorney general of California for two terms and I had a host of clients that I was obligated to defend and represent and I couldn’t fire my clients, and there are unfortunately situations that occurred where my clients took positions that were contrary to my beliefs,” Harris said. “And it was an office with a lot of people who would do the work on a daily basis, and do I wish that sometimes they would have personally consulted me before they wrote the things that they wrote?” Harris said. “Yes, I do.” “But the bottom line is the buck stops with me, and I take full responsibility for what my office did,” Harris said. Harris confirmed to the Los Angeles Blade that she worked behind the scenes with the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation to establish a process enabling transgender inmates to receive transition-related care, including gender
reassignment surgery, and she worked on getting Norsworthy paroled. “I did it quietly, because I actually disagreed with my client initially, when they had the policy, and so I did it behind the scenes,” Harris tells the Los Angeles Blade. “I helped to resolve and change the policy. The issue for me was to make sure the right thing would happen.” But Harris adds: “Let me just be very clear. I don’t want to take full credit for that, because I don’t deserve full credit for that. I don’t want what I said to be interpreted as that. There were a lot of people involved in that.” But Harris’ responses have been so cerebral, some feel she doesn’t see the humanity in trans individuals. “I understand not only their humanity, but I also understand the unfair challenges that they face in a society that still hasn’t come to appreciate their full humanity,” Harris tells the Los Angeles Blade. “And I know the hate that also has been targeted at our transgender friends, and I know that it resulted in lethal proportions. That’s why, when I was the vice president of the National District Attorneys Association,
I led the national DAs in a training on the ways that we can get rid of the ‘gay panic defense,’ because I knew it was being used as justification for the killing of many people, including transgender people.” Transphobia “is something I care deeply about. I have known many people who are transgender, and talked with them and really shared their pain around what their life experience has been like, because of the ignorance that still exists about who they are and the challenges they face,” Harris says. That includes all healthcare concerns. On Thursday, June 20, Harris introduced the PrEP Access and Coverage Act, legislation to guarantee insurance coverage for PrEP and create a grant program to fund access for uninsured patients. “PrEP is a critical advancement in the fight against HIV that can finally provide peace of mind to Americans who live in the shadow of the HIV epidemic. But for too many in our country, lack of insurance coverage and exorbitant costs have put PrEP out of reach— and that needs to change. We must truly commit ourselves to HIV prevention by finally requiring every health insurance plan—public and private—to cover PrEP and all of the
required tests and follow-up doctors’ visits. We must also provide the resources necessary to help people without insurance access PrEP. Nearly four decades since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis that took so many lives and caused countless others to live in fear, we can and will stop the spread of this disease,” said Harris in a statement. Harris says that if elected president, she would sign an executive order to protect DREAMers and put them on a path to citizenship. The Los Angeles Blade asked if she would sign an executive order for the Equality Act, the LGBT civil rights bill that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations. “One of my first orders of business would be to get the Equality Act passed,” Harris says. “Listen, I believe in the words and the spirit behind the Constitution of the United States and all of its amendments and those words we spoke in 1776 at the founding of our nation—that we are all equal and should be treated that way. That’s why I fought against Prop 8. I don’t believe that it is reflective of our democracy or the spirit of our founding, that any person would be treated differently under the law.
08 • JUNE 21, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Court victory in trans military case, but fight continues Continued from page 4 recognized that the district court was wrong to prevent the Department of Defense from applying its policy and also wrong to disregard the confidentiality of matters protected by executive privilege. The Department of Defense will be able to continue implementing a personnel policy it determined necessary to best defend our nation, and the Department of Justice will continue defending that policy as the litigation continues,” DOJ spokesperson Kelly Laco said in a statement. “Well, it’s not a surprise that the government is focusing on the fact that the Ninth Circuit technically reversed the district court’s refusal to dissolve the preliminary injunction. That is true, of course—that is the immediate impact of the ruling,” Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights,” told the Los Angeles Blade. “But to note only that is to miss the forest for the trees. The ruling could have reversed the district court and held that the Mattis plan is likely to be constitutional and cannot be enjoined. Instead, it vacated and remanded the issue back to the district court, with instructions that the court should issue a new decision taking into account the panel’s determination that the Mattis plan (contrary to the government’s argument) targets transgender people and that such discrimination is subject to a very serious level of constitutional scrutiny.” That more serious level of scrutiny also enables the plaintiffs to question more deeply how Mattis arrived at his recommendations for the current policy. The Blade, Politico and Think Progress have all reported extensively on how Trump’s anti-trans tweets originated with antiLGBT Vice President Mike Pence and his evangelical followers. As reported in the Washington Blade, on May 16, 2019, 85 conservative leaders, many like Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, and scores of retired antiLGBT military officers, issued a statement opposing transgender service. “Conservative leaders urgently suggest
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ final implementation of Trump’s trans military ban is under court scrutiny.
that the Trump Administration review and rescind the Obama-era policies that hinder military readiness and overall effectiveness,” the statement said. “Politically correct policies have been imposed largely through administrative fiat. They can be removed in like manner while further study and congressional guidance is obtained. The most problematic policies in this category are those addressing the presence of transgender individuals in the military.” “While the liberal media insists no thought went into the president’s tweets, the administration has been coordinating with military attorneys behind the scenes for days,” Family Research Council president and leading social conservative activist Tony Perkins wrote in a blog post, The Christian Post confirmed Aug. 11, 2017. “Fortunately, a Pentagon working group had already been
established to deal with the issue as part of Defense Secretary James Mattis’s order to delay the enlistment of people confused about their gender.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, which considers the Family Research Center to be a hate group, wrote this about how they work: “To make the case that the LGBT community is a threat to American society, the FRC employs a number of ‘policy experts’ whose ‘research’ has allowed the FRC to be extremely active politically in shaping public debate. Its research fellows and leaders often testify before Congress and appear in the mainstream media. It also works at the grassroots level, conducting outreach to pastors in an effort to ‘transform the culture.’” There is a good possibility a motive with animus attached might be discovered during
the review process. “On the discovery front, the Ninth Circuit similarly held that the plaintiffs are entitled to discovery about the process and provided the district court with a clear road map of how to proceed (including requiring the plaintiffs to make targeted requests and reviewing sensitive documents in camera),” Minter told the Blade. “In a nutshell, the government’s comment focuses only on one narrow aspect of the ruling and disregards the larger picture, which has opened the door for the plaintiffs to seek a new order enjoining the ban. That is a real game changer and a hugely positive development for the plaintiffs.” The 9th Circuit ruling also applies to Stockman v. Trump, a challenge brought by Equality California on behalf of its members and seven individual plaintiffs. GLAD and NCLR are counsel in Stockman, along with Latham and Watkins LLP. The State of California also joined the Stockman v. Trump suit. “Our office is reviewing the decision and will be working closely with our co-plaintiffs on next steps in the Stockman litigation,” a spokesperson for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told the Los Angeles Blade. “This is a hugely positive development. The Ninth Circuit recognized that the Mattis plan clearly targets transgender people, and that the government faces an uphill battle in justifying it,” said Jennifer Levi, Director of Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in a statement. “Equality California welcomes this opportunity to once again make the case for why this ban is harmful to transgender service members, to their families and to our nation’s military. Excluding qualified, dedicated Americans who want nothing more than to serve our country is not only irrational, it is deeply contrary to the military’s own values of judging individuals based on merit, not on irrelevant characteristics that have nothing to do with their fitness to serve,” said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California. Minter said he has no idea what kind of timeline the court might establish.
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10 • JUNE 21, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Exclusive: Barr holds meeting with LGBT employees Closed-door session pegged to Pride month By CHRIS JOHNSON In recognition of Pride Month, U.S. Attorney General William Barr held a closed-door meeting with LGBT attorneys and law enforcement officials who work for the U.S. Justice Department and heard about ongoing anti-LGBT workplace concerns within the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons, sources familiar with the meeting told the Washington Blade exclusively. At a time when the Supreme Court is set to determine whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers anti-LGBT discrimination, Barr also read a short statement prepared by the LGBT employees asserting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is “anathema.” Barr’s meeting with LGBT employees stands out in the Trump administration, which is widely seen as hostile to LGBT rights. The private meeting between Barr and DOJ Pride, the affinity group for LGBT employees at the Justice Department, took place on Thursday, June 13, according to the sources. One source said Barr initiated the meeting, although the Justice Department wouldn’t confirm as of late Tuesday. In addition to Barr, participants in the meeting included the board of directors for DOJ Pride and DOJ Pride President Jason Lee, a trial attorney for the Consumer Protection Branch under the Civil Division, sources said. At the meeting, Lee brought up allegations of anti-LGBT workplace hostility within the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons, which DOJ Pride previously raised in a March 27 letter to Barr, as well as what the LGBT affinity group understands has happened since the time of that letter, sources say. The March 27 letter says anti-LGBT hostility within the Justice Department has caused low morale and the flight of LGBT employees. The letter includes anonymous complaints from LGBT employees at the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Bureau of Prisons who say the workforce
U.S. Attorney General William Barr met with LGBT employees within the Justice Department. Blade file photo by Michael Key
environment is difficult, if not impossible. Also at the meeting, sources say Barr read a statement prepared by DOJ Pride and DOJ GEN, the affinity group for women employees, on the current litigation before the Supreme Court on Title VII, a federal law that bars discrimination based on sex in the workplace. The statement declares discrimination is “anathema” and “simply wrong.” “Discrimination against employees or job applicants because of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity is anathema to principles of fair treatment and advancement based on merit,” says a copy of the statement shown to the Blade. It’s unclear what commitments, if any, Barr made to LGBT employees during the meeting. It’s likely no such meeting between DOJ Pride and the U.S. attorney general took place when Jeff Sessions or Matthew Whitaker were running the show, although the Justice Department didn’t confirm that. As reported by Buzzfeed News, Barr previously said in an April 4 letter to DOJ Pride he’d investigate claims of anti-LGBT discrimination at the FBI and Bureau of Prisons. Additionally, Barr updated the
Justice Department’s EEO statement clarifying discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, is prohibited within the Justice Department. (Although the attorney general is required by law to issue the EEO statement, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions never did.) Meanwhile, litigation pending before the Supreme Court will determine whether anti-LGBT discrimination is a form of sex discrimination and, therefore, prohibited under federal civil rights laws. Two of the cases — Boston v. Clayton County and Zarda v. Altitude Express, will determine whether anti-gay discrimination is a form of sex discrimination. Another case, EEOC v. Harris Funeral Homes, will determine whether anti-transgender discrimination is a form of sex discrimination. A Supreme Court decision is expected by June 2020. The Justice Department under the Trump administration has already articulated its view Title VII doesn’t cover anti-LGBT discrimination. It made that case with respect to anti-gay discrimination when
the Zarda case was pending before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Similarly, the Justice Department in a friend-of-thecourt brief to the Supreme Court asserted the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals wrongly concluded Title VII covers antitrans discrimination in the Harris case. The Pride Month meeting between Barr and LGBT employees took place about a week before DOJ Pride was scheduled to have its annual awards ceremony and reception in recognition of Pride Month. For the official ceremony this year, which is set for Wednesday, June 18, LGBT employees were set to gather in the 7th floor auditorium at the Justice Department to hear from senior leadership and watch a viewing of the 2010 PBS documentary “Stonewall Uprising.” At a later reception, DOJ Pride will give awards to D.C.-based transgender activist Ruby Corado, founder of Casa Ruby, and David Cotton-Zinn, a member of the FBI’s Victim Services Response Team. During Barr’s confirmation process, LGBT advocacy groups opposed Senate approval of his nomination based on his record as U.S. attorney general under George H.W. Bush and designation as a Trump appointee. One longtime gay friend of Barr’s, former Time Warner general counsel Paul Cappuccio, came to his defense and told the Blade, “He’s not going to ever let people be discriminated against, OK?” In his confirmation hearing, Barr suggested he’d uphold religious freedom at the expense of LGBT rights and continue the view LGBT people aren’t protected under Title VII. At the same time, Barr said he’d have “zero tolerance” for hate crimes, including those committed against LGBT people. Since Barr took over at the Justice Department, the Trump administration has continued to defend in court the transgender military ban. It remains to be seen whether the Justice Department will reverse its litigation position regarding Title VII now that the issue is before the Supreme Court, but that seems unlikely. The Justice Department deferred comment on the meeting with DOJ Pride, which provided background information on the discussion.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JUNE 21, 2019 • 11
Supreme Court vacates fine against couple that refused to serve gays Move falls short of recognizing a right to discriminate By CHRIS JOHNSON The U.S. Supreme Court vacated on Monday a $135,000 fine against an Oregonbased family business that refused based on religious and free speech objections to make a wedding cake in 2013 for a same-sex couple. In an order list on Monday, the Supreme Court indicated it had issued summary disposition in response to the petition for certiorari filed by Aaron and Melissa Kline, vacating the decision against the couple and remanding it back to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court’s action falls short of recognizing the First Amendment right sought by the couple to refuse service to same-sex couples. The Oregon Court of Appeals is instructed to reconsider the case in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. The ruling found the Colorado Civil Rights Commission held anti-religious bias when concluding Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop violated Colorado civil rights law. Based on those narrow facts of the case, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the decision against Phillips. The Klein petition was filed by the Texasbased law firm First Liberty in October and been pending before the Supreme Court for eight months. Kelly Shackelford, CEO of chief counsel of First Liberty, said in a statement the U.S. Supreme Court’s action “is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans.” “The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government,” Shackelford said. “The message from the court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.” In 2013, Rachel Bowman-Cryer, who was in same-sex relationship with Laurel BowmanCryer, came with her mother to Sweetcakes and, after an initial tasting, requested a wedding cake for a commitment ceremony. (Oregon
Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer requested a wedding cake for a commitment ceremony, triggering the Oregon case.
hadn’t yet legalized same-sex marriage.) Aaron Klein, who there to conduct the tasting, refused them the service on the basis that baking a wedding cake would be inconsistent with his religious beliefs. In subsequent exchange with Rachel’s mother, Aaron Klein quoted Leviticus from the Bible and said homosexual relationships were an “abomination.” According to Lambda Legal, Aaron and Melissa Klein knew the Bowman-Cryers were a same-sex couple before the 2013 tasting based on an experience two years before that time when they bought a cake for the wedding of Rachel’s mother. Melissa Klein had invited the couple for a tasting anyway before eventually refusing them service. The Bowman-Cryers filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries asserting Sweetcakes had violated Oregon’s human rights law, which bars anti-gay discrimination in public accommodations, and fined the couple $135,000. The administrative court cited Aaron Klein disparaging the couple’s relationship as an “abomination” and posting on Facebook page the couple complaint, which listed their address and phone number, in reaching the decision for the $135,000 fine. The administrative court also issued a cease and desist order, which Aaron and Melissa Klein interpreted as a gag order preventing them from talking about their beliefs. Melissa Klein and her spouse Aaron asserted the penalty put their company Sweetcakes out of business. (However, according to the Washington Times, the
couple raised $352,500 through crowdsourcing as a result of donations from religious sympathizers.) The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the decision from the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries. Last year, the Oregon Supreme Court declined to review the petition, which prompted First Liberty to file the petition for certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court. Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer and legal director for Lambda Legal, said the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to outright dismiss the petition is “obviously frustrating” and justices could have made things easier with simply a detail of certiorari. “Rachel and Laurel, the couple who is at the center of this case, has been in the middle of all of this so many years that it would have been wonderful from our perspective for this chapter to finally come to an end and for the Oregon decision vindicating their right to be free from discrimination [to stand] to allow them to bring closure to the case,” McGowan said. McGowan said it was important not to lose focus on the couple that was denied service at Sweetcakes when they entered the business expecting the same kind of treatment as any other couple seeking a wedding cake. “At the end of the day, it’s just important to remember that it’s about a couple who experienced…not only dignitary harm, but the larger stigma of walking into a business that is supposedly open to all and being told that we don’t serve your kind,” McGowan said. “There’s nothing wrong with applying non-discrimination laws to ensure that
businesses are open to all. The Supreme Court seems to making something much harder than it needs to be, when, in fact, it really seems to be a very straightforward application of well-settled legal principles.” The U.S. Supreme Court’s action in the Klein case is similar to what the Supreme Court did with a petition filed by a Washington State florist, Barronelle Stutzman, who similarly sought a First Amendment right to refuse to supply floral arrangements to a samesex wedding. After the U.S. Supreme Court remanded her petition and vacated the state ruling against Stutzman, the Washington State Supreme Court earlier this month came to the same conclusion she violated Washington State’s LGBT non-discrimination law by refusing to serve floral arrangements in 2013 for a same-sex couple’s wedding. However, that is no assurance the Oregon Court of Appeals will reaffirm its decision against Aaron and Melissa Kline under the new guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court. Based on Aaron Klein’s reference to the Bible in calling homosexual relations on abomination, the record shows religiosity played a clar role in the incident between the business owners and the same-sex couple. Moreover, the $135,000 penalty levied against Aaron and Melissa Klein surprised some legal observers, who speculated the fine might be lowered upon re-evaluation of the case. McGowan, however, was confident Oregon would reaffirm its decision and said she’s “not aware” of anything in the case that would stop the state from reaching the same conclusion it reached before. “I think that their analysis below was extremely thorough, and, I think, in many ways should have been put to rest any of the concerns that the court found in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case,” McGowan said. “To the extent that they want to ask them to go back just show their work and make absolutely sure that there’s nothing to be concerned about,” McGowan added, “I have no doubt that they will do it, but I don’t think that there’s any reason for us to be concerned that the Oregon Court of Appeals, which is where this was remanded back, will have any reason to revisit its underlying conclusion in that case.”
12 • JUNE 21, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Blade granted access to ICE trans detainee unit in N.M. Former detainees allege racist treatment, medical neglect By MICHAEL K. LAVERS MILAN, N.M. — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last week for the first time granted reporters access to a unit created specifically for transgender women who are in their custody. Reporters from the Washington Blade; the Associated Press; Univision and KFOX, a television station in El Paso, Texas, toured the unit at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M. ICE Assistant Field Office Director William Jepsen, who is based in Albuquerque, led the tour. Cibola County Correctional Center Assistant Warden Betty Judd and Corey A. Price, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in El Paso, were among those who accompanied the reporters alongside ICE spokespeople Danielle Bennett and Leticia Zamarripa. The reporters were not allowed to speak with individual detainees and were not granted access to the unit in which detainees are held in solitary confinement. The reporters were also not allowed to bring telephones or recording devices into the facility. Jepsen showed the reporters “asylum hallway” with five attorney visitation rooms for detainees. There are also two videoconference rooms off the corridor that allow detainees to attend court hearings remotely. Twenty-seven trans women were in the unit when the reporters toured it. The detainees sleep in dorm-style bunkbeds that are in rooms without doors that open into a common area with tables and chairs, a television, a microwave, telephones, sinks and showers with curtains on them. The unit also has its own outside recreation area where six detainees were playing volleyball with a male staffer from the Cibola County Correctional Center when the reporters were there. Detainees stood along the wall as the
A trans woman eats inside a unit for trans detainees in ICE custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., on June 6.
staffer told the reporters they have planted flowers in a small garden that was a few feet away from them. Other staffers said during the tour the detainees also have access to Zumba classes, an arts and crafts program and classes at the unit’s beauty salon. A Univision newscast with a story about the Trump administration’s agreement with Mexico to stop migrants from entering the U.S. was on a television in one of the unit’s day rooms during the tour. Bulletin boards throughout the unit had notices that detailed schedules for laundry and religious services. One flyer had a Kosher food menu that included a lunch with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, canned vegetables, bread or crackers, fresh or canned fruit, Droxie cookies and beverages. Posters in English and Spanish that read, “ICE has zero-tolerance for sexual abuse” and “Are you detained and separated from your child/children?” were visible throughout the facility. One poster read, “I have a right to be treated fairly, regardless of my sexual orientation or gender identity.” Signs above
the entrance to each unit read, “opposite gender must announce upon entry.” Reporters also visited a gymnasium with basketball hoops and exercise equipment. Judd said the trans detainees have access to it and a large, outdoor recreation yard with a track and soccer field. “This affords them the opportunity to come outside each day to get some fresh air,” she said. The reporters also visited the facility’s medical unit, which has exam rooms, dental suites and areas where detainees with Tuberculosis and other communicable diseases can be isolated. “We stay busy, but we enjoy what we do,” said Cibola County Correctional Center Health Services Administrator Wendy Baca. CoreCivic, a private company that was once known as the Corrections Corporation of America, operates the minimum-security men’s facility that is roughly 80 miles west of Albuquerque in rural Cibola County. The facility also houses cisgender men who are in the custody of ICE, the U.S. Marshals and Cibola County. The trans unit opened in 2017 after ICE’s
contract with the Santa Ana Jail in Orange County, Calif., which had a unit only for trans detainees, ended. Judd told the reporters the trans unit can house up to 60 detainees at a time. Wednesday’s visit took place less than 13 months after Roxsana Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV who had been briefly detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center, died in ICE custody at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque. Alejandra, a prominent trans rights activist from El Salvador who has been in ICE custody since 2017, remains detained at the facility. Nicole García Aguilar, a trans Honduran woman who the U.S. has granted asylum, was released from the Cibola County Correctional Center on Wednesday. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman from El Salvador, died at an El Paso hospital on June 1, shortly after ICE released her from their custody. Medina had been detained at the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M. A dozen gay men and trans women who were in ICE custody at the same facility earlier this year alleged they suffered abuse while in detention. The Blade on Tuesday spoke with three trans women from Mexico and El Salvador who were previously detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center. Johely, who was born in Mexico’s Nayarit state, said during an interview at the offices of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, an Albuquerque-based organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants, she was in ICE custody at the facility from Aug. 19, 2018, to Jan. 25. Johely told the Blade she did not receive adequate treatment for her Type 2 diabetes and the facility’s medical personnel “do not have the resources to give medications.” Johely said the facility’s staff were “very racist” and “not trained to care for a transgender person.” Johely and the other two trans women — Ginger, who was released from ICE custody on Monday, and Daniela, who left the facility on June 7, — also complained about the facility’s food. “We are lucky to leave this place alive,” Johely told the Blade.
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14 • JUNE 21, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 03 ISSUE 25
People with disabilities battle forced intimacy, ableism ‘We have a long way to go before Pride events are accessible’ By BELO CIPRIANI It’s a sad truth that when it comes to disability etiquette and norms, many people and organizations fall short on the awareness scale. And perhaps it’s this very lack of understanding that pushes ablebodied individuals to constantly ask people with disabilities intimate questions about their conditions, no matter the place, time or circumstance. For Mia Mingus, who had polio as an infant, and has had her share of inquiries about her physical disability from the public, humor has been a way to deal with all the questioning. She tells people: “I fell out of an airplane” or “I was attacked by a tiger.” But all laughs aside, the 38-year-old queer writer and community educator from Oakland shares that her sense of safety is probably the biggest factor in dictating how she deals with the questioning. “I am constantly assessing my environment, the people around me, and the relationships I have to them, when navigating any kind of oppression or threat of violence. For example,” she continues, “for the ever-persistent, ‘what’s wrong with
you?,’ I often reply, ‘nothing, what is wrong with you?’ Or, sometimes I just say, ‘I have a disability,’ and end it there. These are all when I am in situations where it is safe enough for me to do so, because often times it is not safe.” Mingus explains that able-bodied people can feel entitled to the time and attention of people with disabilities, and if they don’t receive it, they can get angry or even violent. She says, “Similarly to the ways in which men and masculine people feel entitled to women, femmes and feminine people’s time, attention, and labor, when we say ‘no’ or do not comply, there are serious consequences we may face.” Whether intentional or not, Mingus points out forced intimacy dehumanizes people with disabilities. It helps to normalize ableism — the system of oppression that gives people superiority based on physical and mental ability. “Ableism created and depends on the binary of ‘able-bodied’ and ‘disabled.’ Ableism is connected to, and mutually dependent with, other forms of oppression and violence,” says Mingus. In the LGBTQ community, Mingus believes that ableism is palpable and contributes to the exclusion of people with disabilities, especially at Pride events. “I think we have a long way to go before Pride events are accessible, because it is not
only the logistical access, which definitely has a long way to go, but it is also the culture of ableism as well,” she says. To combat forced intimacy and ableism, Mingus suggests people explore their ablebodied privilege. She says, “For starters, abled queer people can do their own work to learn about and understand disability, ableism, access and, most importantly, their abled privilege and how it connects to heterosexism, the gender binary, homophobia, transphobia, and trans misogyny.” “At this point,” Mingus adds, “there are countless resources for those who are interested in learning. There are activists you can follow on social media, who routinely share educational resources, articles and posts. There are also queer and/ or other social justice groups that they can find that have not only created material on this, but also have incorporated changes into their work.” You can learn more about Mia Mingus’ work on her website at leavingevidence. wordpress.com.
Belo Cipriani is a disability advocate, an awardwinning journalist, the prize-winning author of ‘Blind: A Memoir and Midday Dreams,’ and the spokesperson for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Learn more at belocipriani.com.
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JUNE 21, 2019 • 15
Sanders tries Hail Mary pass to save candidacy But speech on Democratic Socialism falls ﬂat
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.
Bernie Sanders’s campaign announced he was going to make a speech laying out the argument for why Democratic Socialism is right for the United States. After reading the speech he gave at the George Washington University in D.C., I agree with those who believe Sanders effectively ended his quest for the presidency. The speech appeared to have been a ‘Hail Mary’ pass not caught by the voters. While polling in primaries, especially national polling, means little apparently the Sanders campaign team was reading the tea leaves and concluded without some miracle his candidacy is basically over and his time has
passed. As reported in the New York Times, “Mr. Sanders, 77, declared that his version of socialism was a political winner, having lifted Mr. Roosevelt to victory four times and powered his own career in government. They also said he did this “while tying his presidential campaign to the legacies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.” Sanders declared, “Today in the second decade of the 21st century, we must take up the unﬁnished business of the New Deal and carry it to completion.” To paraphrase the words of a former senator from Texas, “Mr. Sanders, you are no Franklin Roosevelt and no Martin Luther King, Jr. and I had the honor of meeting and talking with Martin Luther King Jr.” Sanders said “he has overcome attacks on him for being a Democratic Socialist his entire career.” One must question what he accomplished while overcoming those attacks. He won an election as mayor of Burlington, a small town in Vermont, population 42,000, and was then elected to the House of Representatives from Vermont in 1991 and to the Senate in 2007. He has served in Congress for more than 28 years and his most well-known legislation is the renaming of post offices in Vermont. It is known he was originally elected by cozying
up to the National Riﬂe Association. I have no issue with some of the things Sanders wants to get done, including raising the minimum wage and having universal healthcare or as he calls his version of it Medicare-for-All. Yet after all his years in Congress he has never understood how to effectively make progress in Congress toward his goals. Changes to our system have always come incrementally and Sanders refuses to recognize that or be willing to work that way. From his speech it’s clear he doesn’t acknowledge Franklin Roosevelt was elected at a very different time in our history and it comes across as ludicrous that he might be comparing himself in any way to MLK, Jr. who had incredible charisma and could actually get people to work with him. Sanders is more inclined to yell at people rather than trying to bring them along with him. Sanders has never been able to get Americans to distinguish between socialism and Democratic Socialism or what being a Social Democrat means. The speech he gave did nothing to help their understanding of that. In fact it will likely result in hurting the Democratic Party and all their candidates because it will be used against them by the Republican Party to wrongly confuse being a ‘progressive’ with being a ‘Socialist.’ Being a progressive and wanting to provide a public option for Americans to get
their healthcare does not make you a socialist and it doesn’t even make you a Democratic Socialist. Wanting a good public education system does not make you a socialist. In fact if Sanders looked at the history of our public education system he would understand Americans have always fought any kind of national control over education, which is why some call our education system the last real ‘mom and pop’ business in the nation. When it comes to healthcare, in 1992 Hillary Clinton fought for universal healthcare, which was dubbed Hillarycare. It went down to ignominious defeat never gaining traction in Congress. She understood then what Americans were able to grasp with regard to change and began to move incrementally. She gets credit for Congress passing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). President Obama won his version of ‘progressive’ healthcare, the Affordable Care Act by one vote in Congress and it was mainly responsible for Democrats losing Congress in the 2010 mid-term elections. It took eight years for Americans to fully understand the value of ‘Obamacare’ and when they did Republicans found they were unable to repeal it. Sanders will eventually be a footnote in history. Let’s hope in 2020 he will not screw the eventual Democratic nominee as he did in 2016.
Dishy drag docu-series is a ‘Werq’ of wonder A 10-part look at world tour of RuPaul’s queens By SCOTT STIFFLER
Dense with dish and details, ‘Werq the World’ takes you behind the scenes, and beyond. Photo courtesy of World of Wonder
Put aside the fabulous dresses, formidable heels, life-giving lipsynching skills, and the ability to delight legions of fans night after night—and the queens of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are just like you and me. They have their good days and bad, and who they really are is tucked somewhere between the work clothes they show to the world, and the naked truth seen in unguarded moments. That’s the tasty, oftentimes touching, takeaway, when viewing any given installment of “Werq the World’’ — director Jasper Rischen’s deliciously RuVealing 10-part docu-series, airing weekly on WOW Presents Plus through Aug. 8. Filmed with the blessing of “Drag Race” production company World of Wonder (WOW)—and all the unfettered access that goes with it— the series chronicles 2018’s May/June European “Werq the World” tour, which featured Alyssa Edwards, Shangela, Valentina, Latrice Royale, Sharon Needles, Kim Chi, Detox, Violet Chachki, Aquaria, and Kennedy Davenport. Each queen just mentioned gets their own stand-alone episode, but the whole group inevitably shows up during the course of any given installment, to varying degrees of interaction with the main attraction. (A consequences-be-damned gesture of support from Violet Chachki, for
A M E R I C A’ S
example, looms large in Valentina’s episode, which does a particularly good job at lifting the veil on what goes down before, during, and after those meet-and-greets with fans.) From waking up at ungodly hours to afternoon tech rehearsals in an unfamiliar venue to slaying it in performance to post-show shenanigans to tour bus bonding with fellow queens (and the occasional bunkmate picked up along the way), each installment seems much longer than its 35-minute runtime—and that’s a compliment. But like the “overnight success” of a girl who makes it to “Drag Race,” Rischen’s epic project didn’t announce itself to the world out of thin air. “I started doing a couple little video projects for World of Wonder about a year and a half ago,” Rischen recalls. “The first thing they had me do was make a couple ‘Day in the Life’ shorts of some of their queens,” including Gia Gunn and Aja. WOW liked the fly on the wall style of what they saw, and invited Rischen in for a meeting, during which it was proposed he turn his eye for detail on the queens slated for WOW’s upcoming summer tour. Other than that, specifics were sparse. “It was a blank state mission,” Rischen says, other than the directive to “come back with, like, six to eight episodes of 10 minutes [each].” Originally, the plan was to make “an episode per city. You know—the
Berlin episode, the Paris episode, the Spain episode. But the reality of touring is, you are never on time. You do not see the outside world. If you think there was going to be a cute scene where the queens go to the Eiﬀel Tower, there’s just no time. You’re inside buses, inside theaters, getting whisked from hotels… Based on that, and coupled with the fact that I realized all these girls have their super-unique fan bases that are going to want to see everything that was shot, it wasn’t until I was on the way back that I came up with the idea to do one episode per queen, to isolate their story on the tour.” Rischen returned to WOW and “was like, ‘Guys, I think I can do something much bigger than this.’ ” To WOW’s credit, Rischen says, “they sort of let the story lead to 10 episodes.” Of the disorienting experience of moving from country to country, town to town, Rischen says, “You’re in this together, on these insanely long days, sometimes 17-19 hours. Whenever I wanted to complain about getting up at 5 AM, I would look at these queens. They still have to get into makeup for three or four hours, then bust their asses on stage. I got a lot of respect for how hard they work, and I hope that’s something that these fans take away.” Among the standout moments, Rischen cites the Latrice Royale episode, in which her luggage got lost on the way to Finland. (“The one time we took a ﬂight,” Rischen notes, as opposed to the omnipresent tour bus.) Undaunted, the reality sets in that, “We’re not gonna ﬁnd her type or size or color, because it’s the land of white people,” Rischen recalls, noting, “She does the show out of drag, and ﬁnds a way to still make it work, and the crowd just goes bizonkers… That really resonated with me, because as Latrice said [a week before the luggage incident, regarding another potential disaster], ‘The show must, and will, go on.’ ” As for the show going on past its current run, there’s plenty of footage that had to be consigned to the cutting room ﬂoor, but could supply future drag fans with a sense of herstory and hindsight. “I made a bunch of all these really fun outtakes, these funny moments that didn’t really ﬁt anywhere [in the series],” Rischen says, “and I think our press team has some of that to work with—but it would be nice to let some of these moments just sit in the vault, and maybe in ﬁve to 10 years, take the lid oﬀ and see what’s still there. But I have deﬁnitely ﬁled a couple of hours of those outtakes aside for future use:” Fans of the current show won’t have to wait that long to get their next ﬁx of fabulousness. “I’ll have to conﬁrm this, but I’m pretty sure,” Rischen says, of plans to document September’s U.S. Werq the World tour, which is slated to feature “half the same cast, and half a new cast. Some of the girls of Season 11 are coming on, so it will be interesting to get some new gals into the mix.” Asked about his hopes for viewer takeaways from the series, Rischen says he wants fans to solidify the notion that the drag queens “are human behind these characters, and know that they work really hard for you. So the next time you think of typing up something mean, you’ll think twice.”
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JUNE 21 2019 • 17
18 • JUNE 21, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Soccer star takes gender-queer journey in campy ‘Diamantino’ An off-kilter pop-candy joyride with abs By JOHN PAUL KING
‘Diamantino’ is the story of its title character and narrator (Carloto Cotta), a soccer-playing superstar savant whose simple-minded perspective leads him on an odyssey of discovery.
As Western culture moves ever closer to resembling the dystopian future envisioned by its imaginative fiction, it seems inevitable that a tale would emerge depicting a dystopian present. What is more unlikely is that it would be a campy, queercentric, gender-bending and transgressive social satire about the adventures of an international soccer star who wins matches with the help of imaginary giant dogs; yet that is exactly what is served up by “Diamantino,” a quirky and fantastical film that won two of its three nominations at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, and opens in Los Angeles (at the Landmark Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd) on June 28. Written and directed by Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt, it’s the story of its title character and narrator (Carloto Cotta), a soccer-playing superstar savant whose simple-minded perspective leads him on an odyssey of discovery after a career-ending disgrace forces him to find a new purpose in his life. Looking beyond his privileged boundaries, his eyes are opened to the plight of refugees, and he longs to find a way to help them; unfortunately for him, his identical-twin sisters (Anabela and Margarida Moreira) take advantage of his good intentions and naiveté to ensnare him in a diabolical plot to embezzle his massive soccer-star fortune while tricking him into becoming the subject of genetic experimentation by a secret neo-Fascist cadre planning to overthrow the EU. Meanwhile, a young secret service officer (Cleo Tavares), tasked alongside her partner and lover (Maria Leite) with investigating allegations of financial misconduct, goes undercover as a refugee orphan in order to get closer to Diamantino, and finds herself connecting with her suspect in unexpected ways as she is drawn with him deeper into the web of intrigue and conspiracy built around the cult of his dimwitted personality. It’s a lot for a 90-minute movie to bite off, let alone to chew properly, without being choked by the sheer volume of its appetite – or at least it would be if had been the undertaking of a mainstream Hollywood-style project, too close to the volatile cauldron of celebrity, popularity and public opinion it lampoons to take it on with any real honesty. “Diamantino” is not that movie, however. Instead, this unique production from Portugal, France and Brazil (the dialogue moves between Portuguese and English, with subtitles) handles it all with a light touch, distilling the weighty contemporary issues it explores – the rise of Nationalism, the weaponization of social media, and the accelerated evolution of our relationship with sexuality and gender, to name just a few – into the simple (not simplistic) threads of a trope-dependent, vaguely retro sci-fi thriller. The result is a refreshingly off-kilter pop-candy joyride, with a glossy visual style that both masks and complements the sly cultural commentary running deep beneath its giddily banal surface. With seeming inspiration from cinematic forebears like Hitchcock, Pasolini, Jodorowsky and Roger Vadim, Abrantes and Schmidt immerse us in a viewpoint on our own world that makes it feel like a futuristic fantasy; from the hazy, cotton-candy fluff of the enormous pink puppies romping around Diamantino on the soccer field to the exotic B-movie trappings of the secret lab of the “mad scientist” into whose clutches he is eventually manipulated, everything we see has the heightened sensibility of a cinematic imagination coupled
with the wide-eyed perspective of a man-child being led, like the Fool in the Tarot, along the eternal precipice of a cliff by some inner guide symbolized in canine form. Added to this mix, of course, is the more sophisticated point of view that we, the audience, bring with us, from which we can see the forces at work around our hero with the clearer eye of a more realistic, if more cynical, observer. The ingredient that gives “Diamantino” its most potent flavor, though, arguably offers a glimmer of hope to which even the most jaded social critics among us might be able to cling. Without giving any spoilers, the pulpy narrative goes unabashedly into the territory of sexual taboo, as Diamantino’s journey leads him to explore both his erotic nature and his gender identity. It’s this aspect of the story that ultimately pulls it toward its ambiguously happy ending; by abandoning traditional sexuality, perhaps the most deeply ingrained of the binary systems that fuel the us-and-them mentality behind all the conflict of our embattled world, it suggests that the current revolution of thought and being around “normative” sex and gender roles offers a path to escape the illusion of duality that keeps our lives bound inside strictly-drawn lines most of us would secretly love to disregard. Another layer that might go unnoticed – or at least, undernoticed – by American audiences less indoctrinated than the rest of the world into the cult of soccer, is the way “Diamantino” sends up the idolatry that surrounds its stars, and one of them in particular; the title character is a cartoon-ized fictionalization of Portuguese champ Christiano Reynoldo, down to the mass-merchandizing of his image and the accidental homoeroticism of the ad campaign for his underwear brand. Star Cotta has even said that, knowing he would be portraying a character based on Ronaldo, he embarked on a rigorous training regimen designed not to make him better at soccer, but to give him a well-defined six-pack – something for which Ronaldo is famous, and that appropriately encapsulates the fetishization of image in the world of popular culture. That six-pack, along with other well-trained features of his physique, are certainly appreciated as part of Cotta’s screen presence, but he brings a lot more than pulchritude to the role; sexy yet sexless, the childlike innocence he projects through his charming performance is authentic enough to make us forget that Diamantino is essentially the ultimate elitist viewing the world from inside his narcissistic bubble. The twin Moreira sisters, like transplants from an unrealized John Waters project, are deliciously over-the-top in their turn as a pair of toxic Euro-socialites, and Carla Maciel is memorable as the icily alluring, wheelchair-bound radical geneticist, Dr. Lamborghini. Of course, no one goes to a movie like “Diamantino” for the performances, but the fact that they are pitch-perfect to the film’s tricky tone goes a long way toward making sure Abrantes and Schmidt realize their vision; though they’ve employed the milieu of an exploitation film for their artful cultural allegory, they ensure that all the elements are used purposefully, from deadpan acting to low-tech special effects. Like the best pop art, their movie lulls our eyes into bland submission while it fills our brains with subliminal ideas to be examined later – or not, as we choose. “Diamantino” stands up to either approach – as an example of slightly elevated escapist fluff, it sets its own standard, but for those with a taste for something more substantial, it’s more than able to deliver the goods.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JUNE 21, 2019 • 19
Some of the buzziest films from the world’s top film festivals are headed to this year’s Outfest, part of the just-announced full lineup for its 37th edition. A slew of unique special events are also on tap, as is a shift in home base for the fest, to Hollywood’s historic TCL Chinese Theatres. Kicking off as usual with a gala premiere at DTLA’s Orpheum Theatre, LA’s LGBTQ film festival will open on Thursday, July 18 with Circus of Books, a saucy and moving new documentary that’s fresh from its triumphant world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. With its local and longbeloved subject matter — the sadly recently-shuttered Circus of Books emporium of gay erotica on Santa Monica Boulevard — the doc is a natural prologue to this year’s Outfest. Several more of the year’s most exciting global film festival hits will also be coming to Outfest, often with their talented creators and casts in tow. From Sundance, there’s Martha Stephens’ To the Stars, a 1960s Oklahoma teen girl love story featuring Malin Åkerman and Tony Hale; Centerpiece screenings Adam (Rhys Ernst’s boundary-pushing dramedy/romance involving mistaken trans identity) and This is Not Berlin (Hari Sama’s 1980s gay punk coming of age story from Mexico); and Closing Night film Before You Know It, an endearingly offbeat comedy starring Hannah Pearl Ult (who also wrote and directed) as part of a dysfunctional family trying to run a small New York theater. From Tribeca comes Centerpiece screening Changing the Game, showcasing how trans athletes across the nation are shifting the face of high school sports. Hits from this year’s Berlin International Film Festival include Brief Story from the Green Planet, the Argentine story of a young trans woman who comes to the aid of an extraterrestrial, which took the Teddy Award for Best LGBTQ Feature; and A Dog Barking at the Moon, Chinese director Xiang Li’s semiautographical family drama involving a father’s long-hidden gay affair, which took the Teddy Jury Award. And from SxSW, Outfest will screen two Audience Award winners: Saint Frances, about a young nanny working for a lesbian couple who faces an unwanted pregnancy; and The Garden Left Behind, about a young trans woman and her grandmother who navigate life as undocumented immigrants in New York City. Outfest 2019 will also be hosting nearly 30 world premieres, including Rodrigo Bellott’s poignant Tu Me Manques, inspired by his hugely successful Bolivian play; Elegance Bratton’s documentary Pier Kids, which traces several years in the lives of queer and trans youth of color who gather on New York City’s Christopher Street Pier; and Megan Rossman’s The Archivettes, a profile of New York’s Lesbian Herstory Archives and the personal lives of the women involved with it. North American premieres at this year’s Outfest will include the documentary Queer Japan, revealing the multiplicity of shades of that country’s queer rainbow; Label Me, tracing the power struggle in a relationship between a Syrian refugee and a German man; and Sequin in a Blue Room, following an Australian teenager’s dangerous quest to find a stranger with whom he had a memorable encounter at a sex party. Outfest will also include numerous special events this year that are sure to be hot tickets, including the LA premiere of Kino Lorder’s restoration of the seminal 1967 documentary The Queen, featuring Flawless Sabrina and Crystal Labeija; a 30th anniversary screening of Marlon Riggs’ groundbreaking celebration of Black gay love Tongues Untied; and the 3rd annual Trans Summit, with keynote speaker Angelica Ross from FX’s Pose. Shifting away from its longtime hub of the Directors Guild, Outfest moves its main center of focus this year to the TCL Chinese Theatres on Hollywood Boulevard. Outfest’s edgy and muchadored Platinum Series will also get a new home base this year, in the shape of DTLA’s Museum of Contemporary Art. And after its return last year following a venue renovation hiatus, Outfest’s popular Under the Stars series is back again this year at the Ford Theatres, with sure-to-sell-out events like a live performance by RuPaul’s Drag Race queen Trixie Mattel, followed by a screening of the new documentary Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts; a conversation with comedian and iconic LGBTQ ally Kathy Griffin, followed by a screening of the new concert film Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story; and a screening of the new documentary Sid & Judy, offering a glimpse into the life of Judy Garland through the eyes of her third husband, Sid Luft. For the second year in a row, more than two thirds of Outfest’s content has been directed by women, people of color and trans filmmakers. “Our communities have long been advocating for this inclusion,” says Christopher Racster, who marks the end of his tenure as Outfest’s Executive Director this year. “A remarkable filmmaker like Nisha Ganatra, our Achievement Award recipient, should have so many more features to her credit, in the two decades that have elapsed between her awardwinning first film and her current box-office smash Late Night. Outfest Los Angeles continues to shine a spotlight on those stories we must see and those creatives whose voices we need to hear.” Outfest 2019 will run through Sunday, July 18. Tickets go on sale to Outfest members on June 20, and to the general public on June 24. For the full festival lineup and to purchase memberships and tickets, go to outfest.org.
Outfest set to shine on Hollywood Boulevard Lineup for 37th queer year shows why it’s now one of LA’s top film festivals By DAN ALLEN
Kara Hayward and Liana Liberato in a scene from ‘To The Stars,’ one of the festival’s top offerings. Photo Courtesy Outfest
20 • JUNE 21, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Pride on the Port of Los Angeles
About 2,500 people turned out for the first-ever Pride on the Port of Los Angeles, replete with a Cher concert and a lot of beautiful people. Photo courtesy Pride on the Port of Los Angeles
US Bank Celebrates Pride 2019
Members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles serenade honorees at US Bank’s new LGBT flagship branch on Santa Monica Boulevard. Honorees were Christopher Street West Executive Director Madonna Cacciatore, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marquita Thomas, West Hollywood Cake & Art owner Tom Rosa and Mark Lehman of the AIDS Monument.
LA City Council and City Hall Celebrate Pride 2019
Lorri Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, receives an honor from Los Angeles County on June 12 at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo provided by Los Angeles City Council
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JUNE 21, 2019 • 21
Madonna’s new album “Madame X,” released Friday, is many things — an alter ego, a love letter to Portugal, a multicultural musical patch work, a wild and daring musical experiment and also her best effort since “Confessions on a Dance Floor” (2005). “Madame X is a secret agent,” she says. “Traveling around the world. Changing identities. Fighting for freedom. Bringing light to dark places. She is a dancer. A professor. A head of state. A housekeeper. An equestrian. A prisoner. A student. A mother. A child. A teacher. A nun. A singer. A saint. A whore. A spy in the house of love.” The nickname was given to her by famed dance instructor Martha Graham, who was her teacher at 19, because she would come to class each day with a different identity. Clearly that moniker stuck with Madonna and through Madame X, she remains a creative force with something to say. The opening track is the Latin-infused “Medellin” featuring Colombian rapper Maluma. When compared to the other offerings on the album, this comes off as one of the weaker tracks. Why this was released as the lead single is as big a mystery as to why Madonna has chosen to wear a diamondencrusted eye patch as high fashion. But since it’s been a national pastime to question or criticize Madonna’s choices, fans have learned to buckle up and weather the ride with her, for better or worse. Perhaps it’s fitting that she sings “Let’s take a trip” in this opener because that is exactly what’s in store. As the “cha-cha-cha” of Medellin fades into the bleak start of “Dark Ballet,” Madonna sings with forceful confidence about how she can dress like a boy and dress like a girl and, ironically, how our world is “obsessed with fame.” It then takes an abrupt left turn into a cascading piano solo that spills right into an electronic rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite.” Where is this going? Her bizarre tongue-in-cheek declamation midway through asks, “Can’t you hear outside of your Supreme hoodie, the wind that’s beginning to howl?” We’re not done. It then make a swift U-turn back to the original composition and quietly ends with Madonna imitating the wind by repeatedly blowing air from her lips because “the storm isn’t in the air, it’s inside of us.” Provocative pop art brilliance or extreme hot mess? Whatever it is, the song (and accompanying music video) is a bold statement of extreme artistic expression unprecedented by Madonna and is the first of several standout tracks. Much like “Dark Ballet,” “God Control” starts off slow, but soon switches gears with colorful twists and turns before coming to an exhilarating end.This is arguably the best track on the album. “Everybody knows the damn truth/Our nation lied and lost respect,” Madonna sings through gritted teeth (or was she just wearing her grills?) and “I think I understand why people get a gun/I think I understand why we all give up.” While no stranger to political commentary on past projects, the stark frankness in these lyrics make the statements from “American Life” sound like “Like a Virgin.” When it breaks into a church choir singing “We lost God control,” a breath can barely be caught before jumping into an infectious swirling disco beat perfectly fit for dance floor consumption, all while Madonna repeatedly urges us to “wake up.” When she whispers, “everybody knows the damn truth,” it sounds incredibly similar to her 2001 club hit “Impressive Instant” from “Music.” These elements successfully blend together to produce her best dance track since “Hung Up.”
If “Music” and “American Life” had a baby with “Confessions on a Dance Floor” as its stepmother, it would be the midtempo treasure “I Don’t Search I Find.” There are strong references to her 1991 single “Rescue Me” due to carefully placed finger snaps and assertive spoken-word verses during the bridge before exclamations of “Finally enough love.” The comparisons to her earlier albums are easily made due to the heavy presence of Mirwais Ahmadzai, who produced and co-wrote six tracks on “Madame X,” five tracks “Music,” and virtually everything on “American Life,” which makes “Madame X” feel like the third entry in an album trilogy. “Crave” (with Swae Lee) is the most radio friendly of the pack, which is why it is currently climbing Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. Unlike “Medellin,” where Maluma’s solo parts dominate, the contributions of Swae Lee are evenly placed and end up as the best vocal collaboration on the album. “Crazy” is the unexpected earworm of “Madame X.” When, if ever, have you heard an accordion in a pop song outside of a Weird Al parody? The chorus pounds into your head in a good way and at one point Madonna sings “I bent my knees for your like a prayer” which is not the only “Like a Prayer” nod within this album. “Batuka” and “Faz Gostoso” are the most notable examples of the influence Portugal has injected into Madonna since she moved to Lisbon early last year. With thundering drums and an eclectic mix of instruments and voices courtesy of Afro-Portuguese group Orquestra de Batukadeiras, “Batuka” comes off like a fabulous jam session. Madonna sings “Get that old man/Put him in a jail.” Is she talking about Trump? One can only assume as much. “Faz Gostoso,” which in Portuguese translates to “makes delicious,” features Brazilian singer Anitta. It is not quite as good as “Batuka,” but still fun. While nothing completely falls flat, there are some tracks that don’t shine as brightly as others. “Bitch I’m Loca” (not to be confused with “Rebel Heart’s” “Bitch I’m Madonna”) is the first that comes to mind. Did we really need another flirty collaboration with Maluma? The reggae-drenched “Future” (released as a promotional single last month) has Madonna trading verses with American rapper Quavo. While not entirely out of place nor as unnecessary as “Bitch I’m Loca,” it remains a shadow to the light of the other tracks surrounding it. “Killers Who Are Partying” enters martyrdom territory with lyrics like “I will be gay if the gay are burned” and “I will be Islam if Islam is hated.” It goes on and on, ending with “I’ll be a woman if she is raped and her heart is breaking.” The empowering album closer “I Rise” was, in Madonna’s own words, written “as a way of giving a voice to all marginalized people who feel they don’t have the opportunity to speak their mind. This year is the 50th anniversary of Pride and I hope this song encourages all individuals to be who they are, to speak their minds and to love themselves.” Not without political commentary, the track opens with the voice of Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez. The deluxe edition includes bonus tracks “Looking for Mercy” and “Extreme Occident,” while the deluxe box set further includes “Funana”, “Back That Up to the Beat”, and “Ciao Bella,” The most interesting of the bonus tracks is “Funana” where late icons Whitney Houston, George Michael, Prince, and Aretha Franklin (among others) are name dropped in a “Vogue”-style memoriam.
‘X’ marks the spot for daring new Madonna album Multicultural musical patchwork her best effort in years By ROBBIE BARNETT
Madonna taps eclectic and varied influences for her new album ‘Madame X.’ Photo courtesy Interscope
22 • JUNE 21, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Mayor Pete needs an STD screening? And the ‘9 to 5’ sequel is moving along By BILLY MASTERS
A former member of the Indiana House has attacked Mayor Pete Buttigieg, suggesting he’s unhealthy because he’s gay. Photo by Sheila_F / Courtesy Bigstock
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“Gay liberation? I ain’t against it. It’s just that there’s nothing in it for me!” - Bette Davis. Picture it: Dallas, sometime in the late ‘90s. A lithe, energetic, naturally blond Billy was cavorting in Dallas’s Oak Lawn gayborhood. After winning an amateur strip contest at Big Daddy’s (I believe one of the prizes was an hour or so with porn superstar Karl Thomas), I found myself next door at JR.’s. I took a shine to a bartender named Scott and spent the rest of the week with him - a pleasant enough time, except I had to repeatedly explain that there was only so much I could do with his penis, which just happened to be shaped like, well, like the unnatural part of Captain Hook’s anatomy. Frankly, it wasn’t worth getting carpal tunnel over. This stroll down Memory Lane is a propos of a news story that the manager of JR.’s Bar & Grill was ﬁred after refusing to serve a transgender woman. Unlike my Dallas encounters of yore, this one was captured on video, which led to the termination. The owner stated, “While our employees take every measure to ensure the safety of both staﬀ and patrons, any actions that are deemed contra to our beliefs and values as a company will not be tolerated. After reviewing the situation and gathering statements from the parties involved, the company has chosen to terminate the employee in question eﬀective immediately.” I do hope my dear Scott is no longer in the picture. I’m sure in the past 20 years, he’s moved on. He’s probably a plumber. After all, he already had the snake. A former member of the Indiana House of Representatives has attacked Mayor Pete Buttigieg for possibly being “too gay.” Don Boys’ post, called “Pete, Since You Brought It Up, How ‘Gay’ Are You?,” says that for Buttigieg to be a legitimate candidate for president, he must ﬁrst denounce both ﬁsting and rimming. Is that in the job description? ‘Cause I’m curious what Trump has denounced. Watersports spring to mind. Boys went further by stating, “Voters should know that a homosexual president may not live to ﬁnish his term.” I’ve got news for him - a few heterosexual presidents didn’t ﬁnish THEIR terms! Boys continues, “Moreover, 70 percent of homosexuals admit to having at least one STD plus they are infected with other contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc. About 20 percent of homosexual men are infected with HIV and about half of them do not know it. Don’t voters have a right, even an obligation, to know a candidate’s health status since the candidate’s health is always an issue? Is a homosexual candidate an exception? If so, why?” While I certainly cannot speak for the candidates, I’d venture to guess that Mayor Pete will allow an STD screening if Donald does. Although, Trump may get a bit too excited at the thought of Pete peeing! I went to several Pride-related events in Hollywood, including a book signing for Frank DeCaro’s encyclopedic volume, “Drag: Combing Through the Big Wigs of Show Business.” What an entertaining and informative book - certainly a “must” for anyone reading this column. Why, it is simply staggering the amount of information you learn. In addition to the current drag divas, I was interested in reading about the people who paved the way, because we all know that without drag queens, we’d have no Stonewall. The event I went to at Barnes & Noble at The Grove was standing room only and featured the grand dame of Los Angeles drag, Momma. On the dais we had Bruce Vilanch (who apparently is the go-to when it comes to writing material for men in drag on television), Alaska Thunderfuck, and the reigning Best in Drag, Reba Ariba. The panel discussion was fascinating (I’ll link to it on BillyMasters.com) and special celebs like Jack Plotnick, Melissa Peterman, Tom Lenk, Drew Droege, Carolyn Hennesy, and others made it truly a celebration. Go out and buy Frank’s book NOW! Let me take a moment to applaud The View for its LGBTQ+ Pride Month FYI. Each day in June, we learn about notable members of our community - just like they do during Black History Month. The more you know... Lily, Dolly and Jane still plan on reuniting for a “9 to 5” sequel. Last week, Dolly told CNN’s Robin Meade, “We’ve got two scripts and we’re waiting for the last rewrite. So as soon as we all sign oﬀ on that, I’d say in the next few months we’ll be in production.” A few months ago, Jane Fonda said the same thing. “Right now, Dolly, Lily and I are all intending to be in it.” Fingers crossed. Could it be that a network star is itching to come out? So say people in the know who tell me that the campy, coy cutie planned to say he’s family once he left a certain professional obligation behind. Since that has been delayed about a year, he’s biding his time. What hasn’t changed are plans for Halloween 2019 in West Hollywood, which will be a very big night for him and his buddies. After all, he’ll be out — and legal. Continues at losangelesblade.com