Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 32, August 9, 2019

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A U G U S T 0 9 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 3 2 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M



DeMaio runs for anti-LGBT Rep. Hunter’s seat Wants to ‘take back California’ for the Republicans By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Gay Republican radio talk show host Carl DeMaio announced Aug. 5 that he’s running to take the 50th congressional district seat now held by disgraced and wounded Trump-Pence handmaiden, notorious anti-LGBT Rep. Duncan Hunter, co-author of the original congressional effort to ban transgender service members from open service. With DeMaio, 44, Hunter now has five GOP challengers for his seat, though his ugly focus has solely been on his only Democratic challenger, Ammar Campa-Najjar, not his other primary rivals. Campa-Najjar lost to Hunter in 2018 by fewer than 4 points. “The polling shows Democrats could flip this seat if I didn’t run, and we simply CANNOT lose another seat in California

Carl DeMaio making announcement via Twitter

to the Democrats,” DeMaio says in a quick fundraising announcement. “Here’s the added benefit: we are going to use this campaign as the model for how Republicans can fight back in California and WIN. I’m going all-in on our 5-point Reform California agenda (stop the tax hikes, secure the border, stop Newsom’s socialist agenda, etc.) and we will be aggressive with ballot harvesting and grassroots canvassing. Plus, I’ll still be leading all of our initiatives

through Reform California! This will add the power of a Congressional seat to our arsenal.” DeMaio then asks for help to raise a “huge amount” in the first 72 hours “to show the Democrats we are STRONG enough to hold this seat!” DeMaio says in his fundraising email. “Can I count on your help to make this campaign the model for how we TAKE BACK California?” DeMaio is challenging his own Republican

Party not only in the primary for the 50th District seat but for a new way of thinking for the third-place GOP. “The old guard of California Republican leaders have shown they aren’t willing or able to lead the fight to take back our state from the Democrats – or worse, like Mr. Hunter, they are tied up in court facing criminal charges,” he continued. “Can I best help lead the fight by winning this US Congressional seat or by remaining on the airwaves and chairing Reform California? I’m grateful to all who have reached out to me with their input and words of encouragement on this important question.” Last month, a judge refused to throw out a 60-count federal corruption case against Hunter, 42, who is accused with his wife Margaret of misusing $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses. Margaret, whom Hunter blamed for their financial issues, accepted a plea deal to testify against him. Given the severity of the charges, Hunter may vacate his seat or be removed for cause, which would trigger a special election primary.

Lara opposes HHS rescinding trans ACA coverage 17 other state insurance commissioners join in criticizing Trump plan FROM STAFF REPORTS California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and insurance commissioners from 17 other states that serve as “the primary regulators of insurance markets in the United States” submitted a letter to Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar asking that the Trump-Pence administration abandon proposed rules changes to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act that would essentially give health insurance companies and healthcare providers a license to discriminate against transgender people. The rule change, the commissioners write, would “undermine the civil rights protections for millions of consumers,

generate confusion and an uneven playing field for regulated entities, and negatively affect state insurance markets.” Specifically, HHS’s rule change would “eliminate explicit nondiscrimination protections on sex, including gender identity and sex stereotyping,” wrote the commissioners in their second letter of opposition. In 2016, commissioners from California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Michigan, Oregon, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin wrote that these protections “are critical to state insurance markets and the consumers we serve.” “A look at the language of the 204-page proposed regulation reveals it would eliminate ‘gender identity’ the definition of sex under Section 1557 of Obamacare, and incorporate laws allowing health care providers to decline to perform abortion

into the non-discrimination regulation. The regulation also seeks to roll back protections for individuals seeking health care with limited English proficiency,” the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson wrote before the propose change was formerly introduced on June 14. That triggered a 60day public comment period that ends on Aug. 12. Lara and the other 17 state insurance commissioners say the protections are important and conform to state and local laws banning discrimination based on gender identity or transgender status. “Transgender people should have equal access to the same health insurance and care as every other insured American. This includes health care related to gender transition, which for years has been recognized by the medical community as medically effective and necessary for many individuals, as well as routine tests and treatment that have sometimes been

denied to transgender individuals based on their association with a specific gender (such as pap smears and prostrate cancer screenings),” the commissioners write in their Aug. 5 letter. Additionally, “the vast majority of regulated entities” are already in compliance with Section 1557 so the change would only sow confusion, add regulatory burdens and are “inconsistent with several federal court rulings” supporting the protections. “California law and the Affordable Care Act prohibit health insurance policies that discriminate against people based on their gender identity,” Lara said in a press release. “The Trump administration should withdraw this proposed rule, which will lead to confusion and discrimination. Everyone should have access to medically necessary health care—we should focus on expanding coverage, not limiting it.”

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California Democrats jell under party chair Rusty Hicks Trump’s negativity will spur opposition activism By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com If the country wasn’t reeling from three mass shootings in a row, the news out of Orange County, California might be more stunning. The bastion of rock-ribbed red conservative Republicanism and cruel antiLGBTQ Christian zealots who preached that AIDS was God’s revenge against homosexuals has officially turned blue. According to statistics released Aug. 7 by the county Registrar of Voters, Orange County has 547,458 registered Democrats, compared to 547,369 registered Republicans. No Party Preference voters swelled to 440,770 or just over 27 % of voters behind the once impenetrable Orange Curtain. Since last February, the California GOP has officially been a third party, according to the California Sec. of State, with 23.6% of registered voters compared to 43.1% Democrats and 28.3% No Party Preference. Democrats attribute the Orange County sea change to “changing demographics, aggressive recruitment efforts and President Trump,” the Los Angeles Times reports, while Republicans blame the numbers on GOP flight from “high housing costs, poor schools and lackluster job opportunities.” This is the region where Democrats flipped four of the House seats Speaker Nancy Pelosi fears may flip back if 2020 election politics focus on impeaching Donald Trump. Nonetheless, Reps. Katie Hill and Harley Rouda endorsed holding impeachment hearings. Another 2020 drama is playing out between the White House, Republican National Committee, and the state GOP who filed two lawsuits Aug. 6 against California Gov. Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla to block a new law requiring presidential candidates, including Trump, to release their tax returns in order to qualify for the March 3, 2020 primary ballot. Meanwhile, in California’s 22nd Congressional District, Trump ally Rep. Devin Nunes has filed a defamation lawsuit

Out Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez and California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks at a July 30 debate watch party. Photo courtesy LACDP

against his own constituents. In Hollywood this is called “jumping the shark.” California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks, the party’s new steward elected to mend internal fences and build on the progressive victories of 2018, is off to a good start. He was lauded last June for creating a task force, which included Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, to address misconduct and harassment within the party. Hicks is keenly aware of his responsibilities. “We are at a moment in our history in which we have a current occupant in the White House that is not just tolerating white supremacy but is perpetuating and promoting white supremacy,” Hicks told the Los Angeles Blade by phone Aug. 6. “White nationalism is something that we, as a society, and certainly as the California Democratic Party—it’s particularly important that we stand up, step up, and speak out against the

hate and the rhetoric that we’re seeing. Hate and rhetoric is turning into hateful action on so many different fronts.” The CDP, Hicks says, is committed to “ensuring that voices that are reflective of the diversity, the strength of our state and of our party, are up front and center.” But with identifiable openly LGBTQ leaders such as former chair Eric Bauman now out of the picture, how is the LGBTQ community represented within the top CDP structure? “We have just recently appointed our standing committees within the party. These are the nine committees that carry out the work of the party. We had a goal of ensuring that a large number of those were from the LGBTQ community,” Hicks says. “Today, 20% of our appointees to standing committees are members of the LGBTQ community; 60% are delegates and party activists of color; a large number of young leaders—more than 20% are under the age

of 35. I’m really proud of the inclusivity and the diversity that we’re seeing in some of our party’s decision-making body.” Hicks, a straight white ally who marched in the LA Pride Parade, says he is monitoring what is happening in Modesto as plans unfold for a white Straight Pride rally. “We’re certainly coordinating with our partners on the ground to ensure that we push back against events like this,” he says, though no specific action plans have yet been developed. Modesto is in the 10th Congressional District that Democrat Josh Harder took from Republican Jeff Denham in a close 2018 race. Harder’s seat is considered vulnerable. But Hicks promises to work hard to retain that seat and the other 2018 seats that flipped the House for the Democrats. “We’re certainly going to ensure that we protect and preserve the gains of 2018 by harnessing the power, the energy that brought us those victories, like Congressman Harder’s, Congressman Cox, the four members in Orange County, one right here in Los Angeles,” says Hicks. “There was a lot of activism in 2018. I know with the negative energy coming out of the White House, I’m certain that activists on the ground are prepared to do the hard, gritty, house-to-house work that it takes to be successful, to actually communicate with your family, and friends, and neighbors about why protecting and preserving this seat is so incredibly important at this particular moment in our history. Just as we did in 2018, we’re prepared to hold that seat in 2020 and beyond.” Hicks is also keenly aware of the importance of LGBTQ voters and activists. “You could look from one campaign to the other in the success of Democratic candidates—the LGBTQ community is an important part of that victory and that path to victory, not just in raw votes on election day, but on the organizing, plan, and path to get to Election Day, be it field organizing capacity, financial resources, the ability to communicate with a large number of voters within the LGBTQ community,” says Hicks. The LGBTQ community “is an important community for our long-term success.”

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‘Straight Pride’ is a dangerous sham with tentacles of hate Rep. Harder ‘concerned’ about white supremacist rally By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com The FBI announced on Aug. 6 that it is launching a domestic terrorism investigation into the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival after investigators discovered a list of other potential targets. On July 28, a 19-year-old gunman used an AK-47 style semiautomatic weapon to kill three and wound 13 others before turning the gun on himself. There is no evidence that this mass shooting triggered others but six days later, on Aug. 3, a 21-year-old opened fire on mostly Latino back-to-school shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring 26 people. The following day, a 24-year-old gunman in Dayton, Ohio, killed 9 people, including his sister, and wounded 27 more. Authorities are still trying to determine the motive for the shooting in Gilroy but investigators discovered he was exploring violent ideologies. “There’s a whole cadre of extremists whose goal is really about bringing society to its knees. Violence is not just a means to promote an ideology. It’s become an ideology itself,” Brian Levin, director of California State University, San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, told USA Today. Fredrick Brennan founded the Internet fringe message board 8chan where three mass shooters blamed for killing 74 people this year—including the Gilroy gunman— posted their screeds. He told NBC News that the new owner gives “constant nods and winks to the radical, neo-Nazi part of their user base” where they enjoy infamy. Hours after the El Paso attack, he said, administrators kept the tagline “Embrace infamy” on 8chan’s front page. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 83 hate groups in California. But keeping track of lone wolf white supremacists and angry young white men

‘Straight Pride’ organizer Mylinda Mason with Republican candidate Ted Howze and cardboard Donald Trump. Photo from Mason’s social media

radicalized on 8chan and other sites is beyond difficult. Gilroy is about 54 miles from Modesto where San Jose-based Don Grundmann, head of the National Straight Pride Coalition, and Modesto resident Mylinda Mason, who “manages” the old Tea Party-ish California Republican Assembly for Stanislaus County, want to mount a “straight pride” rally on Aug. 24 in Graceada Park. The organization’s flyer, bordered with pink, says: “Join us to celebrate heterosexuality, masculinity, feminity, babies – born and unborn – western civilization, our wonderful country, Christianity — Celebrate Life!” “Essentially it boils down to two religious views of the world,” Grundmann told CBS13, the Sacramento affiliate. “One is Christianity, which is represented by heterosexuality, a culture of life, and its opponent is the LGBT movement, which is represented by an opposing religion and an opposing view of life.” “We’ve been getting letters, emails,

comments, and phone calls all day about it,” said Modesto City Council member Kristi Ah You. “I don’t think we need to give a permit for anything that when you go to the page it talks about whiteness, it talks about western civilization, it talks about being Caucasian. That’s all hate crime stuff to me, that’s not okay.” Ah You said she supports free speech and first amendment rights, for which the “straight pride” organizers are asking. “I think if we ignored it and let the people do whatever they’re going to do, I think maybe four or five people would show up.” That was before Matthew Mason, 28, the adopted and estranged gay son of rally organizer Mylinda Mason, alerted the press. “This isn’t ‘straight pride.’ This is hate pride,” said Matthew Mason told Fox40 in Modesto. “Dog whistling to white supremacy, that is immediately inciting violence. I am afraid of violence happening. I don’t want anyone in my community to be hurt.” Mylinda Mason said the rally would be a peaceful gathering. “They’re looking to amp

it up into something that it’s not,” she told Fox40. “It’s really going to be much more like on the purview of a church service really. It really is just celebrating our beautiful country.” Everyone is welcome, even LGBTQ people, adding “the intolerance doesn’t come from [their] side.” That’s the cover. Hate mongers no longer need to be slathered in tattoos listening to angry heavy metal bands. As last year’s Frontline/ProPublica series on the new American Nazis shows, the look now is often khaki pants and blue shirt to fit into the mainstream, until they can let down their guard and don masks as do both the national neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, which apparently inspired Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 21, of Newport Beach to murder his former gay Jewish high school classmate Blaze Bernstein. The Orange County-based Rise Above Movement, a white supremacist group, saw four members arrested Oct. 2, 2018 on federal charges for allegedly traveling to Virginia with the intent to incite a riot at the deadly far-right rallies


Rep. Josh Harder Photo via his Facebook page

in Charlottesville. “Inspired by the writings of Hitler and the idea of ‘white jihad,’ members of groups like R.A.M. and Proud Boys don’t need much provocation to become violent. Indeed, members of Atomwaffen Division have been charged in five killings over the past two years,” former Nazi Christian Picciolini wrote in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. “It is true that the leaders of such groups draw in disillusioned young men who believe the world has sidelined them. But just because their members look familiar to many Americans does not make them less dangerous. Their violence is part of a growing pattern of domestic terrorism and should not be excused as an adolescent blip.” While Mylinda Mason says the “straight pride” rally will be church-like, the National Straight Pride Coalition website opens with a note to “Dear Citizen” then reads: “The purpose of the California Straight Pride Coalition is to defend the children noted above. This is inclusive of preventing the current and future generations of all races

and colors from being destroyed by the inherent malevolence of the Homosexual Movement toward our founding principles below.” One of those principles describes “Caucasians” as “the biological majority of the historical developers and founders of Western Civilization.” That’s not a dog-whistle. That’s a clarion call to anti-LGBTQ white supremacists everywhere, including hate group-inspired lone wolfs. The fear increased when word went out that Grundmann had joined the local chapter of the Proud Boys, designated a California hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and invited the boys to attend the rally. But the Proud Boys told the Modesto Bee they were not attending and were annoyed that Grundmann had used their name for publicity purposes without permission. Modesto City Council members got an earful Aug. 7. But city spokesperson Thomas Reeves told the Los Angeles Blade that the

“straight pride” rally was not on the agenda and it is actually up to staff to approve the organization’s application to reserve the Graceada Park amphitheater, Mancini Bowl, for Aug. 24, based on factors such as insurance compliance. Reeves says the city is “very sensitive to everything that is happening across the country” and will “ensure the safety of our community,” preparing for anything. As the Los Angeles Blade goes to press, a decision had not been reached. No one knows the outcome, though the City of Boston granted a similar “straight pride parade” permit for this month. Nonetheless, many people are still afraid of what might happen if the park reservation is granted. The message, Democratic Rep. Josh Harder tells the Los Angeles Blade, is “intended to send a signal of bigotry and hatred and discrimination against not just our LGBTQ community, but they also included in their manifesto things like looking for a return to so-called white

LOCAL civilization. And so I think it’s very clear that this event is racist, bigoted, and has absolutely no place in the Central Valley. “I’m very concerned,” says Harder. “We’ve known for a long time that there are certainly folks who practice hate who live here just like they live anywhere else. One of the people, unfortunately, who was one of the organizers of Charlottesville, lives in Oakdale. And so I think we’re very concerned about where could this lead to. I think what we’ve seen across our country in the last year or two is that hatred and bigotry often lead to violence.” However, he says, “the valley is one of the most diverse places on the planet. We are a majority minority area. We are a land of immigrants - that is our social and economic fabric. And so the racism and the antiLGBTQ bigotry that this event represents, I believe is deeply counter to the values that we hold.” Harder’s victory over his Republican opponent was a slim win and while the district may be bluish, it could also revert to red. The “straight pride” rally may help voters make that decision. Harder’s Republican opponent is Dr. Ted Howze, a local veterinarian, who is strongly supported by the CRA’S Mylinda Mason – and local Proud Boy Travis Hewes. “While fully supporting the right of free speech and equal rights for all members of our community, I believe that events which solely focus on highlighting differences from one another are unnecessary and potentially damaging to community spirit,” Howze told the Los Angeles Blade in an email. “I choose to focus on the things we all share in common and striving to improve the daily quality of life for Valley residents.” Asked about the photo of him with a Proud Boy campaign volunteer, Howze said “I’ve taken pictures with thousands of members of the local community and obviously don’t know each individual’s personal convictions. I detest racism, homophobia & xenophobia.” He noted that Harder had also been recently criticized “for taking a picture with a ‘Proud Boy’ at his election night party. Hopefully the politics of condemnation doesn’t rest on who politicians unknowingly have a picture taken with and personal views we are unaware of?” But given the painful aftermath of the mass shootings in Gilmore, El Paso and Dayton, Howze’s loyalty to Donald Trump and Mylinda Mason may have greater political ripple effects than dodging the complexities of hate associated with his supporter’s “straight pride.”



Should Harris, Booker, Sanders get a pass for meeting anti-LGBTQ pastor? Some politicos express caution about obscuring the ‘Defeat Trump’ big picture By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Much is expected of political allies who seek LGBTQ votes and donations. And Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, topping a long list of Democratic presidential candidates, have consistently proven their leadership—Harris and Booker around marriage equality and Sanders working with AIDS Healthcare Foundation on homelessness and fighting Big Pharma. So any anti-equality misstep is initially perceived as a glaring violation with a spotlight so bright it would put an old Hollywood opening night to shame. Such a spotlight is now focused on the three candidates after an Aug. 5 Mercury News article reported that Harris and Booker attended church services and campaigned at Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Las Vegas and Sanders held a town hall there last July 6. The article noted that it wasn’t clear if the candidates knew that the Rev. Robert E. Fowler Sr. is anti-LGBTQ but “his views are hardly a secret: A 2017 Las Vegas ReviewJournal column about his perspective on gay rights shows up on the first page of results for a Google search of his name,” the Mercury News reported. Additionally, the paper cited a 2013 radio interview in which Fowler said: “whether you commit adultery, whether you commit fornication, whether you’re a child molester, you gossip, you lie, you cheat on your taxes, you don’t pay your tithes, things of that nature — all of that is wrapped together as sin, along with homosexuality. And so at our church, we don’t believe that there’s any one sin that’s greater than anything else.” More recently, the pastor told the Bay Area News Group: “Homosexuality, adultery, fornication, those are all sexual sins addressed in scripture.” But it’s a big, influential popular AfricanAmerican church in a battleground state— Hillary Clinton and Sanders both courted

Rev. Robert E. Fowler Sr. Photo via Victory Missionary Baptist Church website

voters there in 2016 and Booker’s been there before. Activists on the ground note on background that openly gay former State Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson attends the church, as did the late pro-equality Assemblymember Tyrone Thompson, whose funeral was held there. Pro-equality Congress member Steven Horsford and his family also attend and virtually every Democratic candidate running in Southern Nevada for state legislature, Congress or president visits or speaks at the church— compartmentalizing but not dismissing the pastor’s anti-LGBTQ language. Fowler told the Mercury News that LGBTQ issues never came up with Harris or Booker and he didn’t consider LGBTQ rights as “a major issue at this point” as the country grapples with a series of mass shootings. But LGBTQ people do see LGBTQ rights

as an issue, especially now—not just as official second-class citizens but as targets of white supremacy rage whether as gay Latino victims of gun violence at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando or the plight of LGBTQ asylum seekers or the 13 murders of Black transgender women since January, as well as the rollback of rights by the Trump-Pence administration. “Cory does not share these views,” Sabrina Singh, National Press Secretary for Booker’s campaign, told the Los Angeles Blade. “Throughout his career, Cory has been a consistent fighter for the rights of LGBTQ people and even refused to officiate weddings as Newark mayor until samesex couples were granted the same rights as everyone. He’ll keep fighting to end discrimination as president.” Harris’ spokesperson did not reply to a

request for comment. But the campaign released a statement to the Mercury News, saying that “Senator Harris’ support and advocacy for LGBTQ equality has been unwavering throughout her career. She will continue to visit houses of worship across the country to address congregants about the pressing issues we face as a nation.” Some LGBTQ politicos walk a fine line, expressing caution about junking the big picture. “Pastor Fowler’s statements and his history with the LGBTQ community are deeply troubling. Rhetoric matters, and with LGBTQ people under attack across the country, condemning hateful words and hate-fueled violence matters more than ever. While we’re disappointed by their visits to Fowler’s church, Senators Booker, Harris and Sanders have all been strong allies of the LGBTQ community, including earning 100% HRC Congressional Scorecard ratings,” Lucas Acosta, HRC National Press Secretary for Campaigns, told the Los Angeles Blade. “In the coming months, we look forward to continuing to hear more about their LGBTQ-focused policy platforms and the future free of discrimination they envision for LGBTQ people across the country and around the globe.” “Senators Harris and Booker have been champions for the LGBTQ community throughout their careers. We would never ask or expect a candidate to ignore an entire faith community — on the contrary, visits to different faith communities and houses of worship are opportunities for important conversations about respect, diversity and inclusion. We hope that all the candidates will use these opportunities to engage in those conversations,” Equality California spokesperson Samuel Garrett-Pate told the Los Angeles Blade. “It’s also important to remember,” Garrett-Pate added, “that all of these candidates are running against a president who spends every day in office attacking and demonizing communities of color, immigrant communities and the LGBTQ community. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from our shared fight to defeat President Trump’s racist, anti-LGBTQ agenda.”


“When ‘mass shooting’ is defined as an incident in which four or more people are shot, the U.S. had 251 such incidents in the first 216 days of 2019,” according to the fact-check site Snopes. The 19-yearold gunman who shot up the Gilroy Garlic Festival on July 28 killing three people, including two children, and wounded 12 others purchased his military-style “AK-47 variant” semiautomatic rifle legally over the Internet, picked it up at a gun store in Las Vegas, then brought it across the state border circumventing California’s tough guns laws. Recently, out Los Angeles City Council member Mitch O’Farrell introduced AK-47 at Las Vegas gun range Photo by Cory Doctorow via Flickr a motion requiring the Los Angeles Police Department to track and report on recovered firearms recovered by its officers, as well as the origin of these weapons, to try to strengthen state and local gun safety policy. “Inaction from Donald Trump and his enablers in Congress who are beholden to the NRA have made it easier for almost anyone to get their hands on a deadly firearm to use in acts of home grown terrorism,” O’Farrell said. “Some states have no form of gun safety legislation whatsoever and sometimes these firearms are transported across state lines and used in crimes in California. We must continue doing everything in our power advocating for gun safety legislation here in Los Angeles.” O’Farrell’s office is expecting the motion to be heard in the next few weeks. Anyone interested in commenting on the motion can go to the City Clerk’s webpage and use Council File:19-0849. – KAREN OCAMB


“Given this history of hate on your part, we ask that you stay away. In the meantime, we will lament this loss—the 22 dead and 24 wounded, our mothers and fathers, neighbors and friends— without you. This is for the best.” - El Paso residents to President Trump telling him, “You are not welcome here” on Aug. 6.

“She was a magician with language, who understood the Power of words. She used them to roil us, to wake us, to educate us and help us grapple with our deepest wounds and try to comprehend them.” – Oprah Winfrey on Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison who died Aug. 6 at age 88.

“Spend more time on your knees than on the internet.”

- Vice President Pence in a recent speech to the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, via Zack Ford in his newsletter Fording the River Styx.





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Military reports no discharges under trans ban — but advocates are skeptical Court fights continue two years after Trump’s announcement By CHRIS JOHNSON More than two years after President Trump tweeted he’d ban transgender people from the U.S. military “in any capacity,” the military services say the policy hasn’t resulted in denials of service for otherwise qualified individuals — a claim transgender advocates say is dubious at best. The Blade reached out to each of the military services — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — to obtain numbers of discharges and denials of enlistment of transgender people since the Defense Department implemented the policy, DTM-19-004, on April 12. Each of the services — with one exception — had the same reply when asked how many otherwise qualified transgender individuals were denied accession, or enlistment, into their ranks: zero. (The exception was the U.S. Coast Guard, which reported denying enlistment to two applicants under the policy.) Moreover, each of the services uniformly had the same answer in response to a question about the number of separations under the anti-trans policy: zero. Stephen Peters, spokesperson for the LGBT group Modern Military Association of America, said the assertion that no transgender applicants were denied enlistment is “incredibly misleading.” “While I’m sure whoever is responding to your inquiry is justifying their response based on semantics, there is no denying that numerous qualified trans patriots want to enlist or commission into the military,” Peters said. As evidence of transgender applicants being denied accession into the military, Peters pointed to his organization’s lawsuit against the ban, Karnoski v. Trump, which is pending before a trial court after remand from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Ryan Karnoski, Staff Sergeant Catherine Schmid

and Drew Layne — transgender people blocked under the ban from accession into the military. (Each of these individuals joined the lawsuit before the current policy went into effect on April 12.) On July 26, 2017, Trump surprised the world, including leadership in the U.S. military, when he announced he’d ban transgender people from the military “in any capacity.” “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Trump tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Essentially, the tweet announced a reversal of policy allowing transgender people to serve openly and obtain transitionrelated care without fear of discharge — a policy that was implemented by former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in the last six months of the Obama administration. It took nearly two years for the Pentagon to implement Trump’s pledge to ban transgender troops. The policy became know as DTM-19-004, “Military Service by Transgender Persons and Persons with Gender Dysphoria.” Why the delay in implementation? Trump tweeted the policy at the same time as former Defense Secretary James Mattis was conducting a six-month study reevaluating transgender service. Following Trump’s tweets, the study concluded transgender people should not serve. Moreover, courts had until the time blocked Trump’s policy from going into effect. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the orders from the lower courts, essentially allowing the policy to go forward. Under DTM-19-004, service members are discharged who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria or are prescribed transitionrelated care. In terms of enlistments, the policy bars applicants with a history of gender dysphoria — unless the individuals are willing to serve in their biological sex

(an extremely small number of transgender people). Applicants who obtained transitionrelated care are outright banned. The transgender ban contains an exemption that allows transgender people who came out during the Obama-era policy to continue to serve and receive transitionrelated care. But those troops could face complications under the ban, such as if they seek promotions, want to change services or drop out to pursue educational opportunities and seek to re-enlist. The Defense Department has insisted the new policy is a medical-based policy applied to every service member, even though the policy applies to conditions faced solely by transgender people, and is not a ban, even though it bars many transgender people from service. In response to the Blade inquiry, each of the four services under the Defense Department — the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps — each claimed zero applicants were denied enlistment under DTM-19-004, while the Coast Guard, which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, claimed two denials. (Initially, an Army spokesperson responded, “No applicant meeting the medical accession standards contained in DTM 19-004 has been denied entry into the Army under DTM 19-004.” When the Blade followed up by asking for the numbers on how many were denied as not meeting the standard, the response was “None.”) Similarly, a Navy spokesperson initially replied, “By policy (DTM 19-004) there can be no denial of accessions based on gender identity alone. Therefore the answer is zero related to gender identity.” When the Blade pointed out no mention was made of gender identity, the new response was “zero.”) Aaron Belkin, director of the San Francisco-based Palm Center, said the difference between numbers of the Coast Guard and other services suggests the former views the transgender ban differently. “The fact that the Coast Guard is reporting the data honestly shows that it is not afraid to acknowledge evidence that indicates what we have long known, which is that the transgender ban harms readiness,” Belkin

said. It’s possible the number of applicants denied enlistment under the ban don’t reflect individuals not just blocked from enlisting under the transgender ban, but due to reasons unrelated to the policy. Moreover, those numbers don’t capture the impact of the policy as a deterrent. At a time when the military is falling short of its recruitment goals, many transgender people may not attempt to enlist even if they would otherwise be interested in military service. A gay Democratic statistician in New York City, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to talk to the press, said the likelihood the Army denied enlistment to no applicants when the Coast Guard denied enlistment to two is infinitesimally small. “While it’s difficult to say anything with much certainty because we have been given so little data to work with, the odds that a service like the Army that gets nearly 10 times as many applicants as the USCG had zero rejections, while the USCG had two are incredibly low,” he said. “Far less than one percent odds.” Belkin said the services reporting no separations is “not surprising” because the process for those separations may not be yet finalized. “The process for administrative separation set out in DTM-19-004 is efficient but not instantaneous, and it’s only been three months since the ban took effect,” Belkin said. “Candidates for separation, by definition, would be service members who had not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria by April 12 (otherwise they would be grandfathered). The process for administrative separation could not even begin until diagnosis, followed by another determination that gender-transition treatment was medically necessary.” Belkin added transgender service members may be serving in the shadows like under like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban on openly gay service repealed during the Obama administration, and avoid seeking transition-related care, which would initiate a discharge. Continues at losangelesblade.com


Rowland is first LGBT Trump judicial nominee to be confirmed With little fanfare, the U.S. Senate confirmed lesbian judicial nominee Mary Rowland to a seat on the federal bench in Illinois, marking the first confirmation to the judiciary of an out LGBT Trump nominee. The U.S. Senate confirmed Rowland — who has ties to the LGBT group Lambda Legal — to a seat in the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois by voice vote on Wednesday with no recorded opposition. Rowland’s nomination, which President Trump first announced in June 2018, languished in the Senate for more than a year even though President Trump nominated out she enjoyed a breezy confirmation hearing lesbian Mary M. Rowland to the before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The federal bench in Illinois. American Bar Association rated Rowland as Blade photo by Michael Key “well qualified” for the position. Although Rowland, 57, is a Trump nominee, her record contradicts the trend of his antiLGBT appointments and includes work in LGBT advocacy. Rowland’s affiliation with LGBT legal groups includes being a member of the Lesbian & Gay Bar Association of Chicago and pro bono work for Lambda Legal. During her confirmation hearing, Rowland wasn’t shy about referencing her spouse, Julie Justicz, and their two adult children. Trump’s nomination of Rowland is the result of an agreement between the White House and Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), the home state senators of Rowland who both granted their “blue slips” to allow her nomination to proceed in the Senate Judiciary Committee. (During Rowland’s confirmation hearing, Durbin said, “That’s the way the process is supposed to work.”) Following Senate approval of Rowland and Martha Pacold to a seat on the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois, Durbin and Duckworth issued a joint statement commending the bipartisan nature of their confirmation process. “We are pleased that the Senate has confirmed Martha Pacold and Mary Rowland,” the senators said. “They have the qualifications, integrity and judgment to serve with distinction as district court judges in the Northern District of Illinois. We appreciate the administration’s willingness to work with us and with our nonpartisan screening committee to reach consensus on nominees who will serve the people of Illinois well.” Both Duckworth and Durbin took to Twitter to praise Rowland’s confirmation and called her the first openly LGBT person to serve in the federal judiciary in Illinois. “Proud to help secure the confirmation of Mary Rowland to serve as a District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois,” Durbin tweeted. “The first openly LGBTQ judge to serve in the Northern District, she has the qualifications, integrity & judgment to serve with distinction.” To be sure, many of the nominees Trump has picked for the judiciary have anti-LGBT records. Among them is U.S. Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose anti-LGBT record includes defending a Virginia high school in litigation seeking to block transgender student Gavin Grimm from using the bathroom consistent with his gender identity. CHRIS JOHNSON


LGBT groups condemn mass shootings LGBT advocacy groups around the country on Saturday condemned a mass shooting at a Texas Walmart that left 22 people dead and more than two dozen others injured. The El Paso Times reported the 21-year-old gunman entered the Walmart near El Paso’s Cielo Vista Mall shortly before 10 a.m. local time (12 p.m. EST) and opened fire. The newspaper quoted El Paso Police Sgt. Robert Gomez who said upwards of 3,000 people were inside the store at the time of the shooting. The gunman, who is from a Dallas suburb,wrote a manifesto that contains anti-immigrant and anti-Latino statements. The Walmart in which the shooting took place is less than two miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a message he posted to his Twitter page said Mexican citizens were among those killed. “We are heartbroken over the innocent lives taken today,” said Human Rights Campaign Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof in a statement. “The horrific violence in El Paso has become all too common in our country.” Lambda Legal, which had its Landmark Dinner Aug. 3 in Dallas, in a tweet acknowledged the shooting. “We are only nine hours from El Paso, at our annual Landmark Dinner in Dallas,” said Lambda Legal in a tweet. “While we will be spending the next few hours talking about equality for LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV, we will also recognize the pain our nation is feeling.” Just hours later, another gunman opened fire in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine and wounding two-dozen others. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Lawmakers urge ICE to improve trans detainee treatment More than 30 members of Congress last week sent a letter to Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence about the treatment of transgender detainees in their custody. “We are gravely concerned regarding Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) policies for individuals seeking asylum in the United States,” wrote the lawmakers. “Today, we write to express our strong concerns with ICE’s treatment of transgender migrants seeking asylum in the United States, especially those coming to the U.S. from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.” The letter specifically refers to Alejandra, a trans Salvadoran activist who is in ICE custody at the privately run Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M. The lawmakers note Alejandra asked for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in November 2017 and “has been held in detention by ICE ever since.” The letter states Alejandra remains at the Cibola County Correctional Center, even though she has “documented health conditions that require specialized care.” The letter also notes the U.S. deported Camila Díaz Córdova, another trans Salvadoran woman, a few months before she was killed earlier this year. Salvadoran authorities have charged three police officers with Díaz’s murder. “This tragedy occurred after she was deported from the U.S. a few months earlier,” said the lawmakers in their letter. “Miss Díaz Córdova received persistent death threats for years, which she had documented in her asylum application.” Reports of abuse and mistreatment of trans women in ICE custody and a lack of adequate health care persist. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, the Santa Fe Dreamers Project and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in a March 25 letter to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security said a dozen trans and gay detainees suffered “rampant sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse” at the facility. Twenty-nine trans women who were in ICE custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in a letter they sent to Trans Queer Pueblo, a Phoenix-based group that advocates on behalf of undocumented LGBT immigrants, said personnel at the facility “psychologically and verbally” mistreat them and they do not receive “adequate” medical care. The trans detainees wrote the letter two weeks after the Blade and a handful of other media outlets visited the facility. MICHAEL K. LAVERS



Blade returns to U.S.-Mexico border, Central America EL PASO, Texas — The Blade on July 13 returned to the U.S.-Mexico border and Central America to continue its coverage of LGBTI migrants. Below are some images from the trip. For more, visit our website.

A Pride flag hangs from a silo near downtown Marfa, Texas, on July 14. Marfa, which has a population of roughly 2,000 people, is about 60 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

A sign at a Walmart in northeast El Paso, Texas, on July 17, notes the company is “investing in American jobs.” A gunman on Aug. 3, killed 22 people and wounded more than two dozen others when he opened fire at another Walmart near El Paso’s Cielo Vista Mall.

Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers

Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers

A mural in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on July 16, reads, “nobody is illegal.” Thousands of migrants who hope to enter the U.S. are currently in the Mexican border city.

PATRICIA MEDINA DE BARRIENTES is the mother of Johana Medina León, a transgender woman who died in an El Paso, Texas, hospital on June 1, three days after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released her from their custody. Medina de Barrientes spoke exclusively with the Blade on July 24, in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers

Washingon Blade photo by Ernesto Valle

ZULEIKA, a transgender woman from El Salvador’s San Vicente Department, is among the LGBTI migrants who live at a shelter in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, that Respetttrans Chihuahua, a local advocacy group, runs. The shelter is less than two miles from the Mexico-U.S. border.

Gay Guatemalan Congressman-elect ALDO DÁVILA on July 27, protests against the “safe third country” agreement that President Jimmy Morales’ government signed with the White House. The protest took place in front of the Presidential Palace in Guatemala City.

Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers

Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers



My man crush has been dead for 500 years Leonardo da Vinci offers hope and beauty for our troubled era

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

I rarely have male crushes, but this guy’s really something! He’s gorgeous, dresses beautifully, plays the flute, paints amazing portraits, designs festivals, and knows something about everything from flying to medicine. My man crush has been dead for 500 years. Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man, died on May 2, 1519 at age 67. The word genius is egregiously overused. Yet, how else can you describe Leonardo? Openly queer, he was a polymath’s polymath. Leonardo dissected cadavers to understand human anatomy, thought of the idea of a flying machine and designed theatrical productions and war machines. In more than 7,200 pages of notebooks, he recorded his musings on everything from architecture to civil engineering. On his todo lists, Leonardo admonished himself to “describe the tongue of a woodpecker” and to “Go every Saturday to the hot bath where you will see naked men.” Did I mention that Leonardo also painted two of the most famous paintings in history: the “Mona Lisa” and the “Last Supper?” The 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death’s isn’t going unnoticed. This fall, the Louvre in Paris will mount an exhibit

Photo by James M Neal

of Leonardo’s work. Last month, the Metropolitan Museum in New York mounted an exhibit of one of Leonardo’s unfinished paintings “Saint Jerome Praying in the Wilderness.” (The exhibit runs through Oct. 6.) You might think that someone as talented and brilliant as Leonardo would have been well educated or from an upper-class background. But you’d be wrong. He was an illegitimate son of a notary and a 15-year-old orphan from Vinci, a town in rural Tuscany. Leonardo received little schooling, yet became a superb auto-didact. Leonardo, like other artists of his time, depended on patrons. His charm and talent enabled him to thrive under patrons in Milan, Florence, Rome and France. One of his patrons, Francis I, became friends with Leonardo. Francis cradled Leonardo’s head in his arms as he died in France, the 16th century art historian Giorgio Vasari said in

his biography of Leonardo. Some geniuses are so smart – seemingly so perfectly – that we lesser mortals feel as if we could never measure up as if we had nothing in common with them. But it would be different if we met Leonardo. Sure, dressed in his fab pink tunic, he’d be the smartest and handsomest person in the room. Even in his lifetime, people were dazzled by his brilliance and beauty. Vasari said Leonardo was “divine.” Yet, those of us who are outsiders – different in any way – would feel an affinity with Leonardo. He was openly queer centuries before marriage equality; left-handed when that was considered abnormal; a vegetarian when most people ate meat, and, like so many of us on social media, easily distractible. As Walter Isaacson makes clear in his superb biography “Leonardo Da Vinci,” Leonardo often veered from one thing to another without competing the project. He spent so many hours trying to figure out everything from why the sky is blue to how a pig’s lungs work that much of his work was unfinished. Leonardo finished fewer than 20 paintings. Those of us who procrastinate have an ally in Leonardo. “Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work least,” he informed one of his patrons, “for their minds are occupied with their ideas and the perfection of their conceptions, to which they afterwards give form.” He had his dark moods. “Had he been a student at the outset of the twenty-first century,” Isaacson writes of Leonardo, “he may have been put on a pharmaceutical regimen to alleviate his mood swings and attention-deficit disorder.” Leonardo offers hope and beauty for this era when artists and creative thinkers, queer and hetero, are often under attack. Few of us will be geniuses like Leonardo. But, we can work to carry on his legacy by making art, supporting artists and being curious about our world. Thank you, Leonardo!

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Mayor Pete should say ‘husband’ more often Honor Obergefell and embrace equal dignity in language By BRIAN GAITHER Six years ago, as he was dying of ALS, John Arthur and his partner of 20 years, Jim Obergefell, chartered a plane from Cincinnati to Baltimore so they could wed in one of the few places it was legal. Because of John’s failing health, his time with Jim was limited; but for whatever time remained in their life together they wanted to be legally recognized as one another’s husband. Their tarmac wedding at BWI was possible because Maryland’s General Assembly passed the Civil Marriage Protection Act and the state’s residents confirmed it at the polls. It was possible because Edie Windsor, with her lawyers, turned back the Defense of Marriage Act at the Supreme Court. It was possible because they had the support of friends and family who raised the money for their flight. Mainly, though, it was possible because of their love and commitment to one another.

They returned to Cincinnati hoping the State of Ohio might honor the legal distinction Maryland bestowed upon their relationship, but John died before he could see it happen. Jim, however, kept fighting for it. And when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, every gay man in America had the right to a husband of his own. When we say “husband,” we’re asserting that our marriages have equal dignity with all others, and we’re memorializing the collective effort it took to win the right to simply use the word. In a world that assumes we’re straight, the man who speaks of his “husband” is being bold. To say “spouse” is to be married, but to say “husband” is to be openly gay. During the past few weeks it’s become apparent that Pete Buttigieg is avoiding the word “husband” with certain audiences. He’s spoken of a spouse or his marriage, but not even during an interview with Blair Garner, the openly gay and married country music radio host, did Pete say “husband.” Days later, at the national convention of the NAACP, Pete described his relationship with Chasten in a manner so oblique that an attendee from the Brooklyn chapter heard

him say “married a teacher” and tweeted that he’d mentioned his “wife.” The same week, while addressing members of the National Urban League, he referred to the student loan debt of his “family.” Anyone introduced to Pete in these instances would’ve heard nothing to indicate he’s a gay man. That’s disappointing because it can’t be accidental. Language is the stock-in-trade of politicians. Every stump speech, every prepared remark, and every possible response to a question is rehearsed and refined to either eliminate nuance or to insert ambiguity. Pete has often demonstrated his eagerness to articulate that he’s a war veteran who carried a big gun in Afghanistan. Likewise, he uses a variety of references to Chasten in order to selectively downplay his gay identity. Perhaps that’s the reason Carson Jones, the gay son of Alabama’s Sen. Doug Jones, published an open letter in the Advocate on the first day of the recent Democratic debates. In it, he urged Pete, “already known as the gay candidate,” to use the event as the start of a national conversation about LGBTQ rights. “Speak boldly. Speak passionately. Make it personal and speak

from experience.” Sadly for Carson, if he watched Pete in the debates the only conversation he saw that came close to addressing the LGBTQ community in any way was when Dana Bash asked a question of Pete in which she used the word “husband” and then in the closing remarks of Sen. Bernie Sanders who called Trump a homophobe. Even if Pete doesn’t convert his campaign into a national conversation about LGBTQ rights (definitely not happening), what does he risk in choosing the word “husband” whenever that choice is available? Why minimize the struggles of people like Jim Obergefell, whose legal victory at the Supreme Court allowed Pete to come out, to fall in love, and to marry a teacher? It would be exciting to see Pete more comfortably speaking about himself as a gay man in all the places he’s campaigning. Until that happens, though, it would be nice to just hear him say “husband” as fluently as he says “veteran.”

Brian Gaither is a Baltimore-based writer and activist.

LGBT history lessons far from universal in public schools Religious exemption waivers, anti-LGBT curriculum publishers stymie progress By PHILIP VAN SLOOTEN

This fall, more public school students could see LGBT content in their classrooms as states move toward mandating a more inclusive K-12 curriculum. However, publicly funded private schools continue to seek religious exemptions to anti-discriminatory measures. In 2011, California passed its Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, and lawmakers in New Jersey, Illinois, Colorado and New York City have moved to follow suit. California’s FAIR Education Act mandates the inclusion of the political, economic and social contributions of LGBT people and persons with disabilities into educational textbooks across the state. It amends an existing educational code previously mandating inclusions based on race, ethnicity, nationality and gender. Sen. Mark Leno, the state’s first openly gay state senator, sponsored the bill, stating the goal was to ensure the contributions of LGBT historical figures were “accurately and fairly portrayed in instructional materials.” Similarly, Colorado State Representative Brianna Buentello, who co-sponsored their bill, said, “Our intent was to start teaching the history of everybody.” In New York, the City Council approved a 2019 budget that included $600,000 for LGBT-inclusive educational programming. Included are lessons about pioneers such as Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and others. Also included are opportunities to meet current history makers and view an interactive map of LGBT historic sites through the city. Proponents state the inclusive measures were necessary to protect both LGBT students and faculty from bullying and other forms of discrimination. Illinois State Rep. Jennifer GongGershowitz (D-Glenview) said if their bill had been law 15 years ago, her brother would not have been harassed and denied tenure in a suburban Chicago school. “My brother was teaching history,” GongGershowitz said at the time. “And a student asked whether the historical figure, that was the subject

A Gay Liberation Front demonstration in Great Britain in the early ‘70s. LGBT history lessons in public schools in the U.S. have been a wrought issue. Photo courtesy ImageLibrary via Wikimedia

of the lesson, was gay. He answered the truth.” As a result, her brother was subject to hate mail and called into the principal’s office. New Jersey also passed a law mandating LGBTinclusive curriculum for middle and high school students. However, the mandate does not apply to private schools. Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Council, said these measures infringed on parents’ choices regarding teaching sexuality to their children, echoing concerns of conservative groups across the country. Lauri Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute similarly said at a hearing on the matter, “The left’s motive is what it always is … to normalize homosexuality,” The Hill reports. This concern about parental choice in education is at the heart of the school voucher movement championed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. However, the program has its roots in a resistance to school integration efforts in the 1950s and 1960s.

According to the Center for American Progress, a progressive-leaning policy institute, in response to federal desegregation orders following the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Prince Edward County, Virginia issued tuition grant vouchers for white students to attend segregated private schools. Then as now, these schools rely on significant levels of public funding to continue to operate. While Title IX of the federal Education Amendment prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs receiving federal funds, the Obama administration’s inclusion of gender identity and sexual orientation in this definition remains controversial. Still, some schools continue to submit religious exemption waivers to perceived Title IX mandates, permitting them to discriminate against out LGBT students or faculty with impunity. Additionally, an investigation by Huffington Post found thousands of these schools use discriminatory evangelical Christian curriculum often purchased using public funds. Bob Jones University submitted a Title IX religious exemption request in 2017 for permission to discriminate against LGBT students and faculty despite receiving public funds. Students who attended programs using these discriminatory texts reported feeling ill-equipped to succeed in a diverse society and felt instilled with racist, sexist and intolerant views of the world. Capri Coleman, an educator, says it’s important to take students’ feelings into account just as much as parental “choice” when considering curriculum. “Parents are always going to have a choice in what they want their children to be exposed to,” she says. “But at the same time, children will always run into people who are not like them.” This is why she felt it was important for parents and society to first “teach tolerance and understanding.” Unfortunately, due to voucher programs and religious exemptions, the tolerance and understanding promised by LGBT-curriculum legislation is not reaching all students receiving publicly funded education.

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New kids’ books spotlight LGBTQ life ‘In My Footprints,’ ‘What Riley Wore’ among standouts By DANA RUDOLPH

For back-to-school time, here are some new and soon-to-be-published picture books with LGBTQ and gender-creative characters, all involving schools and classmates. “What Riley Wore,” by Elana K. Arnold and illustrated by Linda Davick (Simon & Schuster), is the winsome tale of a child who delights in playing dress up. On the first day of school, Riley (whose gender is never stated) wears a bunny outfit. Rather than making Riley an object of ridicule, Riley’s soft bunny ears comfort a classmate who was crying. We then see Riley around the neighborhood and at school, switching between a ball gown, a hard hat and overalls, a tutu and more — outfits that elicit praise from other children and Riley’s teacher. At one point, another child asks, “Are you a girl or a boy?” and Riley simply answers “Today I’m a firefighter. And a dancer,” and several other fanciful things. The other child responds, “Want to play?” Arnold refreshingly conveys a message of acceptance without raising issues of teasing or bullying — important issues, but too often the only narrative told about children expressing gender creativity. The completely positive outlook makes this book stand out. In “Ogilvy,” by Deborah Underwood (Henry Holt), the titular and gender ambiguous bunny is excited about meeting other children in a new town. Ogilvy’s medium-length garment confuses them, however, and they tell Ogilvy, “Bunnies in dresses play ball and knit socks,” but “Bunnies in sweaters make art and climb rocks.” Underwood smartly doesn’t divide the activities here along traditional gender lines, helping readers see the absurdity of such divisions. Ogilvy relabels the outfit at will and plays accordingly, until one day the other bunnies demand a fixed choice. Ogilvy finds self-confidence, speaks out and convinces the other bunnies that everyone benefits from wearing and doing what they choose. The rhymes have a clear echo of Dr. Seuss and T. L. McBeth’s simple illustrations evoke Mo Willems, but the story blends its influences into an original tale whose combination of message and merriment should find many fans. More heavy handed is “Dazzling Travis: A Story About Being Confident and Original,” by Hannah Carmona Dias and illustrated by Brenda Figueroa (Cardinal Rule Press). “Dresses and armor: Pink, black or green. I pretend I’m a knight, a king or a

queen,” proclaims Travis, a young black boy. Some of his classmates, however, nastily tell him that boys and girls must each play with different things. A few others, who express gender creativity themselves, remain silent. Travis summons his courage and explains to the bullies, over several pages, why they are wrong. “It’s not weird or strange to express the true you,” he concludes. The message is good, but it’s a bit pedantic, and many of the rhymes feel forced. At the end there are short bios of several real people who “struggled against the opinions of others,” including 19th-century baseball player Elizabeth Stride, dancer Fernando Bujones, designer Coco Chanel and writer Langston Hughes. More contemporary choices might resonate better with likely readers (and Chanel’s connections with Nazis make her a dubious choice). Still, many may appreciate Travis’ self-confidence in the face of bullying (not to mention his dazzling style). “Sam!,” by Dani Gabriel (Penny Candy Books), with illustrations by Robert Liu-Trujillo, is the tale of a 9-year-old transgender boy “filled with dreams and spirit and laughter.” After he hears another boy in his class say, “Boys are born a certain way and girls are born a certain way,” however, he is sad and

scared. He confides in his older sister Maggie that he’s not a girl like people think, but a boy. “Was I born wrong?” he asks. Maggie assures him otherwise. She supports him at school and encourages him to tell their parents. They immediately accept him, but also acknowledge they all have a lot to learn together. More than anything, though, their pride in him shines through. Some kids tease him, but with Maggie’s support, he continues to play, succeed in school and dream. Sam and his family could be read as Latino and they live in a racially diverse neighborhood. Robert Liu-Trujillo’s soft watercolor illustrations bring out the characters’ emotions in this warm story of sibling support and family love. “In My Footprints,” by Bao Phi and illustrated by Basia Tran (Capstone), Thuy, a VietnameseAmerican girl, finds solace in nature and in her imagination after being teased by classmates about her two moms and her ethnic origins. She imitates a cardinal and envisions flying away like a bird; she growls like a bear. Momma Arti and Momma Ngoc join her in pretending, “because we’re stronger together.” Momma Ngoc suggests a phoenix, which we learn in an afterward has both Eastern and Western origins, just like Momma Ngoc. Momma Arti suggests the “part lion, part bird” Sarabha from her Hindu heritage. Thuy then makes up her own creature — one that is “both a boy and a girl” and whose skin changes “from black to light brown to lighter and back to black — not to hide, but because it always wants to be different shades of pretty.” One could buy the book for that empowering line alone. Phi, a poet and author whose awards include a Caldecott Honor and an Ezra Jack Keats Honor, has crafted a lyrical tale about the power of imagination and finding strength in family and cultural heritage. It’s also notable as one of few LGBTQ-inclusive picture books to focus on Asian characters. Consider this a must-have for any LGBTQ kids’ collection. For more LGBTQ back-to-school resources, see my annual list at mombian.com. Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Awardwinning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.

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Gay Men’s Chorus of LA concert studded with stars, Stonewall A milestone of honors and a reboot for a treasured cultural institution By SCOTT STIFFLER

June 27, Carnegie Hall: The 150-member strong GMCLA contingent (R), with NYCGMC, their East Coast commissioning partner. Photo by Gregory Zabilski

Stonewall 50 has come and gone—but its legacy lingers, when the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) wraps its 40th anniversary season with a gala concert that pays tribute to that pivotal event in the fight for our rights, while celebrating their own ongoing presence as one of the country’s longest-running, and largest, LGBTQ arts organizations. In addition to performing the Stonewallthemed “Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall,” Aug. 16’s “GMCLA 40 / STONEWALL 50” concert will see the Chorus present longtime activist and fundraiser David Mixner with the Lifetime Legend Award. “Honoring David Mixner is so right,” GMCLA executive director Lou Spisto told the Blade on June 19, when this year’s award recipient was announced, calling Mixner “a pioneer, hero, and legend, in our community and many others.” As for their special guests, “We are beyond thrilled to have these incredible artists join us onstage for this Gala Concert,” said Spisto, in a July 25 announcement that Chrissy Metz (star of NBC’s “This is Us”) and Shoshana Bean (star of Broadway’s “Waitress”) will be on hand. “These two great singers, who are true allies of the LGBTQ community, have been raising their beautiful and powerful voices for important causes for years. They will add immeasurably to our music and our message.” Metz and Bean will be featured in the first part of the concert, which draws upon the pop, Broadway, and choral canon. Metz is set to perform the Diane Warren-penned “I’m Standing With You” (from the soundtrack to the film “Breakthrough”). Bean will bring some Broadway dazzle, with “She Used to Be Mine,” from Sara Bareillis’ “Waitress” score. The press release announcing Metz and Bean noted the latter will “also lead GMCLA, and some surprise guests, in a very new take on a classic Broadway song.” Pressed for some dish with a side order of spoilers, Spisto diplomatically demurred, stating, “I’m not going to give you every single piece, but I can tell you we’re going to be doing music by Bernstein, Sondheim, and some traditional choral music.” As for that new take on a classic, Spisto hints they’ll be doing “a very interesting interpretation of a classic Jerry Herman song from ‘Hello, Dolly!.’ ” The August concert finds GMCLA back from a recent trip to NYC, where they joined their east cost commissioning partner, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (NYCGMC), and several other LGBTQ choruses from around the country. The June 27 Carnegie Hall performance received a standing ovation from the sold-out house. (No pressure, Los Angeles, but hint, hint is all we’re saying. Don’t let the home team down.).

“It was a wonderful celebration,” recalls Spisto, of the Carnegie Hall experience. “The concert was performed the night before the actual 50th anniversary of Stonewall, and there was a wonderful collective spirit.” Describing “Quiet No More” as a “very complex work of music that took many weeks to learn,” Spisto says the “passionate, emotional and cathartic work” explores events on and around the Stonewall Riots of 1969. “That sense of celebration and being out moves to that of confrontation and chaos,” he notes, “which then morphs further into anger, defiance and, finally, unity. The last two movements [of this eight-movement work] walk us through what happened after the riots—and we realize what we accomplished at that point.” The Aug. 16 performance of “Quiet No More” takes a strength-in-numbers approach. GMCLA’s 270 members will be joined by up to 500 singers from the 25 co-commissioning choruses from around the country (who have committed to presenting the 40-minute work on their home turf). “So it will have many airings across a period of a year or two,” Spisto told us in June, “and the combined effect will be to have a resounding collective voice about, and around, the Stonewall anniversary.” In addition to the 7:30 p.m. concert, open to the public, GMCLA will host a private preconcert reception and post-concert dinner for 300 guests, with proceeds going to support their music education programs. The Alive Music Project, Spisto explains, “brings the Chorus into high schools throughout the LA region,” where they perform songs from their repertoire, in a workshop setting. “We also individually, as members of the Chorus, speak to the young people about who we are, and our lives—and so, by example, are presenting them with a positive image of what the LGBTQ community is, and who we can be— as a people and as a community.” The Arts for Incarcerated Youth project has the Chorus going into juvenile detention centers, working with small groups. “We teach the music, we perform music with them, and also, again, by example, lead these young people in our music, and who we are,” says Spisto, noting, “Those programs are, of course, academically based, and have to be extremely sensitive to the environment we’re in. They’re very, very rewarding programs.” The concert takes place Fri., Aug. 16, 7:30 PM, at Walt Disney Concert Hall (111 South Grand Ave.). Concert tickets (starting at $50) are available online at GMCLA.ORG/WDCH or by calling the venue’s box office, at 323-8502000. For more information on Gala Ticket packages, email GMCLA at events@gmcla.org or call 424-239-6506.


Tarantino’s ‘Hollywood’ ending Marrying a buddy film with story of Manson murders By JOHN PAUL KING

Quentin Tarantino takes fans on another intense ride in ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.’ Photo courtesy CTMG

Going into a new Quentin Tarantino film, one always feels a sense of nervous dread. His movies are always an intense ride, and that’s exactly why his legion of fans love him. Yet it’s also why “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” which intertwines the fictional story of a fading television star and his longtime stunt double with the infamous true-life story of the Manson family, might leave many of those fans feeling disappointed. It’s not because Tarantino’s latest opus isn’t full of artistry. One cannot help but marvel at his technical skills as a filmmaker, or at the layers upon layers built into the intricately woven tapestry of his screenplay; it’s the work of a seasoned artist at the peak of his talents, arguably his most confident and polished effort to date. Nor is it anything to do with the cast; Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt give career-best performances, and Margot Robbie is utterly luminous as real-life starlet Sharon Tate. Even so, walking out of the theater afterward, you might be tempted to think that the bad-boy auteur, after a nine-film career full of audacious masterpieces, has gotten soft with age. It’s difficult to discuss exactly what is meant by this without being forced to provide spoilers – something that would be truly a shame – but it has everything to do with the period in which it is set. Timed to arrive during the 50th anniversary of the seachange year that was 1969, “Hollywood” feels like part of a wave of nostalgia taking place in the culture as we look back at that seminal summer. It was, after all, in the wake of such watershed moments as the Apollo 11 moon landing and the Stonewall uprising that the Manson murders took place – a macabre milestone, to be sure, which in many ways served as the final blow in the long, slow death of American innocence that had begun with the Kennedy assassination six years before. It feels like the perfect backdrop for Tarantino to explore the thorny bundle of obsessions that marks his body of work – and so he does, with palpable and sometime infectious glee. Yet incredibly, and uncharacteristically, he seems bent here not on exposing the dark side of that iconic era, but rather on erasing it. Tarantino finds a way to extract both a literal and figurative “Hollywood ending” designed to reinforce – not undermine – the hope that sprang from so many of 1969’s other landmark events. How he accomplishes this (or whether he succeeds) is something that deserves to be experienced first-hand, but it’s worth remembering that the film’s very title – down to its very deliberate use of ellipses – tells you in no uncertain terms that what you are seeing is a fairy tale, and it’s wise to remember that as it enters its final reels. Even so, it’s easy to see why audiences may feel dissatisfied by “Hollywood.” Who would expect anyone, particularly this director, to turn a film about the Manson murders into a buddy film with a feel-good ending? That doesn’t mean “Hollywood” is devoid of the overthe-top, baroque violence that has become synonymous with this filmmaker’s name. Violence hangs over the entire thing like a shroud; the entire premise hinges on the real-life horror that we know is destined to take

FILM place on that summer night in the Hollywood Hills, and even those with limited knowledge of the factual history know just enough to realize that there’s going to be an inevitable climactic bloodbath. Yet there’s something about the violence in this particular Tarantino film that provokes us differently. In Tarantino’s fantasy version of 1969 – as in the real one – the pop culture in which his anti-hero protagonists participate drips with violence; it’s all part of an ethos in which fighting, guns and killing are not only necessary evils, but a defining core of true masculinity. In such a world, violence is only bad when it’s done by bad people, but when the good guys do it, we cheer. It’s also a time when the culture is changing; the old ways still dominate, but there’s a growing rift between past and future, reflected in the rise of counter-cultural influence as the old studio system loses its grip on the industry. There are constant reminders of how much has changed since then – everyone smokes, for example, even two feet away from small children, and it’s still standard practice for men to call any female “honey” or “pumpkin pie.” It’s notable, too, that almost the entire cast is white; for a director known for exploring race, this is clearly a significant point. The emphasis on change, of course, only underlines how much remains the same. Today, in the midst of another divisive societal shift, it’s impossible not to see the parallels. In this light, Tarantino’s endorsement of oldfashioned machismo, along with the implied misogyny and racism that goes with it, has echoes of MAGA, and his seeming assertion that violence is fine when there’s a good reason for it sits uncomfortably – especially in the wake of the three mass shootings that took place within the film’s opening week. This, of course, is where Tarantino proves that he has far from lost his edge. “Hollywood,” like his entire canon, is shaped by the films produced during this very era, and therefore embraces their paradoxically moral amorality to reconstruct the past – and by extension, the present – in the image of their projected dream. He’s done it before, exacting revenge (one of the most essential themes in his movies) on the past by beating it into submission with his art. We may not like the bill of goods he’s selling – in fact, many of us may hate it – but that’s the whole point. He’s showing us our own collective selves, reflected back at us through the expressions that have always dominated our popular imagination, and if we don’t like what we see, the responsibility lies on our own shoulders. That’s what a great artist does, in any medium. Their work excites, confronts, and gnaws at the mind for a long time afterward. It evokes a strong, polarizing reaction – but love it or hate it, you have to acknowledge the genius behind it. “Hollywood” may be this director’s crowning achievement, or it may be a weak entry from a fading star – judging from the reactions generated so far, it depends on whom you ask. So, get over that sense of dread and go decide for yourself. You may not like it, but you know you’ll enjoy it – and Quentin Tarantino knows it, too.



‘Four Weddings’ and a thud New Hulu series leaden with rom-com cliches, unlikeable characters By BRIAN T. CARNEY

The cast of ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral.’ Photo by Ollie Upton, courtesy Hulu

In April 1994, a British rom-com unexpectedly took Hollywood by storm. Directed by Mike Newell (who would go on to direct the blockbuster “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and the underappreciated gem “Enchanted April”) from a script by Richard Curtis (who would later write the holiday favorite “Love Actually”), “Four Weddings and a Funeral” became an international sensation with a large LGBT fan base. The movie centered on Charlie (Hugh Grant), a charming but socially awkward Brit who attends the aforementioned social occasions with a tight-knit group of family and friends. In terms of representation and inclusion, the film was remarkable for the time. The lead cast included two out and well-adjusted gay men (played by Simon Callow and John Hannah) and Charlie’s deaf brother David (played by David Bower). Hugh Grant even learned BSL for their scenes together. Buoyed by gorgeous cinematography from Michael Coulter, a lovely score by Richard Rodney Bennett and a superb cast, Curtis’ pitch-perfect script and Newell’s sure-footed direction resulted in a movie that was a winning combination of wit and sentiment. The film got rave reviews, broke box office records in Britain and earned multiple nominations and statues at the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award ceremonies. In addition, the movie made Hugh Grant a star, gave model-turned-actress Andie MacDowell a breakthrough prestige role as Charlie’s American love interest and boosted the fledgling film careers of Simon Callow and Kristin Scott Thomas. Now, 25 years later, Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton have co-created and co-produced a 10-episode television adaptation of the movie which is now dropping on Hulu. Unfortunately, lightning has not struck twice. Despite some wonderful supporting performances, the new series is as flat as stale champagne. Kaling and Warburton focus on a quartet of straight American friends from college who all end up in London. Ainsley Howard (Rebecca Rittenhouse) is a designer whose wealthy parents pay the mortgage on her deluxe townhouse and underwrite the expenses for her foundering business. Caleb Duffy (John Reynolds) is an aspiring novelist who teaches English at a boys’ school. Craig (Brandon Mychal Smith) is an investment banker and ladies’ man. Maya (Nathalie Emmanuel) is a political speechwriter. Their fifth wheel is Kash Khan (Nikesh Patel). He shares an office with Craig (although he really wants to be an actor) and he’s romantically involved with both Maya and Ainsley. That’s just one of many secrets these “friends” keep from each other. Maya is the first character we meet and her introduction sets the sour tone for the series. She wakes up alone in a glamorous Manhattan apartment. There’s a note on the pillow next to her

reading “Good morning beautiful.” Then there’s a text (there are a lot of texts in this show): “Get out of the apartment. My wife is coming home!” Maya quickly cleans up the rose petals and champagne bottles, retrieves her bra from the fish tank and heads into work. She’s the communications director (and mistress) for a married senatorial candidate, but it’s OK because he’s really going to leave his wife this time and she got out of the apartment before his wife got home. And that’s the biggest problem with the series: the central characters are generally disagreeable. They’re selfish and self-absorbed. They treat each other rudely and weave complicated webs of alliances and deceptions. They have no selfawareness and take themselves way too seriously. Beyond that, the writing is oddly uneven. Plot details are inconsistent between episodes. There are some great one-liners, but the lead characters are trapped by every rom-com cliché in the book. Unrequited love since college — check. Raindrenched declaration of love — check. Being left at the altar — check. Moody walks through night-time London as turgid pop music plays — check. Affairs with bosses and clients — check. And that’s just in the seven episodes that were available for review. Kaling and Warburton do diversify the overall cast in some interesting ways, but the leads are all notably young and buff and thin and beautiful. The show is a step back for LGBT representation. In addition to lots of swishy extras, there are two gay supporting characters. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett is Tony #2 (Ainsley of course has two gay assistants). Alex Jennings is Andrew Aldridge, Maya’s boss and the first openly gay member of Parliament). These fine actors are absolutely terrific in their roles, but they’re kept firmly in the background. Maybe their storyline needed more rom-com clichés. The rest of the supporting cast is also great. Zoe Boyle is splendid as Ainsley’s friend Gemma. Her comic timing is impeccable, but she also brings an appealing emotional depth to the character as well. Tom Mison is superb as Gemma’s husband Quentin and Guz Khan is delightful as Kash’s mate Basheer. Sophia La Porta is absolute dynamite as Craig’s seemingly dim-witted girlfriend Zara. Her comic flair is delicious, but she also manages to imbue her character with more brains and heart than any of the leads. Harish Patel and Krrish Patel are charming and heart-warming as Kash’s loving father and little brother. While the television adaptation ultimately has little in common with the movie except the title, the series does pay homage to the original by casting Andie MacDowell as Ainsley’s mother. She’s delightful. Is the series worth watching? Despite the great supporting cast, not really. The writing is riddled with clichés and the lead characters are not very interesting. Revisit the movie instead.

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Tituss Burgess takes on ‘messy queen’ Andy Cohen

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And Mario Lopez apologizes for offensive comments By BILLY MASTERS

“But at the same time, my God, if you’re 3 years old and you’re saying you’re feeling a certain way, or you think you’re a boy or a girl or whatever the case may be, I just think it’s dangerous as a parent to make that determination then, OK, well then you’re gonna be a boy or a girl, whatever the case may be.” — Mario Lopez shares his thoughts on transgender children during a podcast with pro-Trump conservative Candace Owens. BTW, he later apologized, saying, “The comments I made were ignorant and insensitive, and I now have a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were.” Remember when summer used to be filled with reruns? That’s how I’m feeling about this week’s column. Not that the stories are old, but many of them relate to days gone by. Take our opening quote from Mario Lopez, where he incoherently babbles about transgender children. Of course, Lopez has been a longstanding ally of the LGBTQ community and has since apologized. But his rambling reminded me of Miss South Carolina’s answer when Mario hosted the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant - a moment touted by most as epic in pageant history. Back then, Mario tried to stifle a laugh. Watch both clips on BillyMasters.com and see if you can do the same. Tituss Burgess has been flying high on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and is currently promoting his new CD, “Saint Tituss.” But everyone is talking about his feud with Andy Cohen. Tituss was on “What Watch Happens Live” and Cohen asked a viewer question about the film Burgess just made with Eddie Murphy. Tituss was effusive in his praise for Murphy. Then Andy

asked, “Did you get to chat with him at all?” Tituss said, “Of course I did. Why wouldn’t I?” Cohen added, “I just wondered if you got close at all because he was very problematic for the gays at one point when I was coming up.” “Oh, I see. He wasn’t problematic for Tituss ... he was great and any troubles he may have had with gay people I guess are gone because he loved me.” Tituss batted his eyelashes while mouthing and gesturing something to the audience. “What was that?” Andy asked. “Keep going, girl - do your show,” said Tituss. We’re told that when the live telecast was over, Tituss quickly left the set and refused to sign the guest book, saying, “He knows I was here.” Kathy Griffin has been everywhere promoting her movie, “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story.” In “People” magazine, she again talks about Andy Cohen, saying during her time at Bravo, “he treated me like a dog. He was one of the worst bosses I ever had.” I’m sure she’ll have a whole lot more to say when she hits Provincetown on Aug. 16 for a pair of shows she’s calling “Sweatin’ For The Gays” at Town Hall. Despite numerous break-ups, The Go-Go’s will be back in a big way next year. First off, Showtime will air an extensive, no-holdsbarred documentary about the band, which was shot by Alison Ellwood, who helmed a two-part documentary about the Eagles. For The Go-Go’s project, she reportedly tracked down everyone who was ever involved with the band and left no stone unturned. Coinciding with that release, the band will play Washington, D.C. on July 4. Continues at losangelesblade.com

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N.Y. guv signs bill reducing possession penalties ALBANY, N.Y. — Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation into law amending marijuana possession penalties and establishing procedures for the automatic expungement of prior, low-level cannabis convictions. The new law takes effect August 28. Specifically, Assembly Bill 8420-A reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession violations (up to one ounce) to a $50 fine. It also amends penalties for offenses involving the possession of more than one ounce but less than two ounces of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to three months in jail) to a non-criminal violation punishable by a $200 fine – regardless of an offender’s prior criminal history. The new law also amends the classification of offenses involving the use or possession of marijuana in public from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, to a fine-only offense. In New York City alone, police typically make tens of thousands of marijuana arrests annually under the ‘public view’ exception. Over 87 percent of those charged with the crime are either black or Latino. Finally, A. 8420-A establishes procedures to allow for the automatic expungement of criminal records specific to crimes involving the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana. Several hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers will be eligible for expungement under the plan. “Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana for far too long, and today we are ending this injustice once and for all,” Cuomo said. “By providing individuals who have suffered the consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction with a path to have their records expunged and by reducing draconian penalties, we are taking a critical step forward in addressing a broken and discriminatory criminal justice process.” Assembly Bill 8420-A was negotiated in the closing days of the 2019 legislative session after lawmakers failed to agree on provisions of a marijuana legalization measure.

U.S. approves increased use of cannabis in research Federal officials have approved plans for the University of Mississippi to grow 2,000 kilograms (4,409 pounds) of cannabis to provide to investigators for clinical trial research, according to the Associated Press. Since 1968, the University of Mississippi farm, which is governed by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, has held the only available federal license to legally cultivate cannabis for FDA-approved research in the United States.


According to the AP, marijuana crops will include plants of varying THC and CBD potencies, including strains high in cannabidiol. According to the program’s current marijuana menu, no available samples contain more than seven percent THC and all samples contain less than one percent CBD. Investigators wishing to conduct FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabis have long complained that federally provided samples are of inferior quality. A research analysis published earlier this year reported that the strains currently available from NIDA shared genetics typically associated with industrial hemp, not commercially available cannabis. The crop will be the largest grown by the University of Mississippi in several years.

Adolescent pot use not linked to adult brain changes TEMPE, Ariz. — The use of cannabis during adolescence is not associated with structural brain differences in adulthood, according to longitudinal data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Investigators from Arizona State University and the University of Pittsburgh assessed the impact of adolescent cannabis exposure on brain morphology in adulthood. Researchers tracked differing adolescent use patterns – from no cannabis use (defined as four days of use or less) to heavy use (defined as, on average, 782 days of use) – in a cohort of 1,000 teenage boys. A subset of participants subsequently underwent structural brain imaging in adulthood (between the ages of 30 to 36). Scientists examined 14 brain regions of interest, including the amygdala and the hippocampus. Authors reported, “We found that adolescent cannabis use was not associated with adult brain structure in a sample of boys followed prospectively to adulthood.” They added: “Boys were classified into one of four prototypical adolescent cannabis trajectory subgroups based on prospective assessments of cannabis use frequency from age 13–19: infrequent use/no use, desisting use, escalating use, or chronicrelatively frequent use. ... We found no differences in adult brain structure for boys in the different adolescent cannabis trajectory subgroups. Even boys with the highest level of cannabis exposure in adolescence showed subcortical brain volumes and cortical brain volumes and thickness in adulthood that were similar to boys with almost no exposure to cannabis throughout adolescence.” They concluded, “[T]he patterns of cannabis use typically seen in community-dwelling adolescents does not appear to have lasting effects on brain structure.” Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.

‘Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana for far too long,’ said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo by andykatz / Courtesy Bigstock

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