Obama leads tribute to 2020 grads PAGE 04
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Republicans rejoice in 25th CD special election victory Smith concedes, looks to November rematch By KAREN OCAMB
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was clear: the May 12 special election in California’s 25th Congressional District was “an historic opportunity to send a message President Trump and his Republicans can’t ignore: Democrats aren’t letting up, not one bit.” Democrats may not be letting up but Republicans just sent a major message of their own. Early returns from the May 12 special election in the 25th Congressional District show Republican former fighter pilot Mike Garcia with a double digit lead over Democratic Assemblymember Christy Smith in the race to fill former Rep. Katie Hill’s seat. The 25th CD includes Palmdale, Porter Ranch, Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and a part of Lancaster. Though it will take days, maybe weeks to process all the mail-in ballots, the outcome looked clear, prompting Smith to concede in a post on Facebook. “While it’s critical that we ensure every vote is counted and recorded, we believe that the current tally shows Mike Garcia is the likely victor in the May 12 special election,” Smith wrote. “As such, I’d like to congratulate him.” Smith not only had endorsements from national Democratic celebrities like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton but even the Los Angeles Times published a second endorsement in asking voters not to sit out the runoff election, calling Garcia “woefully unprepared” for the job. Garcia declared victory earlier, with a congratulations from Twitter supporter, President Donald Trump. “After seeing more results last night, it is clear that our message of lower taxes and ensuring we don’t take liberal Sacramento dysfunction to Washington prevailed,” Garcia said in a statement. “I’m ready to go to work right away for the citizens of the 25th Congressional District.” Trump’s morning barrage of tweets included: “Big Congressional win in California for Mike Garcia, taking back a seat from the Democrats. This is the first time in many years that a California Dem seat has flipped back to a Republican.” Not since 1998, in fact, gloated Republican groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition using the victory as a fundraising tool. “Make no mistake – this is a MASSIVE victory for the GOP. It shows that our voters are energized and that we’re in a position to take back the House this November,” wrote RJC Deputy Executive Director Alex Siegel. “Think about it – if we can win in California, in a district that Hillary Clinton won by 6 points in 2016, then we are in a GREAT position for November’s election up and down the ballot.” Siegel highlighted their use of peer-to-peer texting “to encourage Jewish Republican voters in the district to return
02 • MAY 15, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Assemblymember CHRISTY SMITH conceded her race to Mike Garcia. (Via Facebook)
their ballots. With mail-in ballots figuring to be much more prevalent in this November’s election, our use of this political technology will be a key outreach tool for us moving forward.” Out Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark J. Gonzalez issued a statement, as well, looking toward the rematch in November for the new term in Jan. 2021. “Tonight the Trump-Garcia-McConnell machine showed America that they will continue to deploy their dangerous tactics, buying and lying their way into an election. As we continue to grapple with the local and national effects of the coronavirus, Mike Garcia has fallen in line with Donald Trump in their attempt to destroy the Affordable Care Act, putting millions of Americans at risk,” Gonzalez said. “I know that Christy will be the voice Congress needs right now to ensure that our workers are safe and our families are secure. This fight in CA25 was never going to be over tonight,” he added. “Trump, Mike Garcia and the Republicans have been put on notice, and they will do whatever they can do to defeat Christy in November. There’s too much at stake, and LA Democrats look forward to the challenge ahead with Christy.” The updates to the mail-in-ballot vote count should give an indication just what the district actually looks like.
The registrars in LA and Ventura counties have until June 1 to certify the election. Though Democrats expect to do better November when the presidential election will draw more money, volunteers and new know-how into the second contest between Smith and Garcia, the victory has spiked Republican enthusiasm and so far seems to have prompted little Democratic afteraction analysis of the loss. “It will mean something to Trump, who will just wrap his arms around Garcia and will declare Trump the winner,” said longtime political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, senior fellow at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, told the LA Daily News. “And it will energize Trump’s base. Even though Democrats will say it’s just a blip on the screen, they wouldn’t be happy about it.” Bob Mulholland, a veteran California political strategist, was annoyed at what he perceives as the party’s complacency. “No excuses,” Mulholland, a member of the Democratic National Committee, told the LA Times. Democrats “were too full of themselves” and “they let Christy Smith down.” But, he added, by October, “Garcia will have a Trump tattoo on his forehead,” and — given Trump’s massive unpopularity in California — “Democrats had better not fail.”
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Obama speaks! Former president to make televised commencement address By KAREN OCAMB
President Donald Trump is so fixated on former President Barack Obama, one might think America’s first black president just left the White House. The obsession is so extreme, Trump is trying to blame Obama for the spread and devastation wrought by the novel coronavirus. A little fact-checking, however, shows that it was Trump who disbanded the National Security Council’s global health security and bio-defense directorate in May 2018, with its detailed manual on how to make worldwide threat assessments and prepare for and handle pandemics. Obama has largely refrained from criticizing Trump since leaving office. But recently he slammed the current president’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis in a private phone call. “It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ ... is operationalized in our government,” Obama said in a leaked audio. Obama’s short critique is a stark reminder of how presidents used to respond in a crisis — understanding that the country needs truth, sage advice and compassion. Many hope that Obama delivers that much-needed comfort and inspiration during a unique one-hour, commercial-free telecast on May 16 simulcast at 8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET by more than 20 broadcast and cable networks and streaming channels and platforms, including TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. The “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020” extravaganza, coordinated by XQ Institute, The LeBron James Family Foundation, and The Entertainment Industry Foundation, features a slew of stars including LGBTQ celebrities Ben Platt, Megan Rapinoe, and Lena Waithe. “I’ve always loved joining commencements –– the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. Even if we can’t get together in person this year, Michelle and I are excited to celebrate the nationwide Class of 2020 and recognize this milestone with you and your loved ones,” Obama said on Twitter May 5. “Whether you’re graduating from high school, college, or any other kind of school — we want you, your family, and all of your loved ones to be a part of this celebration,” Michelle Obama added on Twitter. Obama had initially declined to deliver a virtual national commencement address when asked by
04 • MAY 15, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
BARACK OBAMA in high school
Eagle Rock High School student Lincoln Debenham, 17, inspiring a social media campaign. “Like most high school/college seniors, I’m saddened by the loss of milestone events, prom & graduation,” Debenham said in an April 14 post. “In an unprecedented time, it would give us great comfort to hear your voice. We ask you to consider giving a national commencement speech to the class of 2020.” Debenham told the New York Times he was inspired by Obama’s endorsement of Biden. “It reminded me all day what a great speaker he always was and how his words shaped my generation in many ways,” the student said. “I figured, Who better than him?” Indeed, Obama has some experience with delivering inspiration and comfort during hard times, including choking up when honoring the victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School or singing “Amazing Grace” after eulogizing Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine murdered by a white supremacist during a Bible study meeting at Mother Emanuel African
Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. But perhaps Obama’s best point of reference for this terrible time is his Jan. 21, 2009 inauguration address when the country faced a crippling ﬁnancial crisis. “My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you’ve bestowed, mindful of the sacriﬁces borne by our ancestors,” he said before a throng of well-wishers braving the cold in Washington, D.C., taking the oath “amidst gathering clouds and raging storms” of a country in crisis. “At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high oﬃce, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents,” Obama said. “So it has been; so it must be with this generation of Americans.” Obama noted “the indicators of crisis” and the “nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.” The challenges are real, serious and many, he said. “They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.” But, Obama asserted: “On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conﬂict and discord….Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.” The time demands “a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, ﬁrm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so deﬁning of our character than giving our all to a diﬃcult task,” the then-new president said. “This is the price and the promise of citizenship.” Let’s hope Trump’s expected venomous tweet storm will be met with a counter celebration on: GraduateTogether2020.com, Instagram: @graduatetogether | Snapchat: @gradtogether | TikTok: @graduatetogether, Twitter: @ gradtogether | #GraduateTogether.
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Wiener’s LGBTQ data collection bill advances Gov. Newsom supports need for measure By KAREN OCAMB
The war against the global novel coronavirus pandemic rages on, with the massive health and economic toll being told in stark class, race, gender and age disparities. What’s missing from the demographic information so critical to tracking, helping and preventing COVID-19 outbreaks is data reﬂecting the virus’ impact on LGBTQ populations. California State Sen. Scott Wiener and the LGBTQ equality lobbying organization Equality California are urgently working to change that. Studies from the Williams Institute and other think tank and healthcare organizations note that high percentages of LGBTQ people have signiﬁcant underlying medical conditions – higher rates of respiratory issues (from smoking), HIV/ AIDS, cancer, and homelessness, for instance — placing them at greater risk for contracting and likely experiencing greater health impacts from COVID-19. Additionally, LGBTQ people are more likely to work in the gig economy, the service, hospitality and entertainment industries and in frontline jobs such as nursing. On May 13, the California Senate Health Committee heard testimony about the necessity for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data collection from all COVID-19 patients. They then advanced Wiener’s SB 932, introduced in early May, sponsored by Equality California, and co-authored by all members of the California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus, as well as Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), on a bipartisan vote of 9-0. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I’ll be honest. I wish I had not been forced to introduce this legislation,” Wiener said during a Zoom news conference before heading to the committee. “I usually don’t say that. This is frankly an issue that should’ve been taken care of already. Even though there is some law around LGBTQ data collection, the health context, we’ve learned that it has some gaps and holes that need to be ﬁlled in.” Wiener was referring to AB 959 in 2015 and another bill, AB 677, in 2017 that required the California Department of Public Health and other state agencies to collect SOGI data. Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur said he’s in discussions with Los Angeles County oﬃcials and with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s oﬃce about the issue. Kuehl, who last year introduced an order with Board President Kathyrn Barger to collect LGBTQ death data, and, said Zbur, is “very concerned about this issue, and really leading the eﬀorts to understand why the County is not gathering this data and what needs to
06 • MAY 15, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Sen. SCOTT WIENER before the Senate Health Committee. (Photo courtesy Equality California)
take place in order to quickly begin doing that.” “Frankly, even without the law, or a law, the State of California and our counties, and our healthcare providers should already be collecting this data,” said Wiener. “Collecting demographic data for contagious diseases is not a new concept — it’s already happening. And we are seeing in California and around the country, very valuable data being collected about COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color, particularly African American and Latinx communities. We’re seeing the outrageous disparities with death rates in the African American community, infection and death rates in the Latinx community. And that gender disparity’s age diﬀerential — and this demographic data is helping to guide our response to the pandemic. It’s critically important data.” Unfortunately, Wiener continued, “essentially no data is being collected in California or elsewhere about COVID-19 impacts on the LGBT community on infection rates, on hospitalization rates, on death rates — that data simply isn’t being collected. And that is frankly appalling. It is appalling that we have the ability to
collect the data and it’s simply — it’s an afterthought. And that is unfortunately the history of the LGBTQ community, where we have to ﬁght against invisibility all the time, we have to ﬁght to be counted.” SB 932 adds a question about sexual orientation and a question about gender identity on the same COVID-19 questionnaire used by providers asking data questions on race, age, and sex. And while the local provider is required to ask these questions, the patient is not required to respond, just as they are not required to answer any other demographic question. “Today, we took a big step forward in passing an important piece of health legislation for the COVID-19 era,” Wiener said in a statement after the unanimous vote. “SB 932 will allow us to understand COVID-19’s impact on the LGBTQ community, which has long been forgotten or underserved in the public health world. It will ensure no one gets left behind and set the stage for broader and more equitable access to healthcare for the long term.” CONTINUES ON PAGE 08
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Push for LGBTQ COVID data collection intensiﬁes
‘I’ve been to too many funerals and said too many goodbyes while my government looked the other way during the AIDS crisis,’ said RICK ZBUR. ‘We can’t let that happen again.’
08 • MAY 15, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
“We’re grateful to Senator Wiener, President Pro Tem Atkins and Senator Pan for their leadership in advancing this critical legislation,” said Zbur, who testiﬁed before the committee. “But frankly, I am disappointed that we even need this bill in the ﬁrst place, and that LGBTQ+ people need to plead to our government to take very basic steps to protect our health. God knows I’ve been to too many funerals and said too many goodbyes while my government looked the other way during the AIDS crisis. We can’t let that happen again. Not now. Not in 2020. Not in the state of California.” Wiener and members of the LGBT Legislative Caucus sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for an executive order to collect LGBTQ data. “We’ve been in conversation with the Governor directly and also with Dr. Sonia Angell, the director of Public Health for the State of California, and we are working with them,” said Wiener, acknowledging that the two are “drinking from a fire hose” fighting the COVID-19 crisis. “Our desire is for an executive order to happen, but we think we need to also put it into law. And that’s what Senate Bill 932 will do.” SB 932 would mandate that the State CalREDIE (California Reportable Disease Information Exchange) database used to collect data around more than 90 contagious diseases, as well as from any County databases — “that all of these kind of databases must include a field for sexual orientation and gender identity, requiring that as healthcare providers, whether it’s a private provider or a County provider, as they are collecting demographic data, they must ask for this information about sexual orientation and gender identity.” The SOGI data would then be made public “so both the public and public health oﬃcials can understand the impacts on our community.” Apparently after talks with Wiener and others, Newsom and Public Health Director Sonia Angell updated the CalREDIE system on May 8. However, Wiener and Zbur still want an executive order for immediate action while SB 932 runs on a parallel legislative track working to ﬁx holes in the system so testing questionnaires are uniform and local providers asking the questions and collecting the data send the data to the counties, which would then send the data to the Department of Public Health, which then makes the data public.
During his regular noon news conference on May 13, Newsom expressed support for SB 932 and suggested a more thorough investigation of how the state has failed the LGBTQ community after the COVID-19 crisis has subsided. Pressed by the Bay Area Reporter about an executive order, Newsom said he has been “very clear” in previous responses to questions from the Los Angeles Blade that “we want this information to be forthcoming. We care deeply about providing and receiving that information or having the benefit of that information being provided at the county level.” Newsom noted that he and his oﬃce have been “working with Scott Wiener, who’s been an outstanding leader in this space. He has a legislative eﬀort to do just that. And we have been in constant contact, including, not only with him but the LGBT Caucus on this issue and so we look forward to working with him and resolving….” Newsom then intimated that he would sign Wiener’s bill. “And the community’s absolutely right – that information has not been forthcoming. But let me just make this crystal clear: for decades, we have been under-reporting in the LGBT community space, as it relates to issues that are important to the community. That must change. That pre-dates this pandemic. And working with the Caucus, working with Sen. Wiener, we hope to have a legislative eﬀort very shortly on my desk that will allow us to move forward by going together.” Newsom also suggested that a law passed by the people’s representatives would have greater effect in achieving the common goal. “I’m very deferential to the work that Sen. Wiener is currently doing and I know that no one wants to see this information more – not only than I, but Dr. Sonia Angell, whose entire cause of life before she became Health Director in this state, was protecting our diverse communities and making sure there was more reporting and transparency. And she’s been very clear on multiple occasions very publicly that she is requesting this information and the legislative eﬀorts will help us demand that information with much more scrutiny and much more capacity and transparency.” With such a public commitment, Wiener and Equality California might be able to fast-track SB 932 while simultaneously working with the counties on how to quickly implement the impending mandate. LGBTQ Californians are counting on that.
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Trans trailblazer Aimee Stephens dies at 59 Aimee Stephens, the funeral home director ﬁred for being transgender and the center of a Supreme Court case that will determine whether anti-trans discrimination is prohibited nationwide, has died at age 59, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Tuesday. Stephens died at her home in metro Detroit with her wife, Donna Stephens, at her side as a result of kidney failure and related complications, an ACLU spokesperson said. An unexpected leader in the LGBTQ movement, Stephens was terminated from her job in 2013 at Harris Funeral Homes for being transgender after she announced she’d transition. Her case led to litigation that is currently pending before the Supreme Court and could see a decision as soon as this week. Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement Stephens “did not set out to be a hero and a trailblazer, but she is one.” “Being a part of Aimee’s team at the Supreme Court has been one of the proudest moments of my life because of the amazing person behind the case,” Strangio said. “As a member of her legal team, I am deeply sad for this loss. As a transgender person and an advocate, I am ﬁlled with both grief and rage that we have lost an elder far too soon.” Stephen’s case will determine whether anti-trans discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, therefore illegal in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
AIMEE STEPHENS speaks to reporters at the Supreme Court. (Blade photo by Michael Key)
The litigation, Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, was consolidated before the Supreme Court with cases of gay workers alleging discrimination — Zarda v. Altitude Express and Bostock v. Clayton County. The three cases will determine whether discrimination in the workplace against the entire LGBTQ community is illegal. Stephens attended oral arguments at the Supreme Court after addressing the crowd on the steps and was seen ushered around in a wheelchair by transgender actor and activist Laverne Cox. In October 2019, Stephens told the Blade she wasn’t sure she’d attend because of health concerns, but said the journey has “been an eye-opening experience.” CHRIS JOHNSON
Lawmakers seek LGBTQ protections in int’l COVID eﬀorts A bicameral group of congressional lawmakers led by Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) are calling on the Trump administration to ensure international eﬀorts to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic overseas include relief for LGBTQ people. In a letter dated May 7 obtained exclusively by the Blade, the 47 members of Congress — all Democrats — make the case the U.S. response to the coronavirus overseas “will be seen as a test of our country’s commitment to the protection of human rights and American values of fairness and equality.” The lawmakers urge the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to protect LGBTQ human rights overseas during the coronavirus crisis in three ways: First, the letter calls on the Trump administration to “intervene at senior levels with governments that are using the COVID-19 crisis to persecute or discriminate against LGBTQI and other marginalized communities.” As an example, the letter cites Ugandan authorities in March raiding a homeless youth shelter, arresting 19 LGBTQI people and charging them with “a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease.” Also, the lawmakers seek the inclusion of LGBTQ people in both short- and longterm response and recovery programs in addition to calling on partner countries to adopt the same approach. “Restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 have placed a large
burden on those in the informal economy, cutting oﬀ income streams and preventing them from obtaining food or secure shelter,” the letter says. “As a result, the pandemic has heightened the vulnerability of LGBTQI and other marginalized populations to poverty, food insecurity and homelessness.” As an example, the letter cites governments such as Panama and Colombia are using gender to determine when people are allowed to leave their homes for essential services. As reported by the Blade, critics say those policies in Latin American countries have resulted in arbitrary arrests and harassment of trans and gender non-conforming people. Finally, the lawmakers call for access to health services the United States provides overseas, such as “treatment for HIV and other COVID-exacerbating conditions, as well as other necessary healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive health.” “LGBTQI people and other vulnerable populations face stigma and discrimination in obtaining healthcare services, especially in countries where same- sex sexual conduct or non-normative gender expression is criminalized,” the letter says. “This hinders access to lifesaving healthcare services and puts their lives at even greater risk during this pandemic.” The State Department declined to comment on the letter, citing a general practice of no comment on congressional correspondence. USAID didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment. CHRIS JOHNSON
Supreme Court weighs religious carve-outs in LGBTQ case The U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to grant religious schools an expanded ministerial exemption in employment decisions based on oral arguments Monday in litigation that could have signiﬁcant bearing on LGBTQ teachers at these institutions. The cases, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, Agnes and St. James School v. Darryl Biel, were brought by Catholic schools seeking immunity under the law to conduct employment practices
for non-ministerial jobs — such as the hiring and ﬁring of teachers — consistent with their religious beliefs under the exemption granted by the First Amendment. The schools raised the claims in response to a lawsuit from teachers alleging wrongful termination. One alleges she was terminated based on age discrimination, the other based on disability after having to request time oﬀ to treat cancer. The schools have maintained the terminations
10 • MAY 15, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
were the result the teachers not fulﬁlling their ministerial roles at the schools. Predictably, the ﬁve conservative justices on the bench seemed amenable to the idea of an expanded ministerial exemption, while the four liberal justices were against it. U.S. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was blunt in her questioning about the possible implications of a ruling in favor of Catholic schools, calling it “staggering.” The cases have broad implications for
workers at religious schools, including LGBTQ teachers. The ruling could impact whether gay teachers have a legal right to sue a Catholic school if they’re terminated for entering into a same-sex marriage, or transgender teachers if they’re ﬁred for undergoing a gender transition. A decision in the case is expected before next month at the end of the term for the Supreme Court. CHRIS JOHNSON
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How technology can reduce isolation for LGBTQ elders A digital divide is plaguing our aging population Today we are all adapting to the complications of COVID-19 and its impact on our daily life. As we abide by current “stayat-home” orders, we are learning how this reality may affect others in our communities. Researchers have found that social isolation and the subsequent feelings of loneliness can be lethal. The AARP Foundation put some perspective on this when it announced that social isolation can cause similar health effects to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. While we are all experiencing some level of isolation, the difficulty truly is compounded for some at-risk communities. Perhaps these feelings are no greater than for our LGBTQ older adults, who already have a higher percentage of health issues (Williams Institute) that could lead to more serious risks from COVID-19. Their need for accessible connected technology may exceed those of other communities; a high-speed broadband connection to shop for groceries at home, communicate with healthcare providers without leaving home, and stay informed with news and information from the immediate community as well as broader public health updates. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed existing inequalities, and exacerbated struggles already present for vulnerable populations. Reports estimate that there are around 3 million LGBT adults over age 50, and by the end of this decade the number will grow to around 7 million. LGBT older individuals’ loneliness and isolation are compounded by several factors: they are twice as likely to live alone; four times less likely to have children; often confront discrimination and social stigma; and are more likely to face poverty and homelessness and be in poor health. The Williams Institute has revealed that older LGBT adults face social and health disparities in a number of critical areas, resulting in worse physical and mental health compared to heterosexual older adults. The current economic conditions add another layer of stress to an already burdened community. While many have experienced financial hardship during this pandemic, LGBT
people collectively have a poverty rate of 21.6%, which is much higher than the rate for the cisgender straight people of 15.7%. All of these factors contribute to the health and wellbeing of the LGBTQ older adults during this COVID-19 pandemic. For all LGBTQ individuals, going online has always been a “must-do” activity. Research conducted by The LGBT Technology Partnership has revealed that 80% of LGBTQ respondents participate in a social networking site (such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) compared to 58% of the general public. Searching the internet for health information is particularly important for lesbians whose unique health needs are often overlooked. The LGBTQ older community are a critical at-risk segment within the larger digital divide plaguing our aging population. With only a little over half of those age 65 who now have broadband at home (Pew Research), the opportunity for older “at risk” communities existing in isolation without a tech “lifeline” raises great concern. We suggest that a multi-pronged approach is essential to serve this underserved community. First, the policy world needs to increase efforts to expand telehealth services, especially for older patients, to help combat the realities of the coronavirus. Additionally, as the country moves to contact tracing it is vital to remember that any tech-heavy solution may have a disparate impact on seniors who may be less tech savvy than other populations. Finally, support must be maintained and even increased to community and social organizations that target older LGBTQ individuals. Community centers, places of worship and social organizations that cater to this community need to receive special training, education and resources that can help protect this vulnerable population. The COVID-19 virus will continue to affect each of us, but the increased vulnerability of our senior and LGBTQ communities requires unique strategies to ensure everyone stays as safe and healthy.
CARLOS GUTIERREZ is Deputy Director & General Counsel for the LGBT Technology Partnership & Institute, which works to improve access, increase inclusion, ensure safety and empower entrepreneurship for LGBT communities around technology.
DEBRA BERLYN is executive director of the Project to Get Older Adults onLine (Project GOAL) and president of Consumer Policy Solutions.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM •MAY 15, 2020 • 11
Dine at home, LA gourmet style Local restaurants working hard to cope with COVID restrictions By SUSAN HORNIK
Now that Los Angeles’ shelter-in-place order has been extended through July, the restaurant industry is facing even more serious challenges and tougher restrictions. To help increase revenue, the City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to create a new ad campaign, asking consumers to order directly from area restaurants rather than use third-party dining apps. “With over 25 percent of our West Hollywood workforce in hospitality, our restaurants are essential to the economic wellbeing of our community,” said Genevieve Morrill, Commerce president and CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “The City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce wanted to help drive business to our restaurants oﬀering takeout. For those with their own delivery operations, we are encouraging patrons to skip the app and order directly. We want our businesses to make it through this pandemic.” The Los Angeles Blade’s Susan Hornik talked to Weho restaurant owners about the pandemic and its impact on their business. Sandro Oliverio, who owns the Italian restaurant, Amarone (8868 Sunset Blvd., 310-652-2233) in Weho and Hard Times Pizza in Echo Park, is frustrated with the shelter-in-place extension for restaurants. “For those of us that are white table cloth, sit down restaurants, this is detrimental, as we can only pay staﬀ and rent for so long before it becomes unaﬀordable. But what other option do we have? Eat like we are in a ICU, gloves, masks and distancing. Not for me… I’ll need to think outside the box and ﬁnd alternative income with the Amarone space.” Olivero has kept his kitchen staﬀ working on to-go orders and deliveries. “Business at Amarone is down at least 80 percent, but we are taking this time to repaint and beautify the space.” A compassionate man, Olivera has also stepped up his philanthropic eﬀorts. “We feed the homeless that are hungry, with no exception, as long as they respect the social distancing rules, wear a mask The owner of Amarone Kitchen & Wine is frustrated with the shelter-in-place extension for restaurants. and wait outside as we prepare something for them to eat. We are also creating an event to feed our ﬁrst responders, where we match any donation of 50 guests or more, till we reach our capacity. One for one. We believe in the old saying, ‘Put your money where your mouth is.’ You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. I prefer to be the latter.” Meison Lay, co-owner of Kung Pao Bistro (7853 Santa Monica Blvd, 323-848-9888) is thankful the community has been supportive of his restaurant, which has been in business for nearly 20 years. “We believe in the #WeHoStrong mentality, and believe the West Hollywood community will continue to come out to support local businesses during this health crisis, which has aﬀected everyone in so many ways,” Lay said. CONTINUES ON PAGE 14
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grateful for healthcare workers. “First responders are invited to “Financially, we have never come by any and every day and been so hard-hit. However, order a non-alcoholic beverage the support and rally of our at Conservatory. On Fridays, the community has aﬀorded us to restaurant oﬀers a free burger keep our entire kitchen staﬀ on and fries to hospitality workers the payroll, because they have in need of a meal, all just need to families to support also. We want show ID and pay stub.” our staﬀ, who is like family, to be Their cocktail/wine/beer and all taken care of.” day food menu are available for Lay says this is not a time for takeout or delivery. “We tried to restaurants to think about proﬁts. oﬀer a range of options such as “More importantly, we just want Box Meals for brunch or dinner, enough to support our staﬀ. We Spring Sangria Carafe, Mimosa Kits, appreciate the love that LA has a wine list oﬀering variety, etc.” given us, so we give back in return The West Hollywood Chamber of by doing what we do best — cooking Commerce is a great organization up a bounty of Chinese food — and that truly supports local West then donating it to our healthcare Hollywood businesses and and community heroes who have connects that community. That is worked so hard and risked their why IPPUDO (8352 Santa Monica lives to protect ours. The owner of Barney’s Beanery is concerned for the future of his restaurants. Blvd, 310-986-2717) is a proud and For Lay, business and the future active member of the Chamber. of the restaurant was questionable “As a traditional sit-down during the start of the pandemic. restaurant, business is not where “All of our dine-in and corporate it was pre-COVID. But we are so thankful for the West Hollywood community and catering services suddenly stopped overnight and was a big ﬁnancial shock to us. our guests who have embraced our new takeout and delivery options,” IPPUDO However, we thank our community for ordering in from us and being supportive, as we said in a statement. “For sit-down restaurants, so much of the dining experience learned a new way to operate in light of COVID-19,” Lay acknowledged. is about the service and ambiance, while we can’t provide that in full to our guests Lay also modiﬁed their way of providing meals to customers, such as a contact-free right now, we strive to provide them with a delightful ordering experience and a delivery/hand-oﬀ option and taking extra steps in sealing and packaging food so that tasty ramen meal at home.” there is minimal contact during transport into the customer’s home. IPPUDO’s parent company has donated to various healthcare organizations “Also, we reduced restaurant hours, so that our staﬀ can take extra measures in across the country. IPPUDO West Hollywood is currently working on plans to sanitizing our establishment, from the kitchen equipment to the door handles, credit support healthcare and hospitality workers In the West Hollywood community. card terminals, and pens that customers use.” Stay tuned for details. Ordering directly from their website, KungPaoBistro.com will give customers free A J Sacher, director of operations for Barney’s Beanery (8447 Santa Monica Blvd., delivery for as long as this stay-at-home ordinance is in place. 323-654-2287), is committed to the safety of his customers but is concerned for the “We are oﬀering special dinner packages that we had never oﬀered before, that future of his restaurants. will include appetizers through dessert,” enthused Lay. “We have temporarily been “The LA County Department of Health has to do more than just extend a staygranted the right to sell alcohol to go, so we are selling our two most popular cocktails, at-home order for three more months,” Sacher said. “Where is a medical response the Lychee Martini and Hibiscus Margarita. It is pre-mixed by our staﬀ and ready to to this crisis? What have they done to extend testing, develop treatments, develop serve at home.” a vaccine, or provide a path to restart the economy? Economic ruin is their only Conservatory Restaurant (8289 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-654-0020) has used medicine, and that’s just not good enough.” the Cafe as a no-contact window for food and beverage pick up, noted owner Paul Their current carryout menu, which includes cocktails and food, can be found at Kalt. “We’ve been able to serve the neighborhood and oﬀer a sense of normalcy barneysbeanery.com/carryout. “We have special pricing on a variety of items and for people that may be out for a walk and want to stop by and order a coﬀee or a we are adding new ones every few days. cocktail, or pick up food on their way home.” Kalt emphasized that Conservatory wants to be as supportive as possible and is so
14 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 15, 2020
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Bored? Engaging new queer streaming options abound ‘Still Waiting in the Wings’ features gaggle of celeb cameos By BRIAN T. CARNEY
Musical theater fans who need a fresh dose of song and dance can celebrate the release (DVD and digital) of “Still Waiting in the Wings” today. Written by Arie Gonzalez and Jeffrey A. Johns (who also stars) and directed by Q. Allan Brocka, with songs by several different artists, the light-hearted musical follows the lives of the servers at Café Broadway who are waiting for their big break. The appealing cast delivers the material with infectious high spirits which cover up the occasional weak spots in the writing and directing. The stylish and clever choreography by Cassie Nordgren brings just the right amount of show biz razzle dazzle to the proceedings. Johns is charming as Anthony, an aspiring Broadway hoofer, although his nasal delivery sounds like he’s auditioning for “Spongebob: The Musical” which can be a little distracting. The rest of the cast are uniformly strong. Some of the standouts include Joe Abraham as Anthony’s arch-nemesis Bradley; Rena Strober, Tiffany Commons and the electric Rebekah Kochan as three singing servers (their number “Chorus Girl’s Lament is a highlight of the movie) and Harrison White as the drag queen Kelsey who scores big with the scary delights of “Halloween Whore Nights.” The movie also features great cameos from showbiz legends Cindy Williams, Chita Rivera, Ed Asner, Seth Rudetsky, Sally Struthers, Bruce Vilanch, Carole Cook, Patricia Richardson, Nick Adams and the glamorous Lee Merriweather. The soundtrack has also been released today. Acorn TV (acorn.tv/) is an excellent source of bingeworthy drama and documentaries from British and international television. Some of the stand-out series include the delectable crime comedy “Pie in the Sky” starring Richard Griffiths; “Slings and Arrows,” about the hilarious backstage shenanigans at a Canadian theater festival; “I, Claudius” the decadent drama that made out actor Derek Jacobi a star for his portrayal of the unlikely Roman Emperor; “Doc Martin”; “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”; “Foyle’s War”; “Midsomer Murders”; “Vera”; “Poldark” and several series based on the best-selling works of Agatha Christie. Several outstanding series feature LGBT characters. The award-winning “Janet King” stars Marta Dusseldorp as a crime-solving lesbian prosecutor. The Aussie crime drama “Deep Water” centers on an investigation into a series of hate crimes. “A Place to Call Home” is a serial Australian drama about a wealthy family in the 1950s; the cast
16 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 15, 2020
includes a son who comes out to his homophobic family. Other Acorn series with prominent queer characters include “Still Life,” based on the Armand Gamache mystery by Louise Penny; the popular “Agatha Raisin” series; the turbulent school drama “Ackley Bridge” and “Blood.” The most recent addition to the Acorn slate is the intriguing family drama “Gold Digger.” Julia Ormond (“Mad Men”) stars as Julia Day, a divorcee who begins a whirlwind romance with 35-year old Benjamin Greene (Ben Barnes) on her 60th birthday. Their affair upsets her dysfunctional family — ex-husband Ted (Alex Jennings), former best friend Marsha (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her children: lawyer Patrick (Sebastian Armesto), slacker Leo (Archie Renaux) and aspiring stand-up comic Della (an outstanding performance by Jemima Rooper). Over the course of six episodes, family drama unfolds and secrets old and new are revealed. The script by Marnie Dickens is a little wobbly. Some of the secrets are obvious, the pacing can be a little slow, Julia’s dialogue feels somewhat clichéd and some of the characters are underwritten. But Della’s storyline is well-written and thoughtfully executed. Della is a lesbian who has been deeply scarred by the family dysfunction and it has affected her relationship with her girlfriend Emily (Maeve Dermody). The emotional ups and downs of their relationship are neatly woven into the overall storyline. There’s also a great performance by Julia McKenzie as Ted’s acerbic mother Hazel. She delivers her zingers with deadly delight. Finally, the powerful Israeli drama “15 Years” is available today on DVD and VOD. The movie follow Yoav (a commanding performance by Oded Leopold), a successful architect who is celebrating his 15-year anniversary with his boyfriend Dan (the charming Udi Persi) and a new gallery show by his friend Alma (a stunning performance by Ruti Asarsai). Things begin to unravel when Alma announces she is pregnant and Dan mentions that he would like to become a father. This sends Yoav into a spiral of self-destructive behavior. Some of the pacing of the movie is uneven, but the ending is fascinating. This is a great movie to stream at home and then discuss over Zoom with your movie club. Does Yoav what he deserves?
BEN NARNES in ‘Gold Digger.’ (Photo courtesy Acorn TV)
ODED LEOPOLD in ’15 Years.’ (Photo courtesy Breaking Glass Pictures)
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Green machines Kia Niro, Lexus hybrid among posh new models By JOE PHILLIPS
With those stay-at-home orders, some of us have become smitten with clean air and quiet neighborhoods. Call it the Walden Pond effect. But how to maintain that peaceful, easy feeling when the hustle and bustle returns? Here are a few green vehicles that even Henry David Thoreau could love. LEXUS UX 250h HYBRID $35,000 MPG: 41 city/38 highway Zero-60 MPH: 8.6 seconds As part of Toyota’s grand plan to churn out hybrids galore, the automaker adds the UX 250h hybrid crossover to its Lexus luxury line. The look is both plucky and posh, thanks to the choppy sheet-metal and high-class cabin. Sure, the base model is a fine ride, but the F Sport trim level adds enticing extras: brawny bumpers, sport-tuned suspension, LED fog lights and steering-wheel paddle shifters. There’s even an “active sound control” system for a sexier exhaust note. And the contoured seats are so form-fitting they rival those in a Porsche Carrera. Sadly, the acceleration isn’t at all Carrera-like, though it’s adequate enough for most daily commutes. I initially had a hard time with the thick pillars and small rear window, which reduce driver visibility. But Lexus tossed in a standard backup camera that really helps. There’s also a front-facing camera and radar system to prevent collisions and detect pedestrians and bicyclists. The touchy infotainment system was hard to decipher at first, but my old-school stubbornness prevailed in the end. All in all, the UX hybrid is a solid vehicle for drivers looking for a touch of luxury without the hefty price tag. KIA NIRO EV $40,000 Range: 239 miles Zero-60 MPH: 7.8 seconds For years I was skeptical of electric vehicles, mainly because of range anxiety. Why buy a vehicle that could only travel 60 miles before needing a re-charge that would last for hours? But then I fell in love with more recent EVs like the all-new Kia Niro, which can travel four times as far as those early electrics. The Niro’s design is clean and understated, similar to a gutsy VW e-Golf (also on my bucket list). The cabin is likewise unobtrusive, especially the hard-plastic door handles and dash, but still tasteful, with user-friendly gauges and a slew
18 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 15, 2020
of control switches on the steering wheel. What’s more, there are plenty of top-notch amenities, including xenon headlights, heated power-folding side mirrors, acoustic-damping windshield, heat-reflecting front side windows, tinted rear windows, smartphone integration, Bluetooth and more. For an additional $4,000, the premium trim level adds ambient lighting, ventilated seats, sunroof and wireless phone charging. Another plus: the concert-hall acoustics and throbbing subwoofer from the blissful Harman Kardon stereo. The Niro EV may not be as zippy as some other electrics, but it’s still very fun to drive. Think a fancy go-kart for adults, and you won’t be far off the mark.
LEXUS UX 250h HYBRID
MINI COOPER SE EV $31,000 Range: 110 miles Zero-60 MPH: 6.9 seconds For some reason, driving a Mini brings out the British secret agent in me (more James Bond than Austin Powers, at least in my mind). It happened again when test driving the SE, the first Mini electric vehicle. No, there weren’t any rocket launchers or vehicle-cloaking devices. But the need for a passenger-ejection seat did cross my mind when my partner complained, once again, about how quickly I tackle speed bumps. (“Shaken, not stirred,” was my wry reply.) Luckily, my partner also knows how much I adore Minis: the 1970s door handles, those bug-eyed headlights and a Union Jack emblem tastefully etched into both taillights. Optional 17-inch wheels on the SE come with a wacky design for better aerodynamics. And funky yellow accents on the grille, fenders and side mirrors distinguish this car from a typical Mini. Inside the minimalist cabin there’s a tidy row of toggle switches and classy chrome accents on the vents and gauges. When the SE is plugged in, a digital readout indicates the exact time it will be fully charged. The nav system, which displays a “range circle” to show how far the SE can go without running out of juice, also maps out the best “green” route to travel. That’s a good thing, because the driving range here is only 110 miles. Luckily, the regenerative braking system is extra-grippy to help conserve energy. And by just barely lifting your foot off the accelerator, the car slows so dramatically that you really only need to brake when coming to a full stop. Such technology may not be as exciting as smoke bombs or flame throwers, but — as agent 007 might say — it’s still bloody impressive.
KIA NIRO EV
MINI COOPER SE EV
Losangelesblade.com, Volume 4, Issue 20, May 15, 2020