Judge rules search warrant of Sheila Kuehl was proper
Superior Court Judge William Ryan has ruled that the search warrants of the home of Out Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and others by the Los Angeles County Sheriﬀ’s investigators were properly obtained.
Ryan however also stipulated in his ruling the evidence gathered as a result of the search warrants be turned over to the oﬃce of California Attorney General Rob Bonta who took over the investigation earlier this week.
Supervisor Kuehl, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the nonproﬁt group Peace Over Violence had petitioned Ryan to have to have seized electronic equipment returned. Attorneys for Kuehl, MTA, and the non-proﬁt told the court that not having the equipment — including computers and hard drives — was hampering their clients’ ability to do their jobs.
In ruling against that request KABC 7 reported, Ryan maintained his previous order barring the Sheriﬀ’s Department from conducting any searches of the equipment before it is turned over to the Attorney General’s Oﬃce. The judge also indicated that a special master will likely need to be appointed by the court to review the seized items to identify any “privileged” material.
The Sheriﬀ’s Department’s Public Corruption Unit which had been conducting the ongoing years long probe was accused of targeting political opponents of LA County Sheriﬀ
Alex Villanueva, who has continued to deny those allegations.
That probe reported KABC 7 involving Kuehl — a vocal critic of Villanueva — focuses on allegations that she helped steer a series of no-bid Metro contracts to the nonproﬁt
Peace Over Violence, which is run by Patti Giggans, a longtime close friend of Kuehl.
Kuehl has denied any involvement in the awarding of contracts to operate a sex-harassment hotline for transit riders and employees, saying she was unaware of them and did not vote on them as a member of the Metro Board of Directors. The contracts totaled more than $800,000.
Sheriﬀ’s investigators last week served the search warrants at the homes of Kuehl and Giggans. They also searched their oﬃces, along with oﬃces at Metro and the Metro Ofﬁce of Inspector General.
The Sheriﬀ, who continues to state publicly that he has recused himself from overseeing the investigation, said that he had written a letter to AG Bonta alleging that LA County Inspector General Max Huntsman and staﬀ had alerted Kuehl to the search prior to its execution.
That letter prompted Bonta to announce his oﬃce would investigate the claim.
KABC reports Villanueva also sent a letter to the County Board of Supervisors, demanding that Huntsman — with whom he has repeatedly clashed over Huntsman’s requests for department records — be removed from his inspector general position since he is now the target of at least two Attorney General’s Oﬃce investigations.BRODY LEVESQUE
Newsom appoints Lopez to Ventura County Board
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that he has appointed City of Oxnard Councilmember Vianey Lopez to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to the seat left vacant by the sudden death of the beloved chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Carmen Ramirez, killed in an August traﬃc accident.
Lopez, 35, a resident of Oxnard, has been a city councilmember for District Six since 2018 and also serves as a District Director for California State Senator Monique Limón since 2020.
According to her campaign for reelection to city council biography, Lopez immigrated to the U.S. at the young age of 4. As one of the youngest of 11 children, there were opportunities she was aﬀorded that her siblings did not have.
Raised locally, Vianey attended kindergarten through middle school in the Hueneme Elementary School District before graduating from Hueneme High School in 2005.
Councilmember, now Supervisor Lopez has a lengthy
track record in progressive issues including her outspoken support of Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights as well as other key issues including LGBTQ+ equality, immigrant rights, and has worked for several California political leaders including a stint as District Scheduler for former U.S. Representative Lois Capps from 2013 to 2016, a member of the House from 1998 to 2017 representing California’s 24th congressional district.
Lopez was a Program Coordinator for the Oxnard Downtown Management District from 2012 to 2013 and an Administrative Assistant and Concierge at the Oxnard Convention and Visitors Bureau from 2009 to 2010. She is a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens and Future Leaders of America.
Lopez earned a Master of Public Policy degree in International Relations and State and Local Policy from Pepperdine University.BRODY LEVESQUE
SoCal gas prices race up by double digits in one week
Reports of additional Southern California reﬁnery issues, along with continued low inventories, have created the biggest one-week price jump at the pump since early June, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.
The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.52, which is eight cents higher than last week. The average national price is $3.68, which is two cents lower than a week ago.
The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.59 per gallon, which is
17 cents higher than last week, 25 cents higher than last month, and $1.19 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.53, which is 15 cents higher than last week, 24 cents higher than last month, and $1.18 higher than last year.
On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.53, which is eight cents higher than last week, seven cents higher than last month and $1.18 higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.44, which is 14 cents higher than last week, 23 cents higher than last month and $1.12
higher than a year ago. In Bakersﬁeld, the $5.46 average price is eight cents higher than last Thursday, three cents higher than last month and $1.10 higher than a year ago today.
“Oil Price Information Service reports that several local reﬁneries are undergoing unplanned maintenance as fuel inventories are at their lowest levels in a decade, which caused Los Angeles wholesale gas prices to rise sharply this week,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe.FROM STAFF REPORTS The Stanley Mosk Los Angeles County Courthouse (Photo by John O’Neill) VIANEY LOPEZ (center) with the late Chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors CARMEN RAMIREZ (left). (Photo by Vianey Lopez/Facebook)
Supervisor Kuehl’s lawyers: LASD search ‘LA Conﬁdential’ Bonta takes control of controversial criminal investigationBy BRODY LEVESQUE
In a motion ﬁled Monday, attorney’s for Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila J. Kueh, called the September 14 search of her Santa Monica residence by LA County Sheriﬀ’s investigators a scene straight out of “L.A. Conﬁdential.” Kueh attorney Chery L. 0″Connor also decried the search labeling it a politically-motivated and retaliatory raid.
The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday evening that California Attorney General Rob Bonta took control from the Los Angeles County Sheriﬀ’s Department of the controversial criminal investigation into Supervisor Kuehl and others, saying in a letter to sheriﬀ’s oﬃcials that sidelining the department was in the “public interest.”
Bonta’s decision Tuesday comes amid mounting questions about the department’s handling of the probe and allegations from Kuehl and others that Sheriﬀ Alex Villanueva is using it to attack political enemies.
In the Monday ﬁling, the Out county supervisor’s legal team asked the Los Angeles Superior Court for an emergency order quashing the warrant and asking the court to order the LASD to return all of the property seized, stop an active search of any and all computers and electronic devices and a special master to review any forensically imaged copies of the devices.
In their request the attorney’s also noted that the aﬃdavit in support of the search warrant is “plainly insuﬃcient” and lacks any evidence, much less probable cause, that Supervisor Kuehl was involved in, inﬂuenced, or beneﬁtted in any way from the award of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (“MTA”) contracts awarded to the LA non-proﬁt Peace Over Violence.
“It lacks any evidence, much less probable cause,” the motion said, and argued that the warrant is, “fatally defective and was obtained under highly suspicious circumstances.”
The Public Corruptions Unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriﬀ’s Department alleged that Kuehl steered a now-defunct MTA contract to her longtime friend Patti Giggans, who runs the non-proﬁt.
NBC 4 LA reported that Kuehl’s is the second challenge aimed at stopping the search warrant served September 14 at her home and oﬃce, following an initial “motion to quash” ﬁled by an attorney representing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Oﬃce of Inspector General, another of the search targets.
LA Superior Court Judge William Ryan ordered the Sheriﬀ’s Department last Thursday to cease its examination of two computers taken from the MTA OIG’s oﬃce and return them, and scheduled a hearing for Thursday with a list of questions he expects LASD to answer.
The politically charged investigation in part stems from a whistleblower complaint by a former disgruntled MTA employee Jennifer Loew, who alleged improper MTA contract dealings by both Kuehl and Giggans, which both women have vehemently denied.
Speaking with reporters last week as the search was underway in her home, Kuehl claimed the investigation by
the sheriﬀ’s department stems from a “bogus non-issue” related to claims brought on by a the disgruntled MTA employee.
“We didn’t vote on a contract, we didn’t even know about the contract,” said Kuehl, who claims the employee’s issue comes from an alleged contract brought on by METRO that was negotiated with Peace Over Violence, which Kuehl said she did not vote on. “These deputies have been brought into something that is kind of non-existent.”
She continued saying, “There’s no claim of any crime. There’s no basis for this.”
and trying to silence and intimidate his critics is conducting a bogus, vindictive, politically motivated witch hunt against Sheila Kuehl, a public oﬃcial of the highest integrity.”
In another Tweet Bonin pointed out: “It’s worth noting to connect the dots that the judge who signed the warrant (Craig Richman) has a longtime special relationship with the head of Villanueva’s political enemies unit (Mark Lillienﬁeld).” He also linked to an Los Angeles Times article describing the sheriﬀ’s unit that targeted political enemies of LA County Sheriﬀ Alex Villanueva.
In an emailed statement Tuesday, a grouping of heads of LGBTQ non-proﬁts voiced their support, although when asked by the Blade why there was a delayed response in issuing support to Supervisor Kuehl, a spokesperson for the group, LA LGBT Center head Joe Hollendoner replied;
“A very appropriate question. Truth be told, it took a bit of time for us to decide on an action and draft a statement. Plus, we really needed to contemplate risk of retaliation. No new developments have occurred that prompted this coming out today.”
In a follow-up question Hollendoner admitted that fear of retaliation was that potentially from Sheriﬀ Alex Villanueva.
A group of local LGBTQ community leaders issued a statement on the Sheriﬀ Department’s action. It reads in part:
The Oﬃce of the Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón indicated the oﬃce was not inclined to take action on the results of the search by the LASD. The LADA also noted in a statement that “The allegation was investigated by LASD & submitted for ﬁling consideration in September 2021. We reviewed the case and determined that the state of the evidence at that time did not prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt. LASD indicated that they would continue to investigate.”
The DA’s oﬃce went on to note that it was not notiﬁed of last week’s search nor was the warrant disclosed to the oﬃce and as such it was declining to defend the matter in court if challenged.
NBC 4 LA also reported that it appeared that Sheriﬀ’s investigators had gone “judge shopping” as Superior Court Judge Ryan raised that issue himself in his ruling.
Why the Sheriﬀ’s Department went to a new judge for last week’s warrant, after a diﬀerent judge authorized the LASD to search the same locations, under the guise of the same investigation, in March, 2021 Ryan wanted to know.
“Why, after Judge Hunter was going to require a Special Master, did the Sheriﬀ immediately seek a warrant from a diﬀerent judge, and who made that decision,” Judge Ryan wrote in the order requiring answers from LASD.
Kuehl has garnered outspoken support over the search by the LASD including her fellow Out politician, openly gay Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who wrote on Twitter:
“A corrupt sheriﬀ with a track record of abusing his power
“We, the undersigned group of Los Angeles LGBTQ+ community leaders, were deeply alarmed and concerned by the news reports, photos, and video footage of the Los Angeles Sheriﬀ’s Department raiding Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s home at dawn on Wednesday, September 14, escorting Supervisor Kuehl from her home barefoot, and depriving the County Supervisor of her phone. We were equally dismayed to learn that these were then followed by Sheriﬀ’s investigators acting similarly towards Civilian Oversight Commissioner, Patti Giggans, another member of the LGBTQ+ community, who has long served our community.
“Facts about what led to the Sheriﬀ’s Department’s taking this invasive action are extremely limited. What is known is that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Oﬃce evaluated the evidence in the case, and stated that it “did not prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt.” This fact alone suggests that due process was not followed. In the aftermath of Wednesday’s raid, the district attorney’s oﬃce stated that it was not aware of the search warrants used to invade Supervisor Kuehl’s house and that, for this reason, “we do not intend to defend it if challenged in court.” This unprecedented lack of coordination between the Sheriﬀ’s and District Attorney’s oﬃces gives credence to claims that this is a baseless political attack by Sheriﬀ Alex Villanueva against his political opponents.”
It was signed by Alexis Adsit; Benjamin Anderson Bashein; Evelin Montes; Jim Mangia; Joe Hollendoner; Keith McNutt; Mason Funk; Richard Zaldivar; Steven Roth; Tony Valenzuela; and Tony Hoang.Los Angeles County Sheriﬀ ALEX VILLANUEVA (Screenshot/YouTube)
Newsom signs bills to support Native communities
On Native American Day, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several bills to support California Native communities and build on the administration’s work to promote equity, inclusion and accountability throughout the state.
AB 1314 establishes a statewide emergency alert system for missing Native people. In a ceremony joined by leaders of Native American tribes from across California, the Governor signed AB 1314 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) to help address the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Native people from communities across the country.
Under AB 1314, local law enforcement will be able to request that the California Highway Patrol activate an emergency Feather Alert, similar to an Amber or Silver alert, to assist in search eﬀorts for a Native person who has been reported missing under suspicious circumstances.
“As we lift up the rich history and contributions of California’s diverse tribal communities today, the state recommits to building on the strides we have made to redress historical wrongs and help empower Native communities,” said Governor Newsom. “Today’s measures continue to move these eﬀorts forward, including a new emergency alert system that will provide us with additional critical tools needed to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. I thank all the legislators and tribal partners whose leadership and advocacy help light the path forward in our work to build a better, stronger and more just state together.”
“AB 1314 will help us get the word out sooner when an individual is missing or endangered, enlisting the help of the public for tips and leads as soon as possible when quick action is critical,” said Assemblymember Ramos. “I thank the Governor for signing this vital measure – creating an alert system was a top recommendation from tribal lead-
ers for addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.”
The state budget this year invests $12 million over three years to fund tribally-led programs to help address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People on tribal lands. This investment built on last year’s investment of $5 million to fund training and guidance for law enforcement agencies and tribal governments to improve public safety on tribal lands and study challenges related to the reporting and identiﬁcation of missing and murdered Native peoples, particularly women and girls.
AB 1936 re-designates UC Hastings College of the Law and advances restorative justice eﬀorts for Native peoples who suﬀered mass killings orchestrated by the college’s founder. Governor Newsom also signed AB 1936 by Assemblymember Ramos, which re-designates the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law as the College of the Law, San Francisco and advances restorative justice efforts for Round Valley Indian Tribes and Yuki people whose ancestors suﬀered mass killings and other atrocities funded and supported by college founder Serranus Hastings in the mid-19th century.
AB 1936 also outlines several restorative justice initiatives that the College intends to pursue, such as renaming the law library with a Native language name, annually reading a statement of the atrocities Hastings committed against the Yuki people and providing collaborative opportunities for Round Valley tribal students to gain debate and writing experience, among other eﬀorts.
AB 2022 will remove the racist and sexist slur squaw from all geographic features and place names in California. Under AB 2022 by Assemblymember Ramos, the racist and sexist term “squaw” will be removed from all geographic features and place names in the state, and a process to
review petitions to change oﬀensive or derogatory place names will be created. This comes on the heels of federal action this month to complete the removal of this slur from nearly 650 geographic features across the country, including several name changes advanced by California based on extensive tribal engagement. The Newsom Administration has launched a series of ongoing actions to identify and redress discriminatory names of features attached to the State Parks and transportation systems.
Newsom also signed AB 1703 by Assemblymember Ramos, the California Indian Education Act. The measure encourages local educational agencies and charter schools to form California Indian Education Task Forces in partnership with local tribes to develop curricular materials that highlight the unique history, culture and government of tribes in their region.FROM STAFF REPORTS
L.A. County Parks plans Girls Empowerment Conference
L.A. County Parks is encouraging young girls across the Southland to join together and learn how to turn their dreams into reality, receive wisdom from successful women innovators, connect with their peers, and exercise their girl power with a rollicking dance party, during the 8th annual “I Matter: Girls Empowerment Conference” on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Themed “Girls with Dreams Become Women with Vision”, this year’s conference seeks to inspire young girls to pursue their dreams and educate them on becoming successful and powerful women in a global society. The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is free and open to girls ages 12-18, and will be held East Los Angeles College.
The Girls Empowerment Conference is made possible by the generous support of the Los Angeles County Probation, Recreation and Parks and Public Health Departments and East Los Angeles College.
The Honorable Judge Olivia Rosales, a Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court-Southeast District, will be the Keynote Speaker, kicking oﬀ a day of informative and fun-ﬁlled interactive workshops where girls can learn from experts about what it takes to be successful in today’s world, create once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and become
empowered to make their dreams come true. The interactive workshops will include:
• Girls Directing Change – view and discuss powerful short ﬁlms created by youth aimed at educating young people about critical mental health and social justice issues.
• Step into Your Power – an unapologetic space where girls to tap into their strengths and cultivate a feeling of belonging in all spaces.
• Be YOU Vision Board – Focus on building self-love, self-esteem and ﬁnding genuine happiness by being your true self
• Think You Can Dance? – join the groove and immerse yourself in the movement and culture of hip hop and other popular dance styles.
• The Art of Spinning – get hands-on experience of spinning like a club DJ while also learning the career and business side of DJing!
• You Throw Like a Girl – learn how women have been breaking gender stereotypes in the ﬁeld of sports, politics, and business; not only on the ﬁeld but oﬀ the ﬁeld as well
• GEC Resource Activation – spend some time net-
working, connecting with peers, enjoying artbased activities and resources hosted by various government and community-based organizations
“I Matter: Girls Empowerment Conference” is free but registration is limited.FROM STAFF REPORTS Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM signed several bills to support California Native communities. (Photo courtesy Oﬃce of the Governor) (Photo courtesy County of Los Angeles)
Calif. companies limited in cannabis testing
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law that will block employers from screening for cannabis use as a condition of employment except for narrow exceptions and also for use in terminating an employee.
The law, Assembly Bill 2188, will ban employers from any determination based on cannabis use while employees are oﬀ work. It also prevents them from hiring or ﬁring based on that. There are exceptions for on-the-job use prohibitions and in positions that require a federal background investigation or clearance.
The law also provides for prohibitions on employees’ cannabis use while at work, working while impaired, and being in possession of cannabis while on the job.
The language reads:
This bill, on and after January 1, 2024, would also make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based upon the person’s use of cannabis oﬀ the job and away from the workplace, except for preemployment drug screening, as speciﬁed, or upon an employer-required drug screening test that has found the person to have nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine, or other bodily ﬂuids.
The bill would exempt certain applicants and employees from the bill’s provisions, including employees in the building and construction trades and applicants and employees in positions requiring a federal background investigation or clearance, as speciﬁed.
The bill would specify that the bill does not preempt state or federal laws requiring applicants or employees to be tested for controlled substances as a condition of employment, receiving federal funding or federal licensing-related beneﬁts, or entering into a federal contract.
In a related matter, Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 1186, was also signed into law by New-
som this past week. The law restores voter-created access to medicinal cannabis across the state by requiring cities to allow patients access to purchase legal medicinal cannabis by delivery. SB 1186 will take also eﬀect on January 1, 2024.
quently have no option other than to buy on the illicit market. California’s thriving and growing illicit cannabis market both undermines the legal, regulated market and risks people obtaining contaminated cannabis.
To address this signiﬁcant medical access problem, SB 1186 requires cities to allow medical cannabis access via delivery.
Wiener’s oﬃce in a press release pointed out:
“To be clear, SB 1186 does not in any way change cities’ ability to limit or ban sales of *adult* use of cannabis. Prop 64, passed by the voters in 2016, grants cities that local control. But Prop 64 did not speak to medical cannabis — which the voters legalized in 1996 via Prop 215 — and the Legislature’s decision to grant cities that local control was not required by any voter measure. Indeed, the Legislature’s grant of power to cities to ban medical cannabis undermined the voters’ intent in passing Prop 215. Prop 215’s core goal was to create legal access to cannabis as medicine.”
“This is a victory for seniors, and for those living with HIV, cancer, and other chronic illnesses who use medical cannabis,” said Senator Wiener, “Finally, patients in rural areas – who have to drive for hours or rely on the illegal cannabis market to access their medicine – will be able to get cannabis delivered right to their door. Thank you, Governor Newsom, for helping us ensure anyone who needs it can access this life-saving medicine.”
Under current California law — which allows cities to ban any and all cannabis sales — 62% of cities have banned all cannabis sales, including medical cannabis sales. As a result, residents of those cities, including people living with HIV, cancer, arthritis, insomnia, and other conditions, fre-
California was the ﬁrst state in the country to allow medical use of cannabis with the 1996 approval of Proposition 215. This voter initiative, driven largely by caretakers and activists seeking palliative therapies for AIDS and cancer patients, led to a cascade of state medical cannabis legalization eﬀorts nationwide, as well as recognition that cannabis is essential medicine.
SB 1186 prioritizes patient health by allowing patients to access licensed deliveries in their area and by prohibiting jurisdictions from enacting restrictions on these businesses that have the eﬀect of prohibiting retail sale by delivery.
Under SB 1186, local jurisdictions retain all of their local control over adult-use (non-medicinal) cannabis businesses. This law simply prevents jurisdictions from prohibiting medicinal cannabis delivery and therefore preventing patients from accessing the medicine they need.FROM STAFF REPORTS
Man convicted for death threats against Sen. Wiener
A Contra Costa County Superior Court jury last week convicted a 51-year-old San Ramon, Calif. man for threatening the life of Out State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and on state weapons charges.
Erik Triana was convicted guilty of threatening the life of Wiener, two counts of possessing assault weapons (an AR15 riﬂe and a privately made 9mm pistol), two counts of manufacturing or assembling unregistered ﬁrearms (commonly known as ghost guns), and two counts of having a concealed ﬁrearm in a vehicle, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Oﬃce.
Both the San Francisco Police Department and California Highway Patrol investigated the threat, the SFPD’s public information oﬃcer Oﬃcer Kathryn Winters told the Blade.
Senator Wiener released a statement after the conviction:
“I’m deeply grateful to the Contra Costa County District
Attorney’s Oﬃce, California Highway Patrol, and the court system for taking this death threat — and my personal safety — seriously, and for seeking accountability.
“Death threats against public oﬃcials undermine democracy. A public oﬃcial should make decisions based on what beneﬁts the community, not based on whether a decision will get the oﬃcial killed. Modern politics can be polarized and toxic, but we must never normalize or tolerate death threats.”
Local Contra County journalist Tony Hicks, writing for Bay City News, reported:
Triana was arrested after he sent Wiener the threat through the senator’s “contact me” portal on his website that read: “Vax my kids without my permission and expect a visit from me and my riﬂe.”
According to the district attorney’s oﬃce, the San Ramon father of three signed his message “Amendment, Second”
and listed his address as the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Triana was charged in April.
When Wiener testiﬁed on Sept. 6 he noted the threat was unlike others his oﬃce receives because of the reference to the late San Francisco Mayor George Moscone (who, along with Supervisor Harvey Milk, was shot and killed at San Francisco City Hall in 1978), the speciﬁc threat to use a gun, and that Triana lived in the Bay Area.
The threat was traced back to a work computer Triana used at his job in Pleasanton. When investigators executed the search warrant they found an unregistered AR-15 assault weapon with nine loaded magazines and an unserialized privately made 9-mm pistol referred to as ghost guns.
Police also seized another unserialized pistol in a backpack, along with two loaded 9mm magazines and two loaded AR-15 style magazines.BRODY LEVESQUE Most cannabis testing will be blocked for employers under a new law. (Photo by kuprevich-FreePix stock photos)
Nevada Dem Senate candidate faces attacks on LGBTQ record that defy logic
Masto criticized for defending marriage ban, but GOP opponent agreed with herBy CHRIS JOHNSON | firstname.lastname@example.org
The race for the U.S. Senate seat in Nevada — which may decide control of that chamber of Congress in the upcoming election — is coming down to the wire as polls shows a tight race between Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and the Republican challenger Adam Laxalt. If Republicans get their way, it will have everything to do with Cortez Masto’s defending her state’s ban on same-sex marriage as Nevada attorney general — and nothing at all to do with the long record against LGBTQ rights of her Republican opponent.
Cortez Masto, as Republicans want you to remember, made the decision in 2014 as Nevada attorney general initially to defend her state’s ban on same-sex marriage against a legal challenge in court. It was after the Supreme Court’s ruling against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, which prompted a wave of litigation throughout the country against state bans on same-sex marriage as legal advocates saw a new opportunity to overturn them under the new precedent.
Some other attorneys general at the time came to a different conclusion and determined they didn’t need to defend their state bans in court, making legal conclusions the laws were unconstitutional and thus indefensible. Cortez Masto also had some choice words in her initial legal brief comparing the ban on same-sex marriage to bigamy and incest, which Republicans are now able to pounce on largely thanks to the Washington Blade’s original reporting at the time drawing attention to the language in the brief.
Matt Wolking, vice president of Axiom Strategies, is among the Republican political strategists invoking Cortez Masto’s defense of the marriage ban, rebuking her on Twitter on the basis she opposes gay rights — all while promoting her GOP opponent despite a column he wrote in favor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military’s gay ban.
“Laxalt served in our military. Catherine Cortez Masto did not,” Wolking tweeted. “She’s been in government her whole life. 4 years after Laxalt’s column & 3 years after DADT was repealed, Masto defended Nevada’s ban on gay marriage, comparing it to bigamy and incest.”
But what Republicans aren’t telling voters is that Cortez Masto’s legal position on her state’s ban on same-sex marriage didn’t last long. After issuing a statement the next day signaling she was reconsidering her defense of the law, she later announced after the review she would reverse her position and join legal advocates in seeking to overturn the law.
In 2022, Republican eﬀorts to draw attention to Cortez Masto’s record is the latest indication that the issue of same-sex marriage, which years ago was an unpopular
idea that sent Democrats running for the hills, has been turned on its head in terms of its political implications. For example, Democrats in the House just this year were eager to bring the ﬂoor legislation seeking to codify same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Support for same-sex marriage is so high that one-fourth of the Republican caucus went along with them.
considered in Congress.
Changing the law, Laxalt wrote, would make “ﬁghting wars harder” on the basis that men “love to have sex” and the military “cannot tolerate the tensions that surround sexual relationships or potential ones” that would come with openly gay service members.
“To those who currently tolerate homosexuals but retain their God-given right to reject homosexuality as a practiced lifestyle — could you do the above as a leader?” Laxalt wrote. “Even for your country? It is one thing for the military to ask its members to accept
homosexuals, but another for the military to ask its members to accept and live with homosexuality, the homosexual lifestyle.”
That’s just one part of Laxalt’s longer record, which includes signing a legal brief in favor of allowing a Washington ﬂorist to refuse wedding services to same-sex couples based on religious objections and dubbing as “coercive” the Obama administration’s guidance on transgender students to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity.
The real kicker: Laxalt himself said when running for the position of Nevada attorney general he would defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. During a 2014 interview with the Las Vegas Sentinel, Laxalt emphatically made the case the role of attorney general is to defend state law on the marriage ban.
The Nevada race, however, takes public support for same-sex marriage to a whole new level. Now, Republicans are criticizing a Democratic incumbent up for re-election for defending the ban on same-sex marriage and her choice of words in an initial legal brief when Republicans have largely been responsible for enacting the bans in the ﬁrst place. The latest Republican Party platform from 2016 continues the party’s position in favor of a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage form coast-to-coast.
As such, it would be hard for Republicans to assert they are bringing up Cortez Masto’s record out of a genuine concern for same-sex marriage and not simply as a political ploy to disaﬀect Democrats and suburban women, whose turnout would be necessary for Democrats to retain control of Congress in a mid-term election with a Democratic president.
Consider the alternative: Laxalt is a conservative who is notorious for having an anti-LGBTQ record. Take, for example, the aforementioned op-ed Laxalt wrote for the National Review in 2010 in favor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when repeal of the ban on openly gay service members was being
“As attorney general of Nevada, I would follow and uphold the law as passed by the people of Nevada through our constitutional process, and I would vigorously defend that law when challenged,” Laxalt said.
Unlike Cortez Masto, there’s nothing in the public record suggesting that Laxalt ever changed his position on samesex marriage or otherwise embraced LGBTQ rights (save for accepting the endorsement from Log Cabin Republicans and strong support from Richard Grenell). Meanwhile, Cortez Masto has sponsored the Equality Act, legislation that would expand protections against LGBTQ discrimination under civil rights law, and is now a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which supporters say will come up for a vote in lame duck after the election.
If, at the end of the day, Nevada voters decide to oust Cortez Masto and replace her with Laxalt, they would be replacing a supporter of LGBTQ rights measures before Congress with a voice stridently against them. One wonders if Republicans criticizing Cortez Masto for her short-lived defense of her state’s ban will come back to criticize Laxalt for voting “no” on those measures based on their newfound standards for political candidates.Sen. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO (D) faces a challenge from Republican ADAM LAXALT
Elton John performs at White House
After a performance from a repertoire of the best known hits from his songbook in a special concert at the White House Friday evening, Elton John was called to the podium where, accompanied by the ﬁrst lady Jill Biden, President Joe Biden surprised the iconic British singer-songwriter with an award.
The president presented John with the National Humanities Medal for his advocacy work in recognition of LGBTQ rights and tireless activism against the global HIV/AIDS crisis disease through his contributions in music and the arts.
The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened its citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy and other humanities subjects.
A stunned John was moved to tears. After the president had the citation read by a military aide and hung the medal around the singer’s neck, Biden told the audience gathered, “I think we surprised him” to which they cheered and applauded.
The medal’s citation read in part that it was honoring John “for moving our souls with his powerful voice and one of the deﬁning song books of all time. An enduring icon and advocate with absolute courage, who found purpose to challenge convention, shatter stigma and advance the simple truth — that everyone deserves to be treated with
dignity and respect.”
Visibly moved, the iconic musician and performer said: “I just said to the ﬁrst lady, I’m never ﬂabbergasted — but I’m
ﬂabbergasted and humbled and honored by this incredible award from the United States of America. I will treasure this so much — I will make me double my eﬀorts to make sure this disease goes away. Your kindness — America’s kindness to me as a musician is second to none, but in the war against AIDS and HIV it’s even bigger and I can’t thank you enough … I’m really emotional about this — thank you.”
The special gathering held under a vaulted glass and aluminum “tent” on the South Lawn of the White House was attended by 2,000 guests including former ﬁrst lady Laura Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, his husband Chasten, as well as teachers, nurses, LGBTQ advocates and military families, who the White House had dubbed “everyday history-makers.”
During a pause in his performance earlier, the singer addressed Bush, praising her husband, former President George W. Bush’s ongoing work on the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which President Bush had initiated while in oﬃce and is credited with saving millions of lives across the African continent and helping to change the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS crisis globally.
“I want to say to the ﬁrst lady, President Bush accelerated the whole thing with his PEPFAR bill. It was the most incredible thing,” he said to Laura Bush.BRODY LEVESQUE
Members of Congress call for gender-neutral travel docs
California Congressman Adam Schiﬀ and 18 other House Democrats on Tuesday sent a letter to the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security that encourages them to make the “X” gender marker available for all U.S. passport applications and Trusted Travelers programs.
A spokesperson for Schiﬀ told the Blade in an email:
“The letter was inspired by a constituent who reached out to our oﬃce trying to get an emergency passport appointment with an ‘X’ gender marker — right now you can only get rush passport service with the ‘X’ gender marker at one passport agency in D.C., so if they had gone through the L.A. passport agency, they only would have been able to get a passport with the M or F gender marker. Our oﬃce was able to resolve the case successfully, but it inspired our team to ﬁgure out a legislative solution that will help LGBTQI+ individuals access these services in the future.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in March 2021 announced passports with an “X” gender marker will be available starting April 11.
Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identiﬁes as non-binary, in 2015 ﬁled a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. Zzyym last October received the ﬁrst gender-neutral American passport.
In Tuesday’s letter, the House members noted that while State Department and the Department of Homeland Security made history by expanding the gender marker options available for U.S. passports and TSA PreCheck applications, creating a new “X” marker for individuals who identify as unspeciﬁed or another gender identity.
“The departments have yet to implement the ‘X’ gender marker for their wide range of passport services and application forms, including the rush, non-routine, and Trusted Traveler programs such as Global Entry that are currently accessible to other travelers.”
The letter also highlights: “As long as the Department of State fails to
provide non-routine services to individuals seeking an ‘X’ as their gender marker, non-binary applicants will continue to face an undue and unjust burden when pursuing international travel. The State Department’s current timeline to provide these services by late 2023, with no clear date released to the public, would deny these travelers equal access for far too long. Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security’s current policy limitations simply force non-binary travelers to choose a gender that does not reﬂect their gender identity.”
The members and concerned LGBTQ and intersex advocacy groups who endorsed the letter are asking the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure:
• Solidiﬁed and accelerated implementation of the “X” gender marker option for passport cards, emergency passports printed at embassies and consulates, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBAs) and on Trusted Traveler Programs forms;
• A public date by which the “X” gender marker will be available for applicants for all passport services and application forms.
Schiﬀ was joined by U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
Schiﬀ’s oﬃce also noted that this request was endorsed by COLAGE, Equality California, Equality Federation, Family Equality, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, Human Rights Campaign, Los Angeles LGBTQ Center, National Center for Transgender Equality and the Trevor Project.BRODY LEVESQUE & MICHAEL K. LAVERS President JOE BIDEN awards the National Humanities Medal to ELTON JOHN for his work combating HIV/AIDS. (Screenshot from C-SPAN)
Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, head of the Brothers of Italy party, appeared to have won in Sunday’s snap general elections according to exit polling. In a coalition with other right wing parties, Meloni’s right-wing alliance now looks to have control of both houses, with a projected 42.2 percent of the Senate vote.
This will lead to her forming Italy’s most right-wing government since World War II and Meloni is now set to be Italy’s ﬁrst female prime minister. However, the ﬁnal say will rest with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, a decision that is expected to take some time according to political observers in Rome familiar with the inner workings of the Italian government.
Turnout for Sunday’s elections was dramatically low — 63.82 percent by the time polls closed — said Italy’s interior ministry, almost 10 points down on 2018. Voting levels were especially poor in southern regions including Sicily.
Meloni’s Facebook post made after the results were announced translates to:
“History we made today. This victory is dedicated to all the militants, managers, supporters and every single person who – in these years — has contributed to the realization of our dream, oﬀering soul and heart spontaneously and selﬂessly.
“To those who, despite the diﬃculties and the most complex moments, have remained in their place, with convic-
tion and generosity. But, above all, it’s dedicated to those who believe and have always believed in us. We won’t betray your trust. We are ready to lift Italy up.”
Meloni is seen as polarizing ﬁgure with some of her political stances and rhetoric on the European Union aligning her close to Hungary’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban. However, Professor Gianluca Passarrelli of Rome’s Sapienza University told the BBC he thought she would avoid rocking the boat on Europe and focus on other policies: “I
Anti-LGBTQ leader poised to become next Italy prime minister Cubans approve marriage equality
think we will see more restrictions on civil rights and policies on LGBT and immigrants.”
Meloni has long displayed antagonism and intolerance toward the LGBTQ community. She has stated that she perceives LGBTQ people as menacing and threatening Western civilization.
The BBC noted that earlier this year she outlined her priorities in a raucous speech to Spain’s far-right Vox party: “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology … no to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders, no to mass migration … no to big international ﬁnance … no to the bureaucrats of Brussels!”
As LGBTQ equity and equality rights are foundational to the European Union and its governing commission, some see Meloni as combatting the EU over LGBTQ issues in the same vein as Orban.
On other issues Meloni doesn’t claim to “oppose” Europe, but rather she outlines a model of integration that may or may not go down well in Brussels, euronews reported.
“If we had an EU more like the one we imagine, we would have developed a more eﬀective defense policy, invested in energy security and maintained short value chains to avoid reliance on third — often untrustworthy — countries for gas, raw materials, commodities, chips and other goods,” she stated.BRODY LEVESQUE
Cubans on Sunday approved a new family code that extends marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples.
Gramna, the oﬃcial newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, on Monday reported 66.9 percent of Cubans who participated in the referendum voted in favor of the new family code.
“Sept. 25, 2022, is already a historic day,” said Gramna. “The island has once again demonstrated that the revolution will never stop in its quest for more justice, independent of its adversaries. The road has never been easy, but it is very worthy.”
Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro who spearheads LGBTQ and intersex issues in Cuba as director of the country’s National Center for Sexual Education, is among those who support the new family code. Mariela Castro on Sunday posted to her Facebook page a picture of her voting for it in Havana, the Cuban capital.
“I voted yes for Cuban families, for a socialist Cuba, for the world’s most revolutionary and humanist family code, for a socialist state built upon rights and social justice that recognizes and protects all families,” said Mariela Castro after she voted.
The Cuban government in the years after the 1959 revolution that brought Mariela Castro’s uncle, Fidel Castro, to power, sent gay men and others to work camps. Cubans with AIDS were forcibly quarantined in state-run sanitaria until 1993.
Cuba joins Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico City and several Mexican states that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barthélemy, St. Martin, Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius and Saba also have marriage equality.
Sunday’s referendum took place nearly four years after Cuban voters overwhelmingly approved their country’s new constitution. The government’s decision to remove a marriage equality amendment that religious groups had publicly criticized sparked outrage among independent LGBTQ and intersex activists.
LGBTQ and intersex Cubans and others who publicly criticize the Cuban government also continue to face harassment, discrimination and arrest.
Maykel González Vivero, editor of Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba, is among the hundreds of people who were arrested during anti-government protests that took place across the country on July 11, 2021. The U.S. in 2019 granted asylum to Yariel Valdés González, a Blade contributor who suﬀered persecution in Cuba because he is a journalist.
Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who used Facebook Live to livestream the ﬁrst July 11 protest that took place in San
Antonio de los Baños in Artemisa province. De La Cruz subsequently received a 6-year prison sentence, but he was released on house arrest in May.
Brenda Díaz, a transgender woman with HIV who participated in a July 11 protest in Güira de Melena in Artemisa province, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. The State Department has said it is “very concerned” about Díaz’s health and well-being and urged the Cuban government to release her.MICHAEL K. LAVERS GIORGIA MELONI speaks to supporters on Sept. 25, after polls closed in Italy. (Screenshot via YouTube) (Blade ﬁle photo by Michael Key)
is the Senior Research Analyst for LGBTQI+ Justice at Political Research Associates, and the co-founder of BiLaw and the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition. Find Greenesmith on Twitter @herong.
Bi activists excited after White House meeting
Sept. 20 gathering took place during Bisexual Visibility Week
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, just in time for Bisexual Visibility Week, a diverse group of 15 bisexual and pansexual activists met with oﬃcials from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including Melanie Fontes Rainer, the director of the Oﬃce of Civil Rights at HHS.
The 15 advocates comprised a wide cross-section of the bisexual community, including nonbinary, transgender, female, young, older, Black, Asian and Muslim advocates, people with disabilities and parents. We came from many walks of life: Academia, education, research, health care, advocacy, law, media and community activism. This isn’t unusual: Bisexual people comprise more than half of all LGBT people, totally approximately 12.5 million bisexual adults in the U.S. Strikingly, 15 percent of all GenZ adults — nearly 1 in 6 — identify as bisexual. People of color are more likely to identify as bisexual, as are cisegender women and transgender people in general.
It has been a painful six years since the Executive Branch last met with bisexual activists (you do the math.) Those meetings, like this one, were the product of tireless advocacy from a population with zero paid organizational staﬀ and less than one percent of all philanthropic dollars earmarked for the LGBT community. It was these stats and others that we shared at HHS on Sept. 20.
Bisexual and pansexual people face speciﬁc disparities in mental and physical health, intimate partner violence and monkeypox prevention, treatment and care. Did you know, for example, that nearly half of bisexual women report having been raped? And did you know that federal reporting on monkeypox doesn’t disaggregate between gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with
men, despite evidence that bisexual men are uniquely vulnerable to MPX and other infectious diseases.
Khafre Abif is a Black bisexual educator, father and person living with HIV. At the meeting with agency oﬃcials, Abif shared the story of how staﬀ at his HIV-care clinic initially denied him the monkeypox vaccine, despite Abif being bisexual and thus in a population of special focus for the vaccine.
“This meeting has been a long time coming for the bi+ community,” said Abif. “I’m looking forward to a dialogue with federal ofﬁcials about solving some of the health issues we face.”
In order to begin remedying these disparities and more, we presented the administration with a set of benchmarks, including the creation of a Federal Interagency Bisexual Liaison and a Federal Interagency Bisexual Working Group. Other benchmarks included training for HHS staﬀ on bisexual disparities and remedies thereof, funding streams for bisexual-speciﬁc funding and interventions, and the disaggregation of data on speciﬁc health disparities.
Robyn Ochs is a pillar of bisexual and pansexual community organizing. At HHS, Ochs shared more about her speciﬁc expertise. “Research has made clear our health disparities and invisibility. It’s time for federal interventions to catch up with what we already know through research and lived experience.”
Frustrated by years of inaction by the federal government to release bisexual-speciﬁc data, target the bisexual and pansexual community with tailored interventions, or recognize the importance of bi+ health in general, we are cautiously excited by this opportunity to share critical data and remedies.
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a former Under Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration, is an adviser to health care companies and non-proﬁts.
Cruel court decision makes it harder to prevent AIDS Disease gets a boost from federal judge in Texas
Just as the disease was on a glide path to extinction thanks to new drugs, HIV/AIDS got a boost from a federal court in Texas.
On Sept. 7, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that the government can’t require an employer-sponsored health care plan to cover a therapy that prevents the spread of a disease that has already killed more than 700,000 Americans. The decision in Braidwood Management Inc. v. Becerra is not just poorly argued; it is ﬂatout cruel.
Perhaps the best feature of the Aﬀordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, nicknamed Obamacare, was a requirement that insurance oﬀer coverage of speciﬁed preventive care procedures and therapies, such as colon cancer screening and inﬂuenza immunizations.
In June 2019, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an advisory panel of experts, issued a “Grade A” recommendation for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a medicine that is 99% eﬀective in preventing HIV transmission during sex. The ﬁrst PrEP drug, Truvada, had been approved seven years earlier by the Food & Drug Administration. On Jan. 1, 2021, the federal government required plans to cover PrEP with no copay, coinsurance, or deductible.
for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a medicine that is 99%
Even before the mandate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) credited PrEP with helping reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by 8% between 2015 and 2019 “after a period of general stability.” The CDC now calls PrEP “a key prevention strategy for ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S.,” a goal for 2030 set by both the Trump and Biden administrations.
The way to end AIDS once and for all is to get PrEP to those who need it most. Researchers are developing intravaginal rings, implants, antibodies, and long-lasting injectables. Although PrEP use has risen by a factor of eight in just ﬁve years, three-quarters of those most at risk are not using the therapy.
The success of the lawsuit by a group of self-described Christian business owners and employees will make access even more diﬃcult. The plaintiﬀs argued that the preventive care mandate for PrEP violated their constitutional right to religious freedom. In the complaint, Dr. Steven Hotze said that he was unwilling to pay for a health plan covering PrEP “because these drugs facilitate or encourage homosexual behavior, which is contrary to [his] sincere religious beliefs.”
Hotze, whose vitamin company ran afoul of the FDA for COVID-19 claims, was indicted in April on aggravated assault charges involving
claims, was indicted in April on aggravated assault charges involving
a bizarre search for ballots after the 2020 election.
a bizarre search for ballots after the 2020 election.
In the PrEP case, Hotze’s objection went beyond gay sex. He complained that providing coverage of the drugs facilitates and encourages “sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman” as well as illegal drug use.
Judge O’Connor agreed. He went even further, ruling that members of the Preventive Services Task Force were “unconstitutionally appointed.”
members of the Preventive Services Task Force were “unconstitutionally appointed.” was by Congress after the Supreme Court ruled in Employment Di-
In a previous case, O’Connor had ruled that the entire ACA was unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision last year. The current ruling draws on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, which was enacted by Congress after the Supreme Court ruled in Employment Division v. Smith that the protection of the free exercise of religion in the First Amendment does not entitle anyone to a religion-based exception from a general law.
gion-based exception from a general law. In recent years, writes Michael Dorf of the Cornell University
In recent years, writes Michael Dorf of the Cornell University Law School, “conservative Christians have increasingly relied on [RFRA] to obtain exceptions from laws involving insurance coverage for contraception and abortion.”
age for contraception and abortion.”
For example, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a 2014 case, the Supreme Court excused “forms of contraception that the owners regarded as tantamount to
For example, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a 2014 case, the Supreme Court held that a company owned by religious Christians could be excused from an obligation to pay for health insurance that covered “forms of contraception that the owners regarded as tantamount to abortion.”
But the ruling in the Braidwood case is far more sweeping. The Hobby Lobby plaintiﬀs considered abortion itself immoral. In this case, it’s not PrEP that Braidwood considers immoral; it’s certain kinds of sexual activities. By substantially lowering the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, this twisted logic goes, PrEP is a facilitator of what Hotze considers immoral. And by oﬀering insurance that covers PrEP, Braidwood says it becomes complicit.
PrEP that Braidwood considers immoral; it’s certain kinds of sexual activities. By substantially lowering the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, Braidwood says it becomes complicit.
There is a serious cost to this attenuated argument.
By decreasing access to PrEP, people will needlessly become ill and, in some cases, die. The economy will also be burdened with the cost of treating a disease that can be prevented.
also be burdened with the cost of treating a disease that can be prevented.
Modern science has developed therapies that are ending the spread of a dangerous, mortal virus. Easing access to these medicines is clearly a legitimate function of government — undoubtedly, a compelling interest. What can be more selﬁsh and foolish than to erect needless obstacles for those who want to protect themselves and people around them?
to these medicines is clearly a legitimate function of government — undoubtedly, a compelling interest. What can be more selﬁsh and foolish than to erect needless obstacles for those who want to protect themselves and people around them?
Billy Eichner ready to make cinematic history
‘Bros’ could be ﬁrst gay rom-com to become box oﬃce smashBy TIM NASSON
Billy Eichner, the gay comedian, is usually the one asking the questions. Eichner came to fame with his award-winning, 2011-2017 truTVshow, “Billy On The Street,” where he would accost strangers on the streets of Manhattan, often with an A-list celebrity at his side. Eichner would interrupt someone in the middle of a jog, an errand, or daily commute, to ask a groan-inducing question or play a silly game. Most New Yorkers did not recognize either Eichner or celebrity sidekicks like Chris Evans, Will Ferrell, Mariah Carrey, or Sarah Jessica Parker.
The tides have turned. Eichner, in a few short years, has gone from video class clown to a polished (dare I say very good) actor, writer, and all-around mensch - and ascended to celebrity A-list status himself. In 2019, he starred as the voice of Timon in the Disney live action remake of “The Lion King.” He also voices Timon in the upcoming live-action sequel: “Mufasa: The Lion King.”
But that’s not all. Currently, Eichner is writer, producer, and co-star of “Bros,” a new romantic comedy about two commitment-phobic gay guys in a relationship—Eichner and costar Luke Macfarlane. Macfarlane—who came to fame playing in schmaltzy Hallmark Channel movies— is another gay (and very good looking) actor; indeed, all of Bros’ writers, producers, and all of the lead and supporting actors (including Amanda Bearse) identify as LGBTQ (with the exceptions of director Nicolas Stoller and producer Judd Apatow.) “Bros” is the ﬁrst ‘almost’ all gay, lesbian or trans major motion picture.
“My day hasn’t even begun,” says Eichner who has just arrived in San Francisco, and where it’s the ungodly hour of 7:45 a.m. He’s just back from the Toronto International Film Festival, where “Bros” debuted to great acclaim.
“The goal was to make the funniest, laugh-out-loud movie as possible, that just happens to be about a gay couple,” explains Eichner. At 44, he is old enough to remember growing up during a time when gay-themed movies had limited releases and smallish audiences. “I went to see a lot of them,” Eichner recalls. “‘All Over the Guy,’ ‘Jeﬀrey,’ ‘Trick,’ ‘Edge of Seventeen,’ ‘Go.’ But it felt like it was something I did in private. It felt like it did when I was hiding a magazine [for secrecy at home].”
“Bros” is written for contemporary audiences — straight, gay, and everything in between (my words) —who are unfazed by scenes and situations that would have seemed controversial even 10 years ago. And, given the talent behind the project and the early buzz, “Bros” could be the ﬁrst gay rom-com to become a mainstream box oﬃce smash, particularly with director Nicolas Stoller and producer Judd Apatow on board.
“‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin,’ ‘Bridesmaids,’ ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall,’ ‘Neighbors…. Judd and/ or Nick are responsible for some of the funniest movies during the past two decades,” Eichner enthuses.
One of the most charming aspects of “Bros” is a pivotal scene ﬁlmed in Provincetown,
Mass., a community with deep gay roots. “Provincetown is maybe my favorite place on Earth,” says Eichner. “It’s as far out on Cape Cod, Mass., as you can get. Being able to ﬁlm in Provincetown added so much style to the classical romantic story. The town has a rich, gay history but is beautiful, sexy, and fun. It is so welcoming to everyone that Nick [Stoller, the director], who is straight, and married with three kids, takes his family there every summer. It is also the ﬁrst place that we began ﬁlming.” The production was shut down in between ﬁlming for more than a year and a half due to COVID-19.
Is there any romance going on in Eichner’s life? When I asked him for a funny story about a ﬁrst date, he laughed and said, “I’m still waiting to go on one. But, seriously, I met a guy that worked for a cannabis company. He showed up as high as he could be. And of course he was hungry. I should have just called it a night then. But we went out and all he could do was eat. There wasn’t any conversation. But I don’t know if that is funny, or just weird.”
There’s a musical moment in “Bros” that may surprise some Eichner fans—but shouldn’t; he’s a great singer and studied musical theater in college. His love of music predates his bar mitzvah, which he describes as “Broadway meets pop music…I had a life-sized, airbrushed Madonna standee from her ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour. And a standee from [the Broadway musical] ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. I even sang ‘Lean On Me.’”
Eichner’s singing talents are displayed in “Bros,” but brieﬂy. “I don’t want people to think ‘Bros’ is a musical, though,” Eichner wants readers to know. And let me add my two cents: “Bros” is not a musical, at all. It is a comedy that is going to go down in history, in a great way.
“Bros” is in theaters Sept. 30.BILLY EICHNER and LUKE MACFARLANE star in ‘Bros,’ which debuts Friday. (Photo Credit: Universal Pictures) (Photo Credit: Universal Pictures)
A fine ‘Bro’-mance
Eichner, Macfarlane performances essential to movie’s appealBy JOHN PAUL KING
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that “Bros” is a history-mak ing milestone for LGBTQ representation in the movies — the first gay romantic comedy produced by a major Hollywood studio, written by an openly gay man (Billy Eichner) who also stars in it – and that it was made with queer talent filling virtually every role, both on camera and off. The “Billy on the Street” writer/ comedian/actor, true to his brand, has been loud-and-proud about his efforts to foster authenticity and inclusivity throughout the making of his film, and rightly so.
Still, now that his much-anticipated movie is finally out, we can finally stop talking about all that. After all, even when a movie scores as many points for LGBTQ representation as this one does, what really matters is whether or not it’s actually any good.
When Eichner was tapped to make his film for Universal, many may have assumed it would be a showcase for his signature comedic persona — acerbic but disarmingly funny, more than a touch manic, somehow confrontational, defiant, and self-deprecating all at the same time — that would also poke fun at a heteronormative genre beloved just as often by its queer fans for its camp value as for anything else. This expectation seemed all but confirmed when Eichner announced the casting of actor Luke Macfarlane – known for playing handsome hunks in the very romcoms his movie would presumably be sending up – as his love interest.
As it happens, those assumptions were not entirely wrong. “Bros” is unabash edly autobiographical in tone, presenting Eichner essentially as an alternative version of himself if he had been a queer history scholar and author instead of a poly-hyphenate show biz celebrity; his character, Bobby Lieber, has even got a podcast, allowing him to voice the kind of take-no-prisoners witticisms and shrewdly queer observations about life and culture for which both versions of himself have become famous.
While at a launch event for a new dating app, Bobby meets Aaron (Macfarlane), who – as one of the crowd of shirtless gay scenesters he’s used to being ignored by, he assumes is shallow, not too bright, and not into him at all. It turns out he’s wrong on all counts, and the two men soon find themselves drawn into a relationship, despite some serious issues around commitment and the fact that they seem to have nothing in common.
All of this is a perfect match for Eichner’s comic sensibilities – he’s built his image on calling out society for the absurdity of its assumptions, the illogic of its priorities, the depth of its shallowness, and “Bros” gives him plenty of opportunity to do exactly that, as well as plenty of fodder for his usual zingers and pop-culture references. It’s very much the kind of savagely iconoclastic spoof we would expect from its creator, mak ing fun of social conventions (both gay and straight) and lampooning everything from awards-show stunt fashion to celebrity athletes coming out of the closet to “Dear Evan Hansen” — but it’s not nearly as scattershot as it sometimes feels. There’s a method to Eichner’s madness, and it hinges on reminding us that we are all, from a certain per spective, utterly ridiculous.
If that were all that “Bros” accomplished, it would be enough, but it gives us so much more. Not content to simply settle into familiar territory, he sets his sights on rising to the level of the romance classics he boldly references throughout, from “When Harry Met Sally” to “You’ve Got Mail” to “Manhattan.” With the help of director and co-writer Nicholas Stoller, whose sure-handed cinematic sensibility allows the star’s broadly sa tirical strokes and flights of absurdist fancy to flourish while still remaining grounded, he succeeds.
In large part, this is because Eichner’s screenplay doesn’t fall into the trap of being governed by the same tropes and expectations it makes fun of. Instead, it undermines them to take us further; unlike many romances, this one goes past the feel-good “falling in love” stuff and explores what it’s like for two adult men to build a relationship that works. It’s hardly a spoiler to say that’s not an easy or comfortable process, especially for a generation that came of age under the lingering shadow of widespread homopho
bia, but “Bros” is willing to go there – and because of that, its seemingly mismatched and dysfunctional lead couple are infinitely more relatable.
That doesn’t mean Eichner and Stoller ever allow their movie to become a “bummer.” Things might get a little messy from time to time, but what relationship doesn’t? By choosing to give “Bros” the kind of maturity that’s able to weather the storm, they’ve built something deeper and more lasting – the kind of movie that’s worthy of setting a few milestones – without sacrificing any of the comedy. And despite the cynical pose that’s always been at the heart of Eichner’s persona, they’re not afraid to let it get a little sappy, too.
As for its two stars, Eichner and Macfarlane’s performances are essential elements in the movie’s winning appeal. It’s perhaps not too surprising that Eichner, who’s been able to show us hints of his wider range before, rises to the occasion for his debut as a lead ing man; it’s the kind of work with the potential to elevate him into a whole new echelon of talent. A greater revelation is Macfarlane, who dives way below the pretty surface of Aaron to deliver a braver and more vulnerable performance than anyone might have expected. Together, the two actors find an easy and affectionate chemistry that is not only believable but makes it easy for real-life couples to recognize themselves in their relationship. They front a superb cast that includes Monica Raymund, Dot-Marie Jones, Jim Rash, Guillermo Díaz, Amanda Bearce, Miss Lawrence, TS Madison, Bowen Yang, and Jai Rodriguez, not to mention a host of queer and queer-friendly celebrity cameos from Kristin Chenoweth, Harvey Fierstein, and Amy Shumer, among several others.
It would be easy to go into detail about the many things that make “Bros” stand out as a piece of “queer cinema” — the way it weaves educational tidbits about LGBTQ his tory into the story as a tongue-in-cheek primer for straight viewers, or the sex-positive attitude with which it boldly and playfully depicts gay love-making, or its assertion of the differences instead of the similarities between same-sex relationships and straight ones — but it’s better to let viewers discover these things for themselves, along with all the movie’s other pleasures. We don’t want to give any more away, though we will tell you to watch for a scene-stealing turn by Debra Messing, who seems to be having the time of her life.
Other than that, all you need to know is that “Bros” lives up to its hype to become one of the smartest, sexiest, and yes, sweetest comedies of the year so far – the kind of rom-com that’s good enough to recommend even for people who don’t like rom-coms.
And yes, it sets a lot of LGBTQ milestones, but don’t see it because of that. See it be cause it’s good.LUKE MACFARLANE and BILLY EICHNER star in ‘Bros.’ (Image coutesy NBC Universal)
Celebrate Judy Garland’s centennial by watching her movies
The dazzling force of nature made 34 ﬁlmsKATHI WOLFE
When the world ends, aﬁcionados will still be watching their favorite Judy Garland movies.
Queer icon Garland was born 100 years ago this year (on June 10, 1922).
Everyone knows how tragic much of Garland’s life was. MGM feeding her uppers and downers when she was a child. Bad luck with husbands. Getting ﬁred from movies because of her addiction issues. Her death at age 47.
You can’t deny that Garland’s life was often a mess. Yet, it’s too easy to encase Garland into a box of victimhood.
Contrary to the misperception of her as a sad ﬁgure, Garland wasn’t a morbid person. She was a fabulous comedian and clown, John Fricke, author of “The Wonderful World of Oz: An Illustrated History of the American Classic,” told the Blade in 2019. Lucille Ball said Garland was the funniest woman in Hollywood, Fricke said. “‘She made me look like a mortician,’ Lucy said,” he added.
In the midst of the sentimentality and morbidity shrouding her legacy, you can readily forget Garland’s prodigious talent and productivity.
Garland was a consummate, multi-faceted, out-of-thisworld talented performer. She (deservedly) received more awards than most performers would even dream of: two Grammy Awards for her album “Judy at Carnegie Hall,” a special Tony for her long-running concert at the Palace Theatre and a special Academy Juvenile Award. Garland was nominated for an Emmy for her TV series “The Judy Garland Show” and for Best Supporting Oscar for her performance in “Judgment at Nuremberg.”
Garland, a dazzling, force of nature on screen, made 34 ﬁlms. There’s no better way to celebrate Garland’s centennial than to watch her movies.
Garland was renowned for connecting so intimately with audiences when she sang. She’s remembered for her legendary musicals — from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Meet Me in
St. Louis” to “A Star is Born.”
But if you watch, or re-watch, her movies, you’ll see that Garland wasn’t just a singer who sang songs, and sometimes danced, in production numbers in movie musicals.
Garland was a talented actor. She wasn’t appearing on screen as herself – Judy Garland singing to her fans.
Whether she’s tearing at your heartstrings as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” performing brilliant physical comedy with Gene Kelly in the “The Pirate,” breaking your heart with “The Man that Got Away” in “A Star is Born” or unrecognizable as Irene Hoﬀmann in “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Garland is acting. Her performance etches these characters onto your DNA.
Picking Garland’s best movies is like deciding which ﬁve of your 20 puppies should go on an outing. But, if you’re cast away on a desert island, take these Garland movies with you:
“Meet Me in St. Louis”: This luminous 1944 musical, directed by Vincente Minnelli, has it all: Garland in top form, the Trolley song, Margaret O’Brien, along with a stellar cast, and the best Christmas song ever.
“The Clock”: This 1945 movie, also directed by Minnelli, showcases Garland as a gifted dramatic actress. Shot in stunning black-and-white near the end of World-War II, the movie is the story, set in New York City, of a young woman (Garland) and a soldier on leave (Robert Walker) who fall in love.
“Easter Parade”: Sure, this 1948 picture, directed by Charles Walters, is thought of as a light musical by some. But, who cares? It’s in Technicolor, and Judy’s in peak form – dancing with Fred Astaire.
“A Star is Born”: If you don’t know the story of this 1954 ﬁlm, directed by George Cukor, starring Garland and James Mason, you’re not a member of queer nation. There have been other versions of “A Star is Born,” some quite good,
‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ is one of Judy Garland’s iconic ﬁlm roles.
but this is still the best. Garland should have gotten an Oscar for this one.
“Judgment at Nuremberg”: This 1961 ﬁlm, directed by Stanley Kramer, will never be a date night movie. It’s long (3 hours, 6 minutes), grim (about Nazi crimes) and Garland is only in it for about seven minutes. But the story is gripping and Garland’s performance is mesmerizing. When you watch her as Irene, you won’t be thinking that’s Judy Garland.
Happy centennial, Judy!
Behind the Greyson Chance/Ellen failed relationship
He grew up and produced music that meant somethingBy ROB WATSON
HOLLYWOOD – Once upon a time author George Orwell created a fictional character named Svengali. Svengali is a mastermind who used hypnosis to turn a woman named Trilby into a great singer, and without him, she was nothing.
The Svengali character has been turned into the archetype of the controlling star-maker, and in such situations, derided as the stars who benefit from such grooming start loathing the oppression.
Orwell painted the character to be as ugly as possible through antisemitic and homopho bic bigotries: Svengali was described as “bold, black, beady Jew’s eyes… with hoarse, rasping, nasal, throaty rook’s caw, his big yellow teeth baring themselves in a mongrel canine snarl” and was “evil, effeminate, and physically repug nant.” He is described as being either fawning or a bully, and grossly impertinent with a kind of cynical humor that was always derisive and full of malice.
With his recent soul-baring interview with Rolling Stone, singer Greyson Chance has given many the cause to cast Ellen DeGeneres as a Svengali caricature of our generation. After Greyson described her as “insanely manipu lative”, Ellen’s detractors tossed this news on her tarnished reputation pyre. “Ellen is a mo gul; she’s ruthless and was all about presenting herself as “kind,” but it is not an adjective people who know her tend to use,” states one Twitter user.
Another goes after Greyson, “You and your mom are so ungrateful people. Total grifters. Got a huge opportunity and didn’t and couldn’t capitalize on it. You got a team thanks to Ellen but you both wanted her to be your friend instead of doing your jobs. Selfish and ungrateful. How about a thank you to Ellen?”
The discussion is, as per most of our public discourse these days, divisive and polarizing. If you buy into it, it is “pick your victim” and blindly fight against the other side.
Unfortunately, in this case, the Greyson/Ellen relationship is better described by another modern concept: it’s complicated.
I have had the pleasure of sitting and talking to Greyson for hours on several Rated LGBT Radio podcasts.
He is a brilliant young talent, thoughtful and intelligent. He is open about his personal demons including his fight to heal from an eating disorder. He extends his relationship joys and heartbreaks into his art, and his feelings become universal.
He has embraced his authentic self with confidence and shares that courage freely to young listeners who need to see his example.
In our conversations, there always was that “elephant in the room.” He did not mention Ellen by name, but spoke clearly about the experience of adults jumping ship as soon as his career started taking on metaphorical water.
He was inflicted with the trauma of abandonment in his young life when his childlike nature was dissolving, and his manhood was emerging. Artistically, it would have taken a genius to guide him musically through physical and emotional adolescence and on to greater success.
Ellen was not that genius.
Greyson, himself eventually was. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, he returned to his home roots, to his family and friends who truly loved him. He grew up, and then he started again with material that he wrote himself, and material that actually meant something. Greyson had tapped his Ruby Slippers and realized “there is no place like home.”
As for Ellen, to align with Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony, I am not here to either praise her or bury her. She seems to be a victim of her own reputation.
That reputation as the patron saint of kindness allows her no room for her own hu manity and struggles. It also does not afford her the privilege that men in her
position of entertainment power enjoy. Show business is a business, and business is coldly ruthless.
In ages past, American businesses embraced workers with pensions and attempts for life long loyalty and security. In modern capitalism, businesses instead look at people as expend able expenses, and treats them that way.
The golden age of Hollywood, the entire mu sic industry, the Johnny Carsons, the Simon Cowells, all have played the Svengali hand, and virtually none of them have been called out on it as Ellen has. While Ellen’s brand of humor is not boldly cynical, derisive and “full of malice” as Svengali’s was described, there always has been an acceptable level of “fun” cruelty to it, so maybe that comparison might hold.
Ellen’s biggest “sin” in being a myopic busi ness-oriented “Svengali” was that she tried to do it as a woman.
In evaluating Ellen, we should not lose sight of the fact she was publicly and badly burned for coming out. She embraced bravery, and a homophobic industry crashed on top of her in thanks. LGBTQ representation grew out of her ashes, and eventually so did she when she fought for, and got her daytime show gig.
Just as Scarlet O’Hara raised her hand to God and vowed never to go hungry again, I be lieve that Ellen did the same. While not abandoning her altruistic intentions, she embraced the businesswoman inside, and likely decided to never be anyone’s patsy again. She grew strong Teflon shoulders. She did not buy homes, she bought houses, improved them and flipped them. The warm and fuzzy homemaker is not part of her soul. It is all just business. Her show looked for internet sensations, many around LGBT stories, and capitalized on them by promoting them as if they were their own discoveries.
As a columnist for many prominent LGBTQ outlets, I observed this firsthand. Several of my stories of valiant families taking a stand against homophobia went viral, and as soon as they hit a certain level of popularity, the Ellen Show would make contact. It seemed like the ones that made it on the air were the ones that reached the millions-of-hits tipping point. Bottom line, the Ellen Show was not giving more audience, it was taking one.
Ellen made a futile attempt in the music industry. She did an embarrassing turn on American Idol and started her own label. She was not a successful music executive who dumped Greyson. She was a music industry failure. Greyson was the first artist signed (“El len DeGeneres starts own record label, signs YouTube kid” proclaimed Reuters in 2010). By 2013, the label, eleveneleven, was toast. Crashed and burned.
As Greyson’s initial music career was in decline, so was hers. It is likely that her behavior of control, manipulation and extreme agitation was due to her own personal desperation.
Greyson experienced the truth that many discover as they unpack their histories with a dysfunctional parent. The parent is flawed, and sometimes deeply so. The parent also is often doing “the best they can” within their own personal limitations. Did Ellen tell Greyson she would be there for him “no matter what”? Likely. Was she? No. Did she intend to be? Probably.
She probably should not have set herself up as his music-industry parent as much as her optimism gave her permission to do so. She is not the first to have failed to succeed in a Gypsy/Mama Rose role. Joe Jackson failed similarly in his efforts to control daughter Janet. He too disappointed.
The response from the Ellen Show to Greyson’s Rolling Stone interview was “Ellen and the team went above and beyond and sometimes careers just don’t take off.”
That might be a respectable response from a business PR team. It is a pathetic response from someone who had promised the love and care that a mother might extend.
Ellen is not evil. We just had higher expectations for her.
So did Greyson.(Los Angeles Blade graphic)
New ACT UP book is part history, part memoir ‘Boy with the Bullhorn’ chronicles hard work, grief, angerBy TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER
The sign above your head shows what’s going on inside.
Last night, you made the sign with a slogan, firm words, a poke to authori ty – and now you carry it high, yelling, marching, demanding that someone pay attention. Now. Urgently. As in the new book, “Boy with the Bullhorn” by Ron Goldberg, change is a-coming.
He’d never done anything like it be fore.
But how could he not get involved? Ron Goldberg had read something about ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, and he heard they were holding a rally near his work place. It was 1987, he’d never partici pated in anything like that before, but whispers were everywhere. He and his friends were “living under a pervasive cloud of dread.”
He “was twenty-eight years old... scared, angry, and more than a little freaked out” about AIDS, he says.
Couldn’t he at least go down and hold a sign?
‘Boy with the Bullhorn: A Memoir and History of ACT UP New York’By Ron Goldberg
c.2022 | Fordham University Press $36.95 | 512 pages
That first rally led Goldberg to attend a meeting, which, like most, as he came to realize, were raucous and loud and “electric.” Because he was “living ful ly ‘out and proud’,” and because he realized that this was an issue “worth fighting for,” he became even more in volved with ACT UP by attending larger rallies and helping with organizing and getting his fellow activists fired up. He observed as women became involved in ACT UP, too. Monday night meetings became, for Goldberg, “the most exciting place in town.”
There, he learned how politics mixed with activism, and why ACT UP tangled with the Reagan administration’s leaders. He puffed with more than just a little ownership, as other branches of ACT UP began spreading around the country. He learned from ACT UP’s founding members and he “discovered hidden talents” of his own by helping.
On his years in ACT UP, Goldberg says, “There was hard work, grief, and anger, surely, but there was also great joy.” He was “a witness. And so, I began to write.”
Let’s be honest: “Boy with the Bullhorn” is basically a history book, with a little memoir in side. Accent on the former, not so much on the latter.
Author Ron Goldberg says in his preface that Larry Kramer, who was one of ACT UP’s ear liest leaders encouraged him to pull together a timeline for the organization and this book is the result of the task. It’s very detailed, in sequential order and, as one reads on, it’s quite repetitive, differing basically in location. It’s not exactly a curl-up-by-the-fire read.
Readers, however – and especially older ones who remember the AIDS crisis – won’t be able to stop scanning for Goldberg’s memories and tales of being a young man at a time when life was cautiously care-free. The memories – which also act as somewhat of a gut-wrenching collection of death-notices – are sweet, but also bittersweet.
This book is nowhere near a vacation kinda book but if you have patience, it’s worth looking twice. Take your time and you’ll get a lot from “Boy with the Bullhorn.” Rush, and it might just go over your head.
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