Dallas protesters support trans students

Posted on 24 Feb 2017 at 9:25am

The evening after President Trump issued an executive order allowing discrimination against transgender students in schools, about 150 people gathered in Belo Gardens across from the Earle Cabell  federal building to protest the order.

All of the speakers at the rally were transgender.

“We’re not going back in the closet,” Ethan Avanzino told the crowd. “We’re not going into the wrong restrooms.”

While Katie Sprinkle and Leslie McMurray were more political, Oliver Blumer and Mr. Black Trans Dallas just wanted the crowd to get to know them as people.

“I’m a man of trans experience,” Blumer told the crowd.


Arkansas Supreme Court strikes down local LGBT protections

Posted on 23 Feb 2017 at 3:08pm

Arkansas State Capitol

The Arkansas Supreme Court has struck down a Fayetteville, Ark. a voter-approved ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The court’s decision was based on a state law that prevents cities from passing protections that aren’t guaranteed by state law.

The court didn’t rule on whether the underlying law was constitutional, only that the city ordinance conflicted with the state law.

Fayetteville’s city attorney will return to court, challenging the constitutionality of the state law, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Human Right Campaign today released a statement blasting the state Supreme Court decision:

“Let’s be clear, the state’s pre-emption law is unconstitutional. This ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court is an attack on LGBTQ Arkansans and takes away hard-won protections approved by voters in Fayetteville,” said Kendra R. Johnson, HRC Arkansas state director. “Fayetteville’s leaders and citizens chose to protect their friends and neighbors when their representatives in Little Rock would not. Removing these protections leaves LGBTQ people without local, municipal or state protections, putting them at heightened  risk of discrimination as they simply go about their daily lives. We oppose this harmful ruling.”


Protest scheduled against Trump trans order

Posted on 23 Feb 2017 at 9:44am

Donald Trump

A protest will take place tonight, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. at Belo Gardens, 1014 Main St. against the Trump executive order rescinding Obama-era protections for transgender students. Belo Gardens is at the corner of Commerce and Griffin streets in downtown Dallas. West End and Akard stations are the closest DART stations.

The order was issued over the initial objections of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who said it was the “moral obligation” of every school to protect all students from discrimination and bullying.

The order was roundly condemned by LGBT community leaders.

“The withdrawal of this guidance is a devastating step back for transgender students, who today are receiving the message that the federal government will not vigorously defend their right to an education,” said Jennifer L. Levi, Transgender Rights Project Director, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “This unfortunate reversal of protections reflects crass, unprincipled political pandering.  The American people support fairness and equal treatment of all students and do not think vulnerable young people should be made pawns of a political drama being played out by the current administration.”

“In a shameful display of failed leadership, today President Trump succumbed to his extremist advisors and provided permission for schools to discriminate against transgender students,” said Danielle Moodie-Mills on behalf of Victory Institute. “The move – while abhorrent – is unfortunately not surprising. Regardless of Trump claiming he would be a friend to LGBT people, the reality is personnel is policy. Trump is surrounding himself with anti-LGBT appointees who demonize our community and reject the notion of civil rights for LGBT people, making anti-LGBT policies almost inevitable.”

“We are outraged at this incredibly harmful decision to rescind crucially important guidance ensuring transgender students are treated with dignity and respect.  Our military families with transgender children are especially fearful about the impact this harmful decision will have on their families,” said American Military Partner Association President Ashley Broadway-Mack.

Lambda Legal’s response was even more direct. “We will sue any school district that discriminates against trans students,” the organization tweeted.


Anchia files PrEP information bill

Posted on 22 Feb 2017 at 3:01pm

State Rep. Rafael Anchia

State Rep. Rafael Anchia filed HB2006 to require that anyone who receives a negative HIV test result will be provided with information about PrEP — pre-exposure prophylaxis — to prevent transmission of HIV in the future.

Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell called it a common sense bill that would help prevent the spread of HIV on a statewide basis. His agency and others that do HIV testing already regularly offer that information when providing HIV test results.

All that would be offered is information.

If they get a negative test result, is PrEP right for them as an HIV preventive tool?” McDonnell said.

No prescriptions would be offered. No referrals to a doctor or clinic prescribing PrEP would be required by the bill. Simply information.

McDonnell said he believes the reason PrEP hasn’t been as popular in Texas as elsewhere is simply a lack of information.


BREAKING: Trump rescinds guidelines protecting trans students

Posted on 22 Feb 2017 at 1:01pm

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, left, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Photo by Michael Lavers/Washington Blade)


Chris Johnson | Washington Blade
Courtesy National Gay Media Association


Despite pleas from parents of transgender children and LGBT employees, the Trump administration today (Tuesday, Feb. 22) rescinded Obama-era guidance to schools barring discrimination against transgender students and ensuring they have access to the restroom consistent with their gender identity.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Washington Blade on Monday, “This is the first day of the president’s second month in office and he is now fully coming after LGBT people,” Keisling said. “I’m angry; I’m outraged. This is about kids who just want to go to school who just want to be themselves, and to hear the president a week or two ago talk about how supportive he is of LGBT people, it’s just outrageous that he’d go after trans kids this way.”

Removal of the guidance would fulfill a campaign promise from Trump, who pledged to rescind the guidance after it was issued, but still “protect everybody,” amid outcry from conservative-leaning states. The Trump administration would be moving to rescind the guidance shortly after the confirmation of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Jointly issued in May under the Obama administration by the Justice Department and Education Department, the guidance asserts that denying transgender students access to the restroom in accordance with their gender identity violates the prohibition on sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Rescinding the guidance is consistent with a legal brief the Justice Department filed earlier this month in litigation against the guidance filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on behalf of 12 states. As a result of the litigation, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued a preliminary injunction barring the administration from enforcing the guidance nationwide.

Although the Justice Department under former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch filed an appeal along with a request with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to limit the scope of the injunction to the 12 plaintiff states, the brief under Sessions withdraws that request and informs the federal appeals court the Trump administration is “currently considering how best to proceed in this appeal.”

Transgender advocates took the change in position at the Justice Department as a signal Trump would soon fulfill his campaign promise to reverse the guidance.

A flurry of letters were sent to the Trump administration calling for preservation of the guidance. One came from a quartet of pro-LGBT advocacy groups, one from nearly 800 parents of transgender youths and another from LGBT employees at the Education Department. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement to the Washington Blade the change in position at the Justice Department is “deeply disappointing.”

Other LGBT advocates over the course of the holiday weekend said they similarly heard the Justice Department and Education Department would act to rescind the guidance.

Kelly Love, a White House spokesperson, had no comment in response to the Washington Blade’s request to confirm the Trump administration would follow up on the Justice Department’s move and rescind the guidance.

“We have nothing to add to this report right now, but will keep you posted if anything changes,” Love said.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment. The Education Department didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment over the holiday weekend.

A decision to withdraw the guidance could be an initial signal of the Trump administration’s position in the case before the U.S. Supreme Court known as Gloucester County Schools v. G.G., which resulted from transgender student Gavin Grimm suing his high school to use the restroom consistent with his gender identity. The questions before the court are to evaluate the guidance and whether the prohibition of sex discrimination under Title IX applies to transgender students seeking to use the restroom in school consistent with their gender identity.

The Trump administration would be rescinding the guidance weeks after the White House issued a statement declaring Trump is “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights” and would preserve a separate order from President Obama barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.

Even if the U.S. government rescinds the guidance, transgender advocates have insisted students are still able to sue on their own under Title IX if they feel they’ve experienced discrimination as a result of their gender identity.

“It doesn’t take away trans kids’ rights,” Keisling said. “It’s Title IX that protects us, not Donald Trump or Attorney General Sessions agreeing with us on Title IX.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the Trump administration must affirm the guidance for transgender students must remain in place.

“Transgender young people face tragically high rates of discrimination and bullying, and they need a government that will stand up for them — not attack them,” Griffin said. “It’s shocking that this kind of harm would even be a subject of debate for the president. We call on Trump to immediately and permanently affirm the Obama Administration’s guidance and protect transgender students.”


Equality Texas opposes four so-called religious freedom bills

Posted on 21 Feb 2017 at 2:07pm

Four so-called religious freedom bills have been filed in the Texas House of Representatives so far this session. They would allow people to discriminate when discrimination is a deeply held religious value of theirs.

Here’s a summary of them from Equality Texas:

• HB 428 by Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford — Providing religious student organizations an exemption from nondiscrimination policies of public institutions of higher education if such policies do not conform to the student organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs. (Note: Because discriminating against people who want to join your student-activity-fee-funded organization is just a good, solid religious value.)

• HB1805 by Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney — Providing child welfare service providers the ability to decline to provide, facilitate or refer a person for child welfare services if it conflicts with the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs. (Note: No penalty to those child welfare providers for putting the lives of children in jeopardy while they’re refusing to place kids in safe homes of people who happen to be LGBT and passed all state authorizations.)

• HB 1813 by Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canyon — Allowing county clerks to pass off issuing marriage licenses to other certifying officials if issuing that marriage license conflicts with the clerk’s sincerely held religious beliefs. (Note: Why did they run for an office whose job it is to issue marriage licenses if it’s against their religious belief to issue those licenses?)

• HB 1923 by Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth — Providing individuals and businesses the ability to decline to provide services to anyone if providing the service conflicts with the individual’s or business’ sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage. (Note: Because what business doesn’t have sincerely held religious beliefs?)


Same-sex marriage reduces adolescent suicide

Posted on 21 Feb 2017 at 12:10pm

A new study released by the Juvenile American Medical Association indicates that legalization of same-sex marriage has reduced adolescent suicide attempts.

Using information from 47 states, same-sex marriage policies were associated with a 7 percent reduction in the proportion of all high school students reporting a suicide attempt over the past year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-to-24-year-olds.

The report concludes that some of the reasons for reduction in suicide include policies preventing same-sex marriage constitute social stigma and increased media attention that accompanies legalization includes increased social support.

“For each of these reasons, same-sex marriage policies may reduce the stigma experienced by adolescents who are sexual minorities,” the report concludes.

Prior research suggests an association between same-sex marriage policies and mental health.

This trend has been noticed for awhile. After Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, “expenditures on mental health care significantly decreased among men who have sex with men in the year following legalization of same-sex marriage relative to the year prior.”


Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater releases ‘I Pee With LGBT’ ad

Posted on 20 Feb 2017 at 3:01pm

Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater said there’s only one way to defeat SB6, the bathroom bill: roll up your sleeves and pull down your pants. Take a seat to make a stand, he advises. Here’s his anti-SB6 ad:


John Wiley Price trial begins this week

Posted on 20 Feb 2017 at 11:23am

County Commissioner John Wiley Price

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, 66, goes on trial on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Government prosecutors claim Price took $950,000 in bribes over the past decade.

According to the government, the bribes were in the form of cash, cars and property in exchange for contracts with the county.

Price is charged with 11 counts and faces decades in federal prison. More than 170 witnesses are expected to be called in a the trial that could last four months.

Jury selection is expected to take several days. Because of the publicity surrounding the case since Price’s home and office were raided in 2011, finding jurors who are impartial may be difficult.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn, who presided over the Dallas City Hall corruption trials, will hear the case.

Price has represented Dallas County District 3, which includes Oak Lawn and parts of Oak Cliff since 1985.


First cracks appear in SB6

Posted on 16 Feb 2017 at 11:08am

You can pee here

Anti-transgender forces may be starting to cave in their fight to regulate where transgender people pee.

An amendment to SB6, better known as the Texas bathroom bill, would exempt stadiums and convention centers from the regulation. In addition to the cost of inspecting everyone’s vagina before entering a restroom at places like AT&T Stadium or the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, the NCAA and NFL have threatened boycotts of states with bathroom bills. The Final Four has already been moved from Charlotte to San Antonio next year because of a bathroom bill in North Carolina, costing that state tens of millions in revenue.

Sports boycotts, however, are not dependent on allowing transgender fans to pee in their arenas. They’re prompted by opposition to state-sponsored discrimination.

“It exposes how bullshit this bill is,” said transgender activist Leslie McMurray. “The bill is supposed to be about ‘safety.’ Are they saying women are inherently safer in stadium bathrooms and not in need of protection?”

She also pointed out that with this exemption, children who weren’t allowed to use the restroom in their schools could just run over to the American Airlines Center and pee.