LGBTQ Pride Month Transforms Into Something Far Greater

LGBTQ citizens of the United States have called for police reforms to start pride month off with a bang, joining the “Black Lives Matter” movement to prove that social injustice for one group means social injustice for all of them. BLM protests have been built in small towns and large cities across the U.S., quickly expanding to countries all across the world — becoming one of the biggest and most effective movements in history.

This has all happened as another year has gone by without a “Pride Month” proclamation from President Trump. This is hardly a head-scratcher considering his stance on gay rights. But it’s also a particularly strong slap in the face to activists who watched the president issue separate proclamations for National Homeownership Month (really?), National Ocean Month (he loves oceans so much he wants to raise sea levels!) and Great Outdoors Month (he loves the outdoors so much he’s trying to drown most of it with the ocean!).

Many LGBTQ citizens joined with their African American friends and family to protest.

Congressman Mark Takano (Democrat-Riverside), who happens to be openly gay, said, “We must acknowledge that racist police brutality has gone without impunity for far too long in America. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, are the most recent cases of black men and women who have died at the hands of police — that we know of. Too often, the results of investigations into these instances of police misconduct amount to nothing and true justice is never served. This cannot, and must not, go on.”

Let’s do our best to remember those names!

Fairfield, CA Solano Pride Center wrote, “As a collective of LGBTQIA people from a range of backgrounds and life experiences, we have benefitted immeasurably from black leadership and actions that have brought greater civil liberties for all. As a center, we aspire to do more and do better at serving and focusing on African American lives, needs, voices, hopes, achievements and beyond.”

Were You Discriminated Against During The COVID-19 Crisis?

The world is approaching an awe-inspiring 500,000 cases, but the count is accelerating every day. Within a week or two, we’ll see a million cases or more. The fatality rate will skyrocket. Most of us are paying attention to our employment status, quality of insurance, and overall health. But it’s important to remember that some of us have to worry about these things on a daily basis — and then some.

For the LGBTQ community, times are especially tough.

While everyone else pays attention to the viral outbreak that causes the disease COVID-19, sometimes cases involving discrimination against the LGBTQ community fall through the cracks. Does it seem like no one is paying attention? You’re not alone.

And the potential for discrimination that goes unnoticed by authorities isn’t all. The community watches the pandemic with bated breath, noticing obvious parallels to the AIDS epidemic that affected it throughout the 80s, not the least of which is a president pretending that the illness isn’t really a big problem.

It’s almost worth noting that COVID-19 could be particularly damaging to the community as a whole. While rates of smoking, depression, drug use, and suicide are all decreasing with time, those rates are still among the highest of any minority demographic. Each of these represents an “underlying condition” that can make one much more susceptible to COVID-19, which has a relatively high fatality rate when compared to illnesses like the seasonal flu.

What can you do to help prevent spread among members of the community?

First and foremost, stop perusing apps like Grindr and Tinder. These only compel members to hook up. The close contact makes transmission much easier. Don’t go outdoors. Don’t see family or friends until notified it is okay to do so by the CDC. This crisis will not go away on its own, and the longer we avoid social distancing options, the longer we’ll have to do it.

Many of us currently feel that COVID-19 reactions have been overblown and that the disease isn’t really all that dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fatality rates are tens of times higher than the seasonal flu. The underlying cause of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, is far more contagious. It’s possible that its infectiousness eclipses even the Spanish flu, which was the deadliest pandemic in modern human history.

Should we fail to recognize the severity of the threat and act to stop it (as China and South Korea successfully did), then millions of people could pay the ultimate price. This is serious. We should treat it that way.

South Carolina Sex Education Under Suit For Excluding LGBTQ Relationships

Sex education in the south has always been under a great deal of scrutiny by those who live in the north. And that’s no surprise. Unwanted teenage pregnancies are a much bigger problem for those who live in southern states, in part due to stricter abortion laws and relaxed sex education standards. One of those relaxed standards involves the concept of homosexual sexual relationships — which are banned in the classroom by South Carolina law.

Oh, with one exception: Talking about sexually transmitted diseases in the context of homosexuality is perfectly okay.

Basically, teachers can only talk about heterosexual relationships — and even talking about that is restricted by South Carolina law. Now, a federal lawsuit aims to challenge the state law.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal have combined their resources to sue South Carolina’s Comprehensive Health Education Act of 1988, which they say violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The lawsuit said, “The law singles out LGBTQ students for negative treatment. It prevents LGBTQ students from receiving any health education about their relationships except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases, without imposing any comparable restriction on health education about heterosexual people.”

The 1988 law goes even further by specifically stating that teachers can be fired simply for discussing homosexual relationships or “alternative lifestyles.”

Defendant Molly Spearman, State Superintendent of Education, actually agrees with the plaintiff. When the lawsuit first arose, she went straight to Alan Wilson, the South Carolina Attorney General. She asked him to provide a legal opinion on whether or not the old state law remained constitutional under state and federal laws. He said that courts would likely overturn the law. 

Spearman said, “I agree with the arguments and evidence presented in the opinion. I also believe that parents should continue to have the final say in whether or not their child participates in health education curriculum.”

Like in many other parts of the country, parents can choose to remove their children from sex education courses.

When asked about the law, Senior Staff Attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Julie Wilensky, said, “This stigmatizes LGBTQ kids. It sends a message to all students that LGBTQ kids and people are associated with diseases.”

Wilson said, “This office has consistently supported and will continue to support the protection of religious liberties in every context. Important free exercise of religion rights must be protected, while at the same time, ensuring that anti-gay discrimination which violates the Constitution is not present in the classroom.”

Apparently Rainbow Cake Is Anti-Religion

One Kentucky girl was recently expelled from her Christian school. Why, you ask? Well, according to the school officials, it was because she posed for a photo dressed in a rainbow shirt. It must’ve added salt to the imaginary wound when they saw the rainbow cake. School officials said the photo presented “a posture of cultural acceptance contrary to that” of the school’s.”

In other words, rainbows equal gay and gay equals wrong.

High schooler Kayla Kenney wasn’t out before the school decided she should be expelled for rainbows, though, and so her family is fighting the school’s decision in court by arguing it was essentially an invasion of privacy. 

The lawsuit provided details on the family’s stance: “This decision (of stating one’s sexual identity) is one which can ripple, leading to repercussions in untold aspects of someone’s personal, social and family life. This decision — when, where and how to ‘come out’ — is a profound endeavor that is the sole right of an LGBTQ person. And yet (Kayla), an LGBTQ child, has been denied that right.”

Regardless of the fact that society at large has debunked the idea that homosexuality is a disease, the Whitefield school maintains that it is.

The school dismissed the idea that the expulsion was based on rainbow clothes and cakes. “In the fall,” a statement said, “we met with the student to give her a final chance to begin to adhere to our code of conduct. Unfortunately, she did not live up to the agreement, and therefore, has been expelled.”

It’s an expulsion, so it must’ve been pretty serious! You know, drugs, guns, physical violence, that sort of thing. But we couldn’t find any evidence of it. There were Juul pods — for which she was put on probation — but rainbows seem to be the primary concern.

The problem is that Kayla’s parents had never discusser their child’s sexual orientation. She was not “out.” And because of that, the expulsion and the reasons behind it do indeed present an obvious invasion of a young girl’s privacy. 

According to the lawsuit, there were no new disciplinary measures after the Juul pod incident. Kayla was counseled to read a book called Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry. The author of that story describes her own struggles with (and against) homosexuality. You know, the sort of thing that can damage someone who is already struggling with unsupportive school staff. 

Her parents described the birthday experience as pleasant. “It was a happy moment,” her mother said. “We were celebrating her 15th birthday. The day God gave me her. Not supporting any sexuality or anything like that.”

The LGBTQ+ Community Supports The Impeachment Of President Donald J. Trump

LGBTQ+ voters — or at least those who ticked the box indicating they plan to vote in the 2020 Democratic primaries — say they support the impeachment of our current president, Donald Trump. This should not surprise those who have paid attention to the Trump administration’s treatment of the community while in office. In addition to rescinding or altering long-established protections for LGBTQ+ members, the number of hate crimes has continued to rise over his years in office.

90 percent of these LGBTQ+ voters believe that Trump should be both impeached and removed (it should be noted that many surveys ask these questions separately, i.e. “Do you believe Trump should be impeached?” versus “Do you believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office?”).

Only 5 percent said they did not believe Trump should be impeached and removed.

94 percent of survey respondents said they disapprove or strongly disapprove of Trump’s job performance.

Only 5 percent said they approve of Trump’s job performance.

Those who responded to the survey characterized their feelings for politicians like House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and freshman New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as somewhat favorable or very favorable. 89 percent of respondents held the opposite views on Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump is poised to become only the third president in the history of the United States to become impeached. After a lengthy debate session, a Democratic House of Representatives majority is expected to impeach a sitting president, whose case will then be turned over to the Senate for a most likely quick and superficial trial led by a Republican majority that will almost certainly keep him in office regardless of the blatant abuses of power of which he has been accused.

This will transpire only a day after Trump apparently sent Pelosi a scathing letter, once again decrying the process as unfair. He says that the facts uncovered do not exist.

Trump wrote: “The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”

What started as a somewhat coherent — yet inaccurate — letter written in opposition to the process quickly devolves into a six-page rambling stream of thought, often accusing other government officials of criminal activity (which is something he often does: deflect the accusations made against him back to those who made them in the first place.

He continues, “Congressman Adam Schiff cheated and lied all the way up to the present day, even going so far as to fraudulently make up, out of thin air, my conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine and read this fantasy language to Congress as though it were said by me. His shameless lies and deceptions, dating all the way back to the Russia Hoax, is one of the main reasons we are here today.”

What Is The “Gay Panic” Defense For Violent Hate Crimes?

Although LGBTQ rights have taken a hit under the Trump administration, overall they continue to improve year by year, at both the state and federal level. Recently, LGBTQ activists have called on governments to slam the door to the “gay panic” defense shut. This common courtroom strategy asks juries to blame a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity in order to justify violent crimes — and indeed, often murder. 

The panic defense isn’t an explanation for what happened or why during the commission of a violent crime. It’s an excuse. This is another way that judicial authority — and a jury of our peers — sometimes successfully reduce LGBTQ individuals to second class citizens. 

The panic defense was used during the nationally recognized Matthew Shepard case, which followed the criminal defense of two men who brutally beat and murdered a 21-year-old student in 1998.

LGBTQ advocates are sick and tired of this legal strategy. 

New Jersey Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino said, “Make no mistake, the gay and trans ‘panic’ defense is flat-out legal malpractice and it’s time for New Jersey to outlaw this horrific and discriminatory legal strategy.”

A new bill to ban the “gay panic” defense is scheduled for a vote early next week in the New Jersey state Assembly. Should the bill be signed into law, perpetrators of violent crimes against members of the LGBTQ community would be banned from being granted lesser charges by arguing they became upset in the heat of the moment when learning of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dean Dafis is a gay Maplewood committee member and supporter of the new bill. “It’s affirmation that we matter,” Dafis said. “That we will not be erased because when the violence against you is legitimized and excused, then you are erased as a victim and what’s happened to you — it’s like it doesn’t matter to anyone.”

Eight other states have already banned the panic defense.

The defense is usually used to complement one of several other legal strategies: insanity, diminished capacity, provocation, or self-defense. All of these defenses are outrageously illogical and only serve to do additional harm to the LGBTQ community, which is already struggling with increased violent crimes during the dogmatic years of the Trump presidency.

If the New Jersey state assembly approves the bill, it will be forwarded to the Senate for another vote. Should it pass through the Senate successfully, Governor Phil Murphy will hopefully then sign it into law.

Chelsea Manning Has Been Imprisoned Since March 8, 2019

With all this talk of whistleblowers, one might think we’d be hearing a little bit more about Chelsea Manning — perhaps the “first” big whistleblower. She was called a traitor and a spy too, so it’s no surprise that Trump is using those exact same terms to describe whoever blew the lid off his conversation with Ukraine’s president. Manning’s 35-year prison sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama back in 2017 after she had already served seven of those years.

She was called before a grand jury earlier this year in order to answer questions about what she knew about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange — questions that perhaps should have already been asked and answered (and were) the first time she was sent to prison. And that’s why it’s somewhat discomforting to know that the exact same crimes for which she was imprisoned the first time have landed her in jail again.

She refused to answer the grand jury’s questions. The judge held her in contempt of court, sending her to stew in a prison cell until she changed her mind and decided to answer those questions. In addition, she was hit with outrageously high fines for her lack of cooperation. Fines that no reasonably well-off American could possibly afford to pay.

Activists are still championing Manning and her story, but perhaps enough of us aren’t even aware that she’s in trouble again.

She was temporarily released in May. When a new grand jury arrived, she was once again ordered to testify about WikiLeaks. Once again, she refused and was sent back to prison with the same $1,000 a day fine attached to her sentence.

Before being reincarcerated (the second time), Manning said, “The government cannot build a prison bad enough, cannot create a system worse than the idea that I would ever change my principles.”

Opponents of her incarceration believe that she is simply being used as a piece on a chess board to charge Julian Assange with a number of new crimes (as if they didn’t have all the evidence they needed to charge him with whatever they like already). Even so, Assange faces a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charge was directly related to providing Manning with help in electronically disseminating documents classified by the United States government.

The truth is this: the prosecutors, and the government, have yet to clarify exactly why they require Manning’s help. All we have are educated guesses.

Is America Over The Fight For LGBTQ Rights?

A recent story published in The Atlantic characterized the state of LGBTQ rights about half a decade after the Supreme Court ruled to allow same-sex marriage as a matter of federal law. For a lot of people, the fight for LGBTQ rights — at least from straight alliance members — ended there. 

But for the rest of us, the fight rages on, at least in part because legislators still haven’t figured out what they’re doing, and the Trump administration continues to gut equal rights regulations put into place under Obama.

Federal law does not ban discrimination of the LGBTQ community, but about half of the country thinks it does. That explains a great deal of resentment derived from right-wing free speech advocates and conservative Christian business owners who would prefer to post signs banning gay people from their establishments or simply deny them service when they come inside. 

Questions like whether or not LGBTQ should be protected from discrimination in the same way that people are protected based on skin color, gender, age, etc., are still being asked by lawmakers. For many of us, it’s not a question at all. How can anyone justify allowing lessors to deny a lease to someone based on sexual orientation? And yet they do.

The House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent such acts of discrimination early this year. The Equality Act would guarantee equal rights for LGBTQ people — and more importantly, no one would have the option of shouting “religious freedom!” as a loophole for not following the law. Of course the only way it will ever be passed into law is if Democrats win back control of Congress in 2020, retain control of the House of Representatives, and put a Democratic president in Trump’s still-warm seat. 

In other words, it’s a long road ahead for LGBTQ equality.

An upcoming Supreme Court case will determine whether or not an employee had the right to terminate the employment of a transgender employee after the employee came out. Judging from the conservative leaning of the current justices, no one’s all that optimistic.

Many conservative groups are still trying to relax LGBTQ protections — aided by the president, who is trying to do the same — while others are trying to find some sort of compromise to protect the community while also granting private businesses and organizations to continue functioning on par with their religious beliefs. 

Is compromise important in these struggles? Not really. Either discrimination is legal or it isn’t. How can there be any middle ground?

News Flash: Some Of The Asylum Seekers At Our Southern Border Are LGBTQ

And they’re being persecuted both here and at home. The problem isn’t exaggerated: it’s real. There are more than 800,000 migrants seeking asylum here in the United States. The Trump Administration is trying to do everything it can to turn them back or prevent them from entering. His supporters routinely reiterate the willfully ignorant belief that the migrants wouldn’t be locked up in concentration camps if they had entered the country the “legal” way. 

But they did exactly that.

By law, asylum seekers are supposed to come into the country through a point of entry and make their application. That’s what they did. There’s nothing illegal about it. That’s why Trump is trying to change the current laws to make it illegal.

Some of these folks left their home countries because they were persecuted for sexual orientation or gender identity; we’re supposed to be more civilized in this country, right? It’s getting harder and harder to make the case when those leaning right are so heavily influenced by Fox and Friends.

The UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute believes there are around 267,000 undocumented LGBTQ residents of the United States. They face the same obstacles as the LGBTQ community in general, except those obstacles can be greatly amplified and become much more difficult to tackle simply because these people have a different ethnic origin.

One migrant shares her story that began on January 1, 2017 when she crossed the border with Mexico at El Paso, Texas — a place the entire nation knows very well by now. It’s not only the location of a recent mass shooting, but it’s one of the places where asylum seekers are legally allowed to cross into the country in order to make their application.

“That was the start of another horrible ordeal,” she says, “which was going into ICE detention. It is difficult when you show up and your appearance is completely feminine but your document says you are a man. They brought me into the famous ‘ice boxes’ as they call them. And they were full of men, and they knew that because I was there, that I was trans.”

When she was verbally assaulted and screamed at, the officials there gave her little in the way of consolation. They handcuffed her to a pole outside for the next six hours. Weeks later, she was finally transferred to a special facility, but not before enduring additional trauma.
While the experience is worse for LGBTQ individuals, it highlights the way the migrants are being treated in general: like prisoners, like criminals, like animals, but not like human beings.

What To Do If You’re LGBTQ In Miami This Year

It can be difficult to make friends in the LGBTQ community without resorting to sketchy hookup apps like Grindr, but if you live in a big city there are always plenty of activities to keep you busy — so long as you know where to look. Here are a few of the biggest LGBTQ events hosted by Miami organizations over the summer and beyond.

  1. Brothers at Sea LGBT Cruise. This one is tailored to “brothers” i.e. African American members of our community. The cruise will last for seven days and have everything you’d expect, stopping in Cozumel, New Orleans, Jamaica, and the Cayman Island on either end of three sea days. It will even include a Halloween party! The cruise departs from New Orleans at 12 p.m. on October 27 and won’t get back until November 3.

  2. LGBT “Dinner and a Movie” in Downtown Hollywood. No, not that Hollywood. This event kicks off Saturday, August 3 from 8:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. at 121 N 20th Ave in Hollywood, Florida. Tickets will set you back $60, but thankfully you can bring your own booze!

  3. LGBTQ+/Transgender 101 Training. This free event will begin at 2:30 p.m. and end at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 1 at the West Regional Library located at 8601 West Broward Blvd. in plantation, Florida. Head to the multi-purpose room on the first floor to get a new perspective on gender spectrum, identity, and transgender individuals in particular.

  4. Setting The Table: Cultivating Pride All Year Long. This event will take place on Thursday, July 11 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Miami Ironside Campus. Tickets cost $35. The monthly event is meant to shed light on important facets of society, and this gathering will help continue to celebrate LGBTQ pride — because it extends way past June!

  5. Riptide’s Christmas in July Pool Party. Who doesn’t love a good pool party? Even if you’re hesitant to jump into anything with the word “party,” rest assured that this one is for a good cause. The “Christmas in July” pool party will help raise funds toward the 2019 Gay Softball World Series. Food and drink are included in the price of admission, which is set at a “suggested” $20 donation. This particular event is on Saturday, July 20 from 2-7 p.m. at 2129 Northeast 61st st Court in Fort Lauderdale.

Have you ever been arrested during an LGBTQ-themed rally or event? Are you in the midst of litigation you think was born out of hate? A lawyer at Valiente Law is available to look at your case so you can have the best possible defense.