Federal judge blocks Trump’s Trans military ban

Washington, D.C. – President Donald Trump’s Twitter-originated ban on transgender military members has suffered a major setback. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled on October 30 that the August directive barring transgender individuals from serving in the military encourages “inherent inequality.” She partially granted an injunction requested by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, who are leading a suit against the directive. The Judge’s ruling halts the ban as the suit moves forward. In issuing her ruling, the judge noted that the transgender plaintiffs NCLR and GLAD represent are “likely to succeed” in proving their claim that the ban violates trans individuals’ constitutional right to due process.

“This is a complete victory for our plaintiffs and all transgender servicemembers, who are now once again able to serve on equal terms and without the threat of being discharged,” NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter said in a statement. “We are grateful to the court for recognizing the gravity of these issues and putting a stop to this dangerous policy, which has wreaked havoc in the lives of transgender servicemembers and their families.” “This court saw straight through the smokescreen the government tried to create to hide the bias and prejudice behind Trump’s change in military policy,” added GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi.

The ruling also called into question the validity of using social media to communicate federal policy; Trump announced his intent to ban trans servicemembers through Twitter in July before issuing a formal directive. The decision was announced “without any of the formality or deliberative processes that generally accompany the development and announcement of major policy changes that will gravely affect the lives of many Americans,” the judge wrote. While Trump wrote on social media that the move came after consultation with military leaders, the judge determined that “all of the reasons proffered by the president for excluding transgender individuals from the military in this case were not merely unsupported, but were actually contradicted by the studies, conclusions and judgment of the military itself.” (Philadelphia Gay News – Jen Colletta at epgn.com)

Morgan takes part in HRC historically black colleges summit

Washington, D.C. – On November 3, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, welcome student activists from Morgan State University, Bowie State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for a three-day leadership summit designed to foster campus environments that are welcoming and affirming to LGBTQ people. “We’re thrilled to welcome these student leaders to HRC for our 12th annual HBCU summit,” said Leslie Hall, the HRC’s Senior HBCU Program Manager. “The commitment and dedication demonstrated by these fierce advocates is inspiring, and we look forward to having them return to their campuses with a renewed commitment to fighting for equality and inclusion. I am truly excited that we have the opportunity to come together, learn from each other, and increase our strength as advocates for the LGBTQ community.”

For more than a decade, the HRC has held an annual summit for LGBTQ student leaders from many of the nation’s historically black institutions. This year, the 41 attendees represent 23 HBCUs from 10 states: In addition to Morgan and Bowie, the other schools represented included Albany State University; Bethune-Cookman University; Claflin University; Dillard University; Fayetteville State University; Hampton University; Howard University; Johnson C. Smith University; Morehouse College; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; North Carolina Central University; Philander Smith College; Savannah State University; Southern University; Southern University at New Orleans; Spelman College; Stillman College; Tuskegee University; University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; and University of the District of Columbia.

The HRC’s HBCU Project was founded to support LGBTQ students at HBCUs by providing resources and trainings to advance affirming and supportive college campuses. The program is supported by the David Bohnett Foundation and the Coca-Cola Foundation. For the last 12 years, the HBCU Project has hosted an annual HBCU Leadership Summit to train and prepare student leaders and administrators to advocate for LGBTQ inclusion and safety. (Seattle Gay News at sgn.org)

Scarlet Letter to be placed on sex offenders’ passports

Washington, D.C – A controversial new federal law is one step closer to full implementation. As soon as Homeland Security prepares a list of people subject to International Megan’s Law (IML), the US State department will begin putting permanent marks on their passports. For those on the list, current passports will be revoked and new ones issued with a “unique identifier” that has been likened to a “scarlet letter.” Such treatment of US citizens is likely unprecedented – searches have not turned up anything similar in this country’s history.

The State Department has just revealed the message to be emblazoned inside new passports: “The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor, and is a covered sex offender pursuant to 22 United States Code Section 212b(c)(l).” In addition to scarlet letter passports, International Megan’s Law, “makes it a crime, for the first time, for a sex offender to travel abroad without giving 21 days advance notice so that law enforcement has adequate time to vet the traveler and warn the destination country, if needed,” according to Rep. Chris Smith, IML’s Congressional sponsor.

Law Professor Tamara Rice Lave, writes in the Huffington Post, that “what sounds like a good law in a twenty-second sound bite sometimes turns out to be less clear when one digs below the surface. Such is the case with International Megan’s Law, which President Obama signed into law. The stated rationale for International Megan’s Law is twofold: (1) Individuals who have offended against a child pose an extremely high risk of reoffending, and (2) Megan’s Law will stop them from doing so. The first premise (dangerousness) is demonstrably false. Study after study has shown that sex offenders actually have a low recidivism rate.” And Jacob Sullim points out in Reason.com, “Instead of focusing on people who have demonstrated a propensity to commit such crimes, the IML casts a wide net that covers offenders who have never assaulted a child, let alone traveled to another country for that purpose The Americans whose passports will brand them as international child molesters include people convicted of misdemeanors as well as felonies, people who committed their offenses as minors, people who were convicted decades ago and have never reoffended, people who as teenagers had consensual sex with other teenagers, and people who committed noncontact offenses such as sexting, streaking, public urination, and looking at child pornography.” Read more at the links that follow. (The Dobbs Wire – Bill Dobbs and The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/44f22ca8245441f9993ca76b894b8919/Child-sex-offenders-to-be-named-as-such-in-US-passports, Reason.com –Jacob Sullum at http://reason.com/archives/2017/11/01/scarlet-letter-passports-are-unjust-and and The Huffington Post – Tamara Rice Lave atThe Huffington Posy at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamara-rice-lave/international-megans-law-_b_9513242.html)

Small Texas town OK with transgender mayor

New Hope, TX – Ever since Mayor Jess Herbst of New Hope, a town of 614 people, announced she’s transgender, anywhere from one to four reporters have attended every council meeting. And the same thing happens each time — people from town speak during the public comment period, and a tree hanging too low over a road will get cut, an old junk car will get towed or a pothole will get fixed. What doesn’t get discussed is the gender identity of the mayor. “On Jan. 30, I took five minutes to explain, said ‘thank you,’ and it’s been business as usual ever since,” Herbst said of her coming out. “We’re reasonable, intelligent, open-minded people,” Herbst said describing her town.

Since Herbst revealed her gender identity to the city of New Hope, no one has come to a meeting to speak about their support or about their moral outrage over having a transgender mayor. No one’s mentioned it at all. When the town’s road commissioner makes his regular presentations, he sometimes slips up and refers to Herbst by her dead name. He gets embarrassed and stumbles over his words, apologizing for the mistake. They’ve known each other almost 20 years. “Don’t worry about it,” Herbst tells him, laughing. Why’s she laughing? Because she’s so glad her transition hasn’t been a story. Herbst hopes that by telling the story of her transition not being a story, more people who are afraid of coming out as transgender will find the courage do so.

Another thing that’s different for Herbst compared to other trans people is that she’s still married to her wife, and she still has the same relationship with her kids. Herbst met her wife, Debbie, in college. The couple have two daughters, now 27 and 28. Debbie grew up in New Hope. She had known about her husband’s gender identity before they were married 38 years ago. Leaving Jess wasn’t an option, but it did take a period of adjustment. “Jess is my soulmate,” Debbie said. And one thing that was important, she said, was that Jess was happier. Adjusting to Jess as a woman took about a year, Debbie said, “This is the same person underneath it all. (Dallas Voice – David Taffet at dallasvoice.com)

Senate unanimously condemns anti-gay violence in Chechnya

Washington, D.C. – A resolution condemning antigay violence in Chechnya, which was sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R) of Pennsylvania and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) was unanimously approved last week. The resolution calls on Chechen officials to cease the “abduction, detention and torture of individuals on the basis of their actual or suspected sexual orientation,” and to hold those who have committed such acts accountable. It also calls on the U.S. government to condemn such acts of violence.

More than 100 men are reported to have been detained in Chechnya on suspicion of homosexuality. At least 20 men are believed to have been murdered. Chechen officials have also reportedly urged the families of gay and bisexual men to kill such family members. Outwardly, however, officials have denied such campaigns, even refusing to acknowledge that LGBT people exist in the country.

Toomey and Markey’s resolution advanced out of committee earlier this fall. A companion resolution in the House was approved this past summer. President Donald Trump has yet to publicly condemn the Chechen violence. “With unanimous passage of this resolution, the U.S. Senate just sent a powerful message,” said Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Globa. “Despite the deafening silence from the White House, the people of the United States strongly condemn these anti-LGBTQ attacks in Chechnya.” Cobb went on to urge Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to address the issue. (Philadelphia Gay News – Jen Colletta at epgn.com)

Magazine features Gay life in Haifa, Israel

Haifa, Israel – The Israeli port city of Haifa isn’t as well known internationally as Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but it’s no less stunning: A mountainous landscape crammed with ancient buildings and winding roads, set against the backdrop of the Mediterranean. And Haifa, subject of the current issue of the gay travel magazine Elska, offers something other Israeli cities don’t: A model for diversity and acceptance

Elska is a bi-monthly male photography and culture publication. Each edition is shot in a different city, featuring photospreads of around fifteen local guys who we happen to meet there, plus stories from each. “I’m certain most people expected us to go to the huge gay hub that is Tel Aviv,” says Elska editor Liam Campbell. “[But] Haifa is known for being the most mixed and normalized city in the country, with Jews and Arabs sharing the same space and with a greater degree of harmony than anywhere else.” That, and a sizable community from the former Soviet Union, pushed Campbell to choose Haifa for Elska’s first Israeli issue. As in every issue, Campbell’s team interviewed numerous men about their lives in the city, and took portraits both on the street and in more intimate surroundings, often nude or partially undressed.

Finding subjects willing to bare all (literally and metaphorically) can be tricky. But in Haifa, Campbell said, the locals did a lot of the legwork. “All of the men we met kept asking if we’d managed to meet people from other communities. Jews were spreading the word to their Arab friends, Arabs were introducing us to their Russian friends, and everyone wanted to make sure that we would be able to show the multiculturalism that the people of Haifa are so proud of.” That’s not to suggest the magazine whitewashes issues faced by different communities, including racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance. “There are naturally signs that life is not perfect,” Campbell says. “However, Haifa seems to set a better example than anywhere else in Israel of how different people should be able to live together, not just by tolerating each other but by loving each other. The men you meet in Elska Haifa do show some of their pain, but they share their hope, as well.” Elska’s Haifa issue is available in a 164-page print version or for download. A companion e-zine, Elska Ekstra Haifa , offers outtakes, behind-the-scenes tales and more profiles. (NewNowNext.com – Dan Avery at http://www.newnownext.com/gay-men-israel/11/2017/)

Former US Attorney General Holder given GLAD award

Boston, MA – Eric H. Holder Jr., the 82nd attorney general of the United States, accepted the Spirit of Justice Award in Boston on October 27, urging the crowd of 1,000 advocates for LGBTQ equality to “keep standing up, keep speaking out, keep resisting.” GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) honored Holder for his instrumental role in advancing LGBTQ justice and his leadership on other civil rights matters, including criminal justice reform, and voting rights.

Attendees also heard from Dylan Kohere, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of New Haven, who has been barred from enrolling in ROTC because of President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. Kohere is a plaintiff in GLAD’s lawsuit Doe v. Trump, which challenges the ban. On Monday, a federal district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and enjoined the ban.

The annual event this year raised $890,000 to support GLAD’s work fighting for LGBTQ equality through litigation, legislation, and education. Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. (Seattle Gay News – Press Release from Gay Legal Advocates & Defenders for the LGBTQ Community ay sgn.org)

Saying Kevin Spacey is a pedophile is wrong and dangerous

New Haven, CN – Yale University Associate Professor Joseph Fischel chastises the mainstream gay community in Slate.com for its reaction to the allegations that House of Cards star Kevin Spacey may have made unwanted sexual advances in 1986 toward then 14 year old actor Anthony Rapp. Fischel notes, “everyone loves to hate a pedophile, even if they’ve made him up.” He then points out that nothing about the alleged incident justifies labeling Spacey a pedophile and that by jumping on that bandwagon, “Gay pundits’ overblown protests of disgust at Spacey support the very structure of pedophile sex panic—the hyperventilating reduction of queerness to child abuse—that they are trying to fend off.” Fischel adds, “To be clear, under no clinical diagnostic I know of does a drunken, aggressive, and deeply stupid pass at a teenager qualify as pedophilia. Indeed, one working definition of pedophilia is “ongoing sexual attraction to prepubertal children … who are generally age 13 years or younger.”

Fiscel makes clear that he is not defending Spacey’s alleged unwanted advances but he criticizes the community’s quick retreat into moral panic. “Let me be as clear as possible that Spacey’s alleged conduct, imposing himself unwanted on a 14-year-old boy, is in no way defensible, nor is closeted queerness an excuse that authorizes bad behavior. . . .However, we can condemn the alleged events of Rapp’s story without falling into the trap of fueling moral panic around the specter of the pedophile. And in its pitchfork-and-torches response, that’s exactly what the gay community is doing. It used to be straights who “pedophiled” gays to deny them civil rights and social inclusion. Now we apparently pedophile our own for moral purification and self-satisfaction.”

Fischel says that by now the Gay community should be stronger, more nuanced. “The scary thing, in the eyes of the mainstream movement, is that Spacey used his apology as an opportunity to come out, to announce that he “live[s] as a gay man.” Braiding queerness into his apology sent gay pundits into a sanctimonious tizzy. . . Queers have accrued enough social and political clout that we need not react with unthinking revulsion to other queers, as straights did to us. We can acknowledge, as Spacey himself did, that he screwed up astonishingly and that he may have damaged the young Rapp. Yet refusing or misreading his apology, like refusing or disbelieving his queerness, performs a phobia of simplification and misrecognition with which we are all too familiar—a phobia we should, however difficult the effort, resist reiterating. (Slate.com – Joseph Fischel at http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2017/11/01/how_calling_kevin_spacey_a_pedophile_hurts_the_gay_community.html) [Ed Note: Since Rapp went public, others have come forward and described what they viewed as assaultive, inappropriate or uncomfortable sexual advances by Spacey when they were in their late teens or young men. Also, last week a former production assistant for House of Cards told CNN that Spacey put his hand down the man’s pants without his consent. J.B]