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NATIONAL Calif. bills, DeSantis, HIV vaccine, Meta, college items
by Windy City Times staff
2023-01-22

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Buried within the bills California legislators filed after Gov. Gavin Newsom released his budget proposal for the 2023-2024 fiscal year is a line seeking to retrieve $13 million back from the state's Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund, per The Bay Area Reporter. In response to a question from the publication, the legislative analyst's office said the trans fund was mistakenly given $26 million last year—double the allotted amount. Thus, the governor's office is aiming to correct the error this year, as the special fund was only to have been allocated $13 million.

Legislation introduced by gay Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) aims to protect the privacy of transgender youth in California by requiring the courts to seal any petition for a change of gender or sex identifier filed by a minor, according to The Bay Area Reporter. Ward announced that he had filed Assembly Bill 223, titled the Transgender Youth Privacy Act. He pointed to a federal study that found trans youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their cis peers, and other surveys that have found transgender youth are more likely to experience violence victimization, substance use and depression.

The office of Florida Gov. DeSantis (R) confirmed that the anti-LGBTQ+ governor is in favor of extending the stipulations of the state's "Don't Say Gay" law, known formally as the Parental Rights in Education Act, according to LGBTQ Nation, which cited The Daily Mail. The law bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity up to third grade, but a staffer for Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R) told The Daily Mail that lawmakers are thinking about introducing legislation to expand the law up to sixth grade.

Also, DeSantis is asking state universities for the numbers and ages of their students who sought or received gender dysphoria treatment, including sex-reassignment surgery and hormone prescriptions, NBC News reported. Why the governor was conducting the survey wasn't clear. LGBTQ+-rights advocates have criticized DeSantis for discriminatory policies, including banning instruction on sexual and gender identity in early grades and making it easier for parents to remove books related to the topic in public schools.

The only HIV vaccine in a late-stage trial has failed—dealing a significant blow to the effort to control the global HIV epidemic and adding to a long roster of failed attempts, NBC News reported. Known as Mosaico, the trial was the product of a public-private partnership including the U.S. government and the pharmaceutical giant Janssen. It was run out of eight nations in Europe and the Americas, including the United States, starting in 2019. Almost 3,900 men who have sex with men and transgender people, all deemed at substantial risk of HIV, were involved in the trial.

Meta Platforms' oversight board overturned the company's decision to remove two Instagram posts showing transgender and non-binary people with bare chests, saying that Meta needed to change its policy to make it more inclusive, Reuters reported. The board—which is funded by Meta but operates independently—ruled that the company's adult-nudity policy is based on a binary view of gender, making it unclear how the rules apply to intersex, non-binary and transgender people. Meta bans images containing female nipples other than in specified circumstances such as breast-feeding and gender-confirmation surgery.

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by LGBTQ+ students who allege the Department of Education doesn't protect them against discrimination from more than two dozen religiously affiliated universities that receive federal funding, NBC News reported. In 2022, the current and former college students filed the suit to challenge the religious exemptions granted under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans sex-based discrimination in educational programs or activities that receive federal funds. Judge Ann Aiken of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Eugene Division—an appointee of former President Bill Clinton—said in part that the students did not prove Congress' intent behind the exemptions and dismissed the case.

More LGBTQ+-related controversy has ensued at Yeshiva University, LGBTQ Nation noted. Talia Avrahami, a Jewish trans woman, was recently ousted from her teaching job at her Modern Orthodox synagogue (Shenk Shul, which is affiliated with Yeshiva) due to her gender identity. The school has been embroiled in a legal battle over the right of the school's LGBTQ+ student group to exist. Despite the fact that the previous rabbi had been accepting—and that Avrahami had helped hire current Rabbi Shai Kaminetzky as someone who would prioritize inclusion—Kaminetzky ultimately facilitated her removal from the synagogue and, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "the top Jewish legal authority at Yeshiva University" also told her she was no longer welcome.

Hundreds of people recently stood in front of the Phyllis B. Frank Rockland County Pride Center in Nyack, New York, to show support for the site and the LGBTQ+ community, LoHud reported. They were there to celebrate community and condemn hateful anti-gay graffiti that had been scrawled on the building. For the "Stand With Pride: 'We're Here' Rally," new banners were hung that spelled the message of the gathering: "We're here. We're Queer. WE ARE PRIDE."

In California, hundreds gathered at Santee's YMCA to oppose the facility's policies for transgender members after a teenage girl's account of seeing someone she believed to be a naked man in the women's locker room gained national attention among conservative outlets, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Dozens of counterprotesters waving rainbow flags also danced at the opposite end of a field, and a few scuffles broke out among a small group in the middle; authorities later cleared the gathering. State law requires "all business establishments" to offer "full and equal accommodations" to everyone regardless of their sex, which includes gender identity.

New York City Councilmember Shekar Krishnan criticized protesters who demonstrated against drag-story hour outside his home in Jackson Heights on Jan. 16, Gay City News reported. Krishnan said that the handful of protesters—who carried signs that read "Stop taking children's innocence away" and "Let kids be kids"—had engaged in "disgusting behavior." Video footage posted online also shows one protester shouting "Stop grooming the kids on our tax dollars." The demonstrators seemingly defaced the sidewalk, writing "groomer" and "Stop pushing drag queens on kids" in chalk.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced his bid for governor, kicking off what could be one of the biggest and most expensive governor's races of 2024, Politico noted. Stein, a former state legislator who was first elected statewide in 2016, is the first Democratic candidate to launch a bid for the battleground state. "Some politicians want to tell you who you should hate, when you'll be pregnant, and who you can marry," Stein says in a video, cut over clips of his potential Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson making anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ comments. "I believe in a different North Carolina—and that the fights we choose determine what kind of state we'll become."

The House GOP Steering Committee recommended that embattled openly gay U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-New York) sit on the House Small Business Committee and House Science, Space and Technology Committee, The Hill reported. Santos's assignment came after multiple members of his own party have called on him to resign over his admitted fabrications about his work history and education, questions about his campaign finances, misleading claims of Jewish heritage and reported charges in Brazil related to checkbook fraud (which Santos has denied), among other issues.

At the direction of DMV Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, motorists in North Carolina can now request personalized license plates that include terms related to the LGBTQ+ community after more than 200 previously forbidden terms were removed from the state's Do Not Issue list, Yahoo! News noted, citing public-radio station WFDD. License plates with the words "GAYPRIDE," "LESBIAN" and "QUEER" were previously not available to purchase. The terms "BISEXUAL" and "GAYS0K" are still banned, however, as well as some terms relating to reproduction and ethnicity.

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy attracted criticism for posting and later deleting a tweet that appeared to endorse a transphobic urban myth, Sports Illustrated noted. Conservative website The Daily Wire tweeted a video of a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives discussing the possibility of placing menstrual products in men's restrooms, ostensibly geared toward transgender men. In response, Dungy tweeted, "That's nothing. Some school districts are putting litter boxes in the school bathrooms for the students who identify as cats. Very important to address every student's needs."

Republican Leon Benjamin Sr.—a conservative preacher and pundit running for a U.S. House seat in Virginia who claims that homosexuality is a treatable disorder—was called out for his lack of compassion, The Advocate noted. Benjamin runs an organization called Escape Hall that promotes helping people "escape" from "homosexual and lesbian living." However, MSNBC's Jonathan Capehart, who hosts The Sunday Show and is gay, challenged Benjamin during an appearance on his program, with Capehart noting a 2011 Facebook post that said, "Bring [your] sick, disease, gay, homosexual, lesbian, transvestite, bipolar, alcoholic, drug addiction friends and love ones!!!!!!!!!!" to a church event. Benjamin claimed that he will "stop division and hate from destroying America."

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov did not take a recent pregame skate because he refused to wear the team's LGBTQ+ Pride Night warmup jersey, citing his religious beliefs, according to ESPN. Provorov told reporters after the Flyers' 5-2 home win over the Anaheim Ducks that it was his choice "to stay true to myself and my religion," which he identified as Russian Orthodox. Before the game, the Flyers wore Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow tape, both of which are being auctioned off by Flyers Charities.

Right-wing politicians and U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) allegedly got into a screaming match in a women's restroom at the U.S. Capitol, LGBTQ Nation noted. The two have reportedly been at odds for at least a year now; in 2022, they nearly came to blows at a meeting of the far-right Freedom Caucus over Greene's public appearance with prominent white supremacist Nick Fuentes.


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