National & World Briefs, June 17, 2020

LA Pride March steps in it

What was to be a “solidarity protest march” organized by the Los Angeles LGBTQ Pride to replace the COVID-19-canceled June Pride Parade has turned controversial. The organizers of LA Pride announced that its plan for a march relating to the nationwide demonstrations over the Minneapolis police slaying of George Floyd would be turned over to All Black Lives Matter, an advisory board of Black LGBTQ activists, and community leaders. LA Pride’s misstep was that the organizers sought to coordinate with the Los Angeles Police Department for the parade. The Twitter-mob pointed out it was insensitive of organizers to coordinate with the LAPD to ensure traffic control and safety for a demonstration to protest police activity and advocate for defunding the LAPD (as has been proposed by the city’s Mayor). The organizers declared, “We recognize systemic racism, implicit bias and privilege permeate this country, and this includes the history of our organization.”

Gotta watch your mouth

It’s so mystifying that with all the cameras citizens carry on them that police officers don’t think before they act. Even when it’s just mouthing off. Chicago’s police accountability board is recommending that an officer be disciplined for shouting a gay slur at a protester during an incident caught on video and went viral. After a police brutality protester apparently threw a traffic cone and barricade at an officer, the officer turned and shouted, “Bitch! Wait till I turn my back, you fucking faggot!” The Chicago mayor got involved holding a news conference and saying, “We will not tolerate profanity and homophobic comments that demean the badge, demean the honor of being a Chicago police officer, and demean the value of who we are as Chicagoans.”

Connecticut loses to cisgender girls

A letter from the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Office told the state of Connecticut its policy allowing transgender girls to compete against cisgender girls in high school sports violates the civil rights of athletes who have always identified as female. The ruling was responding to a complaint filed last year by several cisgender female track athletes who argued that two transgender female runners had an unfair physical advantage. State policy allows the competition, but the Feds claim the policy is a violation of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that guarantees equal education opportunities for women, including in athletics.

Death takes a bigot, Rev. Lou Sheldon

Reverend Lou Sheldon, who in 1980 founded the Traditional Values Coalition opposed to, among other things, homosexuality, has died at 85. The group had a significant impact on anti-gay rights circles in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2010 Southern Poverty Law Center tagged the Coalition as an anti-LGBT hate group. Sheldon suggested forcibly, “Rounding up AIDS victims into ‘cities of refuge,’ like leper colonies.” He thought hate crime laws “protect sex with animals and the rape of children as forms of political expression.” He also proposed a famous porn fantasy that “homosexuals come to the door and if your son answers, they grab the son and run off with him and turn him into a homosexual.”

Death takes a hero, Larry Kramer, RIP

Larry Kramer, author and passionate AIDS activist, has died at age 84. The proximate cause of death was pneumonia, according to his husband. Kramer lived with HIV and had undergone a liver transplant several years ago. Kramer is best known as a founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis — the first HIV/AIDS service organization — and of the direct-action group ACT UP, both in New York City. He was also a novelist and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter as the author of the Tony-winning play, The Normal Heart. Famous for his confrontational style, he was kicked out of the GMHC. On his exit he said the group was, “a sad organization of sissies.” Kramer called Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a murderer and “an incompetent idiot” for the federal government’s slow response to HIV/AIDS. Fauci’s comment on Kramer, “Once you got past the rhetoric you found that Larry Kramer made a lot of sense and that he had a heart of gold.” Another like Kramer will not come along anytime soon.

LGBT D.C. offices trashed in riot

Peaceful protestors on the weekend following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, trashed and set fire to some Washington D.C. office buildings. One of those buildings peacefully trashed and burned was the AFL-CIO headquarters. Housed in that building was “Pride at Work,” formed to represent queer people and allies with support from the labor movement. The organization was formed in 1994 and become part of the AFL-CIO in 1997.

Grenell steps down

Former acting Director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell, conducted the swearing-in of his successor as the permanent DNI and resigned as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany. Grenell was the first out gay man to hold a cabinet position in U.S. history. As DNI, he pushed initiatives in the intelligence services to reform recruitment and training of LGBT employees. During his two years in Germany, he led an international initiative to “decriminalize homosexuality” in countries where it is still criminalized. At the swearing-in of the new DNI, the president he worked for called him a “Superstar” and presented him with the traditional “cabinet room chair.”

Trump’s HHS circling the drain

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights moved to roll back protections for transgender people under the Affordable Care Act, which bans discrimination in healthcare. Swiftly, however, on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against Trump’s push for anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination, which in turn could put the kibosh on the HHS’ decision. Historically, LGBTQ people, especially trans and gender non-conforming people, have faced rampant discrimination and misunderstanding in clinical settings. Some health professionals fear the new HHS rule could also make it more difficult to advance care for the trans community. 

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