State Legislature action
Arkansas: Legislators overrode a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) of a bill that barred doctors from providing medically necessary treatment for transgender children. His veto message said the law constituted “Vast government overreach,” which would “Put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients and health care experts.” The House voted 72-12, and the Senate 25-8 vote to override.
North Carolina: Legislation was introduced banning gender-affirming health care for anyone under the age of 21, banning state and local governments from taking any action against conversion therapy, and forcing state employees (mostly law enforcement, teachers, and social workers) to out transgender youth to their parents. The law would fine health care professionals who “facilitate the minor’s desire to present or appear in a manner that is inconsistent with the minor’s sex” and threaten their licenses to practice medicine if they provide gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The bill also defines sex as “based on sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous hormone profiles” and bans a specific list of procedures. The bill exempts doctors treating intersex minors.
Virginia: A ban on the “gay and transgender panic-defense” is now law in Virginia, the 12th state to ban the legal tactic. The panic defense is often used by defendants who are accused of violent crimes. They claim that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity made them panic.
Montana: Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed by the Montana legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte (R). The law is similar to the one adopted in Indiana in 2015, which was revised to eliminate broad implications allowing for general anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The Montana law allows exemption from state non-discrimination laws if people claim their religious liberties are “substantially burdened.”
Tennessee: Good news, despite the support of Gov. Bill Lee (R), a bill to allow only cis-gendered girls to compete in high school sports was removed from the Education Committee’s calendar. The bad news, the legislature is debating a ban on teaching materials that contain LGBTQ+ content. The proposal reads, in part, “Local Education Agencies and public charter schools shall not locally adopt or use in the public schools of this state, textbooks, and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender issues or lifestyle.” There is also legislation to make the Christian Bible the official state book.
Texas: Texas Senate Bill 1646 was introduced that would brand the parents of transgender children as “child abusers” if they support their kids in receiving gender-affirming medical or psychological services. Parents could face jail time and have their children taken away. Texas medical group Doctors for Change already decried the bill, pointing out that the bill flies in the face of medical research and standards of care. The bill had one of three readings in the Texas Senate. Supporters testified to lawmakers that gender changes are, “Part of a fad that is amplified by social media.” The bill would not stop adults from proceeding with gender confirmation surgery.
Florida: The State House of Representatives passed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which would ban transgender athletes from playing on girls’ or women’s school sports teams. The legislation mandates K-12 and collegiate sports teams in the state to be solely for “biological” women and girls. A similar bill is being considered in Florida’s State Senate. It’s unclear if Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) would sign the legislation into law as it contains the same poison pill of regulating collegiate sports which caused South Dakota’s governor to veto (overridden by the legislature) a similar law there.
West Virginia: Gov. Jim Justice (R) will sign a new bill banning transgender boys and girls from participating in sports in West Virginia middle and high schools. In as good an example of the garbled syntax, as can be found, he said, “Personally I feel that absolutely, I just can’t get through my head that it is the right thing for us at a middle school level or a high school level in our state for me not to support the bill.” County school districts will “confirm the sex of participants at the time of their birth” before participation in single-sex interscholastic athletic events by providing an original birth certificate and a signed doctor’s statement.
Cartoon Characters Outed
Ellen Degeneres dropped an anvil on straight people when she publicly revealed all the cartoon characters she thinks are gay or lesbian. Degeneres outed Velma Dinkley from “Scooby-Doo,” calling her the Rachel Maddow of cartoons; Charlie Brown’s friend Peppermint Patty, citing the character wears Birkenstocks and everyone calls her “Sir”; Spongebob from “Spongebob Square Pants” was an easy pick as HBO tweeted out “Bob’s” picture on “Coming-out Day,” said Degeneres, and he has a pet snail. She also thinks Elsa from “Frozen” is a lesbian, but that’s just a feeling. She says there are cartoon characters who are gay or lesbian but, “Straight people may not have figured out (they) were.” She mentioned Snagglepuss, Ursula, He-Man, Yogi and Boo-Boo, Flounder, four of the seven dwarfs, and Jiminy Cricket. The candlestick from “Beauty and the Beast,” according to Degeneres, “French or gay, same thing.” Ellen reminded everyone, “these are cartoon characters so no one should care.”
HIV Vaccine Promising
A potential HIV vaccine is showing promising results in early human trials. The findings were presented by Scripps Research and IAVI, a nonprofit research organization, at the International AIDS Society HIV Research for Prevention conference. The vaccine stimulates the production of rare immune cells that generate HIV-resistant antibodies, a result found in 97 percent of human participants. The results are from a small sample; the next step will be more widespread clinical trials.
Gay Island, A Fantasy
George Langdon, a Republican member of the Albany County Legislature in New York, at a conference ironically titled “A Return to Liberty Under the Constitution,“ declared the constitutionally guaranteed concept of separation of church and state is “bogus.” He also conjectured that homosexuality could be eliminated in 40 years if gay and lesbian people were imprisoned on an island. Not constitutional if you are asking. He thinks the island dwellers wouldn’t reproduce, so in 40 years, poof, no more poofters. He resigned from the Albany County Legislature saying, “It was never my intention to single-out or target anyone. I truly believe every individual should have the right to life and liberty in their pursuit of happiness.”
Gay leader at U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Tucson, Arizona Police Chief Chris Magnus has been appointed the U.S. Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. He was a strong critic of border and immigration policies of the previous administration and supported and attended BLM demonstrations in San Francisco in 2014 when he was chief in Richmond, California. He also served as chief in Fargo, North Dakota. Magnus is married to a man who served as chief of staff to Richmond, Virginia’s mayor.
“Queer as Folk” second reboot
First it was Manchester, England for a 1990s gritty take, then rebooted in 2000 portraying Pittsburg as a sort-of fantasy island, and now rebooting in New Orleans, the groundbreaking gay television show “Queer as Folk” is coming back to TV. NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, has greenlighted eight episodes to “explore a diverse group of friends in New Orleans whose lives are transformed in the aftermath of a tragedy.” Stephen Dunn, the showrunner said, “The show originally aired was so provocative that I felt I could only watch ‘Queer as Folk’ in secret. But so much has changed in the last 20 years.” Dunn said the series locale will feature more people of color, transgender, and female characters than earlier iterations (and better food).