Carl Nassib, a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, has come out as gay in a historic first.
Nassib, 28, on Monday said he made the announcement to increase visibility, and in doing so, made history as the first openly gay active player in the NFL.
The athlete, speaking from his home in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said he finally felt comfortable enough to “get it off my chest.”
“I actually hope that one day videos like this and the whole coming out process are just not necessary, but until then, I am going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that is accepting, that is compassionate,” Nassib said, announcing a $100,000 donation to the Trevor Project, a LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization.
“The NFL family is proud of you, Carl,” the league said Monday evening in a tweet, with the NFL logo in a rainbow for LGBTQ pride month.
Nassib wrote that since coming out he has been “greeted with the utmost respect and acceptance.”
Other NFL players have come out as gay after retiring, but none have done so while actively playing.
Michael Sam was the first openly gay NFL draftee in 2014, but, according to NBC Sports, was not on a regular season roster and never played a game after he was drafted onto the St. Louis Rams.
“Thank you for making history — as you said, representation is so important,” tweeted Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a LGBTQ rights organization.
Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island who is one of Congress’ LGBTQ members, tweeted that Nassib “became an outstanding role model for millions of young LGBTQ+ Americans.”Tim Fitzsimons
Tim Fitzsimons is a reporter for NBC News. he/himby TaboolaSponsored Storieshttps://176d1df4cb0b10b45800b26fee000b79.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html#xpc=sf-gdn-exp-2&p=https%3A//www.nbcnews.com
The allegations — that the young, gay mayor had used his position of power to sexually proposition vulnerable college students — spread quickly through his western Massachusetts district, leading one member of Holyoke’s city council to call for his resignation.
But less than a week later, The Intercept published explosive reports alleging that members of the College Democrats at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where Morse once worked, had schemed for months to create a sex scandal to derail Morse’s progressive challenge to incumbent Rep. Richard Neal, with whom the students reportedly wanted to secure an internship.
Two debates later, and a week before the Massachusetts Democratic primary, Morse says he has been vindicated, and that he is raising more money through donations than at any point so far in his campaign.
“A number of folks are seeing it for what it is, in terms of the the language and response to the accusations being rooted in age-old homophobic tropes and the constant overpolicing of the personal lives, the sex lives, of gay men and members of the queer community,” Morse told NBC News.
Relationships with ‘teenagers’
The Aug. 7 article in UMass Amherst’s paper, the Daily Collegian, reported that the school’s College Democrats chapter had sent a letter to Morse saying he was disinvited from their future events because the Holyoke mayor used apps such as Grindr, Tinder and Instagram to meet college students “who were as young as 18 years old,” reportedly making them feel uncomfortable.
The next day, Masslive.com reported on allegations that Morse had relationships with “teenagers,” and UMass Amherst posted a statement saying it was “launching an immediate review of the matter” and had no plans to hire Morse back as a lecturer in the political science department, where he worked from 2014 to 2019. The College Democrats of Massachusetts published a letter on Twitter on Aug. 9, saying Morse “abused his power for sexual relationships” and confirmed they sent a similar emailed statement to the candidate himself.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund condemned Sullivan, saying it “believes the use of the word ‘teenagers’ is meant to purposely evoke homophobic stereotypes of gay men as pedophiles.”
“The architects of these efforts knew this is where the conversation would lead – with no regard for the homophobia it would unleash,” the group said, asking those supporting Sullivan’s motion to “ask themselves whether he would treat a straight candidate the same way.”
Sullivan did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment. However, he told Masslive last week that he is seeking a Holyoke City Council vote on an investigation into the allegations against Morse.
In response to a request from NBC News about the Daily Collegian’s role in the first days of the controversy and the source of the letter from the College Democrats to Morse, which the paper was the first to report on, a spokesperson shared this statement on Tuesday: “The letter was provided by a member within a chapter of the College Democrats of Massachusetts, who was granted anonymity. As newspaper policy, we do not comment further on sourcing.”
“I have never, in my entire life, had a non-consensual sexual encounter with anyone,” he wrote. “I have never used my position of power as Mayor or UMass lecturer for romantic or sexual gain, or to take advantage of students. I have never violated UMass policy.”
Morse decided to stay in the race, saying he trusts the voters of Massachusetts’ 1st Congressional District to make up their own minds as to whether homophobia influenced the alleged scheme.
“If voters aren’t seeing the homophobia, they are certainly seeing the establishment — they are seeing a powerful incumbent at risk of losing a seat and the people around him willing to do whatever it takes for him to hold onto power,” Morse said.
But just as quickly as the scandal had appeared, it seemed to disappear: A new report cast strong doubts on the original College Democrats letter five days after it made news.
On Aug. 12, The Intercept reported on leaked chat logs showing these students conspiring in 2019 to gin up a sex scandal in order to harm Morse’s candidacy — and help his opponent, incumbent Democratic Rep. Richard Neal. The Intercept — which did not name the source of the leaked chat logs and private Instagram messages, some of which were included in the article — reported that these young Democrats hoped that by sabotaging Morse’s campaign they would endear themselves to Rep. Neal, first elected in 1988 and, as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful incumbent Democrats in Congress.
Two days later, UMass Amherst — which bans faculty from sexual relationships with students “for whom the faculty member has any responsibility for supervision, evaluation, grading, advising, employment, or other instructional or supervisory activity” —announced it had hired an independent attorney to investigate the scandal.
The College Democrats of Massachusetts did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment, but in a statement to HuffPost, which was shared on Twitter, the College Democrats of Massachusetts denied any wrongdoing and said the letter to Morse “was not politically motivated” and “had nothing to do with any of our members’ professional ambitions or personal politics.” In its Aug. 9 letter shared on Twitter before the Intercept reported on its chat logs, the student group said suggestions that its decision to break ties with Morse had anything to do with his sexual orientation are “untrue, disingenuous, and harmful.”
In a statement, Rep. Neal said, “any implications that I or anyone from my campaign are involved are flat wrong and an attempt to distract from the issue at hand.”
Morse, however, maintains this was “a coordinated political attack with the intention of harming our campaign at a pivotal moment.”
“There were students that Congressman Neal involved that were trying to curry favor with a powerful incumbent to secure a job, and this goes to the height of the Massachusetts Democratic Party,” Morse told NBC News.
The Intercept reports revitalized his campaign by changing the narrative and fueling a surge of campaign donations. On Sunday, Morse appeared to acknowledge this by sharing a picture of himself on Twitter carrying a bag emblazoned with The Intercept’s logo: “New tote.”
The mayor and his message
Since declaring his candidacy last year, Morse has taken an anti-incumbent progressive message to voters in the Bay State’s first district, which covers part of the central Connecticut River Valley and the hilly western Berkshires area.
“On every issue Congressman Neal doesn’t understand the urgency of the moment,” Morse said. “From criminal justice, climate change, to the influence of money in politics.”
“He’s using his power to benefit the corporate and special interests that have invested millions in his campaign, and he’s not using his power to help the people, places, and communities in western and central Massachusetts,” Morse added.
His message echoes those that helped propel figures such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ritchie Torres to primary victories in solid blue districts, and one Morse hopes will win in his Sept. 1 primary.
A poll conducted this month put Morse within five points of Neal, with 13 percent of voters undecided — well within the striking distance that other Democratic challengers from the left had before winning in their primaries.
Morse, who at 31 is among the first of a generation of LGBTQ politicians who came of age using common dating apps such as OkCupid, Tinder and Grindr, said he “will never apologize for being young and gay and single and using gay dating apps and having consensual relations with other adult men.”
“I think my decision to stay in this race and fight and be open and honest about my life and my personal life I think will make it more likely that other young people, other queer people, other single people feel like they, too, can run for office,” he said.
But Fernandez — a gay man who is HIV-positive and received a diagnosis of clinical AIDS shortly after requesting asylum — said the widespread crime and lack of health care on the Mexican side of the border has left him in a nearly yearlong limbo that is unsafe. The situation comes in contrast to the very reason he seeks asylum in the United States, which is to be safe.
“I did not imagine I would get trapped here in Mexico,” Fernandez, who fled persecution by President Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela, said. “Being trapped here already has me hopeless.”
An asylum claim based on ‘political opinion’
Fernandez shared his asylum case with NBC News, after being unable to do so before an immigration judge.
Fernandez first approached the United States-Mexico border on Oct. 31 and attempted to request asylum because of persecution he faced due to being a card-carrying member of Voluntad Popular, or Popular Will, a United States-backed opposition party. In 2015, the group elected the first out gay and transgender members to Venezuela’s National Assembly. He also told border officials he was HIV-positive and hadn’t received medications or blood tests for months, so he didn’t know about the progression of his infection.
In many ways, Fernandez has a textbook asylum case: He claims he was persecuted due to his “political opinion,” a category that is explicitly protected in America’s asylum statute, unlike being LGBTQ. (The Trump administration recently proposed potential restrictions to asylum claims based on being persecuted for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.)
In his asylum application, Fernandez detailed how government police and pro-government gangs called “colectivos” chased and beat him in the years after he began participating in anti-government protests in the northwestern cities of Valera and Maracaibo.
He also alleged that starting in 2017 he was unable to obtain medication to treat his HIV infection, either because of shortages, political retribution or both — he could never be sure.
Fernandez’s asylum application recalls a day of “extreme persecution” on June 27, 2017, when protests against Maduro’s efforts to rewrite the constitution reached a violent crescendo.
“We will never surrender,” Maduro said at the time. “And what we couldn’t accomplish through votes, we will with weapons.”
Fernandez said that week in Venezuela, he was approached by two unknown men on motorbikes who called his name. They grabbed his phone, threw his belongings all over the street and began “a brutal beating.”
“F—–, if you keep going to the protests, we will keep f—— you over,” he said the two men screamed as they rained punches and kicks down on him. Eventually neighbors came to his aid.
“I felt very close to death,” Fernandez wrote in his asylum application. “If the neighbors hadn’t seen the act, I don’t know how far the aggression would have gone.”
He took their advice and returned to his hometown, but soon received threatening calls and texts: “f—–, you love dick, next time we’ll give it to you harder.” They knew he was in Valera, too, he said.
This torturous cat-and-mouse game went on for another two years. His mental health declined, and his family told him he should return to Maracaibo to resume his studies and attempt to eke out a normal life.
Meanwhile, he said his physical health continued to spiral out of control because he could not treat his HIV infection. He lost a lot of weight and began to fall ill with gastrointestinal issues and thrush.
He left Venezuela on Aug. 31 and proceeded overland to neighboring Colombia. He stayed there for over a month before saving enough money to fly to Mexico City. From there, he traveled to the border crossing in Laredo, Texas, arriving just before the end of October.
Immigration advocates have decried the requirement to wait in Mexico as illegal under international law because it effectively closes the doors to large numbers of asylum-seekers, requiring them to wait in Mexico, which has high rates of crime.
The U.S. Department of State currently has a “do not travel” warningfor Mexico’s Tamaulipas state and a “reconsider travel” warning for Coahuila and Nuevo Leon states, all border states adjacent to Texas, due to the risk of crime and kidnapping. Fernandez is currently in Coahuila state, where the State Department says “violent crime and unpredictable gang activity are common.”
An October 2019 report by the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that “remain in Mexico” — technically the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP — is “burdening migrant shelters in Mexico and putting asylum seekers at increased risk of violence.”
“Several asylum seekers who were turned away from U.S. ports-of-entry have been killed, women have been raped, and children have been kidnapped, calling into question the relative safety of Central Americans in Mexico,” the report stated.
Soon after arriving in Mexico, Fernandez still did not have an official way to access HIV medications, and his infection worsened.
“He was taken to a hospital in Laredo, where a doctor reviewed his medical records and confirmed that he is living with AIDS and is in need of further treatment,” his attorney, Scott Weaver, said in February. “Nevertheless, the CBP officers in charge of making a decision on his case told him that his request was denied and that he needed to get back to Mexico.”
“People should not be placed in MPP if they have serious medical issues,” Weaver continued. “This is written in DHS’ ‘Guiding Principles for MPP.'”
Matthew Dyman, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told NBC News that “MPP exemptions are determined on a case-by-case basis.”
“If guaranteed medical exemption criteria were to be made public they would be exploited by human smugglers and activists,” Dyman said.
After Fernandez was denied humanitarian parole for his medical condition in February, he was returned to Mexico, where he was mugged and briefly kidnapped by a gang.
When former Vice President Joe Biden announced the historic selection of Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate, he added a candidate to the ticket with a pro-LGBTQ political record that goes back to 2004.
“It’s clear the Biden-Harris ticket marks our nation’s most pro-equality ticket in history,” Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights group, said in a statement.
Harris first ran for elected office as San Francisco district attorney in 2004 when LGBTQ rights were firmly established in local law — but still highly contentious nationally.
After winning that election, she established a hate crimes unit to investigate and prosecute anti-LGBTQ violence. In 2006, Harris organized a conference in California that brought together over 100 officials from across the U.S. to discuss strategies to end the use of the so-called gay and transgender panic defense. In 2014, California became the first state to ban the practice in law, and in 2018, Harris and other senators introduced a bill to prohibit the practice nationally.
Harris announced her campaign for California attorney general days after the 2008 passage of Proposition 8, a successful California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state. While serving as California’s top prosecutor — a job she held for six years — she declined to defend the ban in court. In 2013’s Hollingsworth v. Perry ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a 2010 federal court decision invalidating Proposition 8, and gay marriages resumed in the state.
Shortly after it was announced that Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, had chosen Harris as his running mate, Matt Hill, a gay Biden staffer, shared a clip from “The Case Against 8,” a documentary about Proposition 8, showing the moments in 2013 when Harris, then-California’s attorney general, found out about the high court’s decision.
After she was elected to the Senate in 2016, Harris continued to staunchly support LGBTQ rights, frequently co-sponsoring pro-equality legislation and speaking out against the violence faced by transgender women.
After her selection as Biden’s running mate on Tuesday, Harris made immediate waves when she announced her chief of staff would be Karine Jean-Pierre — an out lesbian, a former Obama White House staffer and a spokesperson for the progressive group MoveOn. Jean-Pierre is the first Black person to serve as a chief of staff for a vice presidential candidate.
During the 2020 Democratic primary campaign, where Harris was among the field of presidential hopefuls, her LGBTQ platform stood out for promising to appoint a White House chief advocate for LGBTQ affairs “to ensure that LGBTQ+ Americans are represented in hiring and policy priorities across the government.”
But during the primary, Harris, Biden and over a dozen other Democratic hopefuls were remarkably unified in their positions on many LGBTQ issues, which included ending the transgender military ban and religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws, and reversing policies that discriminate against LGBTQ people in adoption and housing.
The Biden-Harris LGBTQ platform promises to make major changes in areas where LGBTQ people are not fully protected by the law — like housing, military service and health care.
During the Democratic primary, candidates were all unified in their vow to sign the Equality Act, a bill that would update many nondiscrimination laws to explicitly include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.
Although Harris has been a staunch LGBTQ supporter since she entered politics in 2004, Biden, like nearly all American politicians at that time, did not support LGBTQ rights when elected to the Senate in 1972 the way he does today. Biden, along with the vast majority of the Senate, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which defined marriage in federal law as a union between one man and one woman, but by the 2010s his views had changed.
Most famously, while serving as vice president, Biden in May 2012 pre-empted the Obama administration’s official policy in support of same-sex marriage by endorsing the unions during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said at the time.
Three days later, President Barack Obama endorsed same-sex marriage.
An ‘incredibly meaningful’ pick
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., called Harris “well qualified and well prepared” to be vice president.
Takano, who is gay, said her selection is “incredibly meaningful to the LGBTQ community, and as a Japanese American I am also proud to have someone of Asian heritage on the ticket.”
“Senator Kamala Harris is revered in the LGBTQ community for her leadership as Attorney General during the litigation of Proposition 8 and her fervent refusal to defend an unjust law,” he said in an email. “Joe Biden selecting her as his running mate reflects the deep value that both candidates share regarding equality for LGBTQ people.”
Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay former presidential hopeful who frequently campaigned on his experience as a mayor and gay man in “Mike Pence’s Indiana,” tweeted, “It feels good to visualize the moment when Vice President Mike Pence is replaced by Vice President Kamala Harris.”
Pence and Harris have starkly different track records when it comes to LGBTQ rights, with Pence, the former Indiana governor, having signed the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was controversial for protecting anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The two are set to debate on Oct. 7.
Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the first Black woman and first lesbian to be mayor of that city, said there’s “a tremendous level of excitement” around the selection of Harris.
“This has been a very, very difficult time for people around the country, and we need something to rally around, and I think her addition to the ticket really gives people that thread of hope that we have all been looking for,” Lightfoot said, adding that her 12-year-old daughter was “beside herself with joy.”
Not everyone across the LGBTQ spectrum, however, is applauding Biden’s choice of Harris.
Ashlee Marie Preston, a Black trans advocate who supported Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts during the primaries, said many Democrats like her “are experiencing a flux of emotions right now” because of their view that Biden and Harris represent the “tough on crime” culture, which Preston described as particularly harmful to transgender people of color, who according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey are likelier to experience police harassment, incarceration and abuse while in detention.
“This won’t be a cake walk for them,” Preston said. “We need to see that their loyalty to systems that crush vulnerable communities has been dissolved. Politicians can change, as can their policies. But we’re still waiting on proof of such evolution, or at least a straightforward conversation on the matter.”
Two transgender teens sued Arizona’s Medicaid agency Thursday, alleging their civil rights are being violated by the state health insurance program’s ban on gender-affirming surgeries.
The suit, filed Thursday in an Arizona federal courthouse, seeks to establish a class action on behalf of the teens — known only as John Doe, 15, and D.H., 17, and other transgender Arizonan Medicaid recipients under age 21 who seek chest reconstruction as treatment for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The complaint estimates there are at least 100 Arizonans who would be affected by the suit.
The suit defines the class as “individuals who have been unable and will be unable” to obtain coverage through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System “for medically necessary male chest reconstruction surgery because of the [ban], and as a result, have faced or will face delayed or denied access to these medically necessary treatments.”
The claims say the state’s 1982 ban on “gender reassignment surgeries” violates the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination provisions, the Medicaid Actand the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
According to the suit, the two came out as transgender years ago and since then have faced significant challenges as puberty began to change their bodies. It also states the reliance on chest binders to create a more masculine appearance forced D.H. to abandon his beloved hobby of dance and resulted in John Doe wearing a heavy hoodie through Arizona’s sweltering summers.
Both teens’ physicians recommended chest reconstruction surgery, and the state’s 1982 ban on Medicaid funding for “gender reassignment surgeries” means that as Medicaid recipients, they are ineligible for the medically necessary surgery even if a doctor recommends it, according to the suit.
Asaf Orr, an attorney working on the case and the director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Transgender Youth Project, said there is “no legitimate justification for Arizona’s refusal to provide this critical care to transgender Medicaid recipients.”
“Instead, excluding that care creates unnecessary barriers that prevent transgender young people from thriving in every aspect of their lives and can cause lifelong harms,” he said in a statement.
In June’s landmark Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the high court found that the Civil Rights Act’s ban on employment discrimination “on the basis of … sex” also bans employment discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity.
“In Bostock, the United States Supreme Court unequivocally held that the definition of ‘sex’ under federal law includes discrimination against transgender people,” Orr wrote in an email to NBC News. “By maintaining and enforcing a categorical exclusion for surgical treatment for gender dysphoria, AHCCCS is impermissibly discriminating against transgender Medicaid recipients on the basis of sex and, as a result, the Court should enjoin AHCCCS from denying coverage under that exclusion.”
The suit notes that Medicaid requires that recipients under age 21 receive “Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment” so that major “medical, vision, dental, and hearing” problems are diagnosed and treated early in life. It then states that “[s]urgery to treat gender dysphoria, including male chest reconstruction surgery” is such a service.
Heidi Capriotti, a spokesperson for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, declined to comment.
A transgender man is suing the University of Maryland Medical System in federal court, claiming his rights were violated when his gender-affirming surgery was canceled by one of the hospital system’s subsidiaries.
Jesse Hammons was scheduled to have a hysterectomy in January at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. The procedure, routinely performed on cisgender women at the same hospital, was deemed medically necessary for Hammons, who had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. However, about a week before the scheduled surgery date, the center canceled the procedure because it “conflicted with the hospital’s Catholic religious beliefs,” according to the lawsuit.
“Defendants canceled the surgery based on a discriminatory and unconstitutional application of Catholic religious doctrine,” the suit states. “When they canceled Mr. Hammons’ medically necessary surgery, Defendants thus treated Mr. Hammons — as a man who is transgender — differently from nontransgender patients who require medically necessary hysterectomies for other medical conditions.”
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, claims that by canceling the surgery, the hospital violated the Constitution’s First and 14th Amendments and the Affordable Care Act’s ban on sex discrimination in health care.
‘Private’ or ‘taxpayer-owned’?
St. Joseph Medical Center, a historically Roman Catholic institution just north of Baltimore, was founded over 100 years ago and was fully acquired in 2012 by the University of Maryland Medical System. UMMS, which maintains that it is a private, nonprofit organization, received over $40 million in “state appropriations” in 2018, according to its most recent annual report, and Maryland’s governor appoints members of the UMMS board.
When UMMS acquired St. Joseph Medical Center, the hospital system vowed to retain the hospital’s “Catholic identity,” which today means it still follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, or ERDs, faith-based health guidelines that ban procedures like abortion, euthanasia and gender-confirmation procedures.
Michael Schwartzberg, director of communications for the University of Maryland Medical System, told NBC News in an email that he would not comment on the specifics of pending litigation, but he disputed the claims of the ACLU, which is representing Hammons, that UMMS is “taxpayer-owned.”
“UMMS is a privately-held corporation (since 1984), and SJMC is a privately-held, not-for-profit hospital, and SJMC is mandated to abide by the ERDs,” Schwartzberg said, noting that all Catholic hospitals in the U.S. are bound by the ERDs.
“All physicians and advanced practitioners seeking privileges at UM SJMC agree to abide by the ERDs prior to the granting of privileges,” Schwartzberg said.
Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project and the lead attorney in Hammons’ case, disputed Schwartzberg’s characterization of UMMS as private, claiming that the medical system is de facto controlled by the state of Maryland. Citing its receipt of taxpayer funds and its largely governor-controlled board, Block argued that the UMMS is bound by the Constitution’s church-state separation.
Hammons’ complaint cites a 1995 Supreme Court ruling that found that Amtrak, being a government-created private corporation, had a responsibility to uphold the First Amendment.
In that ruling, Lebron v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that when the federal government creates a corporation “and retains for itself permanent authority to appoint a majority of the directors of that corporation, the corporation is part of the government for purposes of the First Amendment.”
Block said that Hammons’ lawsuit “raises all the same fact patterns about sex discrimination against transgender patients in the context of transition-related surgery at hospitals, but it also has this added feature where it’s not just a private religious hospital but part of the University of Maryland hospital system.”
“So not only does it violate statutes against discrimination, but the Constitution — both the Equal Protection Clause and the Establishment Clause,” he said.
Chase Strangio, ACLU’s deputy director for transgender justice, said the legal interpretation advanced through years of Trump administration policies — that sex discrimination bans in various laws do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — won’t go away on its own.
“There’s nothing self-executing about the decision,” Strangio said of the landmark Bostock ruling. “Implementation of civil rights laws is a multi-year project always, because we have strong resistance to them.”
He said he expects that courts will be called upon to enforce the precedent-setting finding central to the Bostock decision: “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.“
Anti-transgender Facebook content shared by right-wing news sources generated more engagement than content from pro-transgender or neutral sources combined, according to a Media Matters for America study of 225 viral social media posts.
That means the majority of Facebook interactions with those viral posts — over 43 million of 66 million shares, comments and reactions over the span of a year — were on items posted by anti-trans websites like LifeSiteNews, Daily Wire and Daily Caller, according to the report.
“Facebook users are getting a totally biased and factually inaccurate understanding of the multitude of issues that impact trans people,” said Brennan Suen, Media Matters’ LGBTQ program director and one of the study’s authors. Suen pointed to an October Pew poll showing that a majority of Americans get news from Facebook.
In total, seven of the top 10 sources for interactions on popular transgender Facebook content were anti-trans sites. Just three LGBTQ-oriented sources appeared in the top 10: PinkNews, Gay Star News and NBC Out.
Trans activist and writer Raquel Willis said she was unsurprised by the finding that Facebook interactions about transgender issues are dominated by sources that oppose transgender rights and degrade transgender individuals.
“Narratives that further our demonization, that further confusion, are still the ones that often carry the most weight in our society,” Willis said. “Blood is on the hands of the Mark Zuckerbergs and the people who don’t want to hold these platforms to a humane standard.”
“Actual lives of marginalized people are at stake,” she added.
Suen said anti-transgender content that “lies about best practice medical care for trans youth” could “enable adults to do harm to their own children and deprive trans youth of affirmation and care that can be life saving.”
“Transphobic discourse online contributes to this dangerous rejection of trans children, real world harassment of trans peopleand harmful policies — and it contributes to a social and political culture that continues to demonize and fail the trans community,” Suen added.
Facebook did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment on Media Matters’ findings.
The Media Matters for America study examined 225 articles, blog posts and videos about transgender topics that had 100,000 or more Facebook interactions and were posted from February 2019 to this February. The liberal nonprofit used the social media analytics website BuzzSumo to identify the viral transgender-related content.
Fifty-six percent of these 225 primarily English-language articles, posts and videos were published by right-leaning sources, the report found. Conservative posts comprised the top five most-interacted-with pieces of trans content and 14 of the top 20.
LifeSiteNews, Daily Wire and Daily Caller dominated these interactions. Stories about transgender participation in sports and medical care were particularly high ranking, generating about 37 percent of all interactions, the report found.
Suen said right-wing and anti-trans content flourishes on Facebook, in part, because the network has failed to fully crack down on “coordinated, inauthentic behavior,” which Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, defined as “when groups of pages or people work together to mislead others about who they are or what they are doing.”
Last October, Judd Legum, founder of the liberal news site ThinkProgress, reported in Popular Information that 14 large Facebook pages, like Conservative News (which has nearly 500,000 followers), all of which had no apparent link to the Daily Wire, would “exclusively promote content from the Daily Wire in a coordinated fashion.”
Following Legum’s investigation, Facebook pages like Conservative News, which had allegedly promoted Daily Wire’s content in a coordinated fashion, now contain a disclaimer: “Confirmed Page Owner: DAILY WIRE.”
In an op-ed published this month titled “Facebook Does Not Benefit From Hate,” the company’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, wrote, “When content falls short of being classified as hate speech — or of our other policies aimed at preventing harm or voter suppression — we err on the side of free expression because, ultimately, the best way to counter hurtful, divisive, offensive speech, is more speech.”
“Exposing it to sunlight is better than hiding it in the shadows,” added Clegg, a former deputy prime minister in the U.K.
At least 843 LGBTQ people currently serve in elected offices across the United States, constituting a 21 percent increase since June 2019, according to the LGBTQ Victory Institute’s “Out for America 2020” census of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer elected officials.
Particularly pronounced increases were seen in the number of LGBTQ mayors, with a 35 percent year-over-year jump; the number of bisexual and queer-identified people, with increases of 53 percent and 71 percent, respectively; and the number of transgender women serving in elected office, with a 40 percent year-over-year rise.
“In a world where our civil rights are under attack, and many are questioning their place in the world, the affirming power of such representation cannot be overstated,” said Mondaire Jones, who recently won the Democratic nomination in New York’s 17th Congressional District and, if elected in November, could be the first openly gay Black man elected to Congress.
Much of this increase was driven by what Victory called a “rainbow wave” — a surge in LGBTQ wins in the 2018 and 2019 elections. Victory hopes that 2020 will usher even more LGBTQ people into elected office.
“While LGBTQ people are running for office in historic numbers, we remain severely underrepresented at every level of government — and that must change,” Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement.
According to UCLA’s Williams Institute, roughly 5 percent of U.S. adults say they are LGBTQ. According to the Victory Institute, just 0.17 percent of roughly a half million elected officials are known to be LGBTQ. The Victory Institute says that in order for LGBTQ people to achieve “equitable representation,” there would need to be 22,544 more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in elected office.
But LGBTQ political gains are not evenly distributed. In some types of political office, LGBTQ people are near equity, which Victory defines as having the percentage of elected positions held by openly LGBTQ elected officials equal to the percentage of LGBTQ people in the U.S. adult population (currently 4.5 percent). At the governor level, there would need to be one more LGBTQ person elected to reach that goal (total of 3 governors). In the U.S. Senate, three more LGBTQ elected officials would achieve equity (5 senators total).
State legislatures, on the other hand, lag behind: One-hundred-and-seventy-three LGBTQ people would need to be elected in order to achieve equity, according to Victory’s tally.
The majority of the 843 LGBTQ officials — 54 percent — are gay men, followed by 30 percent lesbians, 6 percent bisexuals and 5 percent queer officials.
The vast majority of all LGBTQ officials are cisgender — 94 percent. Roughly 2 percent are trans women and a half of 1 percent are trans men. Less than 1 percent of elected officials identify as intersex, two-spirit, gender-nonconforming or nonbinary.
America’s LGBTQ elected officials are mostly white — 77 percent — followed by 10 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Black, 2 percent multiracial, 2 percent Asian or Pacific Islander and less than 1 percent each for indigenous and Middle Eastern.
“One of the most energizing features of this campaign is the sheer volume of messages I have received from members of the LGBTQ community, young and old, saying that my candidacy as an openly gay, Black person has inspired them to accept their own identities and live authentic lives,” Jones said in a text message to NBC News.
“I’m so humbled to be in a position to provide representation that I never had growing up,” Jones said.
The other openly gay Black man running for Congress is Ritchie Torres, currently the youngest member of the New York City Council, who has a strong lead in vote returns for the Democratic nomination in New York’s 15th Congressional District, which is also overwhelmingly Democratic. (The New York City Board of Elections began counting absentee ballots in the second week of July, and NBC News has not yet officially called the NY-15 election.)
While both Jones and Torres would be the House’s first openly gay Black members, they apparently would not be the body’s first gay Black members.
That honor is thought to belong to Barbara Jordan of Texas, who in 1972 became the first Black woman to represent the South in Congress, and in 1976 became the first Black woman to be a keynote speaker at a Democratic National Convention. It was only after her death in 1996 that her lesbian identity, hidden out of fear of political ramifications, was finally revealed.
Two in 5 LGBTQ youth in the United States have “seriously considered” suicide in the past year, a sobering survey released Wednesday said, showing what one expert called the “devastating mental health consequences” of society’s failure to create a safer and more affirming environment for America’s queer youth.
The 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization, paints a stark picture of pervasive mental distress among America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth, with a majority reporting symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder.
The survey, the largest of its kind, polled 40,000 LGBTQ people between ages 13 and 24 and found that 68 percent of the respondents reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, 55 percent reported symptoms of major depressive disorder and 48 percent reported engaging in self-harm. In addition, 40 percent say they have “seriously considered” attempting suicide in the past year.
In a clinical mental health setting, survey responses like these would lead to follow-up screenings, according to Amy Green, the study lead and director of research at The Trevor Project.
“Our physicians, pediatricians and mental health providers need to be screening youth,” she said, urging professionals to take a closer look at sexuality and gender issues in youth mental health settings.
Dr. Jack Turban, a fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, where he researches the mental health of transgender youth, said the findings “highlight that our society has a long way to go to create a safer and more affirming environment for LGBTQ youth.”
“We once again see the devastating mental health consequences of our failures,” he said in an email.
As the survey’s own data show, many LGBTQ youth are not getting screened for the mental health issues they report. About half of the respondents say they want but could not get mental health care in the past year, with affordability the “strongest barrier to receiving mental health care.”
The risks associated with unmet mental health care needs are stark. Overall, suicide is the second leading cause of death for American adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and LGBTQ youth are at a higher risk of suicide than straight and cisgender youth. Fifteen percent of the respondents attempted suicide in the past year, the survey found.
“If we take a step back and look at minority stress model, that says that experiences of rejection, discrimination and victimization are the primary causal mechanisms that cause that ideation,” Green said, adding that it’s not who they are, “but how they are treated.”
In the survey, LGBTQ youth who reported facing greater rejection, violence and discrimination also reported higher rates of suicide attempts.
For transgender and nonbinary youth, having their identity and pronouns respected by “all or most” people was associated with a greatly reduced risk of a suicide attempt.
Even so, respect is still rare: Just 20 percent of trans and nonbinary youth said their gender identity is respected by “all or most” people in their lives.
Turban said rejection “takes an insidious toll and plants the seed for mental health problems.”
“We can’t underestimate the broad adverse health effects caused by societal discrimination against LGBTQ people, and youth in particular,” he said. “Things like rejection from family and conversion therapy lead to a range of adverse mental health problems by telling these young people that something they can’t change about themselves makes them ‘bad’ or ‘wrong.’”
Green said understanding that rejection can lead to worse mental health outcomes can also illuminate a path forward
While many LGBTQ youth face discrimination, the vast majority (86 percent) reported having a rock — at least one person who strongly supports them as an LGBTQ person — and those who have a rock also report lower rates of suicide attempts overall.
“The simple act of acceptance and letting kids express their identity can be incredibly powerful,” Green said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
If you are an LGBTQ young person in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1-866-488-7386.
A 22-year-old Black transgender woman was fatally shot in Dallas on Tuesday, according to police.
Local transgender advocates said the victim was named Merci Mack but was “deadnamed” in police and media reports. Deadnaming is when a trans person’s birth name, not their preferred name, is used. The Dallas Police Department said it had been “unable to confirm an alternate name for the victim.”
“Our detectives, as with all murders, are working diligently to find the perpetrator to this horrible crime,” Sgt. Warren C. Mitchell told NBC News in an email. “We continue to ask the community for their assistance.”
Mack’s killing adds to the Lone Star State’s grim statistic as being one of the deadliest states for transgender people: Prior to Tuesday’s killing, at least 14 trans and gender-nonconforming people were violently killed in Texas since 2016, according to the Human Rights Campaign. And since May 2018, four transgender people, all trans women of color, including Mack, have been killed in Dallas.
“For transgender people, there’s not really a place — not within the LGBT community, and, especially for the Black trans community, there’s no place in the Black community,” Brown said. “So with no community and no protection from friends or other people — let alone authority or the law — then we are often just attacked and disposed of as a result of transphobia and homophobia.”
“It just feels like we are out here as open targets,” he added.
Brown said he and other Texas trans advocates are concerned about investigations in these cases and have been demanding that the Dallas Police Department give “more attention and priority to bringing justice to these murders.”
He said he and other advocates have noticed “patterns” in which trans women live and where they are being killed, and they have “asked for some kind of task force to be created with [the Dallas PD] that would sort of patrol the areas.”
“We just really are demanding justice and a better protocol of how to handle these murders and these communities,” he said. “At this point we are looking at an epidemic, and we don’t feel that there’s urgency to protect these transgender citizens of Dallas.”