Ned Price, who had served in the Obama years in a senior communications role for the White House National Security Council, has been tapped for the role of State Department spokesperson, the Washington Blade has confirmed.
Price, who’d would be the first openly gay person to serve in the role, obtains the position as the Biden transition team announced Saturday morning a slew of foreign policy appointments, many of whom served in the Obama administration.
Among the picks were Wendy Sherman, nominated to be deputy Secretary of State, and Victoria Nuland, nominated to be under secretary of state for political affairs.
Price, an alum of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, served in the Obama administration as a CIA analyst and spokesperson for the White House National Security Council. In the Trump era, Price joined National Security Action an organization of national security experts critical of the Trump administration’s foreign policy.
Other roles for Price have been contributor for NBC News and professor at Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service.
Jones passed away Thursday (14 January) at the age of 70, having been diagnosed with bladder cancer in September last year.
He was a pioneer who pushed for the desegregation of the LGBT+ rights movement, and worked alongside activists like Roma Guy, Sally Miller Gearhart, and Gilbert Baker in San Francisco.
Jones was the first Black chair of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee board, worked for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation from its conception, and even illegally traveled to Cuba in the 1980s to help with the AIDS crisis there.
His life was dramatised in the 2017 ABC miniseries When We Rise, and later in life he was ordained as a deacon so he could officiate weddings.
Ken Jones was a hero. He survived many struggles. He deeply loved his family and his community, and dedicated his entire…
Jones’ death was announced publicly by his close friend and fellow activist Cleve Jones on Facebook, who wrote: “Ken Jones was a hero. He survived many struggles.
“He deeply loved his family and his community, and dedicated his entire life to the movement for peace and justice.
“He was very grateful to all of you who reached out to him with messages of encouragement and love during his illness.
“Today Ken lost his fight against cancer. A memorial will be arranged when it is safe once more for us to gather. Rest in Power, Ken. I love you.”
KEN JONES 1950 – 2021 — rest in power my magnificent friend. My heart breaks at this morning’s news that you’ve left…
Screenwriter and activist Dustin Lance Black, who created When We Rise, also shared on Facebook: “Rest in power my magnificent friend. My heart breaks at this morning’s news that you’ve left this world.
“Many know Ken as one of the three main characters depicted in When We Rise. Ken was a hero and an inspiration.
“An ordained deacon, he worked to desegregate the LGBTQ movement, was a passionate HIV/AIDS activist, and even played a role in helping fund the creation of his friend Gilbert Baker’s Pride flag.
“I will never forget Ken’s beaming smile, his deep kindness, and his inextinguishable passion for fairness.”
Forty-five LGBTQ and feminist archives, museums and public history institutions from 22 countries have endorsed an open letter that outlines the best practices developed by such organizations over the past 50 years. The letter marks the first time a group of this size and geographical reach has put forward a basic charter for their work. The central point: The reconstitution of the lost and erased queer past must be entrusted to independent institutions conceived and directed by the LGBTQI community itself.
Published on Friday, January 8, in the national French newspaper Libération, the open letter calls on the French government to support the efforts of the Collectif Archives LGBTQI to establish an LGBTQ archives and public history center in Paris. Organized in 2017, the collective is a nonpartisan association that has proposed adapting the well-established international model to create a world-class queer history institution. The group has met and negotiated extensively with representatives of the City of Paris. The collective notes that such organizations have already existed for decades and receive significant resources and funding from municipal, regional and national governments in other European capitals, including Amsterdam and Berlin.
The open letter offers a forceful rebuttal to a statement released by the Ministry of Culture on December 29, 2020. Responding to a written question from a member of the French National assembly, the ministry asserted that only government officials at state-run institutions such as French National Archives should be in charge of deciding which organizational records, personal papers and artifacts from LGBTQI history should be preserved and how they should be made available.
“We’re grateful to the organizations in France and worldwide who signed the open letter to make it clear that LGBTQ people ourselves are most qualified to conceive and direct the recovery of our own history,” said Renaud Chantraine, a doctoral candidate at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris and a founding member of the collective. “As their initiatives have so successfully demonstrated, the role of the state is not to displace community-based LGBTQ history organizations, but to serve as a respectful partner in our important cultural work.”
As a next step, the collective has submitted a formal request to meet with French Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot to make its case for support for its project to create an autonomous and independent LGBTQ archives and public history center in Paris.
The Republic of Latvia has voted to define family solely as “a union of a male and female person”, excluding the country’s countless loving LGBT+ families.
On Thursday (14 January) the Latvian parliament, or Saeima, voted 47-25 for an amendment to the constitution stipulating that a family unit consists of a marriage between a woman and a man.
Section 110 of the constitution will now read: “The state protects and supports marriage – a union between a man and a woman, a family based on marriage, blood relation or adoption, the rights of parents and a child, including the right to grow up in a family based on a mother (woman) and father (man).”
The vote came in response to a pro-LGBT+ ruling last year by the constitutional court which confirmed that parents in a family can also be same-sex, and imposed on the state the “obligation to protect and support” them as well.
But National Alliance leader Raivis Dzintars declared that the court had violated its powers, creating a “definition of a family that is not acceptable to the general public in Latvia”.
“Latvia is a democratic country with a diversity of views and respect for every citizen. But at the same time, there are values that have been especially close and even sacred to our nation and its culture for hundreds of years,” he told Skaties.
“One of these values is the understanding of the family, which is based on the father and mother – man and woman – and their children. Until now, such an understanding seemed self-evident, but with the decision of the constitutional court it is questioned.”
The decision represents a huge setback for the Latvian LGBT+ community, and yet another troubling example of the anti-LGBT+ rhetoric sweeping across eastern Europe.
“Today’s vote in the Latvian Parliament threw us back to the times when being an openly homophobic politician was a thing to be proud of,” tweeted activist Kristine Garina of the European Pride Organisers Association.
“Forty-seven members of the parliament voted YES to proceed with ‘same-sex families are not families’ statement to be added to the constitution.”
Latvian politician Marija Golubeva described the move as a “call for discrimination” and an attempt to separate families into right and wrong.
“Support for these changes is a mockery of the principles of a democratic state, and I call for their rejection,” she urged the parliament.
New guidelines, drafted by Israel’s health ministry after three years of consulting with LGBT+ and trans organisations, set out how hospitals and healthcare facilities must treat transgender people.
The guidance directs that hospitals and healthcare facilities must have at least one staff member trained in trans awareness, use a trans person’s correct pronouns regardless of the gender on their official documents, and to provide unisex facilities where possible while allowing trans people to use gendered spaces in accordance with their gender identity.
Ministers also noted that so-called conversion therapy that tries to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity has no ethical or professional basis, as well as confirming that being trans is not a psychological disorder.
“Transgender people, or people on the trans spectrum, is an umbrella term used to describe people who span a broad spectrum of gender identities, distinctive from the one they were identified with and registered as at birth,” the guidance says, according to Haaretz.
“People from this population group are at high risk of suffering physical and verbal violence, discrimination in employment and a lack of access to public resources being treated as social outcasts, which can worsen psychological distress and lead to susceptibility to a high rate of illness relative to the rest of the population,” the guidelines continue.
“This is particularly noticeable when it comes to mental health.”
Ella Amest, co-director general of trans advocacy group Ma’avarim, said the new guidelines are “an important and significant step for the community and for the health system”.
“Many of us require psychological services due to our confrontations with transphobia, beyond the more common reasons experienced by the rest of the population, but the system doesn’t always know how to treat us,” Amest said.
She added: “The guidelines provide those who work in the field with substantive, clear tools and support from above. We hope that more and more public services will adopt this process and formulate similar guidelines together with trans spectrum organisations.”
The new guidance on how to treat trans people in healthcare settings follows joint recommendations, made in December 2020, by the Justice and Social Welfare Ministries that suggested implementing sweeping reforms to trans rights in Israel.
The raft of new policies came as part of its ongoing efforts to tackle the “exhausting, frustrating and bureaucratic” hurdles that trans people face when updating their legal name or gender.
Deputy attorney general Dina Zilber and deputy director general of the Social Affairs Ministry Avi Motola wrote in an interim report that gender markers and names on government-issued documents should be able to be changed via self-declaration.
The policy, Haaretz reported, would have trans citizens’ declarations authenticated by a lawyer or the Administrator General’s Office. Documents and forms should also provide a third gender option, “other”, they advised.
Falsely accusing someone of being gay is no longer considered defamation per se, a New York appeals court ruled recently.
Defamation is a false statement that damages someone’s reputation. To win a defamation suit in most cases, plaintiffs must be able to show that the statement against them is false and that it caused them to suffer damages or harm, such as losing their job. Defamation per se is a false accusation that is so damaging that plaintiffs don’t have to prove that they suffered damages.
Under New York law, examples of defamation per se include falsely accusing someone of a heinous crime or having a “loathsome disease.” Falsely claiming that someone is homosexual had also been lumped in.
“It meant that it was so shameful and such a disgrace that it was just assumed that obviously your reputation has been injured and you don’t have to prove that element” of damages, Eric Lesh, executive director of the LGBT Bar Association of New York, told NBC News.
“Yes, this is kind of an obvious decision, but the law moves slowly, and society usually pushes it forward.”
ERIC LESH, LGBT BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK
In late December, however, the Supreme Court of the State of New York’s Second Department — one court below the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court — overturned that decades-old precedent when it ruled that a false claim of homosexuality is no longer defamation per se. Such a false claim can still be considered defamatory, but plaintiffs will have to prove that they’ve been damaged by it.
The case, Laguerre v. Maurice, began in 2017, when Jean Renald Maurice, a pastor at the Gethsemane Seventh Day Adventist Church in Brooklyn, publicly claimed at a church meeting of 300 people that a church elder, Pierre Delor Laguerre, “was a homosexual” and that he “disrespected the church by viewing gay pornography on the church’s computer,” according to the court opinion. The allegation led to Laguerre being relieved of his responsibilities and thrown out as a member of the church.
The Second Department court ultimately dismissed Laguerre’s defamation claim, citing Yonaty v. Mincolla, a 2012 ruling by the Supreme Court’s Third Department that found that previous decisions labeling false claims of homosexuality as defamation per se were “inconsistent with current public policy and should no longer be followed.” That decision also ruled that “it cannot be said that current public opinion supports a rule that would equate statements imputing homosexuality with accusations of serious criminal conduct or insinuations that an individual has a loathsome disease.”
The Second Department agreed, writing that the “profound and notable transformation of cultural attitudes and governmental protective laws” for LGBTQ people influenced its decision. The court cited a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which found that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct were unconstitutional, and the court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges establishing the right to same-sex marriage throughout the country.
“Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the false imputation of homosexuality does not constitute defamation per se,” the Second Department wrote in its Dec. 23 decision.
“It took a long time for New York law to catch up to where we were public-policy wise,” he said. “Yes, this is kind of an obvious decision, but the law moves slowly, and society usually pushes it forward.”
The Second Department’s decision doesn’t set precedent for the entire state of New York, Lesh noted. The court is based in Brooklyn and its jurisdiction includes Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island and parts of Staten Island and the Hudson Valley, while the Third Department is seated in Albany and includes the Capitol District and part of Central New York. The other departments in New York’s Appellate Division — the First, which covers the Bronx and Manhattan, and the Fourth, which includes the western and part of the central area of the state — will have to rule independently on the issue. When given the opportunity, Lesh said they will likely rule the same way the Second and Third Departments have.
Across the United States, whether false claims of homosexuality are considered defamatory per se is dependent on the state and, often, on the court.
Historically, many states considered false accusations of homosexuality to be defamation per se, because their state law criminalized homosexual conduct. However, after the Lawrence v. Texas ruling, which struck down the country’s remaining sodomy laws, this started to change. Several courts have ruled similarly to New York’s Second Department since that landmark 2003 ruling.
Defamation lawsuits resulting from false accusations of being LGBTQ — like the one brought before New York’s Second Department — are less common than they once were due to increasing acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, according to Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. But when the issue does come up, Sears said the general trend courts have followed is to rule that it is no longer defamation per se.
There are places where being LGBTQ could, for example, cause someone to lose their job due to bias, and when false accusations are made in those cases, someone could still sue for defamation. But unlike a suit for defamation per se, the plaintiff would have to prove financial or other damages.
Sears said last month’s New York decision and others like it make an important statement about how LGBTQ people are viewed and treated in society: “I think what’s important is this kind of bias no longer has the backing of the law.”
With little more than a week left to the Trump administration, the Department of Health and Human Services has finalized a rule permitting social-service providers that receive government funds to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Critics claim the new guidance could have wide-ranging implications for agencies that address adoption and foster-parenting, as well as homelessness, HIV prevention, elder care and other public services.
“Even as Trump administration officials abandon ship, HHS has announced yet another dangerous rule that invites discrimination against the very people federal grant programs are meant to help,” Sasha Buchert, senior attorney for the LGBTQ civil rights group Lambda Legal, said.
According to the 77-page release, published Tuesday in the Federal Register, Obama-era requirements that agencies refrain from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity and recognize same-sex marriages as legally valid violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“Given the careful balancing of rights, obligations, and goals in the public-private partnerships in federal grant programs, the Department believes it appropriate to impose only those nondiscrimination requirements required by the Constitution and federal statutes,” the rule states.
Slated to take effect on Feb. 11, the rule change is targeted at child welfare organizations, according to Julie Kruse, director of federal policy for LGBTQ advocacy group Family Equality. Whether private adoption agencies receiving taxpayer money can deny services to same-sex potential parents is at the heart of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, now before the Supreme Court.
Kruse said both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have made allowing discrimination in adoption and foster care a priority over the last four years.
At the National Prayer Breakfast in February 2019, Trump bemoaned that St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Michigan was facing legal action“for living by the values of its Catholic faith” and turning away same-sex prospective parents. The president vowed that his administration was “working to ensure that faith-based adoption agencies are able to help vulnerable children find their forever families, while following their deeply held beliefs.”
That same year, HHS issued a waiver allowing a Protestant foster care agency to turn away Jewish foster parents and stopped data collection on LGBTQ youth in adoption and foster care.
In November 2019, HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced the agency would stop enforcing anti-discrimination protections against federal grantees, prompting a lawsuit by Lambda Legal and Democracy Forward on behalf of the LGBTQ social services groups Family Equality, True Colors United and SAGE. HHS has also ordered recipients of federal funding to accept employees’ religiously based refusals to perform job duties, including denying contraception to women and medical treatment to transgender patients.
According to Kruse, Tuesday’s final rule could also allow a homeless shelter to turn away a queer teen and a senior center to refuse to drive an elderly gay man to his doctor’s appointment. She’s confident it will be overturned by the incoming Biden administration, calling it a “nasty parting shot that won’t stand.” But she admits “it does clog up the works; it does delay protections.”
HHS was among nine federal agencies tasked by the Trump administration to draft guidelines safeguarding “religious freedom,” along with the Departments of Justice, Education, Labor, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Those orders spun out of a White House faith and opportunity initiative launched in 2018 “to remove barriers which have unfairly prevented faith-based organizations from working with or receiving funding from the federal government.”
The Department of Education issued its final rule last September, determining religious universities and student groups were exempt from sex-discrimination statutes in Title iX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated the change would “protect First Amendment freedoms on campus and the religious liberty of faith-based institutions.”
Dena Sher, associate vice president of public policy at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the DoE guidance “discrimination underwritten by tax dollars and tuition fees,” Inside Higher Ed reported.
HHS’s regulation change was announced the same day the Department of Labor’s own final rule took effect, expanding exemptions to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to any contractors — for-profit or nonprofit — who “hold themselves out to the public as carrying out a religious purpose.”
“Religious organizations should not have to fear that acceptance of a federal contract or subcontract will require them to abandon their religious character or identity,” Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said in a statement on Dec. 7.
President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team declined to comment on whether it would overturn the new HHS rule. But, in a statement, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., vowed to work with the incoming administration “to restore humanity to HHS.”
“From Day One, the Trump administration has been determined to roll back essential protections for LGBTQ+ Americans, religious minorities and other vulnerable communities,” Wyden, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, stated.
“It’s no surprise that in its last days the Trump administration has delivered a devastating blow to try and permanently greenlight taxpayer-funded discrimination and put the health and well being of children and families across the nation at grave risk,” he added.
The Czech Republic has ruled against adoptions from same-sex couples registered abroad as anti-LGBT+ rhetoric continues spreading across eastern Europe.
On Monday (11 January) the Czech Constitutional Court rejected a regional court’s proposal to amend a law that prevents same-sex couples registered abroad from adopting Czech children.
Same-sex couples are currently unable to adopt as adoption is restricted to married couples, and same-sex marriage isn’t legal in the Czech Republic. So the Prague Regional Court proposed changes to the wording on private international law, allowing Czech courts to recognise same-sex partners registered overseas.
This was rejected in the new ruling, which suggested it would allow Czech adoption laws to be “circumvented” abroad, according to Expats.CZ.
“Should the legislators set the rules for adoption, they can substantially prevent the rules from being ‘circumvented’ via foreign legal arrangement,” the finding reads.
The Constitutional Court considered the amendment in relation to the case of a registered same-sex couple, a Czech and a Trinidad and Tobago citizen living in the US.
A court in New Jersey approved their decision to adopt two children with the US citizenship, but the men feared legal complications when travelling back to the Czech Republic as a family.
When they asked a local court to recognise the US adoption their request was dismissed, since private international law doesn’t allow for the approval of a decision that goes against Czech law.
The Czech LGBT+ advocacy group We Are Fair expressed regret over the ruling, saying that the decision is proof that the Czech Republic needs to legalise marriage for everybody.
The troubling news follows a wave of anti-LGBT+ sentiment rising across eastern Europe that has seen both Poland and Hungary restrict adoption for same-sex couples.
Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has suggested changing the country’s constitution to explicitly forbid adoptions from LGBT+ couples, while Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, announced in November that a ban on same-sex adoption had “become necessary” due to coronavirus.
“Family ties shall be based on marriage and the relationship between parents and children. The mother is female, the father is male,” declared the Hungarian minister of family affairs as she announced the changes.
Mississippi Republican lawmakers are seeking to ban all transition-related healthcare for transgender people until the age of 21, under one of the most extreme anti-trans bills yet.
The Orwellian legislation tabled by state lawmakers on Monday (11 January) aims to restrict access to trans-related care in the Deep South state.
The so-called “Transgender 21 Act”, filed by Republican senator Angela Burks Hill, would ban the use of puberty-blocking drugs, hormones and surgery for transgender people until they are 21.
Hill claims the purpose of the act is to “protect” minors, arguing that they are “unable to fully appreciate the risks and life implications that result from the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgical procedures”.
Mississippi currently permits marriage from age 15 with parental consent, enlistment in the military from 17, and both cosmetic surgery and gun ownership from 18 – several years before trans people are apparently competent enough to make decisions about their own body.
The bill only targets treatments intended to “facilitate the minor’s desire to present or appear in a manner that is inconsistent with the minor’s sex”, meaning that the exact same puberty-blocking drugs and hormones could still be issued to cisgender people for unrelated health conditions.
Mississippi Republicans’ ‘Transgender 21 Act’ would be ‘devastating’.
Of course, prescribing puberty-blocking drugs at the age of 21 would be fairly redundant, meaning the bill would also function as a de facto ban on the treatment.
The mean-spirited law would also continue to allow cisgender people to get breast enhancements or reductions as teenagers, while banning transgender people from doing so.
ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio said the bill would be “devastating” for trans people, branding it “alarming and unconstitutional on many fronts”.
The move comes amid a flurry of anti-trans legislation filed across the US as state legislatures return, with a tidal wave of copycat bills filed in Oklahoma, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama, Utah, New Hampshire and Maine seeking to restrict healthcare or roll back rights for trans people.
Strangio tweeted: “Every time I looked away from my computer today, another anti-trans bill was filed. It is non-stop.”
Hill is a regular proponent of anti-LGBT+ legislation in the state, previously sponsoring bills to exclude trans people from sports. She also championed an anti-gay religious freedom law passed by the state in 2016, seeking to permit businesses and officials to lawfully discriminate against same-sex couples.