Schools, colleges and universities were the third most common location for a hate crime to be committed in the United States from 2018 to 2022, new FBI data shows, with more than 4,300 reported offenses, or 7.7% of total offenses over those five years, taking place in an educational setting.
The number of reported hate crime offenses across all categories increased from 8,492 in 2018 to 13,346 in 2022, according to a report released Monday by the FBI. The most common location for a hate crime was in home or residential settings, followed by those occurring on highways, roads and alleys.
The number of offenses in school settings has fluctuated slightly year to year. It reached its lowest point — 500 offenses, or 3.9% of all reported hate crime offenses nationwide — in 2020, as a likely result of school closures during the pandemic, the report stated. The highest number was in 2022, when 1,336 offenses, or 10%, were reported at schools.
The data also revealed the number of reported offenses at schools based on their bias motivation: The most common were anti-Black (1,690), anti-LGBTQ (901) and anti-Jewish (745) offenses over the course of the five years.
When breaking down the anti-LGBTQ offenses at schools further, the most common were those involving a mixed group of LGBTQ individuals (342) and those against gay men (306).
Educational settings were divided into three categories in the report: “college/university,” “elementary/secondary” and “unspecified school/college.” More than half of all hate crime offenses reported in an educational setting took place at an elementary or secondary school, with a combined total of 2,815 from 2018-2022. The most common offense at schools was intimidation, followed by what the study grouped as “destruction/damage/vandalism and “simple assault.”
In the FBI’s most recent overall hate crimes report, the same three groups were found to be the most common targets. More than half of race-based crimes in 2022 targeted Black people, and more than half of religious-based crimes targeted Jews. The data also pointed to a nearly 40% increase in anti-transgender crimes compared to the prior year.
Although not included in the FBI’s school hate crime report, over the last year there have been several high-profile hate crimes in the U.S.
In July, O’Shae Sibley, a professional dancer and choreographer, was stabbed to death in what police later said was an anti-gay hate crime. In the weeks following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was stabbed to death in his Illinois home by his landlord, who was accused of being motivated by hate. In Jacksonville, Florida, a white gunman opened fire in a Dollar General store last summer, killing three Black people. And in December, a man was indicted on multiple hate crime charges in connection with the punching of an Israeli tourist in Times Square two months earlier.
The nation’s blue state-red state divide shows up sharply in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2023 State Equality Index, released Tuesday morning, with many states squarely in the pro-LGBTQ+ rights camp, about as many just the opposite, and few in the middle.
The HRC Foundation (HRC’s educational arm), in partnership with the Equality Federation — a network of state-based LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations — assessed the LGBTQ+ rights records of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The assessment included looks at nondiscrimination laws, relationship recognition, hate-crimes statutes, laws affecting young people, and more.
“Last year was the most damaging and destructive legislative session we have ever seen for the LGBTQ+ community – particularly transgender youth. This year, sadly, we expect more of the same,” Kelley Robinson, the president of HRC said in a release. “But these attacks are out of touch with the American people – and they are a losing political strategy. We are the majority, and we will not stop until we are setting new records in support of LGBTQ+ people in every corner of the country.”
Twenty states, the same number as the previous year, plus D.C., placed in the highest-rated category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality”: California, Maine, New York, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland, Washington, Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Virginia.
Five states placed in the next category, “Solidifying Equality”: Michigan, Alaska, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. Two were in the category “Building Equality”: Utah and Arizona.
Twenty-three states were in the lowest-rated category, “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality”: Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Missouri, West Virginia, North Carolina, Montana, Georgia, Florida, Wyoming, Louisiana, Texas, Idaho, South Carolina, Mississippi, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama.
Although 2023 was the worst year on record for anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation, a few states saw notable progress. Michigan, which was in the lowest category in the 2022 report, moved up because of major LGBTQ+ rights bills passed and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2023. One amended the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“That was an effort that had been several decades in the making,” Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s senior director for legal policy, tells The Advocate.
Another bill that became law in Michigan last year barred licensed therapists from subjecting minors to conversion therapy, the discredited and harmful practice of trying to turn LGBTQ+ people straight or cisgender. The advances in the state were made possible in large part by Democratic control of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office, Oakley notes.
Arizona also progressed, moving up from the lowest category into “Building Equality.” The state still lacks an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law covering private businesses, but in one of her first acts after being sworn into office in January 2023, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs issued an executive orderprotecting state employees and contractors from anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. Hobbs, who succeeded Republican Doug Ducey, has helped stop anti-LGBTQ+ legislation as well, Oakley says.
Utah, Kentucky, and North Dakota all moved down a category due to homophobic and transphobic legislation. All passed bans on gender-affirming care for transgender minors, and other major bills passed into law included Kentucky’s version of “don’t say gay” and, in North Dakota, an anti-trans “bathroom bill” and one requiring school staffers to out trans students to their parents.
Nationwide, 2023 was the worst year on record for anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation, with more than 550 such bills introduced across 43 states and more than 80 passed into law. 2024 is on track to be at least as bad, Oakley says. Legislatures in 36 states are in session so far, with 325 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced, by HRC’s latest count. Many of them are specifically anti-trans, as was the case last year. 2024 opened with Ohio lawmakers overriding Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a ban on gender-affirming treatment for trans youth and restrictions on their participation in school sports, plus the proposal of rules under which state agencies would make it more difficult for both trans youth and adults to get the medical care they need.
Oakley attributes the rash of anti-trans bills to the fact that right-wing politicians have lost on so many other LGBTQ+ rights issues, including marriage equality. “Our opponents are running out of issues that are galvanizing to their base. … They needed a new issue, and they settled on trans kids,” she says.
These legislative attacks are popular only with the far right, not the general electorate, according to Oakley and other HRC officials, so it’s time for those who oppose such legislation to make their voices heard. “This is a moment when people absolutely have to get off the sidelines,” Oakley says.
HRC President Kelley Robinson and Equality Federation Institute Executive Director offered similar messages in a press release on the 2023 index. “The State Equality Index tells us where we have been and sets the course for where we want to go,” Robinson said. “Last year was the most damaging and destructive legislative session we have ever seen for the LGBTQ+ community — particularly transgender youth. This year, sadly, we expect more of the same. But these attacks are out of touch with the American people — and they are a losing political strategy. We are the majority, and we will not stop until we are setting new records in support of LGBTQ+ people in every corner of the country.”
“As the 2023 State Equality Index shows, this past legislative session marked one of the most daunting periods for transgender rights, requiring effective strategies and relentless advocacy from folks on the ground,” Hutchins added. “Despite the increasing number of bills filed nationwide, advocates and activists were able to beat back the majority of this legislation. Queer and trans people are powerful, and we are not going anywhere.”
For U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, the homophobic hits just keep on coming.
Last week, Johnson was one of the speakers at the National Gathering for Prayer and Repentance, an event cofounded by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, dubbed an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group by the watchdogs at the Southern Poverty Law Center. And a new report from another watchdog organization, Accountable.us, details the extent of Johnson’s relationship with Perkins, which goes back more than a quarter of a century.
“From his decades-long relationship with extreme anti-LGBTQ activist Tony Perkins to his legal career dedicated to rolling back LGBTQ rights, it’s clear where his allegiances lie,” Accountable.us president Caroline Ciccone says of Johnson. “Speaker Johnson is a champion for the dangerous extremist faction of the House MAGA majority — and his leadership has only meant more desperate political stunts to force a far-right agenda instead of actually solving the issues facing our nation.”
The National Gathering for Prayer and Repentance was held Wednesday at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., and featured many Christian right activists and Republican politicians, including 16 members of Congress. Perkins founded the event with Jim Garlow, founder and CEO of Well Versed. Garlow hosted Johnson on a “prayer call” shortly before the latter was elected speaker, and during the call, Johnson said American culture was “dark and depraved,”partly because so many young people identify as “something other than straight.”
During Johnson’s segment of the prayer and repentance event, he shared the stage with the other members of Congress, and each of them offered a prayer. Most, including Johnson, avoided overtly anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in their prayers, instead saying in general terms that the U.S. has turned away from God and asking for God’s guidance. But there were some exceptions.
For instance, U.S. Rep. Randy Weber of Texas said, “We’ve trampled on holy marriage and called it an alternate lifestyle.” Bob Good of Virginia said the nation has “failed to honor [God’s] designs for marriage and the family.” Mary Miller of Illinois appealed for God’s forgiveness by saying, “We have disparaged your beautiful institution of marriage.” And Wisconsin’s Glenn Grothman listed homosexuality and feminism as evils that must be fought.
They were preceded on the program by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, a Messianic Jew, that is, a person who identifies as Jewish but accepts Jesus Christ as savior — that church is a evangelical Christian sect. Cahn’s virulently anti-LGBTQ+ views were evident in his presentation. He said America is under the influence of pagan gods and goddesses, one of whom, Ishtar, “the enchantress,” is “the spirit of sexual immorality.”
The enchantress, he said, “turns men into women and women into men” and “seeks to possess an entire generation of children.” She is identified with the rainbow and the month of June, he continued.
Johnson’s entrenchment in the Christian right goes far beyond this event. His work as a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund (now Alliance Defending Freedom), which represents many anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-choice clients, is well documented, as are his writings denouncing marriage equality and LGBTQ+ rights in general. His coziness with Perkins is also well known, but the Accountable.us report provides a particularly expansive look at their work together.
They met in the 1990s in Louisiana, when Perkins was a Republican state representative and Johnson a law student at Louisiana State University. They met through Woody Jenkins, then also a Republican state representative who in 1996 ran for an open U.S. Senate seat against Democrat Mary Landrieu. Landrieu won by a narrow margin, leading Jenkins’s supporters to cry fraud. Johnson has said that election formed his views on fraud, and he went on to be closely involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Johnson and Perkins have both worked with the Council for National Policy, which Accountable.us describes as a secretive conservative organization.
When Perkins was a Louisiana state representative, Johnson sometimes helped him write legislation, such as a first-in-the-nation law establishing covenant marriage; it’s harder to end a covenant marriage than a conventional one. “Johnson and his wife, Kelly, were married under this law in 1999,” the report notes.
In 1997, Johnson helped Perkins found the Louisiana Family Forum, a right-wing political group. “Working pro bono, Johnson helped pen the group’s incorporation filing and later represented the organization in lawsuits targeting abortion access and same-sex marriage,” Accountable.us points out. “When Johnson first ran for Congress in 2016, he identified himself as a Louisiana Family Forum board member.”
Johnson and Perkins also worked together on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana Commission on Marriage and Family, to which both were appointed in 2008. Perkins was a board member for a nonprofit law firm, Freedom Guard, that Johnson founded in 2014. It is no longer in operation, but it represented the same type of clients as ADF, and its other projects included drafting model bylaws for churches that characterized homosexuality and transgender identity as “sinful and offensive to God.”
When Perkins ran — unsuccessfully — for U.S. Senate in 2002, Kelly Johnson was one of his first campaign contributors, donating $1,000. Perkins returned the favor and then some in her husband’s first run for Congress, with a contribution of $2,700, the maximum personal donation allowed by law at the time.
In every run since then, Johnson has received the endorsement of the Family Research Council’s political action committee. He’s a three-time recipient of the FRC’s True Blue award, which goes to members of Congress who vote according to the group’s positions 100 percent of the time. That contrasts with Johnson’s zeroes from the Human Rights Campaign. And Johnson has described Perkins as one of his biggest heroes.
“Once a fringe organization on the right, the Family Research Council has been elevated to newfound prominence with the Speaker’s gavel in Mike Johnson’s hand,” the Accountable.us report states. That newfound prominence has chilling implications for LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive freedom, and more.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has paused enforcement of lewd conduct regulations following outcry over raids conducted late last month at multiple Seattle LGBTQ+ bars.
The Stranger reports that the LCB sent a letter last Thursday to state officials informing them of the pause. The board also announced that it would not issue citations for any violations reported by officers during the raids and that it has paused its participation in the city’s Joint Enforcement Team (JET), the coalition of police, fire, and other departments that conducted the January raids.
“Since LCB’s participation last week with the City of Seattle Joint Enforcement Team (JET) on Capitol Hill and additional enforcement work Saturday at some historically gay venues in the greater Seattle area, the agency has become acutely aware of the fear and alarm it raised within the LGBTQ+ community,” the February 1 letter read. “At Wednesday’s Board meeting and in many private conversations, we heard strong objections to our actions. The community expressed concerns that LGBTQ+ venues are being targeted and that the LCB did not understand the troubling history of such enforcement or the value of these clubs as a safe place for people who often face discrimination, threats, and violence.”
The LCB said that it would present a proposal to change the lewd conduct rules at its February 6 caucus and vote on the proposal next week.
The raids, conducted over the January 26 weekend, sparked outrage in Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community and drew national attention. Shortly after midnight on January 27, ten JET task force members enter LGBTQ+ bar The Cuff wielding flashlights, according to owner Joey Burgess, causing patrons to leave the venue in fright. All they discovered was a bartender with his nipple visible. According to The Stranger, JET also raided two other LGBTQ+ venues, Neighbours Nightclub and The Lumberyard, on the same night.
The following evening, two JET members entered the Eagle at around 11:30 p.m., where they found patrons wearing jockstraps. They also reportedly photographed patrons.
Both the Cuff bartender’s exposed nipple and the Eagle patrons’ jockstraps were cited as violations of LCB’s rules prohibiting “lewd conduct” in venues that serve liquor. Meanwhile, Washington state has no other laws restricting public nudity. As Eater Seattle notes, you can wear a G-string outside in a public park but not in a bar.
According to The Stranger, during a recent meeting with the LCB, the state Senate LGBTQ caucus made it clear they wanted changes to the regulation.
“As the only openly LGBTQ member of the board, I take that role and responsibility seriously,” said LCB Board member Jim Vollendroff. “I made a commitment to the Legislature to see this through and to hold the Board accountable. To make long-lasting change to make sure this doesn’t occur in the future, long after the leadership that’s in place now changes.”
State Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D), the out gay majority floor leader, saidlawmakers are working to repeal the “lewd conduct” regulation.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community cheered the LCB’s announcement.
“This is a huge victory for queer people, queer spaces, and queer self-expression,” a group of club owners said in a statement.
“The relief that I have–that I no longer have to strip away queer culture and honestly people’s right to be themselves on behalf of an agency that’s threatening our liquor license–is probably one of the most gratifying things in my career, period,” Cuff and Queer/Bar owner Joey Burgess told The Stranger. “I feel like a ton of bricks are off me, and that heading into this weekend people can feel safe and good about themselves.”
A Tennessee city must pay $500,000 as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups over an ordinance designed to ban drag performances from taking place on public property, attorneys announced Wednesday.
Last year, the Tennessee Equality Project — a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ rights — filed a federal lawsuit after Murfreesboro leaders announced they would no longer be approving any event permit requests submitted by the organization. At the time, the city alleged that the drag performances that took place during TEP’s 2022 Pride event resulted in the “illegal sexualization of kids.”
TEP denied the shows were inappropriate, countering that the performers were fully clothed. However, the city not only vowed to deny TEP permits but also decided later to update its “community decency standards” intended to “assist in the determination of conduct, materials, and events that may be judged as obscene or harmful to minors.”
Murfreesboro is located about 34 miles (55 kilometers) south of Nashville.
Eventually, a federal judge temporarily blocked Murfreesboro from enforcing the ordinance while the lawsuit proceeded.
On Wednesday, the ACLU announced the case had reached a settlement. Under the agreement, the city not only agreed to pay $500,000 but also to repeal the ordinance and process any upcoming event permit applications submitted by TEP.
“The government has no right to censor LGBTQ+ people and expression,” said attorneys for the ACLU, ACLU of Tennessee, Ballard Spahr, and Burr & Forman in a joint statement. “More important than the monetary recovery, this settlement sends a clear message that the city’s discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community was blatantly unconstitutional and that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated here — or anywhere across the country.”
A spokesperson for the city of Murfreesboro didn’t immediately respond to an email for comment.
The legal challenge is the latest development in the ongoing political battle over LGBTQ rights inside Tennessee, where the state’s conservative leaders have sought to limit events where drag performers may appear, restrict classroom conversations about gender and sexuality, and ban gender-affirming care.
Rockland Palace was filled to capacity. The venue at 155th St. and 8th Ave. in Harlem saw nearly 8000 guests that night. It was March 6, 1936, and the Palace was hosting its 68th annual Hamilton Lodge “Odd Fellows” Ball, an event it had hosted since its inception in the 1860s.
Not since 1929 had the ball seen this much action, and visitors came from as far as Chicago, Atlanta, and Memphis to witness the spectacle. Ed Bonelli and his 20-piece Lido Society Orchestra provided a soundtrack for the festivities, and during intermission, the Smalls Paradise floor show entertained the anxious crowd. This night was set to be the biggest yet, and all the ball’s participants picked out only their most extravagant outfits for the occasion.
This night would be different, however, because a Black queen took home the top prize for the first time in the nearly 70 years that the balls had been taking place. Sporting a grayish-blonde wig and a white tulle gown designed for the occasion by Dan Hazel, Jean La Marr, won the pageant by popular choice, walking away with a grand prize of 50 dollars. Entertainer Ethel Waters presented La Marr’s award, and Black Harlem basked in the historic occasion, erupting in excitement at the victory of one of their very own.
That night, the Hamilton Lodge served its original purpose as the black Queens took center stage.
Hamilton Lodge 710 is the first example of a venue hosting drag parties, events, and masquerades. Billed initially as being of the “Grand United Order of Odd Fellows,” the lodge was a creation of a well-to-do class of African-Americans that sprang up in New York in the mid-19th century. The club’s story begins in 1842, when the Philomathean Institute, an organization of free black men in New York, petitioned for a lodge of Odd Fellows.
A Fraternal organization with origins in 18th century England, the order of Odd Fellows believed in and advocated for “Odd” Fellowship. This belief championed a non-partisan view of fellowship involving individuals of all races, ethnicities, and sexualities. When their request was denied in New York due to their race, Peter Ogden, a black sailor, went to England to receive formal permission from the board to begin the organization. Of the 22 separate lodges launched under Peter’s leadership, Hamilton Lodge 710 of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows officially opened its doors in February 1844.
Though law enforcement historically sought to end such masquerades, police officers in Harlem worked to officiate the balls.
Though it’s unclear why the Lodge began hosting drag balls and masquerades, the more progressive stance about members of the Lodge may have attracted individuals to the organization in search of a place where their identities were not explicitly taboo. By the late 1860s, balls were well underway, and newspapers noted the occasions for not only their “bizarre” nature, but their organization and formality.
In a March 1886 article in the New York Freeman, the writer commended the masquerade as credible and organized. Prof. Green, described as wearing a gaudy Turkish dress, commented on not only the formality of the reception, but its diversity.
The writer’s allusion that the costumes at that year’s event, eclipsing those at similar white events, points to the presence of other houses and organizations that may have held drag balls in New York in the latter 19th century. The New York Freeman’s categorization of the ball as the “event of the season” and the generally positive tone of the paper also shed light on why New York was the perfect city for Hamilton Lodge to spread its wings fully. Coming into the 20th century, on the heels of the Great Migration, Lodge 710 was well underway to becoming the place to be as far as Drag Balls were concerned.
The arrival of millions of African-Americans to New York to escape growing persecution in the Jim Crow South spelled prosperity for the Lodge. Its location was perfect as the Harlem Renaissance came underway. The cultural zeitgeist that swept through black Harlem promoted an atmosphere where for the first time, queerness was not forced into the closet but allowed room to breathe, grow and even prosper.
This culture birthed performers like Gladys Bentley, an openly lesbian blues singer who sang explicitly about sex with other women in a white tux and top hat. The Ubangi Club of Harlem featured a full chorus line of drag queens, and openly gay writer Richard Bruce Nugent wrote and published his book Smoke, Lilies, and Jade, which dealt candidly with bisexuality and interracial romantic desire.
Beyond the Harlem renaissance, relaxed social mores were a fixture of the 1920s following prohibition-era restrictions. People rebelled openly against society’s long-held notions of sex, sexuality, and race. Hamilton Lodge, described as an “ultra-modern” structure offering a sweeping view of Lower Manhattan, an entrance of tri-colored marble, and two passenger elevators of the “latest” safety devices, became the perfect venue for the change sweeping the nation.
By the mid-1920s, New York papers like the New York Age regularly covered the Lodge’s events. Hamilton Lodge attracted an incredibly diverse crowd of individuals, and in a March 5, 1927, article, it was noted that “Nordic contestants mixed freely with their dark skin brethren.” Asian participants also took part in the festivities. The formality of the balls at Hamilton Lodge is perhaps best noted by the police presence at the events. Though law enforcement historically sought to end such masquerades, police officers in Harlem worked to officiate the balls. They arrested troublemakers and kept angry and boisterous crowds at bay.
By the mid-30s, a new administration began looking to end the famed ball. Officers, who once helped officiate the balls, began arresting participants and guests on charges of indecency, vagrancy, or female impersonation.
As the 20s drew to a close, thousands of people from all over the United States made a yearly trek to Harlem in March to experience the balls in person. Despite Hamilton’s black origins, most of the ball’s participants were noticeably white by that point. In an era where women like Mae West, Clara Bow, Greta Garbo, and Jean Harlow graced a silver screen out of reach for black women, their likeness permeated the ball’s aesthetic.
The Afro-American paper noted in April 1932 that Black queens preferred blonde wigs. This Eurocentric ideal of beauty made it so that, though routine participants, black Queens were typically shut out from winning pageants. After a nearly 70-year-long rivalry between Black and white queens for the trophy, Jean La Marr’s win represented a significant victory in the pageant’s history. Described as brown-skinned with almond-shaped eyes, a stunning smile, nifty feet, and very effeminate mannerisms, Jean La Marr took home first prize in 1936, and black Harlem was understandably prideful.
1936 wasn’t just significant because of La Marr’s win, but because, by the mid-30s, a new administration in New York concerned with vice began looking to end the famed ball. Officers, who once helped officiate the balls, began arresting participants and guests on charges of indecency, vagrancy, or female impersonation. In a country reeling from the effects of the Great Depression, events full of men parading as women became public indecency and had to be put to an end. Following the election of a new district attorney, the Harlem Lodge held its final drag ball in 1937.
The Hamilton Lodge Ball was a beacon of black creativity, freedom, and expression in post-slavery America. The lodge fostered an atmosphere where Black drag queens could find solace in the company of others like themselves. The Hamilton Lodge of Odd Fellows, a black fraternity built on the idea of an accepting and diverse fraternity, was the perfect vessel for creating solidarity where people of a colorful array of identities and personalities could carve out a reality where they could be themselves unapologetically.
The Virginia House of Delegates on Friday approved a bill that would affirm marriage equality in the state.
State Del. Rozia Henson (D-Prince William County)’s House Bill 174 passed in the Democratic-controlled chamber by a 54-40 margin. Equality Virginia noted the measure received bipartisan support.
“No person authorized to issue a marriage license shall deny the issuance of such license to two parties contemplating a lawful marriage on the basis of the sex, gender or race of the parties,” reads HB 174. “The bill also requires that such lawful marriages be recognized in the commonwealth regardless of the sex, gender or race of the parties.”
The bill also “provides that religious organizations or members of the clergy acting in their religious capacity shall have the right to refuse to perform any marriage.”
Voters in 2006 approved an amendment to Virginia’s constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in the state since 2014.
The General Assembly in 2021 approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the marriage amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.
Democrats last November regained control of the House of Delegates. The party currently holds a 21-19 majority in the Virginia Senate.
The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee earlier this month delayedconsideration of state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution that seeks to repeal the amendment. Henson’s bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
Rivule Sykes announced their candidacy Monday for U.S. House in the Fifth Congressional District of Louisiana, launching a campaign that they say aims to bring “people’s attention to the issues we all face together.”
As a transgender woman who is a member of Gen Z, Sykes says they understand how both groups are “uniquely” challenged in the country today. With previous experience in property management, working as a resident assistant, and being a lighting designer technician, they also have a deep interest in the policies affecting the average American worker.
“There are broad common ground issues that are affecting all of us. Living through or the threat of poverty and income inequality, workers’ rights, the industrial prison complex, corporate greed, and lack of access to health care, to name a few,” they tell The Advocate, adding, “So when we talk about those issues, I can add in how LGBTQ+ people are often uniquely affected by them.”
While Gen Z are proven to be more progressive than previous generations, candidates still regularly struggle to reach younger voters. Part of this, Sykes says, is because they don’t see themselves represented. There is currently only one Gen Z member of Congress, and many racial/ethnic groups are disproportionately underrepresented across the nation. Beyond that, many of them do not see themselves economically represented.
“Gen Z and Alpha are facing a future of such wealth inequality across the board. Millennials as well. Over half of each of those generations that are working age still live with family, as do I technically,” Sykes explains, continuing, “I’ve had my viewpoints completely invalidated by people who don’t think I’m responsible or ‘grown up’ just because I don’t own my own house yet. And that is harmful to not only our generation but our democracy.”
Sykes’s platform aims to bridge these gaps, focusing largely on worker’s rights and economic growth through policies that benefit people before profit. Their plans for housing and urban development policies include affordable housing, anti-gentrification, and homeownership assistance programs.
They are also a proponent of universal health care and expanded access to mental health services. Sykes promotes education funding and development, including teacher support programs. Their advocacy for workers’ rights doesn’t stop at educators — the candidate is also in favor of raising the minimum wage and developmental programs that would support small businesses.
Hailing from the small towns of Hammond and Holden, Sykes has firsthand experience of wealthy state policymakers overlooking rural and low-income communities. They say that this “lack of diverse representation affects all of us,” as “when the majority of politicians come from wealthy backgrounds, they are less likely to vote in favor of policies that will help the most poor and vulnerable of our generation.”
“There needs to be diversity in our representation when it comes to who forms our policy,” they continue. “While older politicians are valuable for the experience they have and the knowledge of our systems, we need younger policymakers to inform on new perspectives and bring energy for action and change.”
Sykes is an advocate for systemic change in both government and the criminal justice system. Alongside transparency and restrictions on lobbying, they also seek the abolition of bail and the private prison industry in Louisiana in favor of restorative justice systems. Their lobbying restrictions are particularly significant, as Sykes cites the practice as one of the causes behind young people’s disillusionment.
“Some of the traditional action that we’ve been told is effective just isn’t getting through to our politicians, and that’s because of corporate lobbying,” they explain, adding, “So, we’re seeing that inequality not only in wealth but also in representation of voice.”
Sykes is running in the state’s Fifth Congressional District, which is currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow. Louisiana elections use the majority-vote system, meaning candidates all compete in the same primary regardless of party, and a candidate can win outright if they receive over 50 percent of the vote. If a candidate does not win at least half of the votes, the top two advance to the general election.
Sykes is running as a third-party candidate in “a traditionally heavily Republican district.” Because of this, they say that “knowledge of electoral politics would inform my chances of getting elected as slim to none.”
While they are aware it’s an uphill battle, they believe that the purpose of political campaigns goes beyond winning and losing — instead, they can serve as an opportunity to shed a light on important issues while uplifting marginalized voices.
“That is one of the biggest reasons I am running, even if I don’t get elected. We need more representation in our choices,” Sykes explains. “But I do feel like I have a lot of those unique perspectives. And I feel like I am well informed on a lot of the issues we are facing collectively. And collectively, the majority of us are working class and poor, and we need more people in Congress who understand that struggle.”
They add, “At the end of the day, my campaign isn’t about electing me, it’s about bringing people’s attention to the issues we all face together, and coming together to form community-focused solutions that won’t leave anyone behind.”
Marching into a gay bar to issue citations feels a bit vintage in 2024. Nevertheless, over the weekend, the Joint Enforcement Team (JET), which is a coalition of Seattle Police, Fire, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), and others, entered two gay bars, The Cuff Complex and The Seattle Eagle, and started looking around.
And what did they find? A bartender’s exposed nipple and a few people wearing jockstraps, offenses that law enforcement can cite you for in Washington if you’re also selling alcohol.
At 12:30 on Saturday morning, a 10-member JET crew filed into Cuff, according to owner Joey Burgess. They came in with flashlights, scaring some patrons who left in a hurry. Inside, they saw the offending nipple, a violation of state law the JET may penalize in some way.
A group of Capitol Hill gay bars and clubs are teaming up with neighborhood queer community leaders Dan Savage and Terry Miller in calling for the state’s liquor control board and Seattle Police officials to explain what they say was a weekend crackdown reminiscent of historical harassment of Seattle’s LGBTQ friendly venues.
Ownership at the bars including The Cuff, Queer/Bar, Massive, and The Eagle along with Savage and Miller say that citations issued over weekend over clothing and decency violations at a handful of clubs recorded by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board and so-called Joint Enforcement Team inspectors were targeted.
The group is asking for the community to demand the liquor control board explain its actions.
Iowa lawmakers on Wednesday declined to advance a bill that would have stripped gender identity from the state’s civil rights law, a proposal that opponents said could have subjected LGBTQ Iowans to discrimination in education, housing and public spaces.
The bill has been floated in recent years without success but reached the first step in Iowa’s lawmaking process Wednesday, when it was rejected by three members of a House Judiciary subcommittee. As they discussed the measure, LGBTQ advocates outside the room cried out: “Trans rights are human rights.” Two of the subcommittee members are Republican and one is a Democrat.
Not every state has explicit protections for a person based on their gender identity, but opponents of the bill suggested that removing such already existing protections from a state’s anti-discrimination law would have stood out in an already historic period of anti-trans laws in Republican-led statehouses.
Republican House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl — who is not a member of the subcommittee and didn’t take part in the vote — said Wednesday that he doesn’t think it would be the “wise choice” to break open established civil rights code “whether you agree with all of it or not.”
“Taking that protection away would then be an opportunity to discriminate against one of those protected classes,” he said of how the bill would be perceived.
LGBTQ Iowans and allies who descended upon the Iowa Capitol to protest the bill far outnumbered those in support, though the testimony initially alternated between pro and con. Some trans Iowans in the room shared personal testimony about discrimination they’ve faced and fears of being further marginalized.
Iowa’s civil rights law protects against discrimination in employment, wages, public accommodations, housing, education and credit practices based upon certain characteristics of a person. That includes gender identity, as well as someone’s race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin and disability status.
Sexual orientation and gender identity were not originally included in Iowa’s Civil Rights Act of 1965. They were added by the Democrat-controlled Legislature in 2007, with about a dozen Republicans across the two chambers joining in favor.
State Rep. Jeff Shipley, who authored the bill discussed on Wednesday, gave an impassioned introduction in which he argued that there is no objective criteria to evaluate gender identity and that there is a “viciously hostile” culture around the protection of these individuals over others. Shipley said the latter was made clear by the protesters shouting expletives and giving him the finger as he left the room.
As written, the bill would have amended the civil rights law’s definition of disability, a protected status, to include the psychological distress that some transgender people experience, known as gender dysphoria, or any another diagnosis related to a gender identity disorder.
Those individuals would be protected, but advocates Wednesday made clear that being trans is not a disability and that a broad swath of transgender Iowans who do not experience gender dysphoria would be left exposed.
“I am not disabled,” said Annie Sarcone, a transgender Iowan and director of the Des Moines Queer Youth Resource Center. “Shame on the Iowa Legislature for trying to pull something like this. For being the only state to take things this far.”
Iowa’s Republican-controlled statehouse has passed multiple bills that Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law targeting LGBTQ Iowans in recent years, including prohibiting transgender students from using public bathrooms that align with their gender identity, banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors and prohibiting transgender females from participating in girls high school and women’s college sports.
Those measures are part of a wave of laws recently passed in conservative states across the country that have led the Human Rights Campaign to declare a state of emergency for LGBTQ Americans.
About half of U.S. states include gender identity in their civil rights code to protect against discrimination in housing and public places, such as stores or restaurants, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ+ rights think tank. Some additional states don’t explicitly protect against such discrimination, but it is included in legal interpretation of the statutes.
Federal protections against employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity were reinforced in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in 2020, when conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority that discrimination because of LGBTQ+ status was an extension of sex-based discrimination.