Georgia lawmaker Park Cannon has vowed to continue knocking on the “doors of injustice” after it was confirmed she will not be prosecuted for knocking on the governor’s door.
Cannon, an out, Black state representative, was arrested and forcibly removed from Georgia’s state capitol building for knocking on governor Brian Kemp’s door as he signed a voting bill that has been condemned as racist. She was subsequently charged with obstruction of law enforcement and disrupting the general assembly.
Two weeks after her arrest, Fani Willis, district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, said the office will not file charges against Cannon, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she considers the case closed after reviewing the evidence surrounding her arrest on 25 March.
“While some of Rep. Cannon’s colleagues and the police officers involved may have found her behaviour annoying, such sentiment does not justify a presentment to a grand jury of the allegations in the arrest warrants or any other felony charges,” Willis said.
Park Cannon tweeted following the news she would not be prosecuted: “Doors of injustice are everywhere, and we cannot stop knocking.”
Gerald Griggs, an Atlanta attorney who is representing Cannon, welcomed the news.
He said the “facts and evidence showed to the world” that Cannon “committed no crime and should not have been arrested”.
He added: “We thank the district attorney for her thorough review of the evidence and are weighing our next legal actions.”
Three North Carolina Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would force teachers to out any trans or gender non-conforming child to their parents.
Senate Bill 514 would make it illegal for any “government agents” to not “immediately” inform the parents or legal guardians of any child or young adult if that “minor under its care or supervision has exhibited symptoms of gender dysphoria, gender nonconformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with the minor’s sex”.
This would compel any state employee, teacher, volunteer or contractor of a school district in North Carolina to out trans students under the age of 21 to their parents.
The bill – introduced by Republican senators Ralph Hise, Warren Daniel and Norman Sanderson – will also prevent doctors and other healthcare professionals from giving gender affirming care to trans youth under the age of 21. This includes performing gender affirming surgeries and administering puberty blockers, testosterone or estrogen.
Under the bill, medical professionals who provide gender affirming treatment to trans patients could have their license revoked and face a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per occurrence.
Kendra R Johnson, executive director of Equality NC, said in a statement that it is “heartbreaking” – but “not unexpected” – to see these “direct, repeated attacks” against trans and gender non-conforming youth in North Carolina.
“These attempts to control the bodies and medical decisions of parents and their transgender children are invasive, inappropriate and outright dangerous,” Johnson said. “Decisions about a child’s medical welfare should be made between that child, their doctor, and their parents or guardians – not lawmakers.”
She added that it is the “job of all lawmakers” to thoroughly understand the “entirety of their constituency” and “mitigate challenges instead of creating barriers”. Johnson said: “We cannot legislate the transgender community out of existence.”
Chantal Stevens, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, added SB 514 is the latest in a “series of coordinated attacks on healthcare access” for LGBT+ youth across the US. She explained the “true aim” of such legislation is to “push trans and non-binary people out of public life”.
“Not only are these bills rooted in falsehoods, hate and fear-mongering, but they also invade the private interactions between each of us and our medical providers,” Stevens said.
The North Carolina bill comes after Arkansas became the first state to ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth. The Arkansas bill was passed by the state’s House of Representatives and Senate in March before making its way to governor Asa Hutchinson for approval. However, Hutchinson vetoed the bill on Monday (5 April), saying it was a “vast government overreach”.
“Serious concerns” about hostile attitudes towards human rights in the UK, including the government’s failure to reform gender recognition laws and “transphobic fear-mongering”, have been raised by international human rights group Amnesty International.
The stark rebuke of the British government comes in Amnesty’s annual reporton human rights around the world.×ADVERTISING
Policies on immigration, housing and current efforts to curtail the right to protest mean the UK is “speeding towards the cliff edge” when it comes to upholding and preserving human rights legislation.
In its 408-page report, Amnesty also condemns the Conservative government’s failure to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in September 2020 as a move that “fell short of human rights standards”.
The GRA is the 2004 law that adult trans men and women use to get legal recognition of their gender. It is widely seen as outdated, overly bureaucratic, expensive, and exclusionary of non-binary people and under 18’s.
A huge consultation into potential reforms of the GRA attracted more than 108,000 responses, with 80 per cent of respondents in favour of de-medicalising the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate, and three-quarters in favour of dropping a requirement for trans people to provide “evidence” of living in their chosen gender.
But shelving the reforms, Conservative minister for women and equalities Liz Truss claimed it was “not a priority” for transgender people.
Moreover this, Amnesty said there is “growing transphobic rhetoric and fear-mongering in the media” in the UK.
“For years, the UK has been moving in the wrong direction on human rights – but things are now getting worse at an accelerating rate,” said Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate Allen.
“Having made mistake after lethal mistake during the pandemic, the government is now shamefully trying to strip away our right to lawfully challenge its decisions, no matter how poor they are.”
The report also highlights Britain’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic, recent assaults on the right to protest, police discrimination against Black and Asian communities, and the resumed arms trade with Saudi Arabia.
“On the right to protest, on the Human Rights Act, on accountability for coronavirus deaths, on asylum, on arms sales or on trade with despots, we’re speeding toward the cliff edge,” said Allen.
It was when the governor of Arkansas vetoed his state’s bill to criminalize trans health care on Monday that it really hit me: The only thing protecting trans children right now is our anger. That anger is likely to run out.
There are more than a dozen proposed bills in state legislatures intended to effect the same changes, and the next bill may not generate the same uproar.
On Tuesday, Arkansas became the first state to ban gender-affirming health care for minors. Yet there are more than a dozen proposed bills in state legislatures intended to effect the same changes, and the next bill may not generate the same uproar. For one thing, it won’t be quite as new. With each bill, and each cycle of outrage, the thought of children being hurt won’t shock us quite so much. Many of the cisgender people who were passionate about this case will turn their attention to some other, fresher outrage; every partial victory will feel like proof they’ve won and permission to move on.
In the U.S., we have the onslaught of bills intended to create the same ban. The bill in Arkansas was vetoed, but the General Assembly voted to overrule the governor, making the state the first to ban gender-affirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth. Chase Strangio at the American Civil Liberties Union has already promised legal action against the Arkansas bill, but the groups mobilizing to prevent these children’s transitions are not going to stop with one defeat, or even one big victory. If Arkansas is currently the worst state in America for trans kids, it won’t be for long.
This is not about who is “right.” If facts could win this, trans people and their allies would be winning.
This is not about who is “right.” If facts could win this, trans people and their allies would be winning.
Denying children transition, however, is a major, irreversible, seriously body-altering process with lots of risk involved: It forces kids through the wrong puberty, keeps them in dysphoric pain through the already vulnerable years of adolescence and makes their adult transitions much harder. This assumes the children survive to adulthood. Many will not.
Yet inflammatory rhetoric has been allowed to seep into the nation’s bloodstream as anti-trans activists astroturf state after state with identical bills targeting these kids. When I say the only thing protecting trans children is adult anger, I mean it: Their lives and futures hinge on some (probably conservative) elected representative looking outside his window or at his social media feed and thinking, “Wow, if I actually make this stuff illegal, people will be really mad.”
Though I’m not a mind-reader, it seems clear that the governor of Arkansas almost certainly signed that veto because there was a national uproar over the brutality of the policies his state was enacting. He had a rational belief that the political cost he would incur outweighed the political benefits of siding with transphobes. Countless children’s lives depend on men just like him doing that same math and getting the same results.
The relentless catastrophes of the Trump years showed us exactly how carpet-bombing campaigns like this one play out: Bills criminalizing trans health care will keep coming, one after the other after the other, until almost no one registers the headlines any more, until some other big cause or crisis arrives to divert our attention. And then, when we’re all exhausted and everyone has stopped getting angry, the bills will pass and more children will probably die.
Trans people will obviously fight this until the end. Yet trans people are a tiny minority in this country, less than 1 percent by some estimates, and the success of any political fight depends on lots and lots of cis people caring too. It depends on cis people acting as if their own lives are at stake.
So here is what I will tell you: They are. If you are a parent, any one of these kids could be your kid. Any caring parent to a trans child is feeling some extremely deep terror right now. There’s nothing more painful on this planet than losing a child and nothing that frightens a good parent more than believing someone will hurt your child because you weren’t able to protect them. Even if your child isn’t hurt or killed, someone else’s will be. But you can get in there and fight for them, rather than making them carry it all alone.
Everyone who survives to adulthood incurs a certain obligation to children, especially those of us whose own childhoods were not ideal. If you suffered for lack of a safe adult, you know exactly why you need to be that safe adult now. Every child on this planet deserves someone who will speak up for them and defend them from bullying, whether that bullying comes from a peer or a parent or the great state of Arkansas.
There are so many adults in this country who want to harm trans children. Sometimes it seems like the bigots outnumber the allies, but I have to believe they’re just more visible than us right now. We have to get loud enough to drown them out; we have to make ourselves seen, in huge numbers, every time one of these bills comes up. Everything depends on our anger. All the protection these kids receive will come because we refused to quiet down or look away.
Nearly 20 years after the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing consensual same-sex activity, the legacy of sodomy bans is still felt across the United States.
In 1993, then-18-year-old Randall Menges was charged under Idaho’s “crimes against nature” law for having sex with two 16-year-old males. All three worked and lived at Pratt Ranch, a cattle ranch in Gem County that doubled as a live-in foster program for troubled teenagers.
Menges was convicted despite police reports indicating the activity was consensual, and the age of consent in Idaho when a defendant is 18 is 16 years old. After serving seven years in prison, he was placed on probation and required to register as a sex offender.
Today, what Menges did wouldn’t be considered an arrestable offense. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that laws criminalizing consensual sodomy or oral sex were unconstitutional. But Idaho still requires people convicted of sodomy or oral sex before the Lawrence v. Texas ruling to be on the state sex offender registry.
His attorney, Matt Strugar, has challenged a similar statue in Mississippi and is representing Menges and a John Doe in a suit against Idaho’s sodomy ban.
Idaho, South Carolina and Mississippi still require people who were convicted of consensual sodomy before the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence to register as sex offenders, Strugar said, even though the court said what they did wasn’t a crime. There are probably hundreds of people in Menges’ predicament, and forcing them to register as sex offenders is a violation of their right to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment, he added.
“I’m outraged that in 2021 that we have what is essentially a registry of gay sex,” Strugar said.
Hoping to start a new life, Menges moved to Montana in 2018.
“I love the mountains and taking care of horses,” he said. “And I thought the fewer people I had to deal with the better.”
Even before the Montana Legislature officially repealed the state’s ban on same-sex activity — which the Lawrence ruling declared unconstitutional — in 2013, people convicted under the statute weren’t required to register as sex offenders. But a law passed in 2005 mandates that individuals on a registry in another state must register as sex offenders if they move to Montana.
Menges filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in December, challenging the constitutionality of Montana’s policy. In filings shared with NBC News, he said being on the registry “has damaged dozens of employment opportunities and personal relationships.”
No one believes him about why he has to register as a sex offender, he told NBC News. “If they find out, I lose their friendship,” he said. “Even girlfriends, they don’t buy it.”
The same month he filed his suit, Menges said he was turned away from a homeless shelter in Boise, which he returned to temporarily in 2020.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana did not return a request for comment on the case. In opening arguments March 30, Montana Assistant Attorney General Hannah Tokerud argued Menges was trying to get a Montana court to weigh in on Idaho law.
According to the Missoulian, she said the case doesn’t hinge on the validity of that statute, but rather “it hinges on whether he is required to register in Idaho.”
“Montana requires Menges to register not because of his criminal offense,” the state wrote in a motion to dismiss in January, “but because Montana gives credit to other states’ determinations about convicted offenders who are required to register.”
“Idaho has determined that Menges must register, and thus, when Menges moved to Montana he was required to register,” the state wrote.
But Strugar said Montana is trying to “pass the buck” to another state while continuing to enforce what he calls an “unlawful” policy.
Menges isn’t seeking to overturn his conviction, he said — the statute of limitations passed a year after his conviction. He just wants to be free of the shadow that’s been cast over his life.
“If someone’s not a molester or a rapist, they shouldn’t be subjected to what I have,” Menges said. “If we can change the law, at least it’ll have been worth it.”
Ultimately he’d like to return to Montana, where the cost of living is lower and he can work with horses.
“I’ve had a passion for horses since I was 6. I’d like to get my equine veterinary nursing degree and take care of them, maybe for a rodeo or for private individuals,” he said. “I just want to go where I want and make the choices I want without this hanging over me.”
A bill that would ban books that promote “LGBT issues and lifestyles” in public schools in Tennessee is inching closer to becoming law.
HB 800 would prohibit public schools in Tennessee from using books or teaching materials that “promote, normalise, support or address controversial issues” – like LGBT+ issues or lifestyles or gender identity – are “inappropriate”.
The bill said the promotion of “LGBT issues and lifestyles” should face the same restrictions “placed on the teaching of religion in public schools”. It added that educational materials that promote LGBT+ issues and lifestyles in public schools offends a “significant portion of students’ parents and Tennessee residents with Christian values”.
Republican congressman Bruce Griffey, who introduced the bill, spoke in favour of the bill before other lawmakers at the state capitol. He said he doesn’t want the “state of Tennessee teaching my daughters about sex and lifestyle changes”. Griffey added: “The state of Tennessee is not allowed to teach my Christian values that I think are important and they should learn so I teach those at home.
“If those are not a part of the school curriculum, I don’t see how LGBTQ and other issues of social lifestyles should be part of the curriculum.
“So what this bill simply seeks to do is to limit that so neither side has an unfair advantage over the other regarding what’s being taught in schools to our children.”
The bill passed the Tennessee House education instruction subcommittee by a 6-3 vote, and it will now inch closer to becoming reality. If the bill does eventually get passed into law, it would go into effect in July and would be implemented in schools for the 2021-2022 school year.
In an opinion piece for The Tennessean, Patrick R Grzanka, an associate professor of psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, said HB 800 would “erase LGBT people and issues from public school curricula completely, scrubbing them from human civilization”.
He wrote: “Alan Turing and the history of modern computing? Gone. LGBT activists and the development of antiretroviral drugs to combat the AIDS pandemic? Nope.
“Bayard Rustin’s role in the civil rights movement? Not allowed. Who knows what this even means for literature, music, and art, but I think it’s safe to say that Virginia Woolf and James Baldwin are out.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has told federal agencies that gay and transgender students are protected from discrimination under civil rights laws, reversing Trump administration guidance that limited the impact of a landmark Supreme Court decision last year extending employment discrimination protections to LGBT workers.
In an undated memo to federal agencies, Pamela Karlan, the head of the DOJ’s civil rights division, said that based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, the 1972 education civil rights law known as Title IX should be read as covering gay and transgender students.
“After considering the text of Title IX, Supreme Court caselaw, and developing jurisprudence in this area, the Division has determined that the best reading of Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination ‘on the basis of sex’ is that it includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation,” Karlan wrote in the memo.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the memo was issued March 26.
Title IX prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex” in educational institutions that receive federal funding.
The court ruled 6-3 last year that the language in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting employment discrimination based on “sex” covered workers’ gender identity and sexual orientation. Karlan, who was named principal deputy assistant attorney general by the Biden administration in February, argued the case on behalf of Gerald Bostock, who was fired from his job with Clayton County after discussing his involvement with a gay softball league.
The decision was hailed by LGBT advocates who saw it as a watershed moment for civil rights, predicting that the majority’s interpretation of “sex” would extend similar protections in areas like housing, education and health care.
But just days before President Biden was inaugurated Jan. 20, the Trump administration’s DOJ issued a memo saying it would not be applying the standard in the Bostock decision to other areas.
Biden signed an executive order on inauguration day pledging to “prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation” and two days later the DOJ rescinded the Trump administration’s memo.
In a media appearance Monday, Hutchinson said concern about government overreach influenced his decision.
“House Bill 1570 would put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients and health care experts,” he said. “While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human and ethical issue.
“This would be, and is, a vast government overreach,” he added.
The bill would have prohibited doctors from providing minors with treatments including puberty blockers, hormone therapies or any other transition procedures. Physicians who nonetheless did so could have seen their medical licenses revoked.
Despite the governor’s action, the bill isn’t totally dead yet: Legislators could override the veto with a simple majority vote of both chambers. The Arkansas Senate voted 28-7 last week in favor of the bill, which was called the Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation, or SAFE, Act.
Hutchinson characterized the lawmakers’ efforts as “well-intended” yet nevertheless “off-course,” and he expressed concerns about how the bill would harm the mental health of transgender youth, perhaps leading to an increase in suicide, social isolation and drug abuse.
He added that while the number of people who would be affected is “an extreme minority,” they nevertheless “deserve the guiding hand of their parents and of the health care professionals that their family has chosen.”
The medical treatments that HB 1570 would have banned are reversible, as The Washington Post noted. And U.S. medical guidelines state that more permanent actions, such as gender-affirming surgeries, shouldn’t typically be performed until a patient is at least 18 years old.
HB 1570 is one of several anti-transgender bills that Republicans are pushing in at least 17 statehouses around the country. In addition to targeting access to medical care, legislation that limits transgender kids’ participation in sports that align with their gender identity has also become common.
Last week, Hutchinson signed a separate bill into law with precisely that purpose.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday signed a bill that decriminalizes HIV transmission, but advocates continue to call for the removal of a felony penalty left in place.
“Although we see this as a victory, we acknowledge the call of people living with HIV in Virginia to continue to fight to change the criminal penalty level of the modernized law from a felony to a misdemeanor level,” said Cedric Pulliam, co-founder of the ECHO VA Coalition, in a press release. “And we accept that fight and will continue efforts until this has been successfully accomplished.”
Senate Bill 1138, sponsored by Sens. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) and Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), removes HIV from a list of “infectious biological substances” under the infected sexual battery section of the state code.
Supporters say this change will reduce stigma and other challenges faced by Virginians who are HIV positive and modernizes Virginia Code in accordance with current understanding about the disease and current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As the bill advanced through the General Assembly, the Virginia Senate lowered the penalty for HIV sexual transmission from a felony to a misdemeanor. The House of Delegates, and now the governor, kept the felony punishment in place.
Equality Virginia and HIV advocacy groups ECHO-VA, Positive Women’s Network-USA, and the Sero Project on Thursday stated in a press release that they approved of Northam’s signing the decriminalization bill into law, but they were disappointed the felony penalty was not removed.
“We’re thankful for the many advocates who shared their lived experiences and pushed for changes to Virginia’s HIV laws,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck in the released statement, which included a report Northam commissioned that found Black Virginians were almost seven times as likely to be living with HIV in 2015 than white Virginians.
“This new law is an important step towards reducing stigma and breaking down barriers to HIV care and prevention,” Lamneck said. “Moving forward, Equality Virginia remains committed and determined to educate and advocate for removing the felony penalty.”