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Biden Spotlights Anti-Trans Violence In Pride Month Proclamation

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Killings of transgender and gender nonconforming people in 2021 are occurring at a far faster pace than in previous years.

The violence has not gone without mention by the White House: President Joe Biden has marked the start of LGBTQ Pride Month with a proclamation that brings attention to the issue.

The proclamation, which was published on Tuesday, celebrates progress in the fight for equality while recognizing how far LGBTQ people are from winning full legal protections and greater safety from violence:

For all of our progress, there are many states in which LGBTQ+ individuals still lack protections for fundamental rights and dignity in hospitals, schools, public accommodations, and other spaces. Our nation continues to witness a tragic spike in violence against transgender women of color. LGBTQ+ individuals — especially youth who defy sex or gender norms — face bullying and harassment in educational settings and are at a disproportionate risk of self-harm and death by suicide. Some states have chosen to actively target transgender youth through discriminatory bills that defy our nation's values of inclusivity and freedom for all.

Referring to the killing in a mass shooting of 53 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, the proclamation says, "Our nation also continues to face tragic levels of violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color. And we are still haunted by tragedies such as the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. Ending violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community demands our continued focus and diligence. As President, I am committed to defending the rights of all LGBTQ+ individuals."

This is not the first time Biden has mentioned publicly violence against transgender women of color. During his campaign for president in October 2020, he said during a town hall broadcast on ABC News, "There should be zero discrimination. And what's happening is too many transgender women of color are being murdered. They're being murdered."

This year, at least 27 transgender and gender nonconforming people have been killed, according to the Human Rights Campaign, on track to surpass 2020's high of at least 44 recorded violent deaths of transgender and gender nonconforming people, the highest number since HRC began tracking in 2013. At this point in 2020, 13 such killings had occurred.

According to a report released by HRC in 2020, 84% of the victims of such killings in the last seven years were transgender women. Sixty-six percent were Black transgender women.

Biden's recognition of Pride Month is very different from Donald Trump's approach when he was in office. In 2017, 2018, and 2020, Trump failed to recognize Pride Month in any way, NBC News reported. He published a tweet about Pride Month in 2019 that was later republished as an official White House statement, but he never issued an official presidential proclamation on Pride Month.

Trump's tweet read, "As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions that LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. My Administration has launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality and invites all nations to join us in this effort!"

People involved in movements to decriminalize homosexuality across the globe told Mother Jones in 2019 that nothing really came of the campaign except a few panel discussions that were held in Europe.

According to the Washington Blade, Melania Trump planned to light up the White House in LGBTQ Pride flag colors in June of 2020 but was stopped from doing so. Mark Meadows, who was then Donald Trump's chief of staff and has a history of public opposition to LGBTQ rights, is said to have been the White House's failure to express solidarity with LGBTQ people.

The Trump administration attacked LGBTQ equality with rules to keep transgender women out of homeless shelters, remove nondiscrimination protections for transgender students, gut Obama-era guards against anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care, and implement a ban on service in the military by transgender people. It continued to fight LGBTQ rights even in its last few weeks in power.

The Biden administration has worked to reverse much of the Trump administration's anti-LGBTQ agenda since its first day in office.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Blinken Scraps Trump Administration’s Global Attack On Gay Human Rights

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The Biden administration has thrown out a report from the Trump administration that human rights groups criticized for devaluing LGBTQ rights across the globe.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement during a press conference on Tuesday to discuss a 2020 report on the status of human rights that includes some 200 countries and territories.

"There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others," Blinken said. "Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those by the recently disbanded State Department advisory committee do not represent a guiding document for this administration."

In 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, created the "Commission on Unalienable Rights," which was chaired by Mary Ann Glendon, an opponent of abortion rights and LGBTQ equality, and supported by Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Last year, Pompeo announced the release of a report from the commission.

During that press conference, Pompeo said, "Americans do not only have unalienable rights but also positive rights: rights granted by governments, courts, multilateral bodies. Many are worth defending in light of our founding. Others aren't ... More rights doesn't necessarily mean more justice."

Amnesty International, Equity Forward, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch, among other advocacy groups, contacted foreign diplomats last fall to oppose that message. Human rights experts saidthat Pompeo's efforts could result in uncertainty among LGBTQ people that might affect whether they felt safe turning to U.S. embassies for support.

Ryan Thoreson, a researcher for Human Rights Watch's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program, wrote at the time, "The report focuses at length on the US Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The report pays little attention to what followed these, including advancements in the rights of racial minorities, women, children, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as the growing realization of economic and social rights."

Blinken said on Tuesday, "One of the core principles of human rights is that they are universal. All people are entitled to these rights no matter where they were born, what they believe, who they love, or any other characteristic. Human rights are also co-equal."

During the press conference, the new secretary of state mentioned LGBTQI people multiple times.

"Human rights are also interdependent," he said. "If you're denied equal access to a job or an education because of the color of your skin or your gender identity, how can you obtain health and well being for yourself or your family?"

He said that an important part of monitoring human rights issues includes awareness of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected marginalized groups, including LGBTQI people. Blinken added that the Trump administration's reports on the status of human rights abroad had also removed a section about reproductive health and that the Biden administration plans to release an addendum later in 2021 covering those issues and including them in future reports.

The announcement is part of a broader promise by President Joe Biden, who gave a speech at the. State Department in February saying he would "reinvigorate our leadership on LGBTQ issues."

Biden issued a memorandum later that day which required executive agencies to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance officials both protect LGBTQ rights and promoted them whenever possible.

The memorandum also urged agencies engaged abroad to fight against the criminalization of LGBTQ people and give equal access to assistance and protection for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers.

"Around the globe, including here at home, brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists are fighting for equal protection under the law, freedom from violence, and recognition of their fundamental human rights," the memorandum read. "The United States belongs at the forefront of this struggle — speaking out and standing strong for our most dearly held values."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump Administration Takes Final Stab At Destroying Civil Rights

In its final days, the Trump administration is continuing its push to gut protections for marginalized groups.

Over the course of a month, it has moved forward with four rules that would make life harder for LGBTQ people, asylum seekers, and people of color.

Its latest salvo against civil rights came from the Justice Department, according to a Wednesday report from the New York Times, which had access to a draft document of the regulation. The rule would affect discrimination based on race, color, or national origin from organizations receiving federal funding, but it could also affect other groups that face discrimination, including LGBTQ people.

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McEnany Touts Trump’s ‘Great Record’ On LGBTQ Issues

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday that Donald Trump has a "great record when it comes to the LGBTQ community."

Chris Johnson, chief political and White House reporter for the Washington Blade, asked McEnany if Trump would reconsider the ban on transgender people in the military after 116 Democratic House lawmakers sent a letter last week to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr calling for the Pentagon to end the policy.

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Amid Pandemic, Trump Officials Target LGBTQ Health Care Rights

The Trump administration is finalizing its rewrite of a provision in the Affordable Care Act that would harm LGBTQ people's access to health care, even in the middle of a pandemic.

Section 1557 of the ACA prohibits health care discrimination based on sex and gender identity. According to Politico, a Trump-administration rewrite of the rule has been circulated at the Justice Department, which means the final version could be released publicly soon.

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Televangelist Robertson Suggests Virus Is Punishment For Marriage Equality

Televangelist Pat Robertson associated COVID-19 with marriage equality and abortion on Monday on Christian Broadcast Network's "The 700 Club."

His co-host Terry Meeuwsen read a comment from a viewer who asked about Robertson's reference to COVID-19 last week and whether "God heal our land and forgive the sins" when people can legally access abortion and marriage equality.

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