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Brazil transgender groups welcome landmark court rulings

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 05:39 AM PST

transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade

Transgender rights advocates in Brazil this week celebrated two landmark court rulings. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

SÃO PAULO — Thursday was a historic day for Brazil's transgender community because it saw two huge legal victories.

First, The Superior Electoral Court ruled trans candidates are now authorized to run using their preferred name that will appear on electronic ballot boxes across the country. The ruling couldn't have come at a more perfect time since this is an election year in Brazil in which voters will elect a president, state governors, senators and members of the country's Congress.

It might seem simple as an electoral ruling but the country has the highest number of trans murders in the world. Knowing there could be a candidate like you who is running to govern for you is pretty big deal. Just to give an overview of where Brazil is today on trans issues, here are a few known facts:

– Brazil is still the country with the highest rate of hate crimes against crossdressers and trans people.

– in 2017 alone, 179 crossdressers and trans people were brutally killed, with one homicide happening every 48 hours, according to data from the National Association of Transvestites and Transgender People (ANTRA).

But the truly shocking fact for the groups that fight and protect trans people in Brazil is this number: Trans people and crossdressers have a life expectancy of only 35 years, while the general population of Brazil is expected to live up to 75 years, according to numbers the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics released last December.

But Thursday also had a few more good surprises for the trans population in Brazil.

Trans Brazilians since 2016 have been allowed to have their preferred name on their identification documents as long as they had undergone sex-reassignment surgery. The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled people can have their preferred name on their civil documents without surgery or hormonal therapy. The ruling takes away the litigation process through which trans people sometimes had to go, and also the necessity of presenting health professionals with an assessment in the process of getting their preferred names on documents.

Even though the ruling was unanimous, there were a few differences among the judges.

All of the judges recognized the right of trans people — including those who have opted not to have surgery — to have their name altered in documents. The point where there was a difference between the judges was the way to get those new documents.

Marco Aurélio, the proponent of the Supreme Court ruling, was one of the judges who proposed a judicial authorization before people could go to a civil registry and change the name and gender in their documents. But the vast majority of judges understood there shouldn't be the need of a judge’s approval to get the new documents.

In the end, the ruling was approved on the basis that any trans person can present themselves and order the change of name and gender at a registry post across the country without the need of a judicial document or medical report.

According to ANTRA President Keila Simpson, the decisions by the Supreme Court and the Superior Electoral Court give voice to people and associations like ANTRA in the fight to safeguard the rights and citizenship of trans people in Brazil. But she understands the change will only be absorbed by the transphobic Brazilian society over time.

"We have only now guaranteed a minimum of citizenship to transgender people with both of these rulings but there are still a lot of challenges to overcome," said Simpson. "We believe that even if we had a law approved by the Congress criminalizing acts of violence against LGBT people, we would still have this many deaths, because we live in a country where it is allowed to kill, where religious fanaticism sharpens its knife daily to decimate our community, where the prejudice faced by transgender people starts inside their homes."

"So it is important to say that for a marginalized community like ours, that comes from having no rights, no nothing, being able to decide our name is a lot, but we are yet to conquer our right to safe living," Simpson concluded.

Pelosi, HRC on opposite sides over re-election of anti-LGBT Democrat

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 01:16 PM PST

A coalition is seeking to unseat anti-LGBT Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), but he has support from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). (Washington Blade photo of Pelosi by Michael Key; photo of Lipinski public domain)

The nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group is spearheading a $1.3 million effort to unseat from Congress a nearly extinct animal — an anti-LGBT Democrat — in an upcoming primary, but that effort runs contrary to the position of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Weeks before the primary on March 20, the Human Rights Campaign has launched an independent expenditure campaign to defeat Rep. Dan Lipinski, who represents Illinois’s 3rd congressional district.

Ben Needham, director of strategic initiatives for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a phone interview with the Washington Blade on Friday the effort involves a multi-pronged approach.

“We are spending $1.3 million collectively to remove Lipinksi from office,” Needham said. “Those efforts include direct mail programs, social media, campaign and social media ads. It includes an on-air TV buy at this point, and we are doing phone calls into the district as well."

Aside from the Human Rights Campaign, the coalition in the joint independent expenditure effort consists of NARAL Pro-Choice America, SEIU, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and EMILY's List.

It isn’t the first time HRC has attempted to unseat Lipinski, a Catholic lawmaker who has established an anti-LGBT record even though he’s a Democrat and represents a progressive district. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the district by 15 points in the general election; Bernie Sanders won it by 8 points in the Democratic primary.

Needham said since Lipinski has taken office in 2005 the lawmaker has "repeatedly taken votes against the LGBTQ community, and he's consistently done it in every single Congress since then."

"This is not our friend,” Needham said. “This is someone who is extremely anti-LGBTQ and he is siding with some of our biggest opponents."

During his first term in Congress, he voted "present" in 2006 when a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage came to the House floor. In the subsequent Congress after Democrats took control, Lipinski in 2007 voted against a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act on the House floor.

Lipinski was also the only Democratic co-sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, which seeks to "protect" opponents of same-sex marriage from government action, but was seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.”

The incident most revealing of Lipinski’s anti-LGBT views was a 2014 campaign mailer to his constituents organized by the anti-LGBT Illinois Family Institute. That flyer indicated Lipinski backed a U.S. constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, supported a measure that would have prohibited the U.S. Justice Department from undermining the Defense of Marriage Act; and backed a conscience clause in major defense spending legislation seen to enable anti-LGBT harassment of service members.

Those views are in opposition to the tenets of the Democratic Party. The 2016 Democratic Party platform embraces LGBT rights and states “Democrats applaud” the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage that “recognized that LGBT people — like other Americans — have the right to marry the person they love.”

Needham said Lipinski has been able to maintain those views in office even though he’s a Democrat because he won the seat, which was previously held by his father, based on name recognition.

“He has never had a real race, he has never had to communicate his policies to the people and Illinois’ third district, and so they don't know what his policies are, and that is the reason why we are partnering with our partner organizations: To make sure voters are educated when they go into the ballot box,” Needham said.

The Lipinski campaign didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment for this article or whether the lawmaker’s views have changed on LGBT issues.

Despite his anti-LGBT actions, it should be noted Lipinski’s record isn’t entirely hostile. The lawmaker has voted in favor of federal hate crimes protection legislation for LGBT people and in favor of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal.

More recently, Lipinski voted with Democrats to uphold President Obama’s executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors and, just last year, to maintain payments for gender reassignment surgery as part of the U.S. military’s health care system.

But Lipinski’s anti-LGBT views aren’t the only aspect of his record that offended progressive groups. According to HRC, Lipinski has voted to block his constituents from care at Planned Parenthood and ban abortions, opposed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and voted in opposition to Obamacare.

The only competitor facing Lipinski in the March 20 primary is Marie Newman, a small business person and entrepreneur who established the group called “Team Up to Stop Bullying,” a coalition of 70 organizations seeking to find anti-bullying solutions for school kids.

On her campaign website, Newman includes a section on “protecting rights,” which criticizes Lipinski for his anti-LGBT record and pledges a commitment to LGBT people.

“In Congress, I will fight tirelessly against discrimination based on race, religion, gender or sexuality — because respect, appreciation and equal rights are American values that I hold dear,” Newman writes. “We must rededicate ourselves to the basic, American principles of accepting refugees and promoting a welcome environment for all.”

Marty Rouse, HRC’s national field director, said Newman is “a candidate with a proven record of supporting LGBTQ equality” and his organization is mobilizing for her in the district on top of the independent expenditure campaign.

“Our staff and volunteers have completed hundreds of hour of canvassing and phone banks across the district and greater Chicago,” Rouse said. “HRC has already conducted two campaign advocate training in Chicago for our members. This grassroots mobilization is building to elect a candidate whose values best represent those of Illinois’ third district.”

An internal poll from the Newman campaign made public in December declared Lipinski was “vulnerable” based on voters’ lack of knowledge of his positions.

Against an unknown candidate, Lipinski led 49 percent to 18 percent, which is sub-50 percent and considered by the Newman campaign a sign of vulnerability. Upon educating Democrats on Lipinski's record, support for him dropped five points and rose for Newman by 16 points. That closed the gap between them to a margin of less than 10 points. After hearing balanced negative attacks on both candidates, Newman pulled into the lead by five points.

Nathan Gonzalez, editor of the non-partisan publication Inside Elections, said progressive groups "definitely have an opportunity.”

"I think when we get closer to an election day, it's important to rely on the current polling, and there just isn't a lot of polling,” Gonzalez said.

But Lipinski has support in the upcoming primary from at least one progressive, Pelosi, whose voice is strong within the Democratic Party.

With the election weeks away and the progressive campaign underway to unseat Lipinski, Pelosi was asked during her weekly news conference whether she supports the incumbent lawmaker.

Her response was succinct and arguably half-hearted: “I do.” Those words seemed to surprise the Capitol Hill press corps because a reporter repeated the question, prompting Pelosi to leave no doubt of her position by saying, “I do,” once again.

A Democratic leadership aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Blade Pelosi endorsed Lipinski because “leadership always supports incumbents.”

Needham said in response to Pelosi’s endorsement of Lipinski the Human Rights Campaign backs her, but still remains focused on defeating the lawmaker.

"We continue to support Leader Pelosi, and we're appreciative for the support she has given to the LGBTQ community, but our focus here is Dan Lipinski is not a member that HRC believes should continue to serve in Congress, and we're going to do everything we can to ensure he is not in the next Congress,” Needham said.

Gonzalez said he doesn’t think Pelosi’s support for Lipinski will change any minds of district residents who already oppose the lawmaker.

“I think a lot of the groups and individuals who are opposed to congressman also like Leader Pelosi, but they want to defeat the congressman in this race, so I don't think her comment is going to be enough to satisfy the congressman's critics,” Gonzalez said.

With congressional mid-term elections approaching and Democrats expecting wins with President Trump in the White House, Needham said the efforts in Illinois will precede the work in the fall and beyond.

"Our work in the Illinois-Third is just leading up to the work that we plan to do all across 2018 and leading into 2020,” Needham said. “This is part of our larger effort to put a lot of money into targeted states and targeted congressional races, and other races to really highlight the equality vote and really promote that LGBTQ people can the difference in the election. We intend to prove that in Illinois-Third."

Actor Lee Pace reluctantly comes out

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 12:22 PM PST

Lee Pace (Screenshot courtesy of YouTube)

Actor Lee Pace, whose acting credits include “The Hobbit” and “Pushing Daisies,” has revealed he has dated men and women but wasn’t keen to discuss his sexuality.

Pace spoke with W Magazine in promotion for his role as Joe Pitt, a closeted gay Mormon man, in the Broadway revival of “Angels in America.”

"Our understanding of what it means to be gay is just so different … It's just so much further down the road. It's an interesting thing for me to think about in this moment while working on this play,” Pace begins.

When asked about his sexuality, the interviewer notes Pace seems "surprised by the question.” While he shares his dating history he stops short of labeling himself.

"I've dated men. I've dated women. I don't know why anyone would care. I'm an actor and I play roles," Pace says. "To be honest, I don't know what to say ― I find your question intrusive."

Ian McKellen, Pace’s “The Hobbit” co-star, seemed to out Pace in a 2014 interview with German magazine when he lists Pace as an “openly gay actor” in the film.

Fox News exec who called U.S. Olympic team ‘darker, gayer’ leaves network

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 12:01 PM PST

John Moody (Screenshot courtesy of YouTube)

Fox News executive John Moody has retired from the network following outrage from his recent critique of the Winter Olympics.

"Unless it's changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been 'Faster, Higher, Stronger.' It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to 'Darker, Gayer, Different,’" Moody wrote in the controversial op-ed last month.

The op-ed was taken down and Fox News released a statement saying, “John Moody's column does not reflect the views or values of Fox News and has been removed.”

CNN reports that Moody, 64, has now left Fox News.

“John Moody has retired from Fox News,” the network said in a statement.

Reportedly, Moody had already been planning to retire before the Olympics controversy.

Moody joined Fox News as executive vice president in 1996. In 2009, he left Fox News to become CEO of News Corp’s NewsCore wire service. News Corp and Fox News merged together in 2012 and Moody returned as executive vice president and executive editor for the network.


Mike Huckabee resigns from Country Music Association board

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 11:47 AM PST

Mike Huckabee, Arkansas, Republican Party, Values Voter Summit, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) speaks at the Values Voter Summit on Sept. 25, 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Almost 24 hours from his appointment as a board member of the Country Music Association Foundation, Mike Huckabee has announced his resignation after an outcry from the Nashville music industry.

“I genuinely regret that some in the industry were so outraged by my appointment that they bullied the CMA and the Foundation with economic threats and vowed to withhold support for the programs for students if I remained,” the former Arkansas governor’s letter of resignation read. “I'm somewhat flattered to be of such consequence when all I thought I was doing was voluntarily serving on a non-profit board without pay in order to (continue) my decades of advocacy for the arts and especially music.”

The CMA confirmed the resignation stating, "The CMA Foundation has accepted former Governor Mike Huckabee's resignation from its Board of Directors, effective immediately.”

Jason Owen, who is openly gay and head of Monument Records and Sandbox Management, which represents names like Little Big Town, Faith Hill and Kacey Musgraves, was one of the opponents to Huckabee’s appointment to the board.

Owen sent a letter to CEO Sarah Trahern and CMA Foundation executive Tiffany Kerns to protest Huckabee’s involvement based on his anti-gay and pro-gun views.

“It is with a heavy heart that I must let you know moving forward, Sandbox and Monument will no longer support the CMA Foundation in any way (this includes everyone we represent collectively) considering the heartbreaking news shared today regarding Mike Huckabee appointee/elected to the CMA Foundation,” Owen, who is married, writes. "Further, we find it hard to support the organization as a whole as a result."

“I have a child and two on the way. This man has made it clear that my family is not welcome in his America.  And the CMA has opened their arms to him, making him feel welcome and relevant,” Owen added. “Huckabee speaks of the sort of things that would suggest my family is morally beneath his and uses language that has a profoundly negative impact upon young people all across this country. Not to mention how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice.”

Human Rights Campaign released a statement noting Huckabee’s anti-gay views and supporting the outcry for his resignation.

"Mike Huckabee has staked his entire political career on undermining the rights of LGBTQ people and our families. His cynical political attacks and discriminatory views do not represent the diversity of country music, and we thank all of the musicians, industry leaders and fans who spoke out against his appointment to this important role,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

Huckabee has compared gay marriage to incest and called homosexuality a sin. He is a supporter of the National Rifle Association and is strongly pro-gun rights. He is also a passionate advocate for the arts. The CMA Foundation’s philanthropy efforts support music programs in schools.


LGBT advocates blast Trump’s transgender military ban in new TV ad

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 11:07 AM PST

Muslim ban, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock)

LGBT advocacy groups have banded together to release a television ad that attacks President Donald Trump’s ban against transgender service members in the military.

Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, OutServe-SLDN, the American Military Partner Association and Gender Justice League debuted the ad titled “Patriots” on CNN, MSNBC and Fox morning shows on Friday.

“An impulsive president tweets that transgender Americans won’t be allowed to serve,” the ad says. “But decorated military leaders say there’s no reason to single out these brave men and women.”

It features quotes from military, national security and bipartisan officials opposing the ban including Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Sen. Tammy Duckwork (D-Ill.)and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The television ad accompanies a full-page print ad in USA Today and 32 other Gannett newspapers making it the biggest paid media campaign against the ban.

"Donald Trump and Mike Pence have pursued this unconscionable, unconstitutional ban despite the opposition of our military leaders, national security officials, bipartisan lawmakers, and the vast majority of Americans who believe that brave, qualified transgender troops should be allowed to serve their country," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "It’s long past time the White House abandon this reckless, unconstitutional ban and give these brave individuals the dignity, respect and honor they deserve."

Watch below.