SCOTUS rejects appeals to cut Planned Parenthood payments

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear appeals from two states that were sued to prevent them from cutting Planned Parenthood from their budgets. Louisiana and Kansas were wanting to cut their payments through Medicaid, Reuters reported. Even recent SCOTUS appointee Brett Kavanaugh voted to refuse the appeal. From Reuters:
The justices left intact lower court rulings that prevented the two states from stripping government healthcare funding from local Planned Parenthood affiliates. The case was one of a number of disputes working their way up to the Supreme Court over the legality of state-imposed restrictions involving abortion.

LGBTQ community worries about loss of voice amid social media crackdown

CHICAGO — The national LGBTQ community got worried this week when Facebook issued new policies that seemed to ban any discussion of anything sexual or even just flirting. From PC Magazine:
The expanded policy specifically bans “sexual slang,” hints of “sexual roles, positions or fetish scenarios,” and erotic art when mentioned with a sex act. Vague, but suggestive statements such as “looking for a good time tonight” when soliciting sex are also no longer allowed. Facebook added the new “sexual solicitation” policy on Oct. 15.

Study: Young black gay men have higher HIV rates but fewer partners

EVANSTON — A new Northwestern Medicine study found that young black gay men are 16 times more likely to have HIV than young white gay men, despite more frequent testing and being less likely to have unsafe sex. MedicalXpress reported that the study was published in the Journal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes. From MedicalXpress:
“We have known from prior studies that this paradox exists—black young MSM engage in fewer risk behaviors but have a much higher rate of HIV diagnosis,” said senior study author Brian Mustanski, professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and director of the Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing. “Our study illuminates how HIV disparities emerge from complex social and sexual networks and inequalities in access to medical care for those who are HIV positive.” “Their social and sexual networks are more dense and interconnected, which from an infectious disease standpoint makes infections transmitted more efficiently through the group,” Mustanski said.

Federal judge refuses to limit ruling on transgender military ban

WASHINGTON — The Hill reported that a federal judge last week denied a request to limit or hold a ruling that stops the Trump administration from enforcing its ban on transgender people in the military. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said in a decision that the court is not convinced the government will suffer irreparable harm without a stay of the court’s October 2017 preliminary injunction. From The Hill:
The government had asked for a stay pending any potential, future proceedings in the Supreme Court. Bypassing normal judicial order, the Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court last week to review the case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. Arguments before the appeals court are scheduled for Dec.

Transgender migrant’s family accuses ICE of negligence

ALBUQUERQUE — The family of a transgender Honduran migrant who died in ICE custody are saying the woman did not receive medical care and was abused. From the SF Gate:
Tennessee-based civil rights attorney Andrew Free released details of an independent autopsy this week that noted deep bruising along Roxsana Hernandez’s ribs that wasn’t evident externally, contusions on her back and injuries around her wrists that were likely caused by handcuffs. The autopsy also concluded that Hernandez likely died as the result of severe dehydration complicated by HIV. Free is working with the California-based Transgender Law Center to represent Hernandez’s family. He has filed a notice of intent to sue over her death, saying he has requested documents from various federal agencies about the conditions in which the woman was kept.

Victory Fund: More than half of LGBTQ candidates won races in 2018

WASHINGTON — A LGBTQ Victory Fund report last week stated that from 432 out LGBTQ candidates, 244 won their races. The Victory Fund, a group dedicated to getting LGBTQ people into elected office, was active in the midterm elections and 162 of the candidates they endorsed won office. The high points from the data:

5 percent of known out LGBTQ candidates won their races on Election Day, and 72.0 percent of Victory Fund endorsed candidates were successful;
136 of the 244 victorious candidates are non-incumbents and 79.3 percent of incumbent candidates won their races;
LGBTQ men ran in higher numbers than LGBTQ women, yet women candidates won at a higher rate (63.4 percent to 56.7 percent);
0 percent of LGBTQ candidates who ran were people of color and 56.5 percent won their races; and
1 percent of LGBTQ candidates ran as Democrats and 61.0 percent won, whereas 5.3 percent of LGBTQ candidates ran as Republicans and just 17.4 percent won. In Illinois, six of the seven candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund won their elections, and even the one candidate who didn’t, Maggie Trevor, lost by less than a point. LGBTQ candidates overall did very well in Illinois.

Trump administration pushes for SCOTUS to review transgender military ban

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the administration’s ban on transgender people in the military. Challenges to the ban are still working through the lower courts. The Washington Post reported that Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco has asked the court to consolidate the challenges and make a ruling during the current term. The challenges have been largely successful in the lower courts. “This highly unusual step is wildly premature and inappropriate, both because there is no final judgment in the case, and because even the preliminary issue on appeal has not yet been decided,” said Lambda Legal counsel Peter Renn.

Lambda Legal sues SSA on behalf of gay widower seeking spousal benefits

TUCSON – Lambda Legal on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) on behalf of a 65-year-old gay man seeking spousal survivor’s benefits based on his 43-year relationship with his husband, who died seven months after Arizona began allowing same-sex couples to marry. The lawsuit filed on behalf of Michael Ely in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona argues that SSA’s imposition of a nine-month marriage requirement for social security survivor’s benefits is unconstitutional where same-sex couples were not able to be married for nine months because of discriminatory marriage laws. “The federal government is requiring surviving same-sex spouses like Michael to pass an impossible test to access benefits earned through a lifetime of work,” said Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn. “Michael and his husband got married as soon as they could, less than three weeks after Arizona ended its exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, but they were only able to be married for six months before Michael’s husband died of cancer. Now, the Social Security Administration is allowing the heartbreak of discriminatory marriage bans to persist by holding same-sex couples to a standard that many could not meet, insisting that they have been married for nine months even where it was legally impossible for them to do so.”

“My husband was the love of my life,” Ely said.

SPLC, Lambda Legal sue DOJ, BOP for records on rollback of protections for transgender people in prison

NEW YORK – Today, Lambda Legal and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sued the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to compel the federal agencies to produce all documents and communications connected to the Trump administration’s decision six months ago to alter its Transgender Offender Manual, including communications with outside advocacy groups. Today’s lawsuit comes after DOJ and BOP refused to honor a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the relevant records Lambda Legal and SPLC filed in June of this year. “It is not surprising that the Trump-Pence administration ignored our original request, as there is no rational justification for the changes BOP made to the Transgender Offender Manual,” said Richard Saenz, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney and Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist. “Federal correctional facilities across the country have successfully housed transgender people consistent with their gender identity, as recommended by the manual before the administration’s rewrite.  That is why we need transparency to see just who the administration consulted, and what misinformation and discriminatory intent possibly informed these changes.”

The changes, announced by the administration in May, weaken protections for incarcerated transgender people – who are already 10 times more likely than the general prison population to be targeted for violence – and undercut compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and constitutional protections.  The records were requested in June 2018 when the two civil rights organizations filed a FOIA request with DOJ and BOP concerning the safe housing of transgender people incarcerated in the federal system. “There is no penological reason that could justify the BOP’s decision to roll back protections for transgender people in the federal prison system,” said David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the SPLC.