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OpEd: A Gay Dad Sounds Off on Donald Trump and Transgender Student Segregation

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In the trans teen suicides to come, we will know that you were worse than the man who did not save kids. You, and your administration were the ones who pulled their triggers.

An heiress and a ghost had it right.  

Since the egomaniac and reality TV show star Donald Trump announced his “long shot” candidacy for President, we have been “treated” to constant absurdities, deceptions, upheavals, dramas, skullduggeries and melodramas that have thrown public discourse into unprecedented upheaval.

Through it all, mixed messages and deceptions have ruled any given day. This has been particularly true on the subject of LGBTQI rights. While making claim to be the most LGBT-friendly Republican to grace a presidential ticket, maybe ever, Trump filled his docket with supporting players who were, and are, easily characterized as LGBTQI philosophical enemies. They do not seem to be unfettered, however. Rumors of a particular pending anti-LGBTQ executive order filtered out via social media, followed by news that the non-homophobic Ivanka and her husband had squashed it through internal efforts.

Then there was billionaire Betsy Devos, nominated for Secretary of Education. As a dad, I was worried about her credentials and the conservative reputation of her family. She would be a disaster, I feared, for the plight of LGBTQI youth in the public school system.

I was wrong. In the first battle on her plate, the question on whether to rescind the Obama administration guidance on transgender student public facilities protections, she reportedly came down squarely on the right side. She lost the fight. But she, the heiress, a big campaign donor, was right.

Also right was the ghost of civil rights pioneer Coretta Scott King. A letter from her hand decried the credentials of the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. It pointed to his small mindedness and inadequacies standing for the civil rights of people not privileged with mainstream power. Her outreach from the past was as relevant now as it was then. He is the proponent of stamping out the students’ protective guidelines, and the Attorney General who chose to abandon trans students nationwide. He won the fight.

He, and the President he serves, are both wrong.

I know they are wrong on this issue because, being a parent in California, I have been through this battle before. In the summer of 2013, California led the nation in transgender teen protections in its schools. California Democratic Assembly member Tom Ammiano, along with his co-author, Democratic State Senator Mark Leno introduced, and successfully lobbied to pass the School Success and Opportunity Act. The law stated that, “a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

At the time, not everyone liked the idea. California dad, then Republican Assemblyman, Tim Donnelly, not only voted against the law, but announced that he would pull at least one of his sons out of the public school system because of its enactment. In an editorial he wrote, “My 13- and 16-year-old boys were horrified at the idea of sharing a bathroom and locker room with a member of the opposite sex, after having discussed AB 1266 with them.” 

I had addressed Mr. Donnelly in one of my ‘Gay Dad’ editorial letters. I told him that as he was taking his sons out of public school, in turn I would remove my two boys out of private school and putting them into a public school (which is what I actually did). Net for the school system… no loss. Don’t let the door hit you on the fanny on the way out, Buddy. 

Since then, there have been exactly zero issues related to the law’s enactment. Months after the law’s enactment, anti-transgender activists hit California streets in an attempt remove it. Their initiative was a non-starter failing to even get it ballot qualification.

The retraction of President Obama’s guidelines should also have been a non-starter. It wasn’t, and it puts precious LGBTQI lives at risk. Here is my new letter to President Donald Trump:

Dear President Trump,

Your administration has rolled back the guidance on the treatment of transgender kids in schools. You believe that guidance is legally unclear, that decisions on the dignity of these kids should rest in the determinations of the individual states, that the original directive had been done “without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

I have one question.

Why the hell does that matter? 

When you championed yourself as an LGBTQ hero, you declared that the devastation in an Orlando Nightclub was one that you personally could have prevented. In your mind, the lives of those young people were yours to save. In holding to your current principles, it is odd you did not declare that the circumstances around that tragedy to have been subject to the determination of the local government.

Let’s be clear, these directives are not really about bathrooms. They are about visibility or disappearance. They are about life or death. Actress Laverne Cox made the point beautifully in comparing the oppression of transgender kids with Jim Crow bathroom oppression of African American people in the south.

The intent was not about privacy—bathrooms are all private. We are each contained in our own, hidden from view, stalls.

The intent is to erase a group from public view.

“What people should know about these bathroom bills that criminalize trans people… is that these bills are not about bathrooms.They’re about whether trans people have the right to exist in public space. If we can’t access public bathrooms, we can’t go to school, we can’t work, we can’t go to healthcare facilities ― this is about public accommodations and public accommodations are always key to civil rights. I can’t help but think about that moment from ‘Hidden Figures’ when Taraji P. Henson’s character has to walk 45 minutes to the bathroom ― Gavin (the transgender teen with a case pending before the Supreme Court) had to go to a special ‘gender neutral’ bathroom, a nurses bathroom that was way out of the way.” Cox observed. 

The message is clear. “We want you erased. We want to pretend you do not exist.”

That is the issue. Mr. President, the kids this is targeting hear that message, and what is worse, they act on it.

Studies show that between 45 and 51 percent of transgender students attempt suicide. That is a far greater rate than any other category of student. 78 percent of transgender students report abuse. That statistic goes down significantly in schools with transgender-supportive programs. Most transgender students do not pursue continued education after experiencing the harassment of high school.

In short, Mr. President, as the result of this action by your administration, like in Orlando, young people… children… will die.

This time, someone’s child, their teen, will die not because of an extremist. They will die because of you. Statistically, it is certain this will happen somewhere, somehow, in one of those less progressive states that you “left it up to.”

A child will die.

I am a dad. You are a dad. Would you not seethe at the leader who allowed that to happen to your precious son or daughter?

A child will die, and you could have kept it from happening.

A study had shown that by the state embracing marriage equality, less LGBT teens have died. Can you imagine the effect of a law that was not just tangential to their current life, but one that gave them dignity and support in the present? Pure logic shows it would have an even greater effect. You are taking that life affirming support away.

For what purpose does this action accomplish sir? You would be over-riding a mistake misguided homophobes want to make that has protected exactly no one. California has had these protections for our transgender kids statewide for four years and in the Los Angeles area for thirteen. How many crimes, how many incidents have these permissive laws inspired? Exactly none. 

Through these actions of your administration, a child will die. When he or she does, please do not think we will look away. We will look to Orlando, and we will look at you. We will know despite your claims, that in Florida, you were not in fact the potential savior. Those young people would have died no matter what you did.

In the trans teen suicides to come, we will know that you were worse than the man who did not save kids. You, and your administration were the ones who pulled their triggers.

Twitter won’t save you. Crying “fake news” won’t save you. You will have grieving parents and a vast grieving community. We will not fall from your view with the next news cycle. We will never forget this moment, and we won’t let you forget it either.

It will have been the moment that you could have done something life saving and important.

But you didn’t.

Once upon a time there was a teen who called herself Leelah. She could not tolerate the rejection and invisibility of trying to live being transgender. She committed suicide but begged the world to let “her life matter.”

Her life and the lives of all trans kids matter to me. They matter to a lot of people.

Their lives, and their visibility, should matter to you.

If they don’t, you will demonstrate that you are merely an “Apprentice” President, and you should be done. You work for us, as a nation, and it is our mandate to turn to you, and feed you back your own trademark reality-TV line:

“You’re fired.”

 

If you are a transgender person thinking about suicide, or if someone you know is, find worldwide resources at http://www.stop-homophobia.com/suicideprevention.htm. You can also reach the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. LGBT youth thinking about suicide can also reach out to the Trevor Project Lifeline (ages 24 or younger) at 866-488-7386.

 

Picture: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

 

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News

Santos Campaign Can No Longer Raise or Spend Money After Treasurer Officially Calls It Quits: NYT

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Enmeshed in a web of deceit and possibly under federal criminal investigation, U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is now apparently unable to lawfully spend money or accept donations via his political campaign, which reportedly now may also be in violation of FEC rules.

On Tuesday the embattled freshman Republican announced he was temporarily stepping down from his committee assignments, reportedly after a conversation with Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Before the end of the day his campaign treasurer filed official paperwork notifying the Federal Election Commission she had resigned.

“Nancy Marks’s resignation effectively leaves the Santos campaign unable to raise or spend money and in seeming violation of federal rules,” The New York Times reports, calling her his “longtime campaign treasurer and trusted aide.”

“Mr. Santos’s financial operations, which are the subject of several complaints filed with the F.E.C. and are being investigated by local, state and federal law enforcement,” The Times adds. “It also leaves the Santos campaign in disarray, effectively rendering it unable to raise or spend money and placing it in seeming violation of F.E.C. rules.”

READ MORE: Another SCOTUS Scandal: Chief Justice’s Spouse Makes Millions Placing Attorneys at Top Law Firms That Argue Before the Court

In fact, FEC rules state: “If a committee’s treasurer is absent, the committee cannot make expenditures or accept contributions unless it has designated an assistant treasurer or designated agent on the committee’s Statement of Organization.”

The resignation comes after last week’s stunning report revealing that Santos, or his campaign, amended FEC filings to indicate the $700,000 he had claimed to have personally loaned his campaign had not actually come from his personal funds.

Unlike political candidates, campaign treasurers are held to an actual standard of truth, and can be personally – and legally – liable if they report false information.

FEC rules also state, “the treasurer can be named and found liable in his or her personal capacity if he or she knowingly and willfully violates the Act, recklessly fails to fulfill duties imposed by the law, or intentionally deprives himself or herself of the operative facts giving rise to the violation.”

READ MORE: Stefanik Was Once ‘Laser Focused on Electing Santos’ – Now She Blames Voters for Electing Him as She Backs Away

Santos may find it difficult to hire a new treasurer: “Even when an enforcement action alleges violations that occurred during the term of a previous treasurer, the Commission usually names the current treasurer as a respondent in the action.”

The Times adds, “The lack of clarity over who, if anyone, is operating as Mr. Santos’s treasurer has already caused confusion. On Tuesday, a joint fund-raising committee associated with Mr. Santos filed paperwork to end its operations. Ms. Marks’s signature was on the paperwork, even though she had resigned as the committee’s treasurer the week before.”

Marks’ resignation also comes after someone affiliated with the Santos campaign falsely listed a well-known Republican treasurer on the official FEC forms as the treasurer for his campaign. As one expert put it, that’s a “big no-no,” and “completely illegal.”

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COMMENTARY

Another SCOTUS Scandal: Chief Justice’s Spouse Makes Millions Placing Attorneys at Top Law Firms That Argue Before the Court

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The highly controversial and highly unpopular U.S. Supreme Court isn’t just facing a historic loss of confidence, it’s now facing yet another ethics scandal that is likely to lower even further public opinion of the far-right institution that in under two decades has seen its approval rating slashed.

Although it will not hear arguments, the issue before the Supreme Court and the American people’s view of it, is, should a Justice’s spouse – in this case the spouse of Chief Justice John Roberts – be able to make millions of dollars recruiting attorneys who are placed into top law firms that argue cases before it?

That’s the latest allegation, and already a spokesperson for the Court has issued a statement denying any ethical violations.

The New York Times reports that “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice. Seeking an inquiry, the ex-colleague has provided records to the Justice Department and Congress indicating Mrs. Roberts has been paid millions of dollars in commissions for placing lawyers at firms — some of which have business before the Supreme Court, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.”

Jane Sullivan Roberts left a law firm where she was a partner after her spouse was confirmed as Chief Justice.

READ MORE: Failed Leak Probe Will ‘Add to Public Distrust’ and ‘Accelerate Partisan Rancor’ Surrounding Supreme Court: Analyst

“Mrs. Roberts, according to a 2015 deposition,” The Times reports, “said that a significant portion of her practice was devoted to helping senior government lawyers land jobs at law firms and that the candidates’ names were almost never disclosed.”

Documents in that case “list six-figure fees credited to Mrs. Roberts for placing partners at law firms — including $690,000 in 2012 for one such match. The documents do not name clients, but Mr. Price recalled her recruitment of one prominent candidate, Ken Salazar, then interior secretary under President Barack Obama, to WilmerHale, a global firm that boasts of arguing more than 125 times before the Supreme Court.”

That case involves “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts,” Kendal Price, a 66-year-old Boston lawyer, who “has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice.”

“According to the letter,” sent by Price to DOJ and Congress, which the Times reports it obtained, “Mr. Price was fired in 2013 and sued the firm, as well as Mrs. Roberts and another executive, over his dismissal.”

The Times cites two legal experts, one who sees no ethical concerns with the situation, and one who does.

But critics are expressing great concern over this latest ethics issue, as they have been for years.

Doug Lindner, Advocacy Director for Judiciary & Democracy for the League of Conservation Voters, pointing to the Times’ report,  remarked: “Another day, another ethics concern about another life-tenured conservative justice on the most powerful court in the world, which has no binding ethics rules.”

READ MORE: Marshal ‘Spoke With’ Supreme Court Justices, Excluded Them From Signing Sworn Affidavits in Leak Probe

Indeed, the lack of a Supreme Court code of ethics has been repeatedly condemned for years, including by some of the nation’s top critics.

On Sept. 1, 2022, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin tweeted out her opinion piece: “Ginni Thomas pressed Wisconsin lawmakers to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory .. just another insurrectionist.”

Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor for the Atlantic, responded:

“Another reminder of how unethical is Justice Clarence Thomas, while Chief Justice Roberts turns a blind eye and continues to resist a code of ethics for a Supreme Court now distrusted by a majority of Americans. This defines the Roberts Court.”

The following month Ornstein slammed the Roberts Court once again.

“It is a stain on the Supreme Court that Chief Justice Roberts refuses to support a Judicial Code of Ethics, and stands by silently while Clarence Thomas flouts ethical standards over and over and over,” Ornstein charged.

Less than one month later he again unleashed on Roberts.

“Roberts is culpable,” he tweeted. “He has resisted over and over applying the Judicial Code of Ethics to the Supreme Court. This is Alito’s court, and it is partisan and corrupt.”

Ornstein is far from the Court’s only critic.

“If Chief Justice Roberts really wanted to address Supreme Court ethics, he would have immediately worked to implement a Code of Conduct after Clarence Thomas failed to recuse from cases involving January 6th despite having a clear conflict of interest,” the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted a year ago in May. The following month CREW published an analysis titled: “Chief Justice John Roberts is wrong: the American judicial system is facing a major ethics crisis.”

Meanwhile, in late November Politico reported that Democrats in Congress were outraged at the Roberts Court.

“Two senior Democrats in Congress are demanding that Chief Justice John Roberts detail what, if anything, the Supreme Court has done to respond to recent allegations of a leak of the outcome of a major case the high court considered several years ago,” PoliticoJosh Bernstein reported, referring to the leak of the Dobbs decision that overturned the Roe v. Wade decision – itself a massive ethics crisis for the Court.

READ MORE: Revealed: Four Supreme Court Justices Attended Right-Wing Gala — Further Endangering SCOTUS Credibility

“Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) are also interested in examining claims about a concerted effort by religious conservatives to woo the justices through meals and social engagements. They wrote to Roberts on Sunday, making clear that if the court won’t investigate the alleged ethical breaches, lawmakers are likely to launch their own probe.”

Whitehouse and Johnson “also criticized the high court’s response to a letter they sent Roberts in September, seeking information about the court’s reaction to reports in POLITICO and Rolling Stone about a yearslong campaign to encourage favorable decisions from the justices by bolstering their religiosity.”

Nothing has changed.

When the Roberts Court earlier this month announced its lengthy investigation did not find the draft Dobbs decision leaker but also did not include the Justices themselves, Stokes Prof. of Law at NYU Law School Melissa Murray, an MSNBC host, tweeted, “This is a Roberts Court leitmotif–The Chief loves to handle things–even big things–in-house. Ethics issues? No need to get involved, Congress. We’ll sort it out ourselves. Leak needs investigating? No need to call in an actual investigative body, the Marshal will handle it.”

Pulitzer prize winning New York Times  investigative reporter Jodi Kantor, pointing to how the Justices were not thoroughly investigated during the leak probe, in earlier this month said: “Last week the court released statements that confirmed the gap between how the justices and everyone else were treated.”

“The whole situation amplifies a major question about the court: are these nine people, making decisions that affect all of us, accountable to anyone?”

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News

‘Can Be Used Against You’: Trump Took Big Risk Pleading the Fifth 400 Times in Deposition Says Legal Expert

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A newly released video shows Donald Trump pleading the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times in a deposition, and a legal expert explained how that could be used against him in court.

The former president was finally hauled in to testify last year in the $25 million fraud lawsuit filed against the Trump Organization by New York attorney Letitia James, and he exercised his constitutional right against self-incrimination nearly 450 times — but MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann said the move carried potential risk in a civil case.

“I agree with him on the point of taking the Fifth,” Weissmann said. “It’s important to remember everyone has a right to the Fifth if a truthful answer would tend to incriminate you. In a civil case, it can be used against you, unlike in a criminal case.”

“One other thing I would disagree is when he is saying there’s this witch hunt, he left out jurors,” Weissmann added. “The Trump Organizations went to trial, they had their day in court. They could present all of their evidence, [and] 12 jurors, that’s everyday citizens, found beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a multi-year tax conspiracy that his organizations were involved in, and there was evidence he knew about it as would make sense. That’s one more reason for him to be asserting the Fifth Amendment.”

Watch video below or at this link.

Image via Shutterstock

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