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Op-Ed: One Year Later, We Are Still Not Okay



We Owe it to Those in Orlando to Become the Voices They Lost

My husband and I live in St. Petersburg, Florida, where it’s not uncommon to take an “Orlando weekend.” We’re about an hour and a half away from the site of the Pulse Massacre.

We haven’t gone.

Not because we don’t want to pay our respects, and not because we haven’t been to Orlando. Not because my husband knew one of the victims or that you can’t really go anywhere in the Florida “gay scene” without talking to someone who knew someone that was at Pulse on June 12, 2016.

Not even because my husband and our friends had celebrated a friend’s birthday at Pulse just months before the massacre, only reaffirming that it could’ve been us or any one of our friends that had been there that night.

We haven’t been because the Pulse Massacre, the anti-gay hate crime which one year ago today claimed the lives of 49 people, injured 68 more, and remains the worst terror attack on American soil since 9/11 and the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, is still just too fresh.

We’re no longer numb, but even now, a year later, we’re still not okay.

Those men and women, mostly people of color, were targeted because of how they looked, who they loved, how they loved, or whose love they supported. On June 12, 2016, the LGBT community found itself at the center of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and even today, that’s a fact that can’t be stressed enough.

Sons, daughters, brother, sisters, cousins, best friends, music lovers, pet owners and activists were all taken from us that night, robbed from their families, their friends and their futures.

But as I noted then, the LGBT community is strong. We’re strong because we’ve always had to be. Because in 1969, when our only way to find acceptance was at a seedy bar, and when even our right to do that was threatened, the patrons of Stonewall showed us what strength was.

It’s a strength we carry with us, even if we don’t always recognize it as such. Those men and women, and those that fought after them, gave us their strength: if only in the fact that perhaps for one moment, we didn’t second-guess ourselves before showing even the most minuscule display of public affection toward someone we love.

We now carry the strength of the Pulse Massacre victims with us, too.

A lot’s happened in a year.  For me personally, I got married. For America, Donald Trump won the Electoral College and became the 45th President of the United States. And for the world, Britney Spears released her ninth studio album. (Kidding. I mean, she did… but I digress.)

I don’t pretend to speak for the entire LGBT community. But I can tell you that for many of us, we weren’t okay a year ago, we haven’t been okay since, and if we seem “off” today, it’s because:

We are still not okay.

We’re not okay that in 2017 alone, Republicans have introduced over 100 anti-LGBT bills in 20 states. Or that following their “thoughts and prayers” last year, they’ve done nothing to change the laws that allowed a madman who’d previously been questioned by the FBI to so readily, so easily, so legally, obtain an AR-15-style semi-automatic assault rifle.

We’re not okay when the Muslim community is demonized because of the actions of one evil man or group. Many of us are Muslim, and we’ve all “been” the Muslim community: hated, feared, misunderstood. Questioned, berated, threatened, afraid to show our faces. Detained. When you try to ban one of us, you try to ban us all. 

We’re not okay that the Secretary of Education admitted that she wouldn’t work to prohibit LGBT discrimination for students. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24, a rate that’s four times greater for queer youth. The Human Rights Campaign found that since the election, almost 50% of LGBT youth said they’d taken steps to hide their orientation, with 70% saying they’d witnessed bullying, hate messages or harassment.

We’re not okay that a man who favored conversion therapy to “needy” HIV treatment, who said that LGBT service members weakened the military and cost the Indiana economy $60 million for his “license to discriminate” against us now calls himself the Vice President of the United States.

And we’re not okay when the president himself completely ignored LGBT Pride, opting instead to declare June as, among other things, “National Home Ownership Month.” The silence is telling, even dangerous, especially after Pulse. One need only look at the ongoing decimation of Transgender people in modern America, particularly transgender women of color, to see the danger in it.

So we’re certainly not okay when that president offers his hollow thoughts on the massacre’s anniversary, complete with no mention of the LGBT community. A president that, one year ago today as a candidate, was quick to politicize the tragedy and even claim that he “called it,” attempting to use the 49 deaths “he’ll never forget” to justify his unconstitutional Muslim ban. (The madman responsible was born in New York.)

And that’s to say nothing of his subsequent lies and pandering for the LGBT vote, nor the speech he gave ten minutes from the site, without visiting it, to anti-LGBT leaders two months later. As I said, my husband and I still haven’t gone: there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a place of healing for many, reclaimed after tragedy—but for us, it’s still too soon.

Donald Trump just didn’t care to go. And the fact that he pushed for his pro-gun agenda just eight days after the recent terror attacks in London only speaks to that fact.

On the anniversary of this heartbreaking, mind-numbing tragedy, if we’re truly “One Pulse,” truly “One Orlando,” it’s important that we recognize that we still aren’t okay – but more importantly, act upon it. 

Speak out. Be heard. Be seen. Vote in 2018. Vote in 2020.

Silence is acceptance, and we owe it to those in Orlando to use their strength and become the voices that they lost.

In loving memory of Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old. Amanda L. Alvear, 25 years old. Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26 years old. Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33 years old. Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old. Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old. Angel Candelario-Padro, 28 years old.

Of Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old. Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old. Cory James Connell, 21 years old. Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old. Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old. Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31 years old. Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old.

Of Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old. Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22 years old. Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old. Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old. Frank Hernandez, 27 years old. Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old. Javier Jorge Reyes, 40 years old.

Of Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old. Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old. Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old. Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old. Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old. Brenda Marquez McCool, 49 years old. Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25 years old.

Of Kimberly Jean Morris, 37 years old. Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old. Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20 years old. Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25 years old. Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old. Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old. Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old. Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old. 

Of Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27 years old. Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35 years old. Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old. Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24 years old. Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old. Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old. Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old.

Of Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24 years old. Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37 years old. Luis Sergio Vielma, 22 years old. Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50 years old. Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old, and Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old.

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‘Restore My Account Immediately’: Marjorie Taylor Greene Cries After Twitter Suspends Her Over Anti-Trans Tweets



U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is lashing out at Twitter owner and CEO Elon Musk after the social media company, she says, suspended her official government account for seven days for posting apparently anti-transgender tweets. At least four of her tweets appear to have been deleted.

Rep. Greene appears to have been promoting an unverified claim that “Antifa” and transgender activists are planning a “Trans Day of Vengeance.” Fox News is also claiming there is a “Trans Day of Vengeance,” and a website the report links to says it will be on April 1.

“My Congressional account was suspended for 7 days for exposing Antifa, who are organizing a call for violence called ‘Trans Day of Vengeance.’ The day after the mass murder of children by a trans shooter. Restore my account immediately,” Greene demanded, tagging Musk, Twitter Safety, and the head of Twitter Safety, Ella Irwin.

There is no evidence that “Antifa” which is not an actual group, has anything to do with the alleged Trans Day of Vengeance.

The Independent adds Greene made “unfounded” claims “about the Nashville school shooting being a product of ‘Antifa’ and ‘trans-terrorism.'”

According to The Hill, Congresswoman Greene tweeted a poster of the alleged event, and Twitter removed the post, so she repeatedly reposted it, only to have Twitter remove it.

Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, tweeted: “We had to automatically sweep our platform and remove >5000 tweets /retweets of this poster. We do not support tweets that incite violence irrespective of who posts them. ‘Vengeance’ does not imply peaceful protest. Organizing or support for peaceful protests is ok.”

On her personal Twitter account, Greene also promoted a similar, baseless claim:

“In the wake of a transgender shooter targeting a Christian school and murdering kids, every American should know the threat of Antifa driven trans-terrorism. Twitter should not whitewash the incitement of politically motivated violence,” she said, pointing to another of her tweets that had been removed.

Greene on Monday made anti-trans remarks in the wake of the the Nashville shooting.

“How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking? Everyone can stop blaming guns now,” she said.

Currently, numerous right-wing and far-right wing Twitter accounts are linking the alleged Trans Day of Vengeance to Monday’s horrific Covenant Presbyterian elementary school shooting in Nashville, where three nine-year olds and three adults were shot to death. The shooter allegedly identified as transgender, according to Nashville police.





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‘Troubling Questions’: Experts Slam Ginni Thomas’ Group That Waged Cultural War Against the Left via Web of Dark Money Orgs



Legal experts are responding to bombshell reporting from The Washington Post revealing Ginni Thomas, the spouse of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, who had unprecedented access to the Trump White House and Oval Office, for years headed a secretive right-wing activist organization funded through a web of dark money groups, whose purpose was to wage a culture war against the left.

The Post reports the organization, Crowdsourcers for Culture and Liberty, took in nearly $600,000 in anonymous funds to fuel its efforts to battle “cultural Marxism,” as Ginni Thomas, who headed the group, called their mission.

Thomas had stepped away from her previous non-profit right-wing activist group “amid concerns that it created potential conflicts for her husband on hot-button issues before the court,” The Post says, and yet, she led Crowdsourcers for Culture and Liberty, which creates the same concerns. Where is the money coming from? What is the group doing with it? How much crossover is there between her activism and the group’s targets and efforts, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ work?

According to The Post, in tax filings of its think tank sponsor, Crowdsourcers for Culture and Liberty is described as an “informal, unincorporated nonprofit association which serves as an incubator for ideas across a network of conservative leaders, cultural entrepreneurs, and cultural influences.”

READ MORE: ‘Heist’: Ginni Thomas Tells J6 Committee Election Was Stolen, Says She Never Discussed Efforts to Overturn With Spouse

It appears great efforts were made to ensure the donors to Thomas’ Crowdsourcers group would not be able to be publicly identified.

“In 2019, anonymous donors gave the think tank Capital Research Center, or CRC, $596,000 that was designated for Crowdsourcers, according to tax filings and audits the think tank submitted to state regulators. The majority of that money, $400,000, was routed through yet another nonprofit, Donors Trust, according to that organization’s tax filings. Donors Trust is a fund that receives money from wealthy donors whose identities are not disclosed and steers it toward conservative causes,” The Post explains.

Thomas, who is reportedly active in another secretive far-right wing group, the Council for National Policy, brought two well-known far-right wing activists from CNP into Crowdsourcers for Culture and Liberty: former Trump attorney, ally, and advisor Cleta Mitchell, and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.

The New York Times last year described the Council for National Policy as an organization that “brings together old-school Republican luminaries, Christian conservatives, Tea Party activists and MAGA operatives, with more than 400 members who include leaders of organizations like the Federalist Society, the National Rifle Association and the Family Research Council.”

But despite all the obvious red flags, an attorney for Ginni Thomas, Mark Paoletta, told The Washington Post she was “proud of the work she did with Crowdsourcers, which brought together conservative leaders to discuss amplifying conservative values with respect to the battle over culture.”

READ MORE: Ginni Thomas ‘Intertwined’ With ‘Vast’ Campaign Pressuring Supreme Court to Overturn Roe: Report

“She believes Crowdsourcers identified the Left’s dominance in most cultural lanes, while conservatives were mostly funding political organizations,” Paoletta also told The Post.

“There is no plausible conflict of interest issue with respect to Justice Thomas,” he claimed.

Others disagree.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who is also an attorney, responded to The Post’s report by mocking Paoletta’s claim there is no conflict of interest.

“Donors Trust was central to the far-right Court-packing operation, and now they pass secret donor funds to a justice’s spouse, but ‘no plausible conflict of interest’? Please.”

Sen. Whitehouse went on to explain his additional concerns.

“Plus, remember that the secrecy conduits like Donors Trust keep the *public* from knowing what’s happening, but nothing prevents the secret donor from telling the spouse or the justice, ‘Hey, that money that secretly came through to you — that’s me.'”

Adam Smith, Vice President for Democracy Initiatives at the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), observed: “Seems like the spouse of a Supreme Court Justice shouldn’t be able to hide the source of huge donations that could be from people with business before the court.”

READ MORE: Ginni Thomas’ Attempts to Influence Overturn of Election Even Wider Than Previously Known

CREW’s President, Noah Bookbinder, a former federal corruption prosecutor, adds: “Hundreds of thousands in anonymous donations to an activist group led by Ginni Thomas, spouse of a Supreme Court justice, raises all kinds of troubling questions about who could be influencing decisions that affect all of us.”

Attorney and Slate Magazine senior writer covering courts and the law, Mark Joseph Stern, pushed back against any idea the nearly $600,000 funding came from small donations.

“Ginni Thomas’ various political ventures have never had any small/grassroots donors. They have ALWAYS been funded by a handful of ultra-wealthy individuals and organizations who are very obviously trying to curry favor with her husband,” Stern said.

Former White House aide and CNN commentator Keith Boykin, also an attorney, called for Justice Thomas to recuse from certain cases: “If Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson had to recuse herself from the Harvard affirmative action case, then Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from all the cases on right-wing issues in which his activist wife, Ginni Thomas, is involved.”


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Christian Nationalist Group Working to Get Its ‘Biblical Worldview Spread Across the Nation’



Last week, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed legislation prohibiting transgender people from using public school facilities that match their gender identity. That legislation was crafted by the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a right-wing organization that seeks to elect “godly leaders in our nation at every level” and then use them to “restore the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation.”

Following the signing of this legislation into law, Jason Rapert, a longtime religious-right activist and ardent Christian nationalist who founded the NACL, took a victory lap, crediting his organization for the law and celebrating its success in pushing back “against the things of the devil in our country.”

As Rapert reported, this legislation had first been proposed by Arkansas school board member David Naylor during an annual NACL meeting and then brought to the Arkansas state legislature by state Rep. Mary Bentley, who serves on the board of the NACL.

On Friday, Rapert interviewed Bentley on his “Save The Nation” program, where she celebrated the NACL’s efforts “to get our biblical worldview spread across the nation.”

“Thank goodness we’ve got some common sense left here in Arkansas,” Bentley said. “[It was because of the NACL] that we were able to get that passed as model policy and bring it forth. I just love seeing grassroots come together and school board members coming to the capitol and going to the governor’s desk and just seeing it all work and flow just exactly how we want to. So, for the folks that are supporting NACL and what we’re doing, this is what we want to do across the country.”

“This is an example of the power of the NACL’s ability with model legislation,” Rapert replied. “This was brought by one of our members, and this policy actually could be immediately adopted by school boards in every school district across this country. If the school board wanted to adopt it, this is the model that they can utilize. And in addition to that, just like you did, go and pass it for the state so that this is going to apply to all the school boards in your state.”

Rapert and Bentley agreed that Arkansas has now blazed the trail on this issue, thereby making it easier for legislatures in other states to enact the same law.

“That’s what happens when you can be a leader,” Bentley asserted. “Once you make a trail, it’s a lot easier for people to follow once you get that trail made.”

“Thank you again for being a part of the NACL,” Bentley declared. “It’s just what we need in this nation right now to have it moving forward, to get our biblical worldview spread across the nation.”

This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.

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