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ACLU of Tennessee Threatens Suit Ahead of City’s Ordinance Banning Drag Shows

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Ordinance Seeks to Classify Drag as ‘Adult Cabaret’

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee is threatening suit ahead of a vote on an ordinance banning drag shows in the city of Portland, Tennessee.

The group announced Friday that it had “sent a letter to the mayor and Board of Alderman of Portland, Tennessee, demanding that the city drop a proposed, unconstitutional ordinance that effectively bans drag shows.”

As HuffPost reported, “drag has recently become part of the nightlife in Portland, Tennessee, a town of about 12,000 just outside Nashville. Kyle and Raymond Guillermo, Jr. of Elite Productions have been holding drag nights at Envy, a Portland restaurant and bar since August.”

Following a sold-out show on September 5th, town officials began the notion of of classifying drag shows as a form of “adult-oriented business” that “may be erotic [in] nature.” Local measures prevent “adult-oriented business” within most of the city’s limits.

Guillermo told the Tennessean that the ordinance was a response to a drag show his company had organized  on August 12th, noting that afterwards he had received hate mail. “People are trying to get us out of Portland,” he said. “We are drag queens, we are not taking our clothes off. We are not cabaret.”

“Courts have held that government can impose some reasonable restrictions on adult entertainment,” the ACLU of Tennessee said in its statement. “However… artistic expression is not sexual or erotic in nature simply because it involves male or female impersonators and, therefore, it cannot be regulated like ‘adult-oriented businesses.’”

“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression, no matter what you are wearing,” the chapter’s legal director Thomas H. Castelli said. “It’s discriminatory and unconstitutional to single out male and female impersonators in a bid to shut down their speech. If members of the city council are uncomfortable with the drag show, they do not need to attend the performance. But they can’t ban it.”

A copy of the letter sent to the mayor and Board of Alderman by the ACLU can be seen here. The vote is scheduled for tomorrow, September 18th.

Guillermo and co-owners Raymond Guillermo and Ronnie Carter are planning a rally at Portland’s City Hall ahead of the vote.

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Virginia School Districts Furious After Youngkin Flip Flops on Promise to Allow Local Boards to Decide Mask Mandates

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For months Virginia’s incoming Republican governor has been promising he would neither mandate masks in schools nor ban school districts from requiring them.

“Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) will not outlaw local COVID-19 mandates when he takes office in January,” reported the far right wing website Daily Wire back in November.

Local ABC affiliate 8 News, also in November reported, “Youngkin won’t try to block local mask, vaccine mandates like other Republican governors.”

Glenn Youngkin was sworn into office on Saturday, January 15, 2022.

Business Insider reports that on Saturday, after Youngkin was sworn into office, he “signed an executive action that banned schools from requiring that students wear masks to stem the spread of COVID-19, instead allowing parents to decide when their children wear masks during the school day.”

Youngkin’s first act as governor was to sign eleven executive orders. Among them: effectively banning any mask mandates in schools across the state, by allowing parents to opt-out for any reason or no reason.

In other words: flip-flopping on his promise.

Youngkin is using his Lt. Governor to threaten angry school districts. Fox News’ John Roberts:

Pundit and political analyst Bill Scher:

Youngkin made a big deal over the weekend claiming schools have to “listen to parents” and if they oppose his mask ban they aren’t listening to parents.

Gov. Youngkin is the one not listening.

In poll after poll after poll after poll Virginia parents make clear they support mask mandates in schools, and Virginians overall support mask mandates, period.

 

 

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Top Democrats Renew Call to End Anti-Gay Blood Ban as Red Cross Announces First-Ever National Shortage Crisis

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Last week the Red Cross issued its first-ever warning of a blood shortage so dire it is calling it a “national crisis.” In response 22 top Democratic Senators signed a letter urging the FDA to once and for all end the ban on men who have sex with men donating blood.

The nearly four-decade old ban was instituted during the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. In 2015 the FDA reduced the complete and total ban to one where gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men could donate blood if they had abstained from sexual activity for one year. In 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic raged, threatening blood shortages, the FDA moved to a three-month prohibition.

“If the nation’s blood supply does not stabilize soon, life-saving blood may not be available for some patients when it is needed,” warns the Red Cross, citing a 34 percent drop in supply, CBS News reports.

“Any policy that continues to categorically single out the LGBTQ+ community is discriminatory and wrong,” the group of 22 top Democrats, led by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), say in their letter. “Given advances in blood screening and safety technology, a time-based policy for gay and bisexual men is not scientifically sound, continues to effectively exclude an entire group of people, and does not meet the urgent demands of the moment.”

Blood Shortage MSM Donor Deferral Letter FDA HHS Jan 2022 Final by David Badash on Scribd

 

Image by ec-jpr via Flickr and a CC license

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PARTNERING WITH HATE AND ANTI-IMMIGRANT GROUPS

‘Unprecedented’: Trump Tried to ‘Exert Extreme Partisan Influence Over the Census Bureau’ Docs Reveal

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The Trump administration tried to exert tremendous influence over the 2020 Census, which is now being used in a nationwide redistricting program, often handing Republicans even stronger gerrymandered congressional districts and in some cases attempting to dissolve districts of Democratic members of Congress, while eliminating some majority-Black districts.

Then-President Donald Trump was directly and possibly “illegally” involved, as The Brennan Center for Justice, NYU Law School’s nonprofit public policy institute, reports. The Trump administration also worked directly with an anti-immigrant group that appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of nativist hate groups, a “think tank” devoted to anti-immigration efforts, and with an individual known for “promoting voter suppression efforts.”

“The Trump administration attempted to exert extreme partisan influence over the Census Bureau,” The Brennan Center reveals . It filed multiple Freedom of Information requests with at least ten federal agencies and was forced to sue the Trump administration when it unlawfully refused to produce the requested documents.

The Brennan Center adds that “career Bureau officials pushed back at those attempts. An email among senior officials at the Census Bureau from September 14, 2020, discusses the Commerce Department’s ‘unusually high degree of engagement in technical matters, which is unprecedented.'”

“Other records suggest that the Commerce Department planned to have Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross [photo, above] make personal calls to Republican state governors to urge them to provide state administrative records to the Census Bureau to ‘enhance the frame from which citizenship status is determined.’ (The Brennan Center did not uncover evidence that Commerce planned to make similar calls to Democratic governors.)”

Citing a “a complete lack of public transparency,” The Brennan Center reports “President Trump issued a memo in July 2020 stating that he would illegally attempt to remove undocumented populations from the apportionment count due at the end of December 2020.”

The Trump administration collected or attempted to collect an unprecedented amount of personal data targeting usesrs of welfare programs from dozens of states: “28 states had entered into agreements to share Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) records with the Bureau, 21 to share Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) records, 30 to share Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) records, and three to share driver’s license data.”

Our FOIA records show Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, emailing directly with Secretary Ross in December 2019. The Center for Immigration Studies is an organization classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-immigrant hate group that “has a decades-long history of circulating racist writers, while also associating with white nationalists.” The email also refers to a call from Secretary Ross.

The Center for Immigration Studies was founded by eugenicist and white nationalist John Tanton.

“Commerce Department employees were also engaging with the anti-immigrant Heritage Foundation,” The Brennan Center adds. “An email chain shows a Commerce Department official putting political appointee Nathaniel Cogley into direct contact with Heritage’s Hans Von Spakovsky, an individual the Brennan Center has previously flagged for his extensive background promoting voter suppression efforts.”

 

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