California Governor’s Wife to Go By ‘First Partner’ in Tribute to Gender, LGBTQ Equality

Jennifer Siebel Newsom wants you to know she’s more than just the California governor’s wife.

As her husband, former lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, was sworn in as the 40th governor of California on Tuesday, Siebel Newsom made a small but significant change on her Twitter account. She listed herself as the Golden State’s “First Partner,” forgoing the more traditional honorific, First Lady.

The change was largely viewed as a subtle hat tip to gender equality. Siebel Newsom told Politico last year that she doesn’t want to be “typecast as a trophy wife.”

“The work I do really parallels and complements Gavin’s work, because it’s about awakening people’s consciousness, shifting hearts and minds, attitudes and behaviors,” she added in comments shared with the Los Angeles Times.

A section recently included on the California governor’s website elaborates on Siebel Newsom’s own background. The 44-year-old helped women to develop “socially and environmentally responsible businesses” in South and Latin America after graduating with her MBA from Stanford University.

Siebel Newsom has since written, produced, and directed two documentary films: 2011’s Miss Representation and 2015’s The Mask You Live In. Both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

The former, which examines the messages fed to women by mainstream media, inspired Siebel Newsom to start The Representation Project in 2011. According to its website, the nonprofit organization challenges “gender stereotypes and [cultural] norms” through the use of film and media.

While Siebel Newsom has yet to make a public statement since the change was formally announced, she has said she prefers “First Partner” because it’s “more inclusive” than the standard moniker bestowed on political spouses.

That sentiment is particularly appropriate during a week which also saw the inauguration of America’s first openly gay governor, Colorado’s Jared Polis. Polis referred to his longtime partner, Marlon Reis, as the Centennial State’s “First Man” during a Tuesday swearing-in ceremony.

Others have called Reis, a fiction writer, the “First Gentleman” of Colorado.

Siebel Newsom’s husband has long been an advocate of LGBTQ equality in office. As mayor of San Francisco in 2004, Newsom allowed more than 4,000 same-sex couples to tie the knot during a one-month window. At the time, marriage equality had yet to be legalized by either the state of California or the federal government.

The 51-year-old Democrat highlighted his status as an LGBTQ rights trailblazer during the 2018 gubernatorial race. In a campaign ad, he pledged to continue that legacy as governor.

“I’m an idealist,” he said. “I embrace that.”

Even in the early days of the administration, it seems as if the couple is likewise being embraced by political leaders in their home state and at the national level. Both former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, Christine, used the “First Partner” title when referring to Siebel Newsom.

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The Masterpiece Cakeshop Plaintiff Is Suing Colorado For Anti-Religious Hostility

Jack Phillips can’t stop, and he won’t stop.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop plaintiff is suing the state of Colorado for “clear and impermissible hostility” toward religion after winning his Supreme Court case last June.

In a narrow 7-2 ruling, the bench claimed the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not given neutral consideration to his faith in weighing a complaint filed by Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

In 2012, Phillips declined to bake a cake for the couple’s wedding, citing his Christian beliefs. The Commission sided with Craig and Mullins, but SCOTUS effectively overturned that decision.

Now the two parties will face off in court yet again. The same day that SCOTUS said it would hear an appeal in Phillips’ case, a transgender attorney in Denver, Autumn Scardina, requested a cake to celebrate her gender transition. The proposed pastry was blue on the outside and pink on the inside.

Phillips again declined the request. In legal briefs filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, his attorneys claim “the custom cake would have expressed messages about sex and gender identity that conflict with his religious beliefs.”

The right-wing law firm says the Lakewood baker was “surprised” the Commission allowed a complaint against him to proceed after the SCOTUS verdict.

As that case proceeds, Phillips has filed suit against the state.

ADF claims the state is “acting in bad faith and with bias” by “finding probable cause to believe that Colorado law requires him to create the requested gender-transition cake.”

“The same agency that the Supreme Court rebuked as hostile to Jack Phillips has remained committed to treating him unequally and forcing him to express messages that violate his religious beliefs,” ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell alleged in a press release.

Initially, Phillips sought damages from each member of the Commission, as well as Colorado Civil Rights Division Director Aubrey Elenis and former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

But on Tuesday, Judge Wiley Y. Daniel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado dismissed punitive claims against the majority of defendants in the case. Only Cynthia H. Coffman, the state’s attorney general, was deemed a “proper defendant” in the suit.

The district court allowed the suit to proceed, despite Colorado’s motion to dismiss.

Daniel further signaled the court is sympathetic to Phillips’ argument. The senior judge wrote that the Commission had engaged in “disparate treatment” by allowing “other cake artists to decline requests to create custom cakes that express messages they deem objectionable.”

In other cases brought before civil rights commissioners, Colorado allegedly allowed bakers to turn down cake requests which expressed racist or anti-LGBTQ messages.

Phillips says the double standard violates his Constitutional right to religious freedom.

But while the Supreme Court ruled narrowly in his favor last year, the nation’s highest bench declined to weigh in on whether Phillips’ faith beliefs permitted him to decline services to same-sex couples, as so-called “religious liberty” advocates have argued. That issue could be decided by future SCOTUS rulings.

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Facebook Met With Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups to Discuss Content Moderation Policies

Facebook reportedly met with anti-LGBTQ hate groups to consult on its content moderation policies.

The social media giant “privately sought the advice” of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, which is generously described by the Wall Street Journal as a “conservative Christian public-policy group.”

The Journal reports the D.C.-based lobby organization is among “hundreds of groups” consulted by Facebook in recent months as it attempts to strike a balance in moderating “offensive” speech on its platform. “A growing number of [those groups] lean to the right,” the newspaper claims.

Family Research Council, though, is interested in more than mere “public policy.” It has spent decades fighting equal treatment for queer and trans people.

Founded in 1981 by James Dobson, Family Research Council fought against the decriminalization of homosexuality. In the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, the organization filed an amicus brief arguing that same-sex intercourse is “deviate” and homosexuality is not a “fundamental right.”

Family Research Council lost that case. As of last year, Perkins lamented that the ruling, which struck down anti-sodomy laws in all 50 states, was a “mistake.”

In the more than 15 years since Lawrence v. Texas, Perkins has remained one of the loudest voices on the right opposing equality. He has advocated for conversion therapy, claimed homosexuality is linked to pedophilia, likened LGBTQ rights advocates to terrorists, and called the It Gets Better campaign “disgusting.”

An advisor to President Trump, Perkins is widely believed to have been a driving force behind his policy banning trans troops from serving openly in the military. He has called trans inclusion in the armed forces “social experimentation.”

Perkins, though, took issue with the Journal’s claim that he served as a consultant on Facebook’s hate speech policies. In an interview with the cable news show Fox and Friends, the 55-year-old said he was “surprised” by the report, alleging that he’s only had “one conversation” with the platform.

Nonetheless, Perkins concluded Facebook does “have a problem.” He accused the world’s largest social media company of “censoring conservative speech and the free flow of conservative ideas online.”

“[W]e just saw the recent example of this a couple weeks ago during Christmas where my friend, Franklin Graham, had a two-year-old post removed for a 24-hour period,” he said. “They said it was an accident. And one of the things I communicated was that, you know, these accidents appear more and more frequently.”

As INTO previously reported, Facebook apologized to Graham after temporarily blocking him for a post about North Carolina’s House Bill 2.

In response to Bruce Springsteen canceling a scheduled concert over the since-repealed anti-trans “bathroom bill,” the evangelical preacher and son of Billy Graham referred to the movement for LGBTQ rights as “godless secularism and political correctness.”

“[W]e need to go back!” he said. “Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring His commands. Back to common sense.”

After Graham called the temporary ban a “personal attack” in a Fox News interview, Facebook reinstated the post and claimed it had “made a mistake.” The company wrote: “We want to apologize and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action.”

While the platform of 2 billion users has been kowtowing to conservative lobbyists, it’s begun cracking down on LGBTQ people. Since October, it has banned users from discussing “sexual preference” or “sexual roles.”

But Facebook isn’t the only tech firm that has been negotiating with right-wing groups, according to the Journal.

“Twitter’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey recently hosted dinners with conservatives, including Grover Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, which advocates for lower taxes,” the outlet reports.

Twitter recently unveiled new hate speech policies banning users from misgendering or deadnaming trans people.

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Florida Is Trying to Appeal A Ruling That It Must Recognize A Trans Inmate As Female

A dozen advocacy organizations are going to bat against Florida for trying to appeal a court order that it must affirm a transgender inmate’s gender.

Alleging that prison staff denied her prescribed hormones for more than two years and refused to allow her to transition socially, Reiyn Keohane filed suit against the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2016 and won in federal court. The case sought to throw out the state’s “freeze-frame” policy, which prevents transgender people from accessing gender-affirming care they were not receiving prior to incarceration.

Advocates say the 2016 ruling by Chief United States District Judge Mark Walker is among the most substantial trans-affirming decisions in a transgender prison discrimination case.

“Ultimately, this case is about whether the law, and this Court by extension, recognizes Ms. Keohane’s humanity as a transgender woman,” Walker wrote in 2016. “The answer is simple. It does, and I do.”

Keohane was issued hormones after her suit, but the DOC is now appealing the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of appeals.

Keohane claims that DOC refused her medical transition, denied her female undergarments and repeatedly forcibly shaved her head. Her complaint alleges that DOC’s refusal to allow her to transition resulted in suicidality and self-harm.

Daniel Tilley, staff attorney at American Civil Liberties of Florida, is fighting Keohane’s case and said that DOC’s continued refusal to allow her to transition exacerbates her suffering.

“It’s been a really long and brutal journey for her,” Tilley told INTO, noting that Keohane’s request for social transition has dragged on for five years.

In a letter published by the ACLU, Keohane says she has been beaten in custody and was called “a punk, a sissy, and a faggot.”

“I have been denied at every level, told by doctors that I’m not transgender, refused hormone therapy even though I had taken it on the streets, and had to go weeks without being able to shave after being put in confinement for wearing women’s clothing or standing up for my rights,” she wrote.

Tilley questions Florida’s compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which requires correctional facilities to place transgender inmates on a case-by-case basis where they will be safest. According to Tilley, DOC has defaulted to housing transgender women based on genitalia alone. Keohane is housed in a men’s facility but wants to be housed with women, Tilley said.

The Florida Department of Corrections said it was working on a response to INTO‘s media inquiry, which included the number of transgender women inmates housed in women’s facilities and its PREA compliance. 

Eleven advocacy organizations joined the ACLU on Keohane’s behalf Wednesday, filing a friend-of-the-court brief. They include Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, Black and Pink, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, among others.

Last year, Missouri’s “freeze-frame” policy was also thrown out in federal court after transgender inmate Jessica Hicklin successfully sued for gender-affirming hair removal and canteen items.

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Texas’ New House Speaker Says Anti-Trans ‘Bathroom Bill’ Is Not a ‘Real Issue’

Dennis Bonnen is ready to move on.

A year and a half after Republican lawmakers in Texas failed to force through a anti-trans “bathroom bill” in a special session, the incoming Speaker of the House suggested another push isn’t on the table for 2019.

After he was unanimously tapped to replace retiring Joe Straus, Bonnen told colleagues he would not get “caught up in things that don’t lead to real results.”

In a Tuesday speech, the longtime House lawmaker said he was focused on four key issues for the nascent legislative session. Bonnen’s top priority is funding the state’s ailing public school system, which ranked 40th in the country in a 2018 report from Education Week.

“My passion for education centers on the fact that I grew up a dyslexic kid in a small town at a time when there were almost no options available to students like me,” the conservative claimed.

Bonnen also hopes to tackle sex trafficking, school safety, and property tax reform.

While the 46-year-old did not specially mention the thwarted Senate Bill 6, he expanded on those comments in an interview with the Dallas Morning News. Bonnen referred to the “bathroom bill” discussion as a distraction.

“I would be very discouraged if we were distracted by an issue that could derail those significant challenges that we need to solve,” he said.

Those comments fall in line with remarks made by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last year. The Republican said taking up the issue of transgender restroom use is “not on [his] agenda” in the 2019 session following reports he privately opposed SB 6.

Even Dan Patrick, who was formerly its most vocal champion, suggested he was done with SB 6. In a Wednesday news conference with Bonnen and Abbott, the Texas Tribune reported the lieutenant governor repeated “comments he… previously made about winning public opinion on the issue even if the legislation did not pass.”

That claim is dubious at best. A June 2017 poll from the Tribune found that 47 percent of Texans agreed with Bonnen that the question of where transgender people go to the bathroom isn’t a legitimate concern.

But as the legislative session convenes Wednesday for a 140-day session, washing his hands of SB 6 is also strategic for Bonnen. He will now preside over a House that is far more Democratic than during the 2017 term: The Blue Wave led to a 12-seat pickup in the lower chambers of the Texas Legislature.

Addressing members of the Texas House, Bonnen urged lawmakers to come together across partisan divides to tackle the issues voters care about.

“Unlike Washington, Texas stands apart,” he claimed. “We lead the nation by doing things our way. And we do it with strength, unity, and resolve. We will once again rise to that occasion and serve as the nation’s model for effective governance.”

Moving forward from SB 6 may be easier said than done, however. The bill’s author, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), has already vowed to try again in 2019. At a September forum hosted by the right-wing group Texas Values, she referred to “men in women’s bathrooms” as the “women’s rights issue of our time.”

“The only way that you fail is to not try,” Kolkhorst said of introducing another version of the legislation.

First Transgender Homicide of 2019 Reported in Alabama

It’s a grim first that has gone unacknowledged by law enforcement and media.

Dana Martin is the first known transgender person of 2019 to be murdered in the U.S. The 31-year-old Hope Hull resident was found shot to death in Montgomery, Alabama Sunday night.

Police identified her as male. Local media consequently followed suit. Monica Roberts of the blog TransGriot first broke word of her death on Twitter.

“It’s clear that she was a woman,” said Daroneshia Duncan-Boyd, founder of Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empowering. Duncan-Boyd said she met Martin several times with her friends. “She was a person that was loved by many, and you can see it all over Facebook.”

Most of Martin’s Facebook page is set to private, so messages from friends are not publicly visible. But all of her Facebook photos dating back nine years show her presenting as female.

Shonta Dillard, a longtime friend, also confirmed to INTO that Martin was transgender.

“That’s a sister, even though she’s not here to defend herself,” said Duncan-Boyd. “We still have a community in loss that is willing to defend her…The justice system doesn’t know how to handle situations where trans folks are murdered. They always misgender, and when they misgender, it knocks the data off.”

Last year, ProPublica examined law enforcement response to transgender homicides from 2015 through August 2018 and found that in 74 of 85 cases, agencies misgendered victims in death.

Transgender people have faced an unprecedented wave of violence in the past two years. Last year saw 26 transgender people murdered in the U.S., and 2017 reported the highest number of trans homicides on record with 29. An overwhelming number of the victims are Black transgender women.

According to an MPD statement released to INTO, police and fire medics responded to a call for a vehicle crash at the 3900 block of Brewer Road at 11 pm Sunday.

“At the scene, they located a vehicle in the ditch line,” police said. “In the vehicle, they located Martin, the driver, who had sustained a fatal gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Asked if MPD was aware the victim identified as transgender, Public Information Officer Regina Duckett said that legal documents identified the victim as male.

“How a homicide victim identifies is a personal matter that becomes relevant to the investigation only if it is determined that it was a reason the victim was killed,” Duckett said in an email. “At this point, the circumstances of this homicide are unknown, and MPD will continue to pursue all leads and avenues for prosecution.”

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North Carolina to Lose Netflix Show As Fallout Over Anti-Trans ‘Bathroom Bill’ Continues

House Bill 2 is set to lose North Carolina even more money, despite the law’s repeal.

Netflix’s coming-of-age drama OBX is reportedly pulling production from the Tar Heel State due to fallout from the anti-trans “bathroom bill.” Forced through during an emergency legislative session in March 2016, HB 2 would have cost the state an estimated $3.76 billion over the next 12 years if it remained intact.

The controversial measure was replaced with a “compromise” bill, HB 142, nearly a year after it was originally made law.

But according to Wilmington’s Star News, the streaming service did not feel the replacement legislation differed enough from its predecessor to justify filming in North Carolina. The “sticking point” was reportedly a clause in HB 142 forbidding local municipalities from passing ordinances “excluding them from the bill’s restrictions.”

That language prevents cities and counties from drafting pro-LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances until Dec. 1, 2020—when the provision is set to expire.

In essence, HB 2 will remain in place for two more years.

Creator Jonas Pate claimed there’s still a chance OBX—which is set in the coastal town of Wilmington—could film in North Carolina. Pate told Star News “any effort to move the sunset date up… could convince Netflix to change course.”

“We have a tiny window where this could be pulled out of the fire,” he claimed.

The clock is quickly winding down, however. Netflix has already begun scouting locations in Charleston, South Carolina, despite its creator’s desire to shoot in the location where the show is set. OBX tells the story of a fateful summer, in which a hurricane cuts off power to Wilmington, through the eyes of four local teenagers.

“This show would be a postcard to North Carolina,” Pate concluded, describing it as akin to Stand By Me set in the Outer Banks.

Should North Carolina lose OBX to its neighbors to the south, it would result in an estimated $60 million in economic losses. Pate claimed it would also cost the already embattled state “70 good, clean, pension-paying jobs.”

Although the project has not been announced by Netflix, OBX allegedly plans to film a 10-episode season.

The news is further indication that HB 2 continues to have financial repercussions for North Carolina. Despite an offer of $2.4 billion in economic incentives from the state, Amazon announced its intent to build headquarters in New York City and Arlington, Va. According to the Associated Press, HB 2 was “still causing heartburn” with Amazon leadership.

Although North Carolina had been shortlisted for a new Apple facility, the company announced in December it would be taking 9,000 jobs to Austin instead.

Apple never stated that HB 2 was the reason it chose to open the $1 billion campus in Texas. But in an interview with Raleigh’s News & Observer, insiders euphemistically noted North Carolina’s “uncertain politics” as dissuading the company from doing business with the state.

Charlotte’s tourism board is reportedly spending $2 million in “Post HB2 Marketing/Sales support” to rehab the state’s image during the ongoing fallout.

Whether lawmakers will address this crisis by further compromising on HB 2 remains to be seen. Although Democrats flipped enough seats to break the Republican supermajorities in the State House and Senate, both chambers of the General Assembly remain under conservative control.

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Florida Governor Erases LGBTQ People From Nondiscrimination Order on First Day in Office

Florida’s new governor wasted no time in getting on the wrong side of the LGBTQ community.

On his very first day in office, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order affirming his administration would not discriminate on the basis of characteristics like race and sex in hiring. The pledge reaffirmed existing protections under Executive Order 11-04, which was signed by former governor Rick Scott.

The order was titled “Reaffirming Commitment to Diversity in Government,” borrowing the name of Executive Order 11-04.

There was one thing, however, missing from the governor’s so-called diversity pledge: LGBTQ people. The order does not prohibit discriminatory bias on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in either state agencies or government contracting.

Equality Florida took immediate notice of the snub.

In a statement, the state’s largest LGBTQ group said it is “deeply disappointed to see that LGBTQ employees and contractors” were left out of the order.

“It’s hard to believe that Governor DeSantis and his staff are not aware of the LGBTQ communities’ call for these protections following the Pulse tragedy and therefore it is hard to interpret this as anything less than a purposeful omission,” added Joe Saunders, its political director.

The omission is particularly glaring after his predecessor pledged to pass a nondiscrimination order following the death of 49 people at an Orlando gay bar.

Following the June 2016 tragedy, Scott is alleged to have offered his support for inclusive LGBTQ protections in government hiring during closed-door meetings with advocacy groups like Equality Florida. The Republican, who was recently elected to the U.S. Senate, failed to follow through on that promise before leaving office.

INTO reached out to DeSantis to inquire whether the governor would push for LGBTQ protections in the future. His office did not respond before publication time.

If the conservative politician does introduce a pro-LGBTQ order, it would be a surprise to those familiar with his record in U.S. Congress. In 2016, he scored a zero percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Index—its lowest score.

That very same year DeSantis voted against an amendment to a defense spending bill which would have forbid federal contractors who discriminate against LGBTQ people from receiving government funding. The provision was defeated by a one-vote margin as Democrats reportedly shouted: “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

The former Jacksonville representative also vowed to veto bathroom and locker room protections for transgender students if elected governor.

Meanwhile, DeSantis has offered a mixed message on LGBTQ nondiscrimination. In response to a question during the 2018 governor’s race as to whether he would sign an inclusive order on government hiring, he said he doesn’t “want any discrimination in Florida” but also expressed support for so-called “religious liberty.”

“I want people to be able to live their life—whether you are gay but also whether you are religious,” he claimed. “I think you should be able to do that. I don’t want them discriminated against as well.”

“We’ve got a big, diverse state and that is just the way it is,” DeSantis added.

Equality Florida noted that DeSantis’ refusal to fully support pro-LGBTQ protections “draws a stark contrast” with recent actions from other governors. Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Wisconsin’s Tony Evers both signed nondiscrimination orders following their inauguration; Ohio’s John Kasich did so before leaving office in December.

Meanwhile, Kansas Governor-elect Laura Kelly has vowed to reinstate protections for LGBTQ state employees after she takes office on Monday. Those safeguards were nixed by former governor Sam Brownback in 2015.

LGBTQ advocates called for a meeting with DeSantis to ensure his administration does not repeat the alleged failures of the previous one.

“We look forward to a dialogue with Governor DeSantis about why LGBTQ employees have been omitted from this critical policy and how he plans to make sure that all Floridians, regardless of who they are or who they love, can be protected from discrimination,” Saunders said in the press release.

During his Tuesday swearing-in ceremony, DeSantis did not address LGBTQ rights.

Instead, the Republican stressed the need for limited government and to appoint Florida Supreme Court justices who won’t “legislate from the bench.” He also took aim at sanctuary cities, which he claimed “[incentivize] illegal immigration” and “[promote] lawlessness.”

During the midterm race, DeSantis infamously used the word “monkey” in reference to his black opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum.

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Asst. Principal Who Demanded Trans Student Use Urinal in Front of Him Reinstated

An assistant principal who challenged a transgender student to use a urinal in front of him to prove he was male will be reinstated next month, a West Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night.

Assistant Principal Lee Livengood will return to work at Liberty High School on Feb. 1.

Frank Devono Jr., president of the Harrison County Board of Education, told INTO that board’s decision to reinstate Livengood was based on an investigative report from Superintendent Mark Manchin.

“After that report had been filed, and after that report had been completed, [it found] it did not warrant termination, it warranted a suspension and unpaid suspension,” said Devono. “And that he at that point would complete the stipulations that the superintendent and the board came up with, and that he would be able to come back to work.”

The incident in question dates back to Nov. 27 when Livengood allegedly followed transgender sophomore Michael Critchfield into an otherwise empty boys’ bathroom and loudly challenged him to prove he was male, stating “Come out here and use the urinal.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of West Virginia, Livengood also repeatedly misgendered Critchfield and said, “I’m not going to lie: You freak me out.”

Devono said that since the incident, the district has met with the ACLU and experts at West Virginia University. He said that all staff will be trained in transgender sensitivity.

Board members met in closed executive session Tuesday night before voting to reinstate Livengood. The exact terms of his reinstatement have not been disclosed.

Initial reports from the district suggested that Livengood had been suspended with pay following the incident, but Devono said that board members objected to his continuing to be paid and placed him on unpaid leave through February.

Devono said the district held meetings with Critchfield’s parents and the ACLU on appropriate next steps before voting on Tuesday.

“They weren’t looking for termination so much as they were looking to use this as a teaching scenario that could benefit other students that are dealing with the same type of situation,” he said.

The ACLU of West Virginia appeared to support the vote, but declined to immediately offer any details about what transpired between the district, Livengood, Critchfield’s family, and the ACLU. In a statement from Executive Director Joseph Cohen, the organization said it was encouraged by discussions with Superintendent Manchin.

“Michael and his family were heartened with the outcome of the meeting and are now looking forward to working with the school district to make a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ students in Harrison County,” Cohen said. “Because of Michael’s bravery and willingness to come forward, we now have the opportunity to replicate and expand on inclusion practices in other counties across West Virginia to ensure this never happens again to anyone under any circumstance.”

Timothy Ward, a spokesperson for the ACLU of West Virginia said the organization would be releasing more information on what steps the district had taken that led to its positive statement, pending conversations with Critchfield.

Arizona Lawmaker Won’t Say If Bill Would Allow Teachers Who Discuss LGBTQ Issues to Be Fired

Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem is staying pretty tight-lipped on a controversial proposal banning teachers from discussing “any side of a controversial issue” in classrooms.

In December, the Oro Valley lawmaker put forward House Bill 2002 after a constituent complained that a math teacher in the district had been criticizing President Donald Trump during class discussions. Finchem told the Arizona Republic the proposal is intended to ensure faculty leave their “political agenda behind… at home.”

“If you enter a classroom with a Trump T-shirt, a Hillary T-shirt, [or] a Vote No 126 T-shirt, you engage in a political speech in class,” he claimed.

The draft bill intends to solve that problem by instituting a code of ethics that all K-12 teachers in the state must follow. These rules, for instance, forbid faculty members from “[singling] out one group of students as being responsible for the suffering or inequities experienced by another group of students.”

While that proposal enumerates race as a verboten characteristic for discussion, it does not specify whether topics related to queer and trans lives are also prohibited.

Websites like LGBTQ Nation concluded HB 2002 is vague enough that teachers could, for example, be terminated for discussing the Stonewall Riots of 1969—which helped set off the modern movement for queer and trans rights. Issues like LGBTQ equality are “often deemed ‘controversial’ by Republicans,” the site concluded.

Even worse, the proposal may lead to teachers being effectively forced to give hate groups a platform in schools. Any teacher who does discuss marriage equality could be forced to present the opposing side—giving equal time to anti-LGBTQ bigotry.

“A teacher must provide students with materials supporting both sides of the controversy in a fair-minded and nonpartisan manner,” the text reads.

INTO reached out to the conservative to ask if he felt the speculation regarding its anti-equality implications was accurate. Finchem’s spokesperson, Renee Padilla, claimed he’s “unavailable for commenting, as he is, and has been out of the office.”

This publication isn’t the only outlet lacking clarification on the bill’s implications. The Hill and Arizona Daily Star were also offered no comment.

What has been reported about the legislation does not inspire confidence that HB 2002 would not be used to target vulnerable LGBTQ people. Finchem’s bullet points were lifted nearly verbatim from a “Teacher Code of Ethics” posted on the Stop K-12 Indoctrination website two years ago.

The campaign warns that “no age group and no corner of our K-12 classrooms are immune from the left’s ideological aggression.”

Stop K-12 Indoctrination is a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, whose namesake has been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a driving force of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-black movements.”

Finchem’s own record on LGBTQ rights is concerning. Three years ago, he put forward draft legislation which would allow the state of Arizona to ignore decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, such as its ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges. He told the Arizona Daily Star that SCOTUS had no right to “force” marriage equality on states.

“If the federal government wants to issue a gay marriage license, they’re free to do that,” the representative said at the time. “But it’s not a state license.”

In 2017, Finchem also attempted to ban schools from discussing “social justice.”

The Arizona State Legislature convenes for the 2019 legislative session on Jan. 14. As with Finchem’s previous proposals, HB 2002 is not expected to go far.