Puerto Rico marketing organization pitching island’s inclusiveness

Discover Puerto Rico’s chief marketing officer, Leah Chandler, and CEO, Brad Dean (Courtesy)

Discover Puerto Rico contracts HospitableMe to help turn island into Caribbean’s ‘LGBT Capital’

SAN JUAN — Presenting Puerto Rico as a safe, welcoming and experience-rich destination for the LGBTQ+ communities is part of the efforts the island’s marketing organization is employing to create awareness about the travel destination. Discover Puerto Rico has recruited the help of tourism and hospitality consultant HospitableMe.

Nearing its first anniversary, Leah Chandler, the chief marketing officer of destination marketing organization (DMO) Discover Puerto Rico, and HospitableMe founders Billy Kolber and Kenny Porpora, held a townhall-like discussion with members of the LGBTQ+ community, in which they discussed the progress of their work and what they would like to see.

“As we come up that one-year anniversary, we thought it would be a good idea to gather the community here to kind of share what our goals are like today, what challenges we still face, some of the work we’ve done, some of the significant changes we’ve made and where we are going next,” Porpora said.

Porpora explained that although the Caribbean region may have a reputation as not welcoming of LGBTQ+ people, and could even be considered homophobic or transphobic in some cases, Puerto Rico, by many metrics is at the top for LGBTQ+ offers.

Among the positive attributes Kolber and Porpora mentioned were same-sex adoption and same-sex marriage laws, having two gay pride parades- with a third gay pride parade expected to debut in Ponce next weekend- and the island’s nightlife. Porpora also argued that having gay-owned businesses is also part of what makes Puerto Rico a friendly destination.

As for the target market, Kolber said the need is to broaden the base and presenting Puerto Rico to travelers who have overlooked the Caribbean.

“It’s not that we have to create something [or] market something that isn’t here or spin something. We know that Puerto Rico has what it takes to be known as the LGBT capital of the Caribbean, to be a preferred destination, to be the Caribbean destination for queer people from all over the world. And it’s not just taking people away from other islands here in the Caribbean but other destinations and bringing them to the Caribbean when they weren’t considering the Caribbean before,” Kolber explained.

To bolster Puerto Rico as a queer-friendly destination that could attract travelers who overlooked the Caribbean in the past, Chandler said her organization wanted to define “what can LGBTQ+ marketing look like in Puerto Rico and the first thing we said is let’s do an audit; let’s really understand if we are ready to open up this door to the world.”

Although Kolber praised both Puerto Rico as a destination and the work Discover Puerto Rico has done, he went on to argue that there are some areas in which Puerto Rico needs to improve, starting with having more representatives in the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association, also known by its original initials, IGLTA. Another area Kolber said needs improvement is businesses’ preparedness to cater to the demographic.

“One of the things that the audit showed early on in our research was that the island is very very open to LGBTQ visitation, but a lot of our service providers and the hotels were not that comfortable in speaking to the market. I mean literally answering questions about ‘I’m interested in having a same-sex wedding in your property. Do you have a list of queer-friendly wedding vendors?’ Those kinds of questions,” Kolber said.

“There’s nearly 100 percent interest in same-sex travel, about a 30 percent competency level for what we would consider really being fully ready to welcome those kinds of visitors,” he added.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a sustainable LGBTQ+ sector for travelers to Puerto Rico, which Kolber said includes long-term planning not just by the DMO, but also businesses.




Judge: Puerto Rico must allow transgender people to change birth certificate sex

SAN JUAN – The U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico has struck down a policy that prevented transgender people born in Puerto Rico from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates and ordered commonwealth officials to allow such corrections. Lambda Legal challenged the island’s ban on corrections to the gender marker in birth certificates last April.

“This is a tremendous victory for our clients and all transgender people born in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican government must now allow transgender Puerto Ricans to change the gender markers on their birth certificates so that they accurately reflect and affirm their identities,” Lambda Legal attorney Omar González-Pagán said in a statement.

“The Commonwealth’s categorical ban was not only discriminatory; it also was a relic from the past reflecting archaic views about who we are as a people and a society. A birth certificate is an essential identity document. It is vital for identity documents to accurately reflect who we are. We are pleased that the court recognized that the government cannot interfere with transgender people’s ability to live as their authentic selves and that attempts to do so are unconstitutional.”

Puerto Rico gov appoints members of LGBTT Advisory Council

In granting Lambda’s motion for summary judgment, the court found the current birth certificate policy to be unconstitutional, in part, because “the forced disclosure of plaintiffs’ transgender status violates their fundamental right to informational privacy.”

The court will issue a separate opinion and order, in which it will outline its findings and conclusions, as well as the method or relief required to correct the gender marker on plaintiffs’ birth certificates, without revealing their transgender status.

In early April last year, Lambda filed a lawsuit challenging the ban on behalf of two transgender women, Daniela Arroyo González and Victoria Rodríguez Roldán, and one transgender man, J.G., identified only by his initials, as well as Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, an organizational plaintiff, arguing that denying transgender Puerto Ricans the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution by forcing them, through their birth certificates, to identify with a gender that is not who they are.

The suit also argues that the ban violates transgender Puerto Ricans’ right to free speech under the First Amendment. Since filing the case, Lambda also successfully challenged a similar ban in Idaho, in F.V. v. Barron, and sued the State of Ohio over its ban, in Ray v. Himes.

“This is an important step forward in the fight for the rights of transgender people in Puerto Rico,” Arroyo-González said in a release. “It is a huge relief to finally have an accurate birth certificate that is a true reflection of who I am. It makes me feel safer and like my country finally recognizes me, respects me, and protects my identity as a woman. As of today, trans people in Puerto Rico are more free. This is the right decision.”

“Today, transgender Puerto Ricans are closer to the equal protection under the law that is promised in the Constitution,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder and president of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s. “We are grateful for the transgender plaintiffs in this case for their courage and we are proud to have partnered, once again, with Lambda Legal in advancing equal rights for LGBT Puerto Ricans. We must not rest until full equality is achieved for all LGBT people in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.”




LGBT outrage over Trump ban on transgender military service

By David Crary

NEW YORK — Most LGBT-rights activists never believed Donald Trump’s campaign promises to be their friend. But with his move Wednesday to ban transgender people from military service, on top of other actions and appointments, they now see him as openly hostile.

Leaders of major advocacy groups depicted Trump’s Twitter pronouncement as an appeal to the portion of his conservative base that opposes the recent civil-rights gains by the LGBT community.

“His administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government — even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the LGBT-rights group GLAAD.

Trump bars transgender individuals from US armed forces

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly since last year, after a move by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Trump’s vow to end that policy was the latest, and perhaps the most stinging, of a string of actions since his election that have dismayed supporters of LGBT rights.

Some examples:

—The administration rescinded federal guidance advising school districts to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. It said state and local officials should decide the issue.

—Several of Trump’s high-level appointees have solid records as opponents of LGBT-rights advances, including Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

—At Trump’s direction, Sessions is developing new guidance on religious liberty for federal agencies that is expected to make it easier for people with religious objections to refuse to recognize LGBT rights.

—Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned, asserting that Trump “simply does not care” about combating HIV and AIDS as it continues to beset the LGBT community.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT-rights group, depicted Trump’s early-morning tweets Wednesday as a “heinous and disgusting” attack on transgender service members.

“It is also the latest effort by Trump and Mike Pence to undo our progress and drag LGBTQ people back into the closet by using our lives as political pawns,” said the group’s president, Chad Griffin.

Trump’s pronouncement was hailed by some conservatives who have long complained that the military was undermining its effectiveness by allowing gays, lesbians and transgender people to serve openly. Opponents also have contended that the military should not bear the cost of any medical procedures related to gender transition.

“Our troops shouldn’t be forced to endure hours of transgender ‘sensitivity’ classes and politically correct distractions like this one,” said Tony Perkins, a former Marine who heads the conservative Family Research Council.

A supporter of LGBT rights holds up an “equality flag” on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, during an event held by Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass. in support of transgender members of the, in response to President Donald Trump’s declaration that he wants transgender people barred from serving in the U.S. military “in any capacity,” citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.” (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, denounced Trump’s declaration as “simple bigotry.”

“This attack has nothing to do with military readiness, reason or science,” she said. “It is indefensible.”

Among those dismayed by Trump’s tweets was Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann, a transgender man who’s served in the Navy for 11 years and received his latest promotion after the policy change last year.

“Trans service members are continuing to do our jobs,” Dremann said. “People know who we are now and it becomes personal, especially when you’ve got families that are going to be affected by this.”

“There are isolated cases where trans service members are treated differently because their commanders don’t agree (with them serving),” he said. “We have worked with our commanders to get those incidents corrected.”

Another active-duty transgender soldier, Army Capt. Jennifer Peace, said she was concerned how a possible ban would affect her and her family, as well as other transgender service members.

“My command has told me in the past the only thing that we should discriminate on is job performance, and I hope that military leadership will handle this issue the same way,” Peace said in an email.

Capt. Jacob Eleazer, a transgender man who serves in the Kentucky Army National Guard, said he was stunned by Trump’s action.

“Fired by tweet. It was honestly pretty shocking,” said Eleazer, who took the day off from his job as a therapist in Lexington, Kentucky, to assess the situation. It’s not clear yet whether Eleazer’s career will be affected.

Eleazer, 31, has been in the military since 2006. In 2014, he told his superior officer he was transgender, and got full support.

Attorney Sasha Buchert, a transgender woman who works for the LGBT-rights group Lambda Legal, recalled feelings of fear and isolation while serving in the Marines in the 1980s, decades before her gender transition.

“It’s not a question of whether transgender people will serve,” she said. “It’s a question of whether they’ll be serving openly or will be hiding like they did in the old days.”

Another transgender veteran, retired Army Col. Sheri Swokowski, said it’s important for transgender people and their allies to push back against Trump’s decree.

Swokowski, 67, of Windsor, Wisconsin, transitioned to female after retiring from the military in 2004.

“The military has taught us to fight and this administration shouldn’t be surprised when we do,” she said. “We need to impress upon the administration that we’re not living in the dark ages.”

___

Associated Press writers Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky, Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, and Tatiana Flowers in Denver contributed to this report.




US Supreme Court takes on new clash of gay rights, religion

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Supreme Court is taking on a new clash between gay rights and religion in a case about a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado.

The justices said Monday they will consider whether a baker who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds can refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

In this March 10, 2014 file photo, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips cracks eggs into a cake batter mixer inside his store in Lakewood, Colo. (Brennan Linsley, File/AP)

The case asks the high court to balance the religious rights of the baker against the couple’s right to equal treatment under the law. Similar disputes have popped up across the United States.

The decision to take on the case reflects renewed energy among the court’s conservative justices, whose ranks have recently been bolstered by the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the high court.

The court will review a Colorado court decision that found baker Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop discriminated against the gay couple under Colorado law.

US Gay pride parades sound a note of resistance – and face some

Phillips told the Supreme Court he has free speech and religious rights under the First Amendment that should protect him. He said he should not be compelled to bake a cake specifically to honor a same-sex marriage.

Colorado’s anti-discrimination law protects people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Charlie Craig and David Mullins filed a complaint against Phillips and his suburban Denver shop after Phillips said he would not create and decorate a cake in honor of their marriage.

Colorado did not permit same-sex couples to marry until 2014. Two years earlier, Craig and Mullin were planning to fly to Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage was legal, and host a reception in Denver upon their return to Colorado. They wanted the cake for the occasion.

Pride and prejudice? Race tinges LGBT celebrations

 




Military heads want transgender enlistment hold

By Lolita C. Baldor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Military chiefs will seek a six-month delay before letting transgender people enlist in their services, officials said Friday.

After meetings this week, the service leaders hammered out an agreement that rejected Army and Air Force requests for a two-year wait and reflected broader concerns that a longer delay would trigger criticism on Capitol Hill, officials familiar with the talks told The Associated Press.

The new request for a delay will go to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a final decision, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the internal deliberations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

In this June 13, 2017, file photo. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin, File/AP)

Transgender servicemembers have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban, declaring it the right thing to do. Since Oct. 1, transgender troops have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system.

But Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military, if they meet physical, medical and other standards, and have been stable in their identified genders for 18 months. The military chiefs had said they needed time to study the issue and its effects on the readiness of the force before taking that step.

Officials said Friday that the chiefs believe the extra half-year would give the four military services time to gauge if currently serving transgender troops are facing problems and what necessary changes the military bases might have to make.

The chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps discussed the matter with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work on Thursday, officials said.

Stephen Peters, spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, said the group is disappointed with the delay request.

“Each day that passes without implementing the final piece of this important policy harms our military readiness and restricts the Armed Forces’ ability to recruit the best and the brightest,” said Peters, a Marine veteran. “There are thousands of transgender service members openly and proudly serving our nation today, and as they’ve proven time and time again, what matters is the ability to get the job done — not their gender identity.”

Already, there are as many as 250 servicemembers in the process of transitioning to their preferred genders or who have been approved to formally change gender within the Pentagon’s personnel system, according to several defense officials.

According to several officials familiar with the matter, three of the four services wanted more time. In recent weeks, Navy officials suggested they would be ready to begin enlistment in July but asked for a one-year delay, largely to accommodate a request from the Marine Corps for more time, officials said. The Navy secretary also oversees the Marine Corps.

The Army and Air Force wanted a two-year delay to further study the issue, said the officials, who were not authorized to talk about the internal discussion publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Officials said there was a broad recognition that allowing transgender individuals to enlist affects each service differently. They described the biggest challenge as the infantry. They said the discussions aimed at a solution that would give recruits the best chance of succeeding, while ensuring the services maintain the best standards for entry into the military.

Service chiefs will also require that transgender recruits be stable in their preferred genders for at least two years, an increase from Carter’s earlier plan to allow 18 months, the officials said. The chiefs also want to review the policy in a year to see how things are working, the officials said.

Key concerns are whether currently enlisted troops have had medical or other issues that cause delays or problems with their ability to deploy or meet physical or other standards for their jobs. Military leaders also want to review how transgender troops are treated, if they’re discriminated against or have had disciplinary problems, the officials said.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate committee last week there have been some issues identified with recruiting transgender individuals that “some of the service chiefs believe need to be resolved before we move forward.” He said Mattis is reviewing the matter.

The military services have various ways of counting the number of transgender troops currently serving. The Pentagon has refused to release any data. But officials said there are 42 servicemembers across the Army, including the National Guard and Reserve, who have been approved to change their gender identities in the personnel system. At least 40 more are in the process of transitioning, they said.

Officials said there are about 160 sailors in the Navy who are somewhere in the process of gender transition. That could include counseling, hormone treatment or gender reassignment surgery. And about “a handful” of Marines have come forward to seek medical care involving gender transition, and there are possibly others going through the process with their commanders, officials said.

The Air Force refused to release any numbers, and other officials did not know those details.

A RAND study found that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in the active duty military, and another 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.




Pride and prejudice? Race tinges LGBT celebrations

By Deepti Hajela

NEW YORK — Gay pride marches in New York City, San Francisco and in between this weekend will have plenty of participants — and also protests directed at them from other members of the LGBT community, speaking out against what they see as increasingly corporate celebrations that prioritize the experiences of gay white men and ignore issues facing black and brown LGBT people.

The protests disrupted other pride events earlier this month. In Washington, D.C., the No Justice No Pride group blocked the parade route. In Columbus, Ohio, four people were arrested after a group set out to protest violence against minority LGBT people and the recent acquittal of a police officer in the shooting death of Philando Castile, a black man, during a traffic stop.

“Nobody wants to feel dropped in a community that prides itself on diversity,” said Mike Basillas, one of the organizers of the planned New York City protest action by No Justice No Pride.

In this Monday, June 19, 2017, Philadelphia’s altered gay pride flag is seen outside City Hall. (Matt Slocum/AP)

In Minneapolis, organizers of Sunday’s Twin Cities Pride Parade asked the police department to limit participation following the acquittal of police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the death of Castile. The openly gay police chief said the decision was divisive and hurtful to LGBT officers, which the organizers acknowledged. But Twin Cities Pride Board Chairwoman Darcie Baumann said the decision was made to be sensitive to those grieving after the verdict “and seeing those uniforms brings angst and tension and the feeling of unrest.”

In Philadelphia, where racial relations in the LGBT community are beginning to mend after a year of community protests, the introduction of a rainbow flag — the traditional symbol of LGBT unity and diversity — that added black and brown stripes to represent blacks and Latinos has spilled over into a national debate.

The recent flare-up of racial tensions comes as no surprise to Isaiah Wilson, director of external affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition, one of the few national groups focused specially on black LGBT rights.

He said the broader LGBT-rights movement “has been whitewashed” — dominated to a large extent by white gay men.

“Black queer and trans folks have always been there, but our contributions have been devalued,” Wilson said.

He said major LGBT-rights groups need to be frank in discussing the issue of racism, as well as recruiting and supporting nonwhite leaders.

“Until the mainstream LGBT groups address this, we’re not going to move forward and you’ll continue to see this pressure,” Wilson said. “In my opinion, the pressure is good — it has us talking.”

Shannon Minter, a white attorney who is the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said LGBT people of color were justified in challenging racist aspects of the LGBT-rights movement.

“The real test will be, can the LGBT movement own up to its historic legacy of racism and evolve to be more accountable and inclusive of people of color?” Minter, a transgender man, wondered. “If not, then it will cease to be a major political movement.”

One reason for the tensions, according to some activists, is a racial divide when it comes to the LGBT-rights movement’s agenda. For years, many national groups focused on legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide — a goal achieved in 2015. For many LGBT people of color, there continue to be more pressing issues, such as economic inequality, policing and incarceration.

“In a lot of places, we’re just trying to survive,” said Wilson.

That divide has led to controversy when attempts have been made to address race, as in Philadelphia. The city drew criticism last summer when activists raised concerns that the Gayborhood — the city’s main gay enclave — discriminated against blacks. Gay blacks complained of dress codes banning Timberlands and sweatpants, of not being served in a timely manner at bars and of being stopped and asked for identification at clubs while white customers walked in unbothered.

In January, Philadelphia officials issued a report confirming longstanding racism in the Gayborhood and pledged to penalize businesses that did not make changes. Earlier this month, the city unveiled a new flag meant to be a more inclusive reflection of gay pride, with a black and brown stripe added to the existing rainbow motif. The flag’s introduction stirred heated commentary from supporters as well as those who felt it was interjecting race unnecessarily.

Pride organizers around the country have taken steps to address the criticisms. In San Francisco, Sunday’s pride event will be led by groups including the Bayard Rustin LGBT Club, SF Black Community Matters, African Human Rights, and Bay Area Queer People of Color. In New York City, the march organizers are putting a contingent of groups more focused on protest than celebration at the head of the event.

The LGBT community does need to confront these issues, said Michelle Meow, an Asian-American woman who is board president of San Francisco Pride, and “the pride celebration is a platform for that dialogue to happen.”

New York City spokesman James Fallarino said if there are any disruptions or protests during the event, “We’re going to make sure we do everything in our power to respect the people who are disrupting or protesting and to respect their message.”

___

Associated Press writers David Crary in New York and Errin Haines Whack in Philadelphia contributed to this report.




LGBT issues present Trump with loyalty test

People use mobile devices to record President Donald Trump as he speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — There was candidate Donald Trump in Colorado, waving a rainbow flag emblazoned with “LGBTs for Trump,” a photo opportunity meant to signal he was a new brand of Republican when it comes to protecting LGBT Americans.

Four months later, faced with a major decision point on the issue, Trump’s White House held up another slogan: defense of states’ rights.

The administration’s decision this week to revoke guidance on transgender students’ use of public school bathrooms was an early test of Trump’s loyalties — between the gay and lesbian community he said he supports but largely did not support him, and the social conservatives who helped drive his victory. It’s a tension Trump could find difficult to manage throughout his presidency, when the hot-button social issues he worked hard to avoid during the campaign are impossible to ignore.

“In a weird way and sometimes a clumsy way, I think President Donald Trump is trying his best to balance issues of LGBT equality and the constituency of evangelical Christians that helped propel him to the White House,” said Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender conservatives. “On LGBT issues in less than a month, we have seen the president go into two separate directions.”

Late in January, the White House released a statement declaring Trump would enforce an Obama administration order barring workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual identity. The unusual announcement of a decision not to act — essentially affirming the status quo — followed an internal debate over revoking the order. Trump sided with LGBT activists at the urging of his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, White House adviser Jared Kushner, both of whom are viewed as moderating influences on the president.

This week, Ivanka Trump and Kushner were publicly silent on the transgender bathroom debate.

The restroom decision set off tensions within the administration. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos expressed reluctance to rescind protections for transgender students and clashed with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who supported the change, according to a person who was familiar with the conversations but not authorized to speak publicly about internal discussions and so requested anonymity.

After Wednesday’s announcement, DeVos released her own statement, stressing that the administration had a “moral obligation” to protect LGBT students, which she said was “not only a key priority for the department, but for every school in America.” Speaking Thursday to the Conservative Political Action Conference, she framed it as a legal matter, “a very huge example of the Obama administration’s overreach.”

During his own address to the group Friday, Trump explicitly thanked evangelicals and other Christians for their support.

The administration has painted the decision as a states’ rights issue.

“We are a states’ rights party,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. He also confirmed that the timing took into account a filing deadline for a Supreme Court case on transgender rights.

As for Trump, he said, the president “has a big heart” when it comes to transgender children but is not going to tell schools what to do.

Deferring to the states on the restroom issue could satisfy some of Trump’s core supporters while costing him very few votes, some Trump allies say.

“Trump understands he would never have won without the strength of the evangelical vote,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, who added the policy would energize Trump’s religious base.

“Those who favor liberal social policy are not likely to vote for Trump in any case,” Reed said. “The voters in the middle won’t cast their ballots based on abortion or transgender issues — they will vote on jobs, the economy and national security.”

Roughly 9 million Americans identify as LGBT, according to a study by The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. That number includes 150,000 transgender people ages 13 to 17.

White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said the administration did not have any more actions or executive orders on LGBT issues planned, but gay rights advocates say they are worried about other policies that may come from the White House or Congress.

Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow points to efforts in Congress to allow people with religious objections to gay marriage, for example, to deny government or private business services to same-sex couples.

During the campaign, Trump — who supported HIV charities and began allowing openly gay people into his clubs decades ago — said at an NBC town hall that he would permit transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner to use any bathroom she wanted. He said, “People go, they use the bathrooms that they feel is appropriate.”

He quickly backed off that statement, telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity: “I think that local communities and states should make the decision. … The federal government should not be involved.”

But Jenner aimed a video tweet late Thursday at the president, holding him accountable for his campaign promise: “Well @realDonaldTrump, from one Republican to another, this is a disaster. You made a promise to protect the LGBTQ community. Call me.”

The Trump administration directive has no immediate impact because a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the Obama guidance in August. But in adjusting his own position, Trump was moving toward more than his party.

Polls suggest a slim majority of Americans are squeamish about allowing transgender public school students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. In one, a July 2016 poll by Quinnipiac University, people were asked specifically about the situation in public schools. Americans said by a 56 percent to 36 percent margin that schools should not be required to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.




Arkansas Supreme Court strikes city’s LGBT protections

This Thursday, May 12, 2016, file photo, shows signage outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. North Carolina is in a legal battle over a state law that requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate. Some small business owners already working to make their companies more welcoming to LGBT employees say the massacre at a gay dance club in Orlando, Fla., gives them an impetus to make more changes. In this photo, the Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathroom sign was designed by artist Peregrine Honig. (AP / Gerry Broome, File)

FILE – This Thursday, May 12, 2016, file photo, shows signage outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. (AP / Gerry Broome, File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a city’s ordinance banning discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, but it stopped short of saying whether a state law aimed at prohibiting such local LGBT protections is constitutional.

The justices reversed a judge’s decision that Fayetteville’s anti-discrimination ordinance didn’t violate a state law prohibiting cities from enacting protections not covered by state law. Fayetteville, a liberal enclave in northwestern Arkansas, is one of several cities that approved local protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in response to the 2015 law.

Arkansas’ civil rights law doesn’t cover sexual orientation or gender identity. In the unanimous ruling, the justices rejected the argument that Fayetteville and other cities that have enacted such ordinances have made that the protections are covered elsewhere in state law.

The court ruled that these other laws, included an anti-bullying law, aren’t related to anti-discrimination laws and don’t create new protected classes. They noted that the 2015 law states its intent to have uniform anti-discrimination measures in the state.

“(Fayetteville’s ordinance) violates the plain wording of Act 137 by extending discrimination laws in the city of Fayetteville to include two classifications not previously included under state law,” the court said. “This necessarily creates a nonuniform nondiscrimination law and obligation in the city of Fayetteville that does not exist under state law.”

The justices said they couldn’t rule on the law’s constitutionality since it wasn’t addressed by the lower court and they sent the case back to the Washington County judge who upheld Fayetteville’s ordinance. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, whose office had asked the court to uphold the state law, said she was grateful for the court’s ruling.

Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams said he disagreed with the court’s ruling and will now focus on challenging the law’s constitutionality in the lower court.

“They can’t, by not using express terms, accomplish the same result which is truly what their intent was, which was to prevent the city from enacting protections for its gay and lesbian residents,” Williams said, referring to the Legislature’s passage of the 2015 law.

Eureka Springs, a mountain resort town known as a gay-friendly tourist destination, also approved broad anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people in 2015. More limited measures covering only government agencies and contractors were enacted in the state capital, Little Rock, the surrounding county and in Hot Springs.

The court’s ruling did not address whether the other local ordinances violate the state law. Little Rock and Pulaski County officials said they would continue enforcing their measures. Rutledge said in a 2015 advisory opinion that the ordinances aren’t allowed under the law, but her office said it’s too early to say whether the other cities’ protections are affected by Thursday’s ruling.

“The logic of today’s ruling appears to apply to other similar local ordinances around the state, but we want to continue to look into it,” spokesman Judd Deere said.

Arkansas is one of three states that ban local LGBT protections. Tennessee has a similar ban, and the prohibition is also part of North Carolina’s controversial law restricting which bathrooms transgender people can use. A state appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against Tennessee’s ban in 2014. North Carolina’s law, which prompted widespread boycotts of the state, is being challenged in federal court.




WHY IT MATTERS: LGBT

FILE - In this June 26, 2015, file photo, a supporter of same-sex marriage runs with an "equality" flag under a larger "equality" drape outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, before the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the U.S. Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land, but there are other battlegrounds related to civil rights and non-discrimination protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. Two polarizing questions: What sort of access should transgender people have to public bathrooms? And are the advances for LGBT rights infringing on the religious freedom of some Americans? (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

A same-sex marriage supporter runs with an “equality” flag under a larger “equality” drape outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, before the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the U.S. (AP / Jacquelyn Martin, File)

NEW YORK – THE ISSUE: Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land, but there are other battlegrounds related to civil rights and nondiscrimination protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. Two polarizing questions: What sort of access should transgender people have to public bathrooms? And are the advances for LGBT rights infringing on the religious freedom of some Americans?

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WHERE THEY STAND

Hillary Clinton is a staunch supporter of LGBT rights; she has endorsed the Equality Act, a proposed federal law that would provide comprehensive protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Donald Trump says he would be a better president for gays than Clinton, yet major LGBT-rights groups strongly oppose him. Among the reasons: He has balked at endorsing same-sex marriage, his evangelical advisory board has included prominent opponents of advances in LGBT rights and running mate Mike Pence, Indiana’s governor, last year signed a law that critics said would allow businesses to deny service to gay people for religious reasons.

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WHY IT MATTERS

Whoever wins the presidency can only do so much to influence national LGBT-rights policies, unless, perhaps, if the winner’s party sweeps control of Congress. The proposed Equality Act is unlikely to advance through a Republican-controlled House, even if Clinton wins. And the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage is unlikely to be threatened, though some conservatives cling to hopes that a Supreme Court reconfigured by Trump appointees might reverse the 2015 ruling extending that right to all 50 states.

On some fronts, however, the outcome of the presidential race could have a major impact – for example, in how aggressively federal agencies work to expand LGBT rights. Clinton would probably maintain or intensify the Obama administration’s efforts to bolster transgender rights. This could mean pressure on school districts to let transgender students use school bathrooms based on their gender identity.

Some transgender students have become activists on this issue, saying they face harassment and discomfort if forced to use bathrooms on the basis of the sex on their birth certificate.

Read more: ‘I’m Coming Out Again’ on National Coming Out Day Oct. 11

There’s also the matter of judicial appointments. Thus far, federal judges have generally been unsympathetic to arguments that certain types of anti-LGBT discrimination are permissible if in accordance with a person’s religious beliefs. Trump has told conservatives he’d place a high priority on religious liberty and would seek to protect Christians from having to violate their beliefs. Among the types of cases in question: Whether wedding photographers or bakers who oppose same-sex marriage should be penalized for refusing to provide services for a same-sex wedding.

At the state level, the election could have important repercussions for LGBTissues. In North Carolina, for example, the Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Roy Cooper, opposes a law curtailing LGBT rights that was signed by his election opponent, incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. That law – which includes restrictions on transgender people’s bathroom access – has been the target of an expansive protest campaign.

In Indiana, Pence’s decision to forgo a second term to run for vice president boosts Democratic hopes of winning the race for governor. The Democratic candidate, former House Speaker John Gregg, has vowed to push for full LGBT civil rights if elected; at present Indiana is one of 28 states with no statewide nondiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians.

In Kentucky, there’s an intriguing U.S. Senate race matching incumbent Republican Rand Paul, who failed in his presidential bid, against Democrat Jim Gray, the openly gay mayor of Lexington. Gray is an underdog in the race.

 




Investigators Casting Wide Net In Nightclub Shooting Probe

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Shot in the leg and lying in a mix of blood and water on a bathroom floor, Patience Carter heard gunman Omar Mateen dial 911 from just a few feet away. The American-born son of an Afghan immigrant, Mateen told the person on the other end he wanted America to stop bombing his country, she recalled.

“We knew what his motive was. He wasn’t going to stop killing people until he was killed,” she said Tuesday during a riveting hospital news conference.

Kathleen Kerr, of Orlando, Fla., holds flowers before placing them down at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub Tuesday, June 14, 2016, in Orlando. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Kathleen Kerr, of Orlando, Fla., holds flowers before placing them down at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub Tuesday, June 14, 2016, in Orlando. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Now, investigators are trying to figure out what led to Mateen’s murderous rampage in a gay dance club where patrons say they knew him as just another regular who danced and sometimes tried to pick up men.

A number of possible explanations and motives for the bloodbath have emerged, with the Muslim Mateen professing allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call during the attack, his ex-wife saying he was mentally ill and his father suggesting he was driven by hatred of gays.

The investigation into an attack that left Mateen and 49 victims dead includes a look at his current spouse. An official who was briefed on the case but insisted on anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation said authorities believe the wife, Noor Salman, knew about the plot ahead of time, but they are reluctant to charge her on that basis alone.

Investigators have spoken extensively with Salman and are working to establish whether she and Mateen were recently at or inside the club, said an official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said investigators have not ruled out charging others, including Salman.

The FBI has recovered Mateen’s phone and will use location data to verify whether he previously visited the club, the official said.

On Tuesday, a U.S. official said the FBI was looking into a flurry of news reports quoting patrons of the Pulse as saying Mateen frequented the nightspot and reached out to men on gay dating apps. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation and also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some psychologists raised the possibility that Mateen was sexually conflicted and that those feelings might have contributed to his lashing out against gays.

“People who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity do at times react to that by doing the exact opposite, which could be to become more masculine or more vocal about their ideals of a traditional family,” said Michael Newcomb, a Northwestern University psychologist.

The attack early Sunday ended with Mateen being shot to death by a SWAT team. Of the 53 people wounded, six were listed in critical condition Tuesday and five others were in guarded condition.

At a news conference at Florida Hospital Orlando, Carter described praying to die as she lay on a nightclub bathroom floor covered in water and blood.

“I really don’t think I’m going to get out of there,” Carter, 20, recalled. “I made peace with God. ‘Just please take me. I don’t want any more.’ I was just begging God to take the soul out my body.”

In Washington, President Barack Obama said investigators had no information to suggest a foreign terrorist group directed the attack. He said it was increasingly clear the killer “took in extremist information and propaganda over the internet. He appears to have been an angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalized.”

The president also blasted Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric as dangerous and contrary to American values, challenged Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban and lashed out at his Republican foes who have criticized him for not using the term “radical Islam.”

“If someone seriously thinks we don’t know who we’re fighting, if there’s anyone out there who thinks we’re confused about who our enemies are,” Obama said, “that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists we’ve taken off the battlefield.”

Although some men told stories of Mateen contacting them on social media platforms used by gay men, gay dating app Jack’d said it has been unable to confirm so far that Mateen had a profile on the service. Grindr officials said they “will continue to cooperate with the authorities and do not comment on ongoing investigations.” And Adam4Adam said the company is looking at conversations and profiles in the Orlando area for any activity by Mateen but hasn’t found anything yet.

Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, denied his son was gay and said that if he had been in the nightclub before, he may have been “scouting the place.” The elder Mateen, who lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida, said that apart from the time his son got angry a few months ago over seeing two men kissing, he never saw any anti-gay behavior from him.

Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, said earlier in the week that he was mentally ill, controlling and abusive. Amid the latest reports about his club-going, she told CNN: “Well, when we had gotten married, he confessed to me about his past that was recent at that time and that he very much enjoyed going to clubs and the nightlife and there was a lot of pictures of him.”

“I feel like it’s a side of him or a part of him that he lived but probably didn’t want everybody to know about,” she said.

Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed and Tamara Lush in Orlando; Holbrook Mohr in Port St. Lucie, Florida; and Lindsey Tanner in Chicago, contributed to this report.

The Associated Press