Thursday, June 8, 2023

Pence Makes Incomprehensible Comparison Between Gender-Affirming Care and Tattoos

During his CNN town hall event (seriously, we're doing more of these??), former VP Mike Pence, who announced he's running for president this week, denounced the idea of kids being able to get gender-affirming care -- even if their parents and physicians are OK with it/say they should do so.

Gender-affirming care is a wide range of health care. It can be psychology; it can be puberty blockers; it can be hormone therapy. Some states are taking action to block these types of care for transgender kids, even though cisgender teens use them frequently, too.

From HuffPost:

The former vice president told moderator Dana Bash that although he supported restoring parents’ rights in schools and ending “politically correct nonsense,” he didn’t believe a parent should be able to decide if their child should be allowed to transition or seek medical care for gender dysphoria.

“I strongly support state legislation that bans all gender transition, chemical or surgical procedures, for kids under the age of 18,” Pence said. “I’m talking as a father and I’m talking as a grandfather right now. There’s a reason you don’t let kids get a tattoo before they’re 18.”

Pence makes a weird comparison here because, well, kids in 38 states across the country RIGHT NOW can get friggin' tattoos with their parents' permission.

Oh, and just so this is out there: while only a few hundred trans teens are actually getting the kinds of surgeries Pence alludes to annually, more than 3,000 cis girls are getting breast implants each year, with their parents' permission. But for some reason, the far right is fine with that. Hmm.

But put that aside. Pence says he's all for parental rights. Except, he's not, because he's just for SOME parents' rights, it seems. You know, when it comes to parents saying they don't want books with Black history in them, or that feature LGBTQ characters, that kind of stuff.

But respecting a parent's right to decide, with their health care provider's help, that their trans children need such care? That's too far, according to the Christian nationalist.

From LGBTQ Nation:

Host Dana Bash pushed back: “I just want to be clear on this because you are so adamant about parents’ rights.”

“Right, I am,” Pence responded.

“But in this particular case, parents who say, along with the doctors, that what is best for their kids, what their kids feel most comfortable with doing, is gender transition,” Bash said. “The parents should not be allowed to do that?”

Pence did not appear to have a response ready for this fairly obvious question.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Even a Trump-Appointed Federal Judge Gets It: Drag Bans Are Wrong (and Unconstitutional)

A federal judge -- one appointed by former President Donald Trump, no less -- has ruled that the state's ban on drag show performances is unconstitutional.

From The Associated Press:

The law is both “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad” and encouraged “discriminatory enforcement,” according to the ruling late Friday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

“There is no question that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. But there is a difference between material that is ‘obscene’ in the vernacular, and material that is ‘obscene’ under the law,” Parker said.

“Simply put, no majority of the Supreme Court has held that sexually explicit — but not obscene — speech receives less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech,” he said. 

Similar to other bans happening in conservative parts of the country, the Tennessee law banned "adult cabaret performances" at properties where minors might be present. 

Many drag shows, while they may be suggestive, are not overtly sexual. Parents often bring children to these entertaining performances, which is their right to decide on doing, just as it is other parents' rights to bring their kids to restaurants with scantily-clad servers, many have pointed out. Using another analogy, it's no different than a parent bringing their kid to an R-rated movie (indeed, many drag performances are tamer than that).

This ruling (read it in full here) is probably just the start: as other states and local governments enact unnecessary and bigoted drag bans, more lawsuits are likely to happen, too, finding that these laws violate performers' First Amendment rights.

Notably, although there is a distinction between trans people and drag queens, these bans also target transgender people in deeply negative and concerning ways, affecting their speech rights, too. A Native American Two-Spirit author was banned by her county government from giving a talk at a Montana library last week because of a drag ban, for example. She, too, is contemplating a lawsuit.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Legal Experts Pen 180-Page Memo Outlining Trump Prosecution Over Classified Docs Found at Mar-a-Lago

Just Security -- which bills itself as "an online forum for the rigorous analysis of security, democracy, foreign policy, and rights" -- has released what it's calling a "model prosecution memo" that details the case, so far, for prosecuting Donald Trump over his retention of classified documents.

Some quick facts, to remind you of how we got here:

  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) tried for almost a year after Trump left the WH to get these docs back. At the time, during that year, it didn't know what kind of documents Trump had, only that they were government docs, which belong to the American people, not a former president. Only after the agency threatened to involve Congress in the matter did Trump and his lawyers relent, and allow NARA to collect SOME documents in early 2022.

  • After doing so, NARA noticed that some of the docs they got back had classified markings. They alerted the Department of Justice (DOJ), which later prompted the department to question Trump's lawyers further until it was determined they needed to issue a subpoena to get the remaining docs back. The subpoena was served in May of 2022, and served out in June of that year. Trump was purportedly cooperative during that subpoena, but as we find out later, he might have been trying to hide documents, too, which could render a charge of obstruction.

  • After the DOJ carried out its subpoena and retrieved what Trump and his lawyers said were all of the remaining classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, more evidence surfaced that Trump had lied to them. We know from reports, for example, that Trump had his workers move documents both prior to and after the DOJ subpoena was carried out (including on the day before officials came to Mar-a-Lago to get them). Trump was clearly not trustworthy in surrendering these documents willfully, so the FBI obtained a search warrant and retrieved them, without Trump's consent or knowledge ahead of time, in August.

  • In total, more than 300 classified documents were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago from the first retrieval in January 2022 to August 2022. A few more documents were also retrieved from a storage locker not at Mar-a-Lago later that year.

Trump has not tried to hide the fact that he had these docs in his possession. In fact, he has said that what he did was perfectly legal, suggesting that he declassified the documents automatically just by thinking about doing it on his last day as president when he removed them from the White House.

That's...not how things work, at all. There's a process for declassifying documents. And even if that IS how things COULD happen, the declassified docs would still belong to the government, not to Trump.

Anyway, back to the memo...

Just Security, in publishing its memo detailing how the DOJ could prosecute Trump, TODAY, is basing its opinion on just what's been made public knowledge, through court filings and media reports about the matter. In other words, this memo says Trump can and should be prosecuted without even knowing the things the DOJ knows that hasn't been made public yet.

No doubt, there is more information that DOJ has paints Trump in an even darker light.

From Just Security:

There is sufficient evidence to obtain and sustain a conviction here, if the information gleaned from government filings and statements and voluminous public reporting is accurate. Indeed, the DOJ is likely now, or shortly will be, internally circulating a pros memo of its own saying so.

But since the DOJ memo will likely be "highly confidential," it will probably not be made public, Just Security noted. So, the site produced their own memo, to give the public some insight into what the DOJ might be saying in their prosecutorial documents, if they're drafting them.

"Given the gravity of the issues here, our memo provides a sense of how prosecutors will assemble and evaluate the considerations that they must assess before making a prosecution decision," the website says.

The memo is extensive: if you make the time to read it, buckle in, because it's 180 pages long. The authors of the report include a number of university law professors and former federal prosecutors (some of them are both!), as well as other legal minds.

But to put it short, Just Security makes the case for prosecuting Trump based on six criteria, separated into two sections, which read:

Mishandling of Government Documents

1. Retention of National Defense Information (18 U.S.C. § 793(e))

2. Concealing Government Records (18 U.S.C. § 2071)

3. Conversion of Government Property (18 U.S.C. § 641)

Obstruction, Contempt, False Information

1. Obstruction of Justice (18 U.S.C. § 1519)

2. Criminal Contempt (18 U.S.C. § 402)

3. False Statements to Federal Investigators (18 U.S.C. § 1001)

Read more at Just Security