U.S. President Donald Trump claimed Monday that Guatemala was “getting ready to sign” an agreement that would force migrants who flee persecution in El Salvador and Honduras to request asylum in Guatemala instead of Mexico or the United States.
A U.S. State Department delegation traveled to Guatemala last week to seek approval for the “safe third country” protocol, which if signed would be the first such agreement between the United States and a Latin American country.
There has been no public indication from Guatemala that the deal was close to completion.
Trump’s comment came in a late-night series of tweets in which he praised Mexico for “using their strong immigration laws” and helping to stop people before they make the journey all the way up to the U.S. southern border, something Trump has long demanded as he seeks to cut the number of migrant arrivals.
He also said that within the United States, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would begin next week removing those who had illegally entered the country.
Earlier Monday, Trump’s administration announced plans to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said funds for programs in those countries would not be provided until the administration is satisfied these governments are taking concrete actions to reduce the number of migrants coming to the United States.
“Working with Congress, we will reprogram those funds to other priorities as appropriate. This is consistent with the president’s direction and with the recognition that it is critical that there be sufficient political will in these countries to address the problem at its source. As Secretary Pompeo has said, these nations have the responsibility to take care of the immigration problems in their home country,” Ortagus said.
The Reuters news agency quoted congressional aides as saying the administration told them it would reallocate $370 million in aid to Central America that lawmakers had approved for fiscal 2018, and suspend an additional $180 million Congress had approved for fiscal 2017.
Lawmakers had been urging the administration not to cut the aid, fearing the end of U.S. assistance will only make worse the rampant poverty, deep-rooted political instability and widespread insecurity in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, collectively known as the “Northern Triangle.”
Rep. Veronica Escobar who represents the border city of El Paso, Texas, said on Twitter that the Trump administration’s strategy is destabilizing.
“Instead of working with leaders in Central America to stabilize the situation there, the administration is eliminating aid intended to create better conditions that would help keep families home,” she wrote.
And *again* the Trump administration chooses a strategy that makes things worse.
Instead of working with leaders in Central America to stabilize the situation there, the administration is eliminating aid intended to create better conditions that would help keep families home. https://t.co/g2SC3XtHMz
— Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) June 17, 2019
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights group, tweeted that “all aid to Central America is not the way to build a safer, more prosperous region where people aren’t forced to flee.”
Cutting all aid to Central America is not the way to build a safer, more prosperous region where people aren’t forced to flee: https://t.co/O7n70NmSPy
— WOLA (@WOLA_org) June 17, 2019
Back in March, the Trump administration promised to cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras after Trump expressed unhappiness with the three countries’ immigration policies.
“We completed a review, and previously awarded grants and contracts will continue with current funding. State Department assistance in support of priorities of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security priorities to help the Northern Triangle governments take actions that will protect the U.S. border and counter transnational organized crime will also continue,” Ortagus said.
Lawmakers who were against the plan said it was cruel to cut off aid to countries dealing with hunger and crime. The move would be counterproductive, they said, because it is more likely to increase the number of migrants than decrease it.
Chinese university students in the United States are increasing being pressured to act as pawns in the ever-expanding espionage war that Beijing is running against Washington and its allies.
The allegation, made Monday by a key U.S. lawmaker, comes as security and defense officials are expressing growing concern over Chinese efforts to exploit Western research and technology.
“The overwhelming number of counterintelligence cases in our country now involve Chinese nationals,” Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman, Democrat Mark Warner, told an audience at the Council for Foreign Relations in Washington.
“The Chinese spy services are literally threatening Chinese families,” he said. “’If you’re son or daughter does not come back [from the US] and come back with intellectual property, you the family will be put in jeopardy.”
Warner is not the first to raise concerns about Chinese students in the U.S. This past April, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Chinese intelligence was using a “societal approach” to stealing research and technological advancements – a plan that included leveraging Chinese students in the U.S.
“The academic sector needs to be much more sophisticated and thoughtful about how others may exploit the very open, collaborative research environment that we have in this country, and revere in this country,” Wray said at the time.
Headshot of Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman, Democrat Mark Warner.
And until now, many U.S. universities have been eager to welcome Chinese students, seeing them as a way to bring in more money.
“This is a revenue source that the universities become addicted to,” Warner said. “All those students are paying 100 cents on the dollar tuition.”
But U.S. officials say academic institutions are increasing aware of the dangers, both from students and from Chinese outreach efforts, like its Confucius Institutes.
The institutes were set up at universities across the U.S. to promote education about Chinese language and culture, though Warner said many academic officials are now viewing them as “nothing but agents of Chinese services to spy on Chinese students and hold them accountable.”
It is also becoming more difficult for Chinese students to get into the U.S.
Last year, the U.S. State Department shortened the length of visas for Chinese graduate students studying robotics, aviation and advanced manufacturing from five years to one year. And earlier this month, Chinese officials said visa complications had prevented 13.5% of Chinese students hoping to study in the U.S. from making the trip.
Warner on Monday warned U.S. academics should likewise be wary of traveling to China.
“If you’re suddenly offered an all-expense paid trip to lecture in Chinese universities, please make sure you don’t bring your existing computer equipment. Bring burner phones,” he said. “There are certain kind of low hanging fruit that I think we could do a better job of.”
VOA’s Ken Bredemeier and Chris Hannas contributed to this report.
The United States calls Iran’s plan to surpass the internationally agreed limit on its stock of low-enriched uranium “nuclear blackmail.”
“President [Donald] Trump has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime’s nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure,” said White House National Security Council spokesperson Garrett Marquis.
At the State Department, senior officials urged the international community not to yield to the “nuclear extortion” by Iran.
“We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus on Monday during a briefing, adding that Iran’s announcement is “unfortunate” but not surprising.
The U.S. government’s comments followed Tehran’s announcement Monday that the country would soon surpass the limit on the amount of enriched uranium it is allowed to keep under the 2015 international agreement aimed at restraining its nuclear weapons program.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he regretted the Iranian announcement, urging Tehran “to behave in a way that is patient and responsible.” Britain said if Iran exceeded the nuclear limits, it would consider “all options.”
In remarks to reporters carried on state television, agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said, “Today the countdown to pass the 300 kilograms reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days time [June 27] … we will pass this limit.”
But he said Iran would be open to going back to observing the limit if it gets help from other signatories to the agreement in circumventing U.S. sanctions on its vital oil industry.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are escalating more than a year after Trump announced Washington was pulling out of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and would begin re-imposing sanctions on Tehran.
In early May, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran, in retaliation for last year’s unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the accord, would stop observing restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water that was agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Washington then imposed tough new economic sanctions on Tehran in the expressed hope of negotiating a new pact with Tehran. But the United Nations atomic watchdog agency says Iran has continued to meet terms of the 2015 pact. While Washington has pulled out of the deal, the other signatories to the agreement have not.
Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program under the 2015 deal to allay concerns about its alleged work on nuclear weapons, and in return it won relief from economic sanctions that had badly hurt its economy.
But Iran contends that the other nations in the deal have not done enough to maximize the economic benefits of sanctions relief while adhering to the nuclear program limits on both the amount of enriched uranium it can hold as well as the level to which it can enrich the material.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has blamed Iran for attacks on two ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz last week and other attacks in recent weeks in the Mideast, claims Tehran has denied. Washington also declared Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.
The State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a number of calls with his counterparts over the weekend on assessment of Iran’s actions last week, including NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Chinese top diplomat and politburo member Yang Jiechi, Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
The Pentagon has released new photographs it says are more proof that Iran attacked two foreign oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week.
The pictures show what the U.S. says are Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces taking an unexploded mine off the side of the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous tanker. Another shot shows where the mine had been attached.
Other pictures show a large hole in the Courageous that the Pentagon says was likely caused by another mine.
Press photographs taken after Thursday’s attacks showed a Norwegian tanker on fire, sending thick black smoke into the sky.
“Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” a Pentagon statement accompanying the photos said.
Iran has not reacted to the new pictures, but has denied involvement in the tanker attacks, calling the claims “ridiculous” and “dangerous.”
Monday afternoon, Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were”defensive purposes.”
“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said in a statement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said the timing of the attacks is “suspicious,” because a Japanese tanker was hit while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran seeking to defuse U.S.-Iran tensions.
Earlier Monday, the U.S. called Iran’s plan to surpass an internationally agreed limit on its stock of low-enriched uranium “nuclear blackmail.”
“President [Donald] Trump has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime’s nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Garrett Marquis said.
Top State Department officials urge the international community not to yield to Iran’s “nuclear extortion.”
“We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters. She called Iran’s announcement “unfortunate” but not surprising.
The U.S. government’s comments followed Tehran’s announcement that it would soon surpass the limit on the amount of enriched uranium it is allowed to keep under the 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he regrets the Iranian announcement, urging Tehran “to behave in a way that is patient and responsible.” Britain said if Iran exceeds the nuclear limits it would consider “all options.”
Britain and France signed the deal with Iran, along with China, Germany, Russia, and the United States.
Iran’s nuclear agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on state television Monday, “The countdown to pass the 300 kilograms reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days time [June 27] … we will pass this limit.”
But he said Iran would be open to going back to observing the limit if it gets help from other signatories to the agreement in circumventing U.S. sanctions on its vital oil industry.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are escalating more than a year after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions on Iran.
President Hassan Rouhani announced last month Iran would stop observing restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal. He pointed out that the U.S. has dropped out of the pact, reimposed old sanctions, and added new ones.
Iran is also angry that the other parties to the nuclear agreement have not done enough to help the battered Iranian economy recover from the sanctions while still insisting Iran keep its part of the bargain.
Trump had called the 2015 agreement “horrible” and said he would like to negotiate a new one. But the United Nations atomic watchdog agency says Iran has continued to meet terms of the 2015 pact. While Washington has pulled out of the deal, the other signatories have not.
A broad range of U.S. companies told a hearing in Washington on Monday that they have few alternatives other than China for producing clothing, electronics, and other consumer goods as the Trump administration prepares 25% tariffs on remaining U.S.-China trade.
The comments came on the first of seven days of hearings that began on Monday, held by the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR), on President Donald Trump’s plan to hit another $300 billion worth of Chinese imports with tariffs.
Sourcing from other countries will raise costs, in many cases more than the 25% tariffs, some witnesses told a panel of U.S. trade officials from USTR, the Commerce Department and other federal agencies.
Mark Flannery, president of Regalo International LLC, a Minnesota-based maker of baby gates, child booster seats and portable play yards, said that pricing quotes for shifting production to Vietnam – using largely Chinese-made steel – were 50% higher than current China costs, while quotes from Mexico were above that.
“Currently there’s no country manufacturing metal baby gates outside of China,” Flannery said.
Child safety products such as car seats were spared from Trump’s previous tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, imposed in September 2018. But in the drive to pressure China in trade negotiations, USTR put them back on the list, along with other products spared previously, from flat-panel televisions to Bluetooth headphones.
The proposed list, which will be ready for a decision by Trump as early as July 2, includes nearly all consumer products, and could hit Christmas sales hard, particularly cell phones, computers, toys and electronic gadgets.
Marc Schneider, chief executive of fashion footwear and apparel marketer Kenneth Cole Productions, said 25 percent tariffs would wipe out the company’s profits and cost jobs. With China producing 70 percent of the shoes bought in the United States, there were no alternatives, including India and Vietnam, that could match China’s quality, price and volume, he said.
“We’re going to lower the quality of footwear, raise prices and accomplish nothing by moving it around to other countries,” Schneider said.
In a letter addressed to the USTR ahead of Monday’s hearing, clothing retailer Ralph Lauren Corp asked for apparel and footwear to be removed from the tariff list, arguing that a rise in duties would lower sales and lead to U.S. workers losing their jobs.
Jean Kolloff, owner of cashmere importer Quinn Apparel, said her reason for opposing the tariffs was geographical – the Alashan goat that produces light-colored cashmere wool is only found in China’s Inner Mongolia region.
“We searched for similar species of goat in an attempt to copy the hair from this animal in other countries or even domestically, but to no avail,” she said.
The tariff hearings are underway amid a severe deterioration of U.S.-China relations since Trump accused Beijing in early May of reneging on commitments that had brought the world’s top two economies close to a deal to end their nearly year-long trade
Since then, Trump raised tariffs to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods. The $300 billion list of products being reviewed in the hearing would bring punitive tariffs to nearly all remaining Chinese exports to the United States.
Trump has said he wants to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the June 28-29 G20 leaders summit in Japan, but neither government has confirmed a meeting.
The list of more than 300 scheduled witnesses includes representatives from retailer Best Buy, toy maker Hasbro Inc, vacuum cleaner maker iRobot, faucet maker Moen, and other firms and trade groups in a diverse range of industries.
Not all of the witnesses on the first day of the hearing were opposed to the tariffs. Mike Branson, president of Rheem Manufacturing Co’s air conditioning division, asked Trump administration officials to close a loophole that was allowing Chinese firms to skirt air conditioner tariffs by shipping condenser and air handler units separately.
This allowed the units to be imported duty free as parts, rather than as completed units that were subject to tariffs.
Domestic manufacturers had ample capacity to make these products, Branson said.
Regular White House media briefings should “absolutely” return, according to the President Donald Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer.
“There is a utility in making sure people see the government in action,” Spicer tells VOA. “It is an opportunity for the White House to make sure that you’re getting your message out. And it gives you an opportunity, unlike anyone else, to sort of capture the media attention and therefore their audiences’ attention in a way that no other form does.”
The lectern in the Brady Briefing Room, just steps away from the press office, is literally gathering dust, having not been used for more than three months.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who was Spicer’s successor, announced last Friday she is departing by the end of this month.
Sanders has defended the atrophy of the scheduled briefings, noting she, the president, and other top administration officials are frequently available to answer reporters’ questions outside of the 49-seat briefing room.
Spicer, the subject of media criticism during his seven-month tenure for contentious exchanges from the podium and about his credibility, says it is not necessary to hold daily briefings nor do they all need to be televised.
“Figure out a way to mix them in,” says Spicer who characterizes the briefings in the Trump administration as devolving into “media circuses where it’s been a yell fest, where it’s been an opportunity for someone to get up and showboat.”
The drama-filled briefings conducted by Spicer and Sanders were frequently carried live in their entirety by cable TV networks.
Spicer explains that each briefing takes three to five hours of preparation for the White House press office, including gathering information from across government and officials need to determine whether it is the best use of their time.
Trump has not announced who will succeed Sanders.
Spicer says whoever is chosen needs to be up to the minute on the president’s thinking – not just familiar with where Trump was on an issue hours ago.
“Making sure that you are as up to date as possible before you speak for the president is crucial,” says Spicer. “The president talks to folks all the time, his decision making can be in flux depending on the issue. And, so, making sure that you’re in the loop, as issues are evolving, is crucial.”
Spicer, who has written a book, The Briefing, that covers his time as press secretary – which saw him became a household name and a parodied figure on late night comedy and talk shows – acknowledges “there were unequivocally times I made mistakes.” But Spicer contends he never told a lie at the podium nor did Trump ever ask him not to tell the truth.
“But we would have discussions about whether or not we needed to discuss an issue or promote something that we didn’t think was going to get a good reaction,” says Spicer. “But there’s a big difference between wanting to do that and misleading anyone.”
Spicer does agree with the observation that the briefings he and Sanders conducted were, to a degree, primarily for an audience of one – the nearby occupant of the Oval Office.
“There’s no question that this particular president takes a much greater interest in how his views and thoughts are communicated” compared to previous presidents, says Spicer.
Another piece of advice Spicer offers to Sander’s successor, “Double, triple, in quadruple, check everything that you’re going to say and do because it’s going to go through that level of scrutiny.”
They didn’t set out to change history; they weren’t the first LGBT Americans to mobilize against bias.
Yet the June 1969 uprising by young gays, lesbians and transgender people in New York City, clashing with police near a bar called the Stonewall Inn, was a vital catalyst in expanding LGBT activism nationwide and abroad. This month’s anniversary provides an opportune moment to ask: How has the movement fared over the past 50 years? What unfinished business remains?
From the perspective of veteran activists, the progress has been astounding. In 1969, every state but Illinois outlawed gay sex, psychiatric experts classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and most gays stayed in the closet for fear of losing jobs and friends.
Today, same-sex marriage is the law of the land in the U.S. and at least 25 other countries. LGBT Americans serve as governors, big-city mayors and members of Congress, and one — Pete Buttigieg — is waging a spirited campaign for president.
Among those looking back with marvel is Stephen Rutsky, 68, a lifelong New Yorker who joined in rioting and protests sparked by a police raid targeted at gay patrons of Stonewall. He engaged in a wide variety of LGBT activism over the ensuing decades.
”Mobs of gays and lesbians were running around angry and confused, but we all knew that something had sparked a change in our world,” Rutsky remembers. “We were demanding our freedom and there was nothing that was ever going to stop us from obtaining it.”
”We’ve come a long way, baby,” he added. “But lots more to do.”
High on the to-do list is passage of federal legislation that would provide nationwide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. A bill with that goal, the Equality Act, passed the House of Representatives in May with unanimous Democratic backing but appears doomed in the Senate because of Republican opposition.
Nationally, 20 mostly Democrat-run states already have laws comparable to the Equality Act — protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and public services. The other 30 states, where Republicans hold full or partial power, have balked.
The result is a patchwork map in which a majority of states make it legal to be fired, evicted or barred from public facilities because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Internationally, the struggle for LGBT rights remains daunting in much of the world. Stonewall helped inspire successful activist movements in Western Europe (a major British LGBT-rights group is called Stonewall) and elsewhere. But gay sex is outlawed in dozens of countries, while Asia and Africa each have only one nation that has legalized same-sex marriage.
Another battlefront relates to transgender rights. In the U.S., the Trump administration has moved to revoke newly won health care protections for transgender people, restrict their presence in the military, and withdraw federal guidance that trans students should be able to use bathrooms of their choice.
Donald Trump’s election “gave all sorts of mouth-breathers permission to spew ignorance, hatred, and stupidity, undoing decades of progress,” said Jennifer Boylan, a transgender writer who teaches at Barnard College in New York City. “People who know nothing about trans people and our unique challenges have no qualms weighing in.”
Jude Patton, a 78-year-old transgender man from Yuba City, California, marvels at the changes that have unfolded during his life.
He grew up in Alton, Illinois, knowing from childhood that he was uncomfortable being viewed as a girl. His parents were supportive, but he says some teachers at his high school were intolerant.
In his mid-20s, Patton moved to California and completed a surgical transition at a Stanford University clinic in 1973. Ever since, he has been active in advocacy, counseling and health education related to LGBT issues.
Now, he says his delight at LGBT gains is tempered by worries over the Trump administration’s rollback of trans-friendly protections.
”Every day, I see some other right being taken away,” he said. “Historically, the pendulum can swing back again. I hope it gets better.”
`An amazing silver lining’
Historians trace the emergence of America’s gay rights movements to the 1950s, when the Mattachine Society and a lesbian group, the Daughters of Bilitis, were founded in California.
Government astronomer Frank Kameny, who sued after he was fired for being gay, took his anti-discrimination case to the Supreme Court in 1961 (the justices declined to hear his appeal), and helped stage the first gay rights protest outside the White House in 1965.
In 1966, Mattachine Society members in New York City successfully staged a “sip-in” to protest laws that banned bars from serving alcohol to gays and lesbians. The terms “gay pride” and “gay liberation” emerged.
Much of the activity unfolded out of the national spotlight. But the movement broadened after Stonewall, leading to some high-profile events in the late 1970s.
In 1977, singer Anita Bryant led a victorious campaign to repeal a local ordinance in Florida barring anti-gay discrimination. Activists retaliated with a nationwide boycott of Florida orange juice, a product for which Bryant was a brand spokeswoman.
In 1978, pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk was assassinated along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. The next year, activists organized the first national gay rights march on Washington.
The 1980s proved shattering — but also galvanizing — for gay Americans, as an initially mysterious, unnamed disease morphed into the AIDS epidemic. Many thousands of gay men died, including actor Rock Hudson; his death played a major role in raising public awareness of the disease.
Longtime activist Lorri Jean, who has served more than 20 years as CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, remembers AIDS in the 1980s as a “horrific disaster” that killed many of the men close to her.
”Yet it had an amazing silver lining,” said Jean, 62. “Suddenly, the most privileged in our community were being impacted as well as the least privileged, and people couldn’t hide in the closet anymore. When they got sick, people knew. That galvanized our community in a way that nothing else ever had.”
By the mid-1990s, the federal government — slow to respond at the start of the epidemic — was deeply engaged in the fight against AIDS, and the number of new cases finally began to decline. Many gay rights organizations and activists shifted their focus to a long-haul campaign to legalize same-sex marriage. Massachusetts became the first state to do so in 2004; the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans in 2015.
Some activists suggest that the push for marriage equality consumed too much of the LGBT rights movement’s energy, diverting attention from violence against transgender people and the persistently high HIV infection rate among gay and bisexual black men. Others say the marriage campaign was crucial in changing policy and public attitudes.
”For the government to treat gay people with equal dignity, it had to treat gay people as equal in marriage,” said lawyer Roberta Kaplan. “It was an essential, determinative step.”
Kaplan is best known for winning a landmark Supreme Court case in 2013 on behalf of Edith Windsor, who was denied an inheritance tax break after the death of her wife. Kaplan and Windsor successfully challenged the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred married same-sex couples from enjoying marriage benefits conferred under federal law. That decision helped lay the legal groundwork for the 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
Born in 1966, Kaplan recalls being in college during the height of the AIDS epidemic, “with men dying by the thousands and a government not seeming to care.”
”It’s incomprehensible — the change that has been wrought during my lifetime,” she said. “If you had told me, when I was in college, that one day I would grow up, get married to a woman, have a kid, be partner in a law firm, and then argue a momentous civil rights case in the Supreme Court, I would have said you were going to too many Grateful Dead concerts.”
The religion question
Same-sex marriage is among several reasons why, in the post-Stonewall era, the realm of religion has abounded with controversies linked to LGBT rights.
Many denominations — including Reformed Judaism and most mainline Protestant churches — have adopted fully inclusive policies, accepting LGBT people into the clergy and honoring their marriages. But some of the largest denominations — including the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — refuse to take those inclusive steps and still consider gay sex immoral.
Gene Robinson, who in 2003 became the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, says there’s a split on LGBT acceptance between many rank-and-file churchgoers and the leaders of the big, conservative denominations.
”The good news is that we have changed the minds and hearts of a majority of religious people across all religious lines,” Robinson said. “The bad news is that the people in the pews — many of whom have gay relatives and friends — don’t have the power to change policies in churches that are tightly controlled by the hierarchy.”
Religion plays a key role in current debates over nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. The Trump administration has aligned with some religious conservatives in arguing that such protections can infringe on the religious beliefs of people who oppose same-sex marriage and transgender rights.
Emilie Kao, a lawyer with the conservative Heritage Foundation, says the Equality Act “imposes sexual ideology on the nation that endangers religious freedom, freedom of speech, and parental rights by punishing those who dissent from political correctness.”
These arguments irk activists such as Lorri Jean.
”My biggest concern is the very clever backlash by fundamentalist religious leaders who are trying to suggest they are the victims,” Jean said. “But even if they have victories, they’ll be short-lived… The vast majority of American people do not believe discrimination against LGBT people is OK.”
In myriad ways, progress for LGBT Americans has become so commonplace that it attracts little notice, whether it’s in local politics, the arts or sports. For example, there are no openly gay men currently competing in North America’s four biggest pro sports leagues — but the situation is different at lower levels.
”I look more at college and high school sports … where we’ve seen literally countless athletes come out and be totally accepted by their teams,” said Cyd Zeigler of the website Outsports. He believes any athlete coming out now in the major leagues would be welcomed by teammates, coaches and fans.
Back in 1984, Ruth Clark joined a lesbian feminist chorus in Chicago called the Artemis Singers — a step she viewed at the time as “a very radical act.” Over the decades, the chorus has moved toward the mainstream — performing at universities, churches, museums and a 2013 ceremony at which then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed Illinois’ marriage-equality bill.
Clark says that when questions were raised recently about whether the chorus should be allowed to use a Roman Catholic school’s auditorium, the group’s producer assured the skeptics, “They’re just like soccer moms.”
The “Trump” name appears on high-rise hotels, office towers, and golf resorts.
It is now the name of a tiny Jewish settlement in the Golan Heights.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nentanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman were on hand Sunday when the Bruchim settlement was officially renamed “Trump Heights.”
“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Friedman said. “I can’t think of a more appropriate and a more beautiful birthday present,” he said.
Trump, who celebrated his 73rd birthday Friday, tweeted “Thank you Prime Minister Netanhayu and the State of Israel for this great honor.”
About 10 people live in the small settlement.
The Israeli Cabinet renamed it as a sign of gratitude to Trump for recognizing Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel seized the territory from Syria in the Six Day War in 1967 and annexed it in 1981 — a move many nations have called illegal, but which Israel says was essential for its national security.
“The Golan Heights was and always will be an inseparable part of our country,” Netanyahu said Sunday.
Israeli officials hope rebranding the settlement to Trump Heights will lead to new development in the Golan Heights.
But opposition lawmaker Zvi Hauser calls naming the area after Trump a cheap public relations stunt.
“There’s no funding, no planning, no location,” he said.