NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill apologized Thursday for the June 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn, with the apology coming during the first-ever Pride Month Community Safety Briefing at One Police Plaza.

"What happened should not have happened," O'Neill said. "The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize."

Stonewall and the small park outside are now part of a national monument, after the raid and riots galvanized the gay rights movement.

Pride organizers cheered O'Neill's remarks.

"The NYPD, as an institution, needed to take responsibility for what happened at Stonewall. This isn't going to undo the decades of violence and discrimination that our community has experienced at the hands of the police, but it's a good first start," said James Fallarino, a spokesman for NYC Pride.

The safety briefing included LGBTQ community leaders, business owners, service providers, and advocacy groups, and the NYPD also announced a new consortium to communicate with private businesses and organizations in the LGBTQ community.

June is Pride Month, and New York City is hosting the Stonewall 50 Rally and WorldPride, an international event which promotes LGBTQ issues through parades, festivals, and other cultural activities, in conjunction with the annual Heritage of Pride march.

An additional three to four million people are expected in New York City from June 22 through July 6 to attend this historic convergence of events.

"As New Yorkers, we're honored to be the first American city to ever host World Pride," O'Neill said. "More than three million people from around the globe will be here to take part in this month-long celebration, and it is our job to keep every single one of them safe, and to make sure they feel safe, too. And nobody does that better than the NYPD."

The NYPD will deploy officers to ensure safety and enjoyment throughout Pride Month, with both uniformed and plainclothes officers assigned to the details at each event.

As always, the NYPD encourages anyone who may see something that appears to be suspicious to find a police officer, call 911, or call the terrorism tip line at 1-888-NYC-SAFE.
 
During the briefing, O'Neill detailed the launch of the Lavender Alliance, a new LGBTQ enhancement of the Shield program.

The NYPD Shield program is an umbrella counterterrorism program for a series of current and future police department initiatives that pertain to private sector security and counterterrorism.

This is a public-private partnership based on providing best practices, lessons learned, counterterrorism training opportunities, and information sharing.

Shield seeks to partner with private sector security managers with the goal of protecting New York City.
 
The Lavender Alliance is an optional group within the program for organizations that provide services to the LGBTQ community.

The goal of the Lavender Alliance is to establish a safe and comfortable setting for such organizations by fostering a constructive relationship with the NYPD to engage in the kind of information sharing that is Shield's primary mission.

Organizations that newly register for Shield membership will have the option to identify their establishment as an LGBTQ service provider, while existing members can also request their organization join the Lavender Alliance.

These members will receive the same benefits as Shield members as well as have the opportunity to participate in conferences and training sessions relevant to the LGBTQ community, often in non-police facilities.

The CW’s Supergirl is showcasing the power of the press, says Nicole Maines, who plays reporter Nia Nal (a.k.a. Dreamer). “This is really a season about portraying journalists as superheroes,” she explains. “When we have a president who’s trying to vilify journalists, then you guys really are heroes.”

When the show’s creative team was planning the fifth season, Maines says they wanted create an enemy “that the Super Friends couldn’t necessarily fight with their fists or with heat vision.” The show’s writers found their adversary in the leader of a human supremacist group who’s “fanning the flames of hatred and bigotry in National City.” Even after he’s imprisoned, the city continues to be ravaged with problems. “How do you fight fear? “ Maines asks. “How do you fight ignorance and hatred and bigotry? That’s not something you can punch.”

The parallels are all too real given the constant attacks on immigrants, reporters, and trans people like Maines. At 21, the actress has already had a life of fighting the kind of bigotry she tackles on TV.

In 2007, Maines first challenged her elementary school over bathroom access. The case went to the Maine Supreme Court, which ruled in 2014 that denying a trans student access to a bathroom that matched their gender identity was unconstitutional. Since then, she’s advocated for LGBTQ rights, appearing in the HBO documentary The Trans List and in the book Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family. At 17, Glamour named her Woman of the Year. She’s also received honors from HRC and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

These days, her acting career is taking center stage on a show that could not be more relevant. Her screen work is reminiscent of Wonder Woman’s Lynda Carter — who is, ironically, now Maines’s costar on Supergirl, playing U.S. President Olivia Marsdin.

The show delivers plenty of timely issues, including immigration. Maines, who accepted the role before she even knew the storyline, says, “I knew that I was going to play a trans woman and I knew I was going to play a reporter and I knew I was going to play a superhero.” Once she found out about how they were going to draw a parallel to America today, she knew this was “a story that needs to be told.”

“This is what we need in a superhero show,” says Maines. “We have a show about… otherworldly refugees coming to Earth, coming to National City. What would that look like? It would look like you know a lot of people saying aliens are coming to take our jobs, they’re dangerous. The exact same conversation we’re having with immigrants today... How do you make sense of it all? How do you combat people’s fears?”

Without a doubt, Supergirl is attempting to challenge the hearts and minds of its viewers. “I think superheroes are a great way to talk about these issues because superheroes are a huge staple in American culture and something everybody’s familiar with,” Maines says, adding that by using superheroes to talk about things like xenophobia or homophobia, it can make such topics more approachable in real life. The camp aspect of it all keeps it light.

“I am not reading my news app and crying and freaking out,” admits Maines, “At least I’m seeing this through Supergirl. At least that’s how I cope with it.”

Using fantasy as a tool to talk about political issues isn’t new. Films like Iron ManCaptain America, and Superman have managed it successfully — using historical enemies, like Nazis, and even setting the time amid the backdrop of the Cold War. Superheroes have always existed at the intersection of culture and politics, but Maines says it hasn’t always resonated with everyone, especially radical right-wingers who’d rather take politics out of superhero movies. “People are only upset about it now because, for the first time, they are on the other side of it,” she explains. “The enemy is potentially at home. It’s not overseas, it’s not someone you can point at.”

Playing Nia makes Maines an even bigger role model as well, and she feels that love on social media. While she feels enormous pressure being the first trans superhero, Maines admits it’s easier because she’s not the first trans character on TV.

“We are exiting the era of television where trans characters feel a need to explain themselves,” she says. “Where all trans characters are the trans characters and that their role on the show is to educate other characters…[and] the audience about what it means to be trans. I don’t have to be necessarily the trans superhero. I can be a superhero who is trans.”

“What an amazing trajectory to know in 50 years we can go from being a completely isolated community and being thrown in jail for wearing the wrong article of clothing to being on television in a super-suit, and being seen by everyone,” she adds. “Not just people in our community but people outside of our community, people across the country, across the world are seeing us.”

Maines hopes that Hollywood will now be more open to cast trans actors in trans-specific roles, mainly because of the effects it has off-screen.

“One of the arguments that I see is, ‘Well it’s acting, it’s pretending.’ Well yes, but you also have to take into account how that is reading to someone sitting on their couch watching — someone who has never seen a trans person before. If you cast a man and put him in a dress and say this is what ‘trans’ looks like, well then that’s where we get the whole ‘men in dresses’ argument. That’s why I feel it is so important, because we are actively combating that narrative that trans people are somehow pretending or playing dress-up.”

While she thinks equal opportunity for gay actors, for example, should be a consideration, the rest of the arguments aren’t the same. “No one is going around saying that gay people are straight people pretending to be gay to get into gay functions. No one is saying that. There’s not that harmful narrative reinforced [when compared to the trans narrative].”

Though Maines is quickly racing to the top of the Hollywood A-list, she can’t help but be anxious, especially since she’s now part of an industry with so much rejection. That’s why she’s choosing to “stop, smell the roses,” and “be very, very happy, be very thankful.”

Of course, that includes finding love. At 21, Maines is “single as a Pringle,” she jokes, and the men she meets in Vancouver (where Supergirl is filmed) are often outdoor adventurers.

“I feel like all the guys in Vancouver are like, ‘Let’s work out, let’s go skiing!’ And I’m like, ‘Let’s not.’ After a 16-hour day, the last thing I want to think about is working out. I’m going to sit on my couch in my sweatpants eating ice cream and…rewatching The Office.”

Her family back in Maine have been a great support, especially in helping cut through red tape so she could continue her hormone treatment while filming abroad. She jokes about the difficulty of working with insurance in the U.S., living in Canada part of the year, and no longer being able to have her mom mail hormones across the border to her on set. “Look at me smuggling estrogen across the border,” the baby-faced Maines quips. “I am the face of crime.”

Maines’s new vampire movie, Bit, premiers soon. “It’s freaking great,” Maines boasts. “I play a transgender girl from Oregon who visits her brother who is an actor in Los Angeles, and she falls in with a gang of intersectional feminist vampires in Los Angeles — and it is amazing.”

Hollywood clearly has a new superstar on the rise. And to whoever is casting the new Avatar: The Last Airbender reboot, Maines says she’s waiting for their call. Oh, and she’s game to do a Star Wars flick too.

“Superhero and Jedi,” says the young starlet, exposing her inner geek girl. “Those are where the goalposts are.”

Three times in one week, the Trump administration issued rules and proposals to take rights and protections away from transgender Americans. This is a targeted assault on an already vulnerable group of people that should concern all Americans.

Last Tuesday, the administration finalized a rule that allows health care workers to refuse to treat transgender patients based on religious objections. On Wednesday, it announced draft rules that would allow homeless shelters that receive federal funds to turn away transgender individuals.

And, in the most sweeping anti-transgender move yet, the administration last Friday, released a proposal that would gut patient protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity that were included in the Affordable Care Act. The same proposal would also eliminate protections from discrimination for women who have had abortions.

These come on top of a Pentagon ban on transgender Americans serving in the military and a reversal of policy ensuring that transgender students were protected from discrimination in public schools and universities.

The Trump administration’s assault on transgender Americans is prime evidence of why the Equality Act is needed now more than ever. Because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the LGBTQ community — which often experiencesdiscrimination and intolerance — still has little to no recourse in some states when confronting barriers to housing, education, employment and other critical areas of everyday life.

The Equality Act would extend protections based on sexual orientation to employment, housing, public accommodations and public services.

The measure passed the House earlier this month. It faces dim prospects in the Senate.

Sen. Susan Collins is the act’s lone Republican sponsor in the Senate, with only a handful of Republicans signing on in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“All Americans deserve a fair opportunity to pursue the American dream,” Collins said when the Equality Act was introduced in March. “It is time we ensure that all people are judged on their talents and abilities, and have full access to the services they need and the opportunities they seek.”

Without other Republicans on board, the legislation isn’t likely to lead to meaningful change. That’s a shame, because expanding these protections is a necessary continuation of efforts to make America a place where all people are treated equally.

As Katelyn Burns pointed out Wednesday in The Washington Post, all of the political and civil rights gains made by the transgender community over the past decade have been erased in the past two years.

For me, as a transgender person, this administration’s constant targeting of us is terrifying,” wrote Burns, the first openly transgender Capitol Hill reporter. “It seems that there’s little they won’t do to making transitioning and living a dignified life as a transgender person impossible. Trump and his administration are clearly prioritizing the desires of religious conservativeswho would like to see my existence rubbed out of society, and they’ve come this far so quickly with barely a blip of resistance. [The] attack on our health care is the most devastating yet.”

Maine, fortunately, has a strong Human Right Act that broadly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In their first bill this year, Maine lawmakers passed legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills, that prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people by health insurance companies.

It is encouraging that Maine, and other states, have taken these steps. But, without federal policies demanding that all Americans be treated equally, the rights of some groups, which may be disfavored by a president, can be diminished. That should worry all of us.

President Trump, who appeared to break with Republican orthodoxy in 2016 by pledging to be a “real friend” of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, is facing fresh attacks from Democrats and advocates who say his administration has instead become their worst enemy.

Trump and his aides have issued a wave of new regulations, executive orders, legal briefs and personnel appointments aimed at reversing large parts of the Obama administration’s civil rights agenda, winning plaudits from religious conservatives who form the bedrock of Trump’s political support.

But the moves also put Trump at odds with growing popular support for expanding legal protections to more LGBT Americans, and the issue has become a rallying point among Democrats in the 2020 presidential race.

“We have a president who is a homophobe,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote last week on Facebook, linking to a report about the Trump administration’s plan to make it easier for adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples.

The next day, Sanders returned to Facebook to criticize the administration for proposing regulations rolling back Obama-era protections for transgender people in the health-care system and in housing.

“We will not allow Trump to divide us — our job must be to stand with the transgender community,” he wrote.

 Sanders was part of a growing chorus of Democratic presidential candidates who are taking on Trump over his record on LGBT issues, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. The contrast is especially stark given the large field of Democratic candidates, which includes the first openly gay presidential contender, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The Trump administration has sided against LGBT activists on a host of issues over the past two years, including banning transgender troops from serving in the military and arguing in court that civil rights laws to do not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Human Rights Campaign, a top advocacy group for LGBT issues, has created a 16-page document outlining administration actions that it says are hostile to LGBT Americans.

Recent polls have found that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage and allowing transgender troops to serve in the military. Trump’s record on LGBT issues could harm his bid for reelection because many of his policies are out of step with a growing number of moderate suburban voters, said Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report.

“In 2016, candidate Trump looked more moderate on this issue,” Walter said. “His administration, however, has been anything but moderate — especially on transgender issues.”

But Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Democrats are trying to make a name for themselves in a crowded primary by attacking Trump.

“Like his peers, Bernie Sanders is on a desperate quest to increase his standing in the Democrat primary and is therefore maligning President Trump with baseless smears yet again,” she said in a statement. “President Trump believes in the human dignity of all while simultaneously respecting religious freedom. He has consistently supported both equality and liberty as Democrats continue their ruthless smear campaign and failed, recycled attacks from 2016.

The president’s policies, many of which are cast within the context of protecting of religious freedom, have been hailed by conservatives who say Trump is standing up for traditional values.

 After the Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a new proposed rule to reverse an Obama-era regulation extending health-care protections to transgender Americans last week, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised the move.

“Sex is not subjective, it is an objective biological reality,” he said in a statement. “The rule proposed today helps protect health care providers from being forced to participate in and perform services that substantially violate their consciences.”

So far, Trump himself has largely been silent on much of his LGBT record. He has not responded to Democrats’ attacks and has not personally championed his administration’s policy push as he has on other issues, such as immigration. 

When asked by a reporter last week if doctors should be forced to perform gender reassignment surgeries — a possibility dismissed by LGBT advocates as unlikely — Trump’s answer was brief and noncommittal.

“We're going to see,” he said. “We'll see.”

Trump is also expected to let June pass for a third time this year without acknowledging LGBT Americans as part of Pride Month, according to David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign.

When he campaigned for president in 2016, Trump made overtures to the LGBT community that were at the time unprecedented in Republican presidential politics.

He told NBC’s “Today” show that Caitlyn Jenner could use any bathroom in Trump Tower, breaking with other Republican leaders who backed so-called “bathroom bills” requiring transgender Americans to use the bathroom associated with their biological gender at birth. In nationally televised remarks during the Republican National Convention, Trump referenced a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando and became the first GOP nominee to mention “our LGBTQ community” during his acceptance speech.

 “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” he said. 

 But since taking office, Trump has won praise from Christian conservatives by supporting policies that LGBT activists oppose.

 “For us Christians, this president has been the most Christian-friendly president in my lifetime,” Franklin Graham, an evangelical leader, said Tuesday on Perkins’s radio show, “Washington Watch.”

Graham joined with more than 250 other Christian leaders last week to declare June 2 as a special day of prayer for Trump. 

Buttigieg, who is Christian, has repeatedly criticized Trump and Vice President Pence for their approach to LGBT issues. At a May 17 event in Iowa, he accused the Trump administration of waging a “war on trans Americans.”

“Every policy turn we’ve seen out of this administration has been hostile to LGBTQ people,” Buttigieg said.

 Asked about Buttigieg’s marriage to another man, Trump said earlier this month on Fox News that he was “absolutely fine” with it.

 “I think it's great,” he said. “I think that's something that perhaps some people will have a problem with; I have no problem with it whatsoever.”

The White House highlighted Trump’s favorable views toward same-sex marriage and blamed “radical left” Democrats for attacking the president over his support of religious freedom.

“President Donald Trump is the first U.S. President to favor same-sex marriage when he was sworn in, absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind, and supports the equal treatment of all,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

But Trump’s record on LGBT issues could overshadow his more moderate public comments on same-sex marriage as voters assess his presidency during the 2020 race, Walter said. 

 “His handling of this issue is one more reason why he is so unpopular with the kinds of suburban swing voters that at one time supported Republicans,” she said. “Combine this with his support for more abortion restrictions and the administration’s treatment and policy toward separating refugee children and families on the border, and you have a record that repels suburban women.”

LGBT activists will be spending much of the next 18 months making voters aware of that record, said Charlotte Clymer, press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. 

“A lot of Americans, after same-sex marriage was legalized, kind of entered a sense of complacency,” Clymer said. “We think the president is giving us something that will be a useful motivator to win suburban voters and swing voters.”

One of the first things Christians teach our children is to love our neighbors and not to judge. We hear about how Jesus spent time with the outcasts, people in prison, and other downtrodden people who were rejected or punished for their differences by mainstream society.

Yet far too often, politicians instead choose to use faith as a weapon to judge the same marginalized people that Jesus commanded us to love. This weaponization of faith as a political tool has grown more acute in the last few years, with politicians like President Donald Trump using so-called moral or religious objections to push their own discriminatory partisan agenda in defiance of the very values they claim to embrace.

Among the latest examples of this trend: Trump's Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a rule that would roll back anti-discrimination protections under the Affordable Care Act for transgender people or people who have previously undergone an abortion, and also finalized a rule to allow medical providers to refuse treatment and services for religious and moral reasons, which critics say could justify denial of service to trans people.

Coming on the heels of the transgender military ban, the proposed rule removes protections against gender-identity discrimination from the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which bans sex discrimination in federally funded health care (after a final rule implemented in 2016 explicitly included gender identity). The new rule would strip civil rights protections in healthcare from an estimated 1.4 million transgender adults and 150,000 trans youth ages 13 to 17 in the US.

Denying some people equal treatment to satisfy religious liberty for others in a civil society is a ploy to advance an agenda that has nothing to do with morality or Christianity. It is rather about turning back the clock for women and LGBTQ people who do not conform to an antiquated or "traditional" vision of our nation.

The existing provision under the ACA protects patients from being turned away and denied coverage if they need care that's related to their trans identity. For trans individuals living in one of the more than two dozen states that lack state-level protections, federal law offers the last layer of defense from discrimination. If the most recent proposal to repeal the section 1557 protections from the Affordable Care Act is finalized, trans patients living in those states will be left without any relief. In 2016, several lawsuits were brought against the rule when it was released, and in one instance, a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction to stop gender identity and termination of pregnancy provisions; that injunction remains in effect.

The existing protections HHS is now trying to retract are intended to ensure all patients would have access to the care they need, allowing doctors to provide the best care when they felt it necessary.

Research and analysis from the Center for American Progress shows that the majority of patients who filed gender and sex discrimination complaints with Health and Human Services (HHS) between 2012 and 2016 were denied general care -- that is, care unrelated to transition-related treatments -- because of their gender identity. Trump's proposed new rules would likely intensify these refusals, eliminating much-needed protection for transgender and gender non-conforming patients, and expanding the authority for health care workers to opt out of providing care to LGBTQ people and people seeking reproductive health care.

According to a report from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, transgender people are already four times more likely to live in extreme poverty; 90% of those surveyed said they had experienced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination in the workplace. Yet, Trump is actively working to legalize loopholes that promote discrimination that harms them.

As a pastor, I've often thought about who Jesus would befriend in today's world: it's not hard to imagine him spending time with the transgender community -- the very people society so often harshly judges and mistreats based on misunderstanding and fear. The number of trans and nonbinary people murdered has hit record highs in recent years, and without laws explicitly protecting them from the prejudice that is clearly already present, trans Americans are left without any legal defense.

This rule change is also the latest in a slew of attacks against women's health care that denies them basic freedom to make decisions about their own bodies. It reinforces shame, stigma and sexism -- not righteousness.

For women across the country, this attack is not new.

From the growing number of restrictive abortion bills being presented in states across the country to the Trump administration's attacks on Title X federal funding for family planning and preventative health care services, this administration has added new barriers to women seeking health care.

Jesus told his disciples, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." Taking away freedom and discriminating against people because they are different is the opposite of love -- as is denying people the care they so desperately need.

Faith calls every Christian to stand up against these perverse politics and embrace the fairness, inclusion and justice we learned in Sunday School.

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