Two North Carolina women have been released on bail after attacking a transgender woman in the bathroom of a Raleigh bar last year. 

Jessica Fowler, 31, and Amber Harrell, 38, were arrested and charged with second-degree kidnapping and sexual battery over an incident that took place at Milk Bar on Dec. 9, the Associated Press reports. 

The 29-year-old victim was inside the bar's bathroom when Fowler and Harrell entered and began verbally assaulting her. The pair allegedly exposed themselves and groped the victim against her will, at one point asking her if she had a penis. 

The woman told police that the pair followed her out of the bathroom and continued to attack her, despite a bartender's multiple attempts to intervene. 

The victim called 911 the day after the incident to file a report, though the assailants were not arrested until this week, WRAL reports.

Fowler and Harrell have both been released from prison on $30,000 and $50,000 bonds, respectively, according to the Greensboro News & Record

Public bathrooms have been a hot-button issue in North Carolina since the state passed a bill in 2016 stating transgender people must use restrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates, a move that many viewed as discriminatory. The controversial law was repealed in 2017 and replaced with a contentious new bill that prevented local governments from passing laws to protect the rights of LGBTQ people.

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)-- - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive today that protects against discrimination of people in the LGBTQ community.

This directive protects LGBTQ community members to get equal opportunities when looking at state employment opportunities, state contracting or service and receiving state grants/loans.

It was signed at Affirmation in Ferndale, which is one of the largest LGBTQ community services in the state.

Gov. Whitmer says hopes this new directive creates a blue print for the rest of the country to follow.

"With a stroke of a pen, I have just put Michigan in a leadership role," said Gov. Whitmer.

Gov. Whitmer and her team stated that this was at the top of their list and is the ninth directive signed in just six days in office. 

The community showed up to witness the signing and congratulate Gov. Whitmer for signing this so early on. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist says the turnout shows just how badly this needed to be put into order.

"It means that people have been hurting, it means that there's been so much pain, so much damage that's been done by discriminatory laws and discriminatory policies. That's ending with our administration," said Lt. Gov. Gilchrist.

Jeynce Poindexter works with Equality Michigan as a transgender specialist and victim advocate. She works with families who have lost a loved one due to transgender discrimination. She says this new directive will help community members fear being killed and not given equal opportunities.

"We're going to make sure that we're going to do something to make sure that your life and it's stability, is stable. I appreciate that with my life," said Poindexter.

To Poindexter, this signing means Gov. Whitmer kept a personal promise to her that she would get to work on it.

"This is not just showing up in the space, this is here supporting people who made me a promise, and then stuck to it," said Poindexter.

The directive also requires state departments to have a "equity and inclusion officer" to educate workers about sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as handle complaints.

 

Jennifer Wexton, the newly appointed Virginia representative, showed solidarity with the trans community by hanging a trans pride flag outside of her new office on Capitol Hill, reported the Washingtonian.

“The trans community has been under attack,” Wexton told the Washingtonian.

For the Democrat, the move was deeply personal, as she is the aunt of a transgender child.

“I wanted to show solidarity because we are talking about my friends and family,” she said.

The flag was tweeted by Narissa Rahaman of the Human Rights Campaign. “[Wexton] said to me, ‘Did you see the flag?! I think we’re the only office on the Hill with one,’” Rahaman wrote.

Before being elected to Congress, Wexton fought for LGBTQ rights while serving in the Virginia Senate. During her term, the state senate passed two pieces of legislature to protect gay and transgender Virginians from discrimination.

Advocates, like Charlotte Clymer of the Human Rights Campaign, say this symbol of solidarity is especially important with the Trump administration’s anti-trans streak.

“From the military to schools to hospitals, the Trump-Pence White House is working overtime in an attempt to erase trans people from the public square,” Clymer told the Washingtonian. “The trans flag proudly on display in the Halls of Congress is a sign to out community that we will not be erased.”

California once again adopted its own “New Year’s resolutions” this week, as hundreds of new state laws took effect at midnight on January 1 — including many that protect, empower and support members of the LGBTQ community and our allies. Equality California has been busy at work fighting in Sacramento, fighting to pass pro-equality legislation and sponsoring 11 of these new laws.

Transgender Equality

Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Senator Scott Wiener’s Gender Recognition Act of 2017 (SB 179) ensures transgender and nonbinary Californians have access to state-issued identification that accurately reflect their gender identity. The new law allows for a nonbinary gender marker on California birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, identity cards and gender-change court orders, and it also helps to streamline the process for changing the gender marker on state documents, removing unnecessarily complicated and costly barriers.

Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s (D-San Diego) first-in-the-nation Gender Health in Foster Care Act of 2018 (AB 2119) will now explicitly guarantee access to life-saving, gender-affirming health care for youth in foster care. LGBTQ youth, and transgender youth in particular, are overrepresented among California’s foster youth, and are too often deprived of such care.

Education

California teachers will soon have access to greater tools and training to prevent bullying and suicide — both of which disproportionately harm LGBTQ youth. Assemblymember David Chiu’s (D-San Francisco) AB 2291 now requires public schools to provide online training annually on preventing bullying and cyberbullying to teachers and school staff. And while school districts are already required — under a law that Equality California and the Trevor Project passed in 2016 — to provide teachers with suicide prevention training, AB 2639 by Assemblymembers Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) and Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) will now require districts to regularly review and update their policies.

Students at California charter schools will now be guaranteed access to comprehensive, inclusive sex education programs — including instruction on LGBTQ people and families — thanks to Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s (D-San Diego) AB 2601. This legislation expands the California Healthy Youth Act of 2016, which already applied to traditional district-run schools and was authored by Weber and co-sponsored by Equality California.

Unfortunately, Governor Brown’s veto of legislation authored by State Superintendent-elect Tony Thurmond and sponsored by Equality California means school districts won’t be required to provide teachers and school staff with the tools and comprehensive LGBTQ training they need to support LGBTQ students who are facing bullying at schools or lack of acceptance in their homes or communities. But Equality California will introduce — and pass — that bill again in 2019, and we look forward to working with Governor-elect Newsom to get that critical legislation signed into law.

Homelessness

Four out of ten young people experiencing homelessness in California’s major cities identify as LGBTQ. The Establishing Services for Youth Experiencing Homelessness Act of 2018 (SB 918), authored by Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), will now help provide resources for housing, services and supports for youth experiencing homelessness.

Many Californians experiencing homelessness live in counties that are not the county of their birth, and some may be unsure of their county of birth. LGBTQ young people experiencing homelessness often travel to major California cities to find acceptance. Assemblymember Chiu’s AB 2490 eliminates fees charged to people experiencing homelessness seeking to obtain certified birth certificates directly from the state.

Gun Safety

Through Equality California’s “Safe and Equal” campaign — started in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting — we’ve supported commonsense gun safety legislation, including Assemblymember Gloria’s AB 2103, which now requires Californians to undergo gun safety training before obtaining a concealed weapons permit.

Under two other new gun safety laws, Californians under the age of 21 are no longer able to purchase a rifle or a shotgun in California, and there is a new lifetime ban prohibiting anyone who has been convicted of serious domestic assault from owning a firearm.

Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice

LGBTQ people face higher rates of hate crimes and incidents, bias-based violence, harassment at the hands of law enforcement, and discrimination within the criminal justice system compared to the general population. Assemblymember Evan Low’s (D-Cambell) AB 2504 now requires the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to develop LGBTQ-specific training for law enforcement officers. Improving the law enforcement community’s ability to serve and protect members of the LGBTQ community will help to ensure they respond appropriately to situations that involve LGBTQ people.

With growing rates of hate crimes in California — including those against LGBTQ people — Assemblymember Phil Ting’s (D-San Francisco) AB 1985 now provides guidance for local law enforcement agencies to update and strengthen their policies on hate crimes.

LGBTQ Older Adults

Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin’s (D-Thousand Oak) AB 2719 now recognizes LGBTQ older adults as a population in need of special attention and ensures that they can access the services and support they need to maintain their health and live their lives with dignity.

Tax Equity

Thanks to Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang, AB 2663 provides retroactive relief to LGBTQ Californians who were registered as domestic partners in municipal jurisdictions and may have had their property taxes increased due to the death of a partner.

Twenty-five days before leaving office, Gov. John Kasich suddenly barred discrimination in state employment based on gender identity -- a change of heart from when he took office nearly eight years ago.

Kasich, Ohio's two-term CEO, signed the surprise executive order implementing the policy language Wednesday afternoon.

The governor continues to be opposed to discrimination in state employment, and this order reflects how he believes that policy should be implemented," said Kasich press secretary Jon Keeling.

After he entered office in 2011, Kasich revised the state employment anti-discrimination policy to remove gender identity, which had been added in 2007 by former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

"Equality Ohio has been sending the governor letters with stories from LGBTQ Ohioans about their experiences with discrimination throughout the year and finding opportunities to grow his familiarity with transgender people and their lives," said Alana Jochum, executive director of the group. "He heard this call, and we are grateful for Gov. Kasich's leadership in extending nondiscrimination protections for transgender state employees."

Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values, said Kasich's move was unnecessary.

"Unless his administration was rampantly firing individuals with gender dysphoria, the only purpose of his latest executive action is to score political points on the way out the door. There is no evidence that this kind of discrimination is happening in state government today," Baer said. "I think most Ohioans would prefer he keeps his priorities focused on what's best for Ohio ... instead of looking to endear himself to the coasts for his next political run."

Incoming Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio's attorney general who will take over the governor's office Jan. 14, now faces a decision whether to keep Kasich's new language.

In 2016, DeWine added Ohio as a plaintiff with other states in a federal lawsuit challenging then-President Barack Obama's order instructing that transgender students be allowed to use school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms matching their gender identity under the threat of losing federal funding. After taking office last year, Republican President Donald Trump revoked the Democrat's order, which never took effect amid the legal challenge.

Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, an openly gay lawmaker who has long pushed for LGBTQ employment protections, questioned why it took Kasich eight years to come around on the issue, saying she tried unsuccessfully multiple times over the years to schedule a sit-down with the governor to discuss discrimination.

"I feel like he's making these moves to convince people that he's somehow a moderate Republican. For eight years, that is not the governor I've seen," said the Lakewood Democrat, who was elected to the Senate last month.

Some legislative Republicans, Antonio said, are going to need to be educated on gender identity. She said the biggest misunderstanding surrounding gender identity is that a person has a choice and just switches back and forth.

"For every person I've ever talked to that's ever gone through the agony ... it's never about a choice," she said.

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