ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is taking the first step toward providing gender-confirmation surgeries through its health care network, Secretary Denis McDonough announced at a Pride Month event in Orlando Saturday — a historic move he said is simply “the right thing to do.” Vowing to create a “safe and caring” environment for all veterans, McDonough cited the need to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination against LGBTQ military service members. The rule-making process needed to fully approve and implement coverage of gender-confirmation surgery can take two years...
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An Indiana pastor confessed during church services to adultery years ago, but prosecutors are investigating after the woman who was involved told congregants she had been only 16 years told at the time.
Pastor John Lowe II livestreamed the confession from inside the New Life Christian Church on Sunday, and he told parishioners that he "committed adultery" nearly two decades ago, adding that he wasn't disciplined and would not "use the Bible" to defend himself, reported WNDU-TV.
“I have no defense," he said. "I committed the adultery."
Lowe announced he was stepping down from “ministry responsibilities" and asked for forgiveness, to which the congregation applauded, and the woman then admonished the pastor with her husband standing alongside her in the church.
"People knew, but were too afraid to come forward, and they have now," she said. "The lies and the manipulation they have to stop. I was just 16 when you took my virginity on your office floor. Do you remember that? I know you do, and I have plenty of other stories that I can bring to your remembrance. You did things to my teenage body that should have never been done."
The woman said other girls were abused by church leaders, but they were "sent away."
"I tried to tell someone, but all that was done was cover-up," she said. "No one ever came to me. No one ever got me counseling."
The woman's husband then gave back a necklace the ministry had given his wife as a gift and the purity ring she wore as a teenager.
"My wife -- it’s not just adultery, it’s another level when it’s a teenager, and I will not let this man talk about my wife like that," the man said. "It happened for nine years. When she was 15, 16, the sexual grooming started. It lasted until she met me and we started dating. This is the truth and that’s all we’re going to say.”
Other congregants hugged them as the couple left the church, and several voices demanded that Lowe admit to the abuse.
"Sixteen years old, okay?" Lowe said. "It was wrong."
The Kosciusko County prosecutor's office confirmed that allegations against Lowe, which took place 27 years ago, and the pastor confirmed the woman's age at the time of the relationship during the livestream.
Indiana state law sets the statute of limitations for sexual misconduct with a minor and similar offenses at the victim's 31st birthday, but legal experts say there are exceptions -- specifically for cases where a recorded confession provides enough evidence to charge a crime.
“There is one particular offense that could apply, which is called child seduction," said law professor Jody Madeira, of Indiana University. "This applies when people in positions of trust or authority of a child, law enforcement, mental health practitioners, or anyone with a professional relationship with the child,” she says “It affects children between 16 and 18 years old, again these people use their professional relationship to engage in sexual conduct with a child and that is the offense of child seduction.”
Republican voters in the battleground US state of Georgia appeared set Tuesday to deliver a stark repudiation of Donald Trump's "Big Lie" that the 2020 election was stolen.
Four other states -- Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and Minnesota -- are also picking contenders for November's midterm elections, which will decide which party controls the US Senate and House of Representatives for the remainder of President Joe Biden's first term.
But all eyes are on the Peach State, where wounds from the 2020 presidential election are still festering two years after Trump lost there by the narrowest of margins.
Up and down the ballot, the Republican side of the Georgia primary pits candidates peddling the former president's false claims of widespread election fraud against hopefuls who pushed back in defense of the Constitution.
In the contest to be the next governor, incumbent Brian Kemp, frequently the target of Trump's wrath for refusing to help overturn the election, leads former senator David Perdue by more than 20 points.
Perdue has made bogus claims about 2020 a centerpiece of his campaign, in a direct appeal to Trump supporters who continue wrongly to question the validity of the outcome.
But some analysts argue that outrage over the fiction that Trump was the victim of election theft is beginning to dissipate.
They point to an April University of Georgia poll showing almost 60 percent of Republican voters said they were confident that November's midterms would be fair.
Trump, who banked much of his own political capital in the race, faces humiliation if Kemp's lead holds -- undermining his push to make his nationwide endorsements a sign of his continuing sway over the party.
After sinking $2.5 million of his own campaign funds into the Perdue effort, the former president appeared largely to have given up on the candidate, declining to visit his state in the home stretch.
But Trump did offer an 11th-hour endorsement of the "conservative fighter" -- and landed swipes at his opponent, charging in a statement Tuesday that Kemp had "failed Georgia" and "allowed massive Election Fraud."
Kemp's confidence in victory over his imploding opponent was apparent Monday at a rally in Cobb County with former vice president Mike Pence, where neither man mentioned Perdue once.
"I was for Brian Kemp before it was cool," Pence told a cheering crowd of a few hundred at an airfield on the outskirts of Atlanta.
Pence's support for a candidate Trump reviles marks a high-profile clash between the former president and his White House wingman, and only highlights the party's internal tug of war over its future direction.
The race to be Georgia's secretary of state is seen as equally consequential, as these are the officials who oversee elections in the United States.
Democrats fear that, across the country, Trump will be able to install loyalists who can weaponize specious fraud accusations from 2020 to make it harder for his opponents to vote in 2024.
As the man responsible for certifying Georgia's 2020 election results, Brad Raffensperger was in lockstep with Kemp in pushing back against Trump.
He faces Jody Hice, one of more than a dozen Trump-backed candidates across America bidding to become secretary of state and professing to believe the 2020 election was stolen.
The four-term congressman was also among 147 House Republicans who voted against certifying the results for Biden without evidence of election fraud.
In an April poll published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the University of Georgia, Raffensperger and Hice were in a dead heat.
Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 to win Georgia, while Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff triumphed in runoff elections in January 2021 that wrested control of the US Senate from Republicans.
Georgia's Democrats are doing all they can to cement those gains, headlined by news that Democratic star campaigner Stacey Abrams is reprising her bid for governor.
Abrams is unopposed in her effort to unseat Kemp in November and Warnock is expected to sail through his primary before facing a challenge from Trump-backed former football star Herschel Walker.
‘Find a spine’: State Farm criticized after celebrating Pride then dropping program supporting LGBTQ books in schools
Over the past year, insurance giant State Farm has posted ten tweets supporting LGBTQ people, programs, and organizations, as recently as last week:
When we talk about mental health, we take away the stigma. For #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, learn about challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth in the new 2022 national survey on LGBTQ+ youth mental health from @TrevorProject: https://t.co/KQ74fWPDvx
— State Farm (@StateFarm) May 19, 2022
The $79 billion company will turn 100 years old next month, which coincidentally is LGBTQ Pride Month. It has made strong statements in support of LGBTQ equality and diversity. Just last June they tweeted: "We believe no one should be afraid to celebrate who they are. Let’s support our LGBTQ+ neighbors and show our Pride together!" They even tagged the tweet with their own corporate branding, using #GoodNeighbor and #PrideMonth hastags.
We believe no one should be afraid to celebrate who they are. Let’s support our LGBTQ+ neighbors and show our Pride together! #GoodNeighbor #PrideMonth pic.twitter.com/yRB5QcVXm0
— State Farm (@StateFarm) June 8, 2021
So many were left stunned when the Illinois-based corporation's chief diversity officer sent an email to employees and agents, as The Daily Beast reports, stating it was dropping its "support of a philanthropic program, GenderCool," saying it "has been the subject of news and customer inquiries."
The program helps put LGBTQ-inclusive books into libraries and schools.
"This program that included books about gender identity was intended to promote inclusivity,” Victor Terry continued. “We will no longer support that program.”
And in an apparent bowing down to rising far right-wing extremism and anti-LGBTQ hate, the diversity expert declared, “conversations about gender and identity should happen at home with parents.”
The right-wing outlet Washington Examiner on Monday, as part of a series titled "Restoring America" published a report on State Farm's support of LGBTQ students: "Backlash prompts State Farm to end program donating trans books to schools." That article was a follow-up to one the very same day titled, "State Farm donating transgender books for 5-year-olds to schools in Florida."
Here's what those two pieces look like:
Outrage over State Farm's "180" was immediate.
Well-known LGBTQ Activist and writer Charlotte Clymer explained via her Substack platform:
Last night, State Farm, the insurance company, gave up on LGBTQ rights after being pressured by hateful extremists.
So much for being a good neighbor. I wrote about it here.https://t.co/m5VD6Nu2qA — Charlotte Clymer 🏳️⚧️🇺🇦 (@cmclymer) May 24, 2022
Parker Molloy, also a well-known LGBTQ activist and writer, blasted State Farm.
Since the company is so clearly and easily moved by public backlash, State Farm customers should call their agent and cancel their policies.
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) May 24, 2022
She adds: "One of the reasons this is getting to me so much has to do with the fact that my dad (who is great and accepting, etc.) is a State Farm agent. That company has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been alive."
Bobby Lewis, who writes for Media Matters, tweeted, "something as anodyne as a fucking insurance company buying kids books turned into another fascist outrage campaign, and the corporate cowards caved in a second. it's pathetic."
He wasn't finished, adding: "corporate pride is all window dressing that will never save anyone, but goddamn find a spine you sniveling cowards."
Veteran journalist Michelangelo Signorile, host of the SiriusXM Progress' "Signorile Show" and writer of The Signorile Report newsletter calls State Farm's actions "grotesque as LGBTQ rights are backsliding across the country. Now companies joining Ron DeSantis, MAGA and the 'don’t say gay' purge."
i’ll be canceling the State Farm insurance, switching to another company. You should too.
— Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) May 24, 2022
Shame on you @StateFarm . https://t.co/kFKxUFjpvk
— Colleen •WearAMask• Barry 🇺🇦🌻 (@Cbeary1608) May 24, 2022
.@StateFarm is a horrible neighbor to LGBTQ families.
— John Pavlovitz (@johnpavlovitz) May 24, 2022
Like your bigoted, racist neighbor, State Farm is there. https://t.co/KbHbFGH6yX
— Lesley Abravanel (@lesleyabravanel) May 24, 2022
So @StateFarm = cowards. Teaching kids about different identities is suicide prevention. Comprehensive sex education prevents *actual* grooming. Don't listen to right-wing pundits and bitter transphobes. State Farm should double down, not back off. GenderCool does important work.
— Finley Daniels ☭🇵🇸 (he/him) (@FinleyDaniels1) May 24, 2022
State Farm is caving to the bigots and bullies and helping them erase LGBTQ children.https://t.co/pzZXZ8oqAE
— John Pavlovitz (@johnpavlovitz) May 24, 2022
.@StateFarm Do us all a favor and skip your #Pride tweet this year.
There is no greater cowardice than giving into hate out of financial convenience. When you appease homophobes, you empower homophobia and put LGBTQ families at risk. https://t.co/Nfcm5gZv1v — Melanie D'Arrigo for NY03 (@DarrigoMelanie) May 24, 2022
Grow a backbone @StateFarm https://t.co/IuW8sXIM4o
— Erica French Csapo (@EricaCsapo) May 24, 2022