The Unspoken Horror of Incarcerated LGBT People

February 23 2017
In the past few years, bipartisan attention has helped shed light on the overincarceration of nonviolent offenders, and researchers have long known that low-income, black, and Latino people are disproportionately imprisoned. Our study, released this month in the American Journal of Public Health, reveals a startling new fact: The incarceration rate of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people is three times greater than that of American adults generally.

We found that 1,882 per 100,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are incarcerated, compared with 612 per 100,000 U.S. residents aged 18 and older. The nationwide incarceration rate of LGB people was previously unknown, and the large difference is striking. 

Data came from the National Inmate Survey (2011-2012) conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in U.S. prisons and jails, as mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Our new analysis of this data showed that not only are sexual minority persons more likely to be held and to receive longer sentences, they are also more likely to experience harm while inside. Compared with straight inmates, sexual minority inmates are more likely to be sexual victimized behind bars. For example, gay and bisexual men in prison are more than six times as likely to be sexually assaulted by a staff member or inmate than straight men.

The over-incarceration phenomenon is particularly acute among women inmates. Thirty-three percent of women in prison and 26 percent of women in jail identify as lesbian or bisexual — yet only 3.4 percent of women in the general U.S. population are lesbian or bisexual. Gay and bisexual men made up 5.5 percent of men in prison and 3.3 percent of men in jail, compared to 3.6 percent of men who identify as gay or bisexual in the general population. (Our forthcoming research looks at incarcerated transgender persons.)

What’s causing the disproportionate incarceration? Other research shows that prejudice may be to blame. Growing up, sexual minorities are more likely to experience family rejection and community marginalization, which can create pathways to substance abuse, homelessness, and detention. Criminal justice profiling of sexual minorities as more likely to engage in sex work or to commit sex crimes can lead to overpolicing. For women, powerful gender stereotypes are likely at play. To the extent that sexual minority women defy norms and are labeled as aggressive or masculine, individuals or institutions may unfairly find them more deserving of punishment.
The biases continue behind bars. For instance, we found that sexual minority inmates are more likely to experience solitary confinement. While sometimes purportedly done for the inmate’s protection, the institutional segregation of inmates is also used as punishment. In either case, the deprivation is severe. Exclusion from programming, 23-hour lockdown, and a lack of family visits and other human contact harm the mental health of those who endure it. Compounding matters, sexual minority inmates are more likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse than straight inmates. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, our research also found greater psychological distress among LGB inmates.

In sum, higher rates of incarceration, longer sentences, widespread sexual victimization, disproportionate isolation, and poor mental health outcomes urgently require a rethinking of current health and criminal justice approaches to this population.

In this particular political moment, we hope Americans will find increased concern for the vulnerable among us. Race, class, and sexual orientation serve to privilege some and disadvantage others. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than when we look closely at who is serving time in our country’s prisons and jails and how we treat marginalized individuals who are more likely to be there.

LARA STEMPLE and ILAN H. MEYER are scholars at the the Williams Institute and coauthors of Incarceration Rates and Traits of Sexual Minorities in the United States: National Inmate Survey, 2011–2012.

Read more articles from the Advocate, here.

Tom Ammiano: Advocate

Tom Ammiano                                                    Photographed Exclusively for A&U by Sean Black

Tom Ammiano first came to my attention about twenty years ago. I was visiting San Francisco and I was at Josie’s Cabaret and Juice Joint. Tom was doing a stand-up comedy act, but he was introduced as one of the city’s Board of Supervisors. As I laughed at one-liners about well-hung juries and the imagined sexual proclivities of Tattoo from Fantasy Island, a thought gnawed at me: How can you do raunchy gay stand-up comedy and be a serious politician? You just…can’t do both, can you?

Young, orthodox Larry didn’t understand then that things work differently in San Francisco and that Tom Ammiano has not given a flying fig about what’s proper since long before Larry was aware of anything.

Ammiano’s activism propelled him to election to the Board of Education in 1990. In 1994, he won a seat on the Board of Supervisors. One of his first actions on the board was to convene AIDS activists and administrators from Kaiser Permanente to explore the HMO’s alleged homophobic treatment of AIDS patients. The issue was personal: his partner, Tim Curbo, had just died of AIDS-related causes just three days before Ammiano was elected to the Board. A few years later he helped to create an ordinance that made San Francisco the first city in the nation to provide universal healthcare access, and he vehemently protested the ousting of renters with HIV/AIDS.

Tom spent most of the past decade in the California Assembly, butting heads with two governors and recalcitrant Democrats and Republicans, to push forward a progressive legislative agenda. He introduced a landmark marijuana regulation bill, the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act to create a regulatory structure for pot similar to that for alcohol. He passed bills addressing the prevention of drug overdoses, allowing for electronic distribution of EIRs, improving wrap-around services for foster youth, decreasing costs in the criminal justice system, and a landmark law to protect sex workers from prosecution for carrying condoms. In 2013 his K–12 transgender rights bill, letting students choose the restroom that matched their gender identity, became law.

Not only has he fought for progressive policies on HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ rights, affordable housing, immigrants rights, labor, criminal justice reform, he’s insisted that colleagues and the public connect the dots between all of them.

We spoke in mid-November as Tom was preparing for an extended run of his one-man show, days after an election threatened, on the national level at least, many of the issues he’s been fighting for in California.

Larry Buhl: So. That election happened. What now?

Tom Ammiano: It’s hard to wake up and realize what the impact of this could be. In my life we’ve gone through some political setbacks. This one, no pun intended, trumps them all. People say we survived Reagan but some of us didn’t. I don’t think anything has been quite as embarrassing as this. At this stage in my life, and I’m going to be 75 in a couple of weeks, I was hoping for a little more pleasant exit music if you get my drift. Nothing is linear. But this Trump thing is like a roller coaster, dropping a thousand feet before you climb back up.

At least California is an island of progressivism, right?
Well, on the coasts, yes. What I’m recognizing as someone older and watching things become movements, like immigration and health care, there’s a lot of queer energy and they’re mostly young.

In Sacramento there were a lot of DINOS, Democrats in Name Only, and I was able to get bills out that would not ordinarily be generated from the vast majority of Democrats, around immigration, transgender, the disabled, social justice issues, legalization of marijuana. The Democratic party has been very shy about going full tilt boogie on these issues.

 In the Assembly you had clashes with Governor Brown. What did it take to bring him around?
Jerry Brown respects persistence. So when he vetoed two bills of mine, one on domestic workers which is mostly a Latina issue, and the other on immigration reform, stopping racial profiling through ICE, the second time around he signed them. He’s also a crafty politician. Also I wouldn’t shut up, and I had tremendous support. I don’t want to take too much credit. All of this was a strong team effort. I learned this from my early days, from my activism. You’ve gotta do things in a coalition.

Harvey Milk recognized the suffering of other demographics. He always connected the dots. I thought that was the way to go. I am a subscriber to the gay liberation and one of the ideas coming out of that was connecting with others and not silo-ing yourself. If you look at many social justice issues, environment, healthcare, gay rights, and trans, politicians don’t recognize the issue of poverty in those issues.

Your lover Tim instituted the AIDS education program in the San Francisco school. And you kept it going?
He was a revered classroom teacher in the Mission district. We got a grant to spread education about HIV/AIDS. I got condoms in the school when I was on the school board. This was having it in the curriculum, recognizing World AIDS Day, getting involved with the Quilt. And there was a shitstorm around it. Many of the parents were alarmist.

Flash forward to your time as supervisor, protesting loss of housing for people with HIV/AIDS people in the city. Where is that issue now?
Today there are activists in housing working on that. It’s the AIDS Housing Alliance. Back then it was, ‘Where do you even report this?’ and the Board of Supervisors was a little clueless. Our housing crisis is phenomenal here. It dwarfs everything. People with HIV bear the brunt of this. It’s far from perfect but I think they’ve made good progress in getting specialized housing. Until we solve our overall housing crisis, people with HIV are vulnerable.

When you talk to people about gay rights, you can move them in terms of them recognizing you shouldn’t be fired, they don’t connect the dots that if you support the affordable housing initiative you also support gay people. If you support affordable health care you also support LGBT people.

What you said about silos and connecting the dots makes sense. HIV/AIDS in society now is long past being a silo issue.
Yes and it’s a shrinking world. What’s happening in other places reflects on us if we’re too laid back about it. Here we still have to pay attention to the economically challenged people. I don’t think they’re benefitting in the same way from enlightened HIV/AIDS policy. And then there’s young people who think they’re immortal. I get it. They didn’t see the worst of [the HIV/AIDS] crisis. They didn’t feel it. But I still want to slap them. But we gotta mentor them. When they seroconvert even then they’re a little cavalier. We can’t get smug. It’s definitely not over.

Recreational pot will now be legal in California. You’ve long been in favor of taxing pot. Happy?
I’m happy but the proposition is imperfect. I saw pot as a palliative at many deathbeds in terms of appetite and nausea and pain management. But in the legislature nobody wanted to touch it. I came up with regulations to protect patient rights. There were cartels taking over. There were abuses in the system, which made you vulnerable to law enforcement. There are factions, there’s the growers, a lot to contend with. But I was gratified with what we did accomplish. The proposition that just passed is not perfect. It barely passes the smell test. But one good thing is, it talks about sentencing reform, which alleviates some social injustice.

Marijuana is not the third rail anymore. It’s important this passed even with its imperfections. We’ll never get anything until we at least get the legalization part out of the way.

Speaking of third rails, you were never shy about controversy. Like the “condoms as evidence” bill. But what came out of it was a compromise, that law enforcement couldn’t use one condom but could use two condoms to prosecute.
I know it sounds ridiculous and I think it was absurd, but considering we started from zero, it’s something. And at least it gets people talking and engaged about the issue. We got what we got and we need to do more. It puts the sex worker in an impossible place. If you don’t have condoms then you’re much more likely to contract HIV and if you do have them they can be used as evidence of prostitution, to jail you and convict.

There’s a high HIV rate among sex workers and there’s the down-low phenomenon where the john contracts an STD and goes back and gives it to his wife. All of that is real and happening. We had some success in San Francisco but on the state level it’s very dicey.

What kills you the most is when you see the flicker of recognition from your colleagues about why something is necessary and the right thing to do but they can’t bring themselves to support you. That’s frustrating. There was one guy who would never vote for anything, and then he would whisper to me, “stay strong!” Well, where were you?

We’re trying to get safe injection sites now. We have had some success with some of the people in the mayor’s administration. We had the same setbacks with needle exchange, but we figured out the board of supervisors could declare an emergency around HIV/AIDS and then you could have two weeks of needle exchange, and then the board would have to pass the resolution again, until finally needle exchange is accepted. It is part of the state law now. Sometimes you have to go through theatrics.

Pulling the levers of politics.
[Laughs] Right. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

It’s pseudo-piety, simplistic-morality shit; whenever you go to help someone involved in something highly disapproved by society, they’ll say you’re enabling these people. Even giving out condoms. When I was on the school board, I pushed for condoms in the school and of course teens are sexually active, and the head of the PTA said having condoms in the school is akin to sexual abuse.

Or sex education, that’s just giving them ideas.

Is some of this in your show?
The show is about my take with irony and satire and snark about my six years in Sacramento. There are some autobiographical things, but that’s more part of the architecture of the narrative. In the close there is some more personal history but very little personal history. There are many situations where you could laugh or cry but I think it’s better to laugh.

My humor tends to be political. It’s always been topical, social satire. And when I was in Sacramento I would sometimes just make a quip in the moment.

Did that make it hard for other lawmakers to take you seriously?
Sometimes. In the beginning it’s hard to be taken seriously because you’re gay or your voice is high or have ideas they’re threatened by. A lot of gay men face this. Some people have thought that if I’m queeny or I’m funny then I must not be serious. But I’m deadly serious.

Larry Buhl is a radio news reporter, screenwriter, and novelist living in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @LarryBuhl.

Read more articles from A&U, here.

When a Mormon Teen Comes Out: Carter

February 17 2017
In this four-part series Maxwell Poth tells his own story as well as sharing the stories of three other Mormon teens. All photography courtesy of Maxwell Poth.

My name is Carter McMillan and I am a 15-year-old gay teen living in Bountiful, Utah. Growing up I always knew something about me was different; I felt like the odd one out. Playing with Barbie dolls with the girls next door, wanting Littlest Pet Shops for toys, forcing myself to have a girlfriend — I never really understood what was wrong with me.

In a society where being a boy meant you had to play sports, do karate, run fast, be strong, and play tough, I never felt comfortable and hated it. I remember thinking about being gay in sixth-grade but quickly put that thought out of my head. I was afraid and not really aware of what being gay was all about. I continued to do all of the things boys “normally” do like play soccer, go to boys’ activities in my church, wear sport shorts and T-shirts and hang out with other boys — all the time feeling awkward. I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, so being gay is even more awkward. 


Starting junior high was very rough for me. I was constantly harassed for being gay even though I didn’t know I was gay. This continued up until the end of eighth grade. When I finally figured out that the reason I felt so awkward was that I indeed was gay, I felt free!

This realization of my sexuality happened just prior to my ninth-grade year. I came out publicly first to my mom; it was easy because she was already so accepting and I knew that. Since my dad was more involved in our church and a little more uptight about things, I had a feeling he wouldn’t be as accepting. Even though my coming-out was a pretty smooth process, we decided as a family that going to a counselor would be a good idea. I was lucky to get an amazing counselor who also has a gay son. Through this therapy both my parents and I gained a better understanding and acceptance of who I am. 


 People at my junior high were surprisingly pretty accepting. I did not hold back on my identity; I was gay and I was proud. It was really strange, because I think I was a sort of idol for some of my peers, and I felt like some hated me because they didn’t have my confidence. I’m in high school now and people are used to me walking in with eight-inch heels, tight leather jeans, and painted nails. I feel like it is very important to be able to express yourself, whether it’s through fashion, art, singing, dance, or whatever will define you as an individual.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or other problems that may be affecting your mental health, there are places that can help you. One is the Utah Department of Health, which provides a 24/7 hotline, (801) 587-3000. If you do not live in Utah, you may call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-TALK (8255). Utah also is home to the Utah Pride Center, which offers specialized counseling, therapy, support groups, and much more. You can call the center or make an appointment at (801) 539-8800 or email Again, if you are in other locations please look up your nearest LGBTQ center for help and support. 
 You can see more of Maxwell’s work here: The Adorable Life and Exquisite Photos of Maxwell Poth and on his website. Read Maxwell’s coming-out story here, Nathan’s story here, and Holden’s story here.

 Read more articles from the Advocate, here.

How “Religious Freedom” Laws Would Create Chaos In The Workplace

It’s not just employers who would have a license to discriminate, but employees, as well. 
The question of how far religious freedom laws and executive orders should be expanded has come to the forefront this month: Last week, the EEOC appeared to be withdrawing from a case (EEOC v. Harris Funeral Homes) in which a business claimed a religious exemption from the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex to justify firing an LGBT employee.

Also last week, a draft of an executive order greatly expanding the right to discriminate against LGBT people based on sincerely held religious beliefs was leaked. A similar bill was passed in Mississippi in 2016, but was temporarily blocked by a district judge in the 5th Circuit.

The proposed First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) serves a similar purpose on the federal level: It would prevent the government from taking action against federal employees or contractors who discriminate based on a religious belief that marriage is only for heterosexual couples, and sex should only happen within marriage.

Neil Gorsuch, the nominee to replace the late Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court, played a pivotal role in expanding the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA): In a 2014 decision, he sided with Hobby Lobby in its efforts to deny contraception coverage to its employees by finding that corporations are people. He also found, in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, that virtually any government requirement of a religious organization was an unconstitutional burden upon its religious rights. And in Summum v. Pleasant Grove City, Judge Gorsuch seemed to support the argument that governments may show favortism toward one set of religious beliefs over another. 

In several cases, this leads to a situation where employers cannot prevent their employees from expressing their religious views towards LGBT people or prevent them from discriminating against other LGBT employees. Expansion of the ruling in Little Sisters of the Poor to employees could mean that the religious beliefs of workers must be accommodated, and virtually any limitation could constitute an unconstitutional burden.

All of this creates a potential for chaos in the workplace.

Imagine you owned a business, and one of your employees unilaterally decided to stop serving LGBT customers. The bad reviews on Yelp start pouring in, you’re being reviled on social media, and Buzzfeed just left a message on your phone requesting a comment. In short, your brand is in a world of hurt. 

However, you wouldn’t be able to prevent this because, under the expanded RFRA, ordering workers not to discriminate would be a violation of their rights. Nor could you stop it once it happened: The RFRA expansion also prevents disciplining employees who discriminate, so you couldn’t fire or move them someplace less damaging to your business. 

Another ugly possibility is the effect on insurance: If employees didn’t approve of their employer’s insurance plan covering birth control, same-sex partner benefits, transgender health care, or in-vitro fertilization, they could claim that paying into such a plan burdens their religious rights. That could force employers to offer dozens of different plans to avoid lawsuits—driving up the per-employee cost of premiums and increasing overhead exponentially. (Even if a company did juggle a multitude of plans, they could still be at risk: If one plan cost more than the others, it could be seen as a form of religious discrimination.) 

And finally, the inability to prevent religious-based discrimination in the workplace opens the door to an HR nightmare: Company equal-opportunity policies would become unenforceable. This would drive away talent, and create a hostile workplace environment for everyone not protected by the expanded RFRA. Employees could make expensive, time-consuming and outrageous demands—such as getting rid of any chair a woman might have sat on, or not having to breathe the same air as an LGBT employee—and they’d have to be accommodated.

But an expansion of RFRA to employees appears to be a key goal for some at the state and federal level. Many businesses seem unaware of the hazard both in terms of talent and financially. As one senior HR manager told me, “Oh my God, that’s horrible. I’d quit and find a new career if that happened.”

Read more articles from NewNowNext, here.

Bill Frist: The Case for Keeping America’s AIDS Relief Plan

Ariel Davis
Among global public health advocates, there is a growing concern that President Trump may cut back, or even eliminate, programs that have played a critical role in fighting diseases worldwide. While every administration should strongly review our nation’s overseas commitments, and there are undoubtedly programs that we should cut, I hope he recognizes the success and importance of one in particular: the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
I have been treating patients in Africa and Haiti for 20 years. When I was Senate majority leader in 2003, I led the Senate’s passage of the plan, called Pepfar, on an overwhelming voice vote. It has since been reauthorized twice. President Trump, like his predecessors, will have the chance to put his own stamp on this winning program.
Pepfar was created in a moment of crisis: In the late 1990s, H.I.V.-AIDS was the No. 4 killer worldwide, and No. 1 in Africa. The program aimed to bring reliable, proven measures like antiretroviral drugs, counseling and prevention services to underserved communities around the world — and it worked. Today, Pepfar reaches 11.5 million people with antiretroviral drugs, a 50 percent increase since just 2014. Two million babies with infected mothers have been born H.I.V.-free thanks to Pepfar interventions, and 6.2 million orphans and vulnerable children receive care from the program.
The program has been able to expand, without a significant change in its budget, because it leverages the latest scientific innovations and reductions in drug prices. As a result, the rate of new H.I.V. infections in Malawi, for example, has dropped 76 percent in just three years. But the work is far from over. One million people worldwide died of AIDS last year, and only about half of those afflicted with the disease are getting proper treatment.


Pepfar’s success is no secret to the new administration. In his confirmation hearing as secretary of state last month, Rex Tillerson called it “a model for us to look to as we’re thinking about other ways in which to project America’s values, project our compassion” to “solve these threats.”

A few days later, though, The New York Times reported that the Trump transition team was asking questions about the value of humanitarian aid in general and Pepfar in particular. For example, transition officials asked, “Is Pepfar worth the massive investment when there are so many security concerns in Africa?”
It’s a fair question, and the answer is yes — in large part because it is such a cost-effective way of addressing those security concerns. After the Sept. 11 attacks originated from a country unable to govern its own territory, buttressing weak states became a key element of America’s national security strategy. The military and intelligence communities were saying that the AIDS epidemic made Africa particularly vulnerable.
Pepfar has helped stabilize much of Africa. In 2015 my former Senate colleague Tom Daschle and I wrote an extensive report for the Bipartisan Policy Center, “The Case for Strategy Health Diplomacy: A Study of Pepfar.” Our researchers compared countries that received Pepfar assistance and, as a control, similar countries that did not.
The findings were dramatic. From 2004 to 2013, political instability and violence fell by 40 percent in countries that received Pepfar assistance versus just 3 percent in similar countries that did not. 
Measurements of the strength of the rule of law increased 31 percent versus just 7 percent.
And it has paid dividends for America’s image abroad. In 2007, just as Pepfar was taking hold, both Pepfar and non-Pepfar countries in Africa gave the United States approval ratings of about 40 percent, but by 2011 the rating in Pepfar countries had risen to about 80 percent, while in non-Pepfar nations it had risen only to around 50 percent.
Some people are concerned, however, that rhetoric emanating from the White House about foreign aid could spell doom for programs like Pepfar. Others have interpreted Mr. Trump’s executive order reinstating and expanding the “Mexico City policy” gag rule on abortion counseling to mean shuttering Pepfar, though there’s no concrete evidence of that.
Indeed, President Trump seems to favor Pepfar: During the campaign, he was asked in New Hampshire if he would help double the number of people receiving treatment under the program. “Yes,” he said. “I believe so strongly in that, and we’re going to lead the way.”
Vice President Mike Pence is also an avid supporter. In a news release in 2008, he said, “If not addressed, this plague will continue to undermine the stability of nations throughout the third world.” He added, “I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the world in confronting the pandemic of H.I.V.-AIDS.”
By embracing and expanding Pepfar, President Trump could make the world’s next generation AIDS-free. He and his administration should render Pepfar not only more efficient but also more strategic by aligning it with clear national security goals. For example, while continuing to focus on eradicating AIDS in Africa, President Trump could deploy additional health dollars to fight diseases and win hearts and minds in countries where traditional diplomacy isn’t an easy option.

Pepfar is the greatest humanitarian effort undertaken by the United States in more than 60 years. But it also makes us safer by making afflicted countries stronger, more stable and more grateful to us. And it can prevent the disease from re-emerging at home in a more virulent form. President Trump has the chance to make America even greater by making the world AIDS-free.

Bill Frist, a former Republican Senate majority leader from Tennessee, is the chairman of the executive board of the health care investment firm Cressey & Company, a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a co-chairman of the center’s work on health innovation.

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A version of this op-ed appears in print on February 9, 2017, on Page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Why Trump Should Keep Pepfar.

Siedah Garrett: Cover Story

Photographed Exclusively for A&U by Sean Black

Singer/Songwriter & AIDS Activist Siedah Garrett Reflects on Her Early Beginnings in Compton, California, to Becoming Michael Jackson’s Friend & Protégé and the Go-To Gal for Spinning Hits

by Dann Dulin
Siedah descends the stone stairs from her home. She’s bummed. Many others are too. This is the day after the Presidential election, and a shockwave has jolted the nation—and the world.

Siedah snarls sourly, her lips curling upward, appalled over America’s choice for our next leader. She sits at a hefty wooden table by the swimming pool that’s just a few feet away from the kitchen. The floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door, which separates the pool from the kitchen, is open on this warm afternoon. The modular contemporary house is an open space, with little obstruction from one room to another. Several months ago, Garrett and husband Erik moved into this bright and airy dwelling, which could make the next cover of Architectural Digest.
Once we both vent about the election, the mood lightens and Siedah radiates a burst of energy, reeling out stories and doing vocal impressions of the famous people she’s worked with over the years.

Moments earlier, I was parked in front of Siedah’s house, which borders on the Miracle Mile and Hancock Park sections of Los Angeles. As I gathered my paraphernalia for the interview, a large figure appeared at the side of my car. It was Erik Nuri, Siedah’s husband of two years. A Harvard grad and former RCA Records vice president, he’s now her manager. He offered me a permit for the restricted parking area.

Sipping on iced tea, Siedah offers me something to drink. I accept bottled water.

Siedah settles at the table, scooting inches near me to avoid the direct sunlight. She wears antique caramel-colored sunglasses embellished with rhinestones on the sides. Erik conveniently places a pinnacle acrylic award in front of me. “Erik wants you to see this,” she chuckles mildly. It is the Good Samaritan Award bestowed on Siedah in December 2005 from the Minority AIDS Project. Her efforts have been legion. She participated in L.A’s inaugural AIDS Walk, performed as part of Divas Simply Singing!, and worked with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, as well as other organizations.

At one APLA Health fundraiser, she served as Mistress of Ceremonies.

“I thought myself as a bit of…,” she dons a Brit accent, “a standup comedian.” One of her lines that night was, “They don’t want gays and lesbians to get married? Why shouldn’t they?! They need to be as miserable as the rest of us!” The audience responded with a hearty laugh.

Siedah’s not-so-secret passion is knitting, and she also knits and crochets wearables for people living with HIV/AIDS. “I’m motivated to give because I have so much,” she says, nursing her beverage as the ice cubes clank, clank against the sides of the glass. “I have a lot. When you’re blessed with a lot, you need to give back…a lot.” She clears her throat. “The lion’s share of my spare time and energy goes into creating stuff, mostly hats, scarves, and outerwear for others.”

For today’s interview, she sports an ordinary frumpy beige hat embellished with a large, lavender silk rose. It’s funky and chic. Her shiny dreads flow from under the hat onto a white fluffy blouse, and her tight semi-ripped jeans have a small red flower with green leaves painted on the thigh. She wears cutesy, stylish aqua-blue flats and is accessorized with wrist and ankle bracelets, a necklace, a bling ring, tiny dangling earrings, and clear, dazzling speckled nail polish.

This Grammy Award-winner and two-time Oscar-nominated songwriter has written hundreds of songs. She’s probably best known for co-writing Michael Jackson’s iconic “Man in the Mirror,” which was the fourth number-one hit from Michael’s BAD album and number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for several weeks after its debut. Siedah also sang backup on the track. It was one of Jackson’s favorite songs and it’s Siedah’s personal fave, too. Garrett sang with Jackson when they teamed up on the duet, “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” the first single from the BAD album, and then toured with him for eighteen months after the release of his Dangerous album.

Among the entertainment icons who’ve spun gold from Siedah’s lyrics are Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Roberta Flack, Barry White, Donna Summer, Earth Wind & Fire, Sergio Mendes,, and Jamie Foxx. Siedah was also featured vocalist and dancer on Madonna’s 2004 Re-Invention Tour, collaborated on an album with the Brand New Heavies, and co-wrote the hit song “Love You I Do” for Jennifer Hudson in the film adaptation of Dreamgirls. That song won a Grammy, and garnered Siedah her first Academy Award nomination. Her second Oscar nomination was earned from the song “Real In Rio” from the animated film, Rio. Siedah also co-wrote and performed the official theme songs for the 2007 and 2015 Special Olympics World Games, and the 2010 World Expo event in China.

On this luminous day, Ms. Garrett is chummy, sanguine, easygoing, and unpretentious. She hasn’t forgotten her humble urban roots.

She was raised in Compton, California. Known as the “Hub City” of Los Angeles, it’s an inner-city, working-class community. Although Compton and Hollywood are in close proximity, in many ways they are worlds apart. With hard dedicated work, Siedah trekked down the yellow brick road from Compton to Hollywood show business success.
Born Deborah Christine, she was never fond of her name. “It’s a pretty name but nobody called me Deborah. It was always abbreviated to Deb, Debbie, or DeeDee. I hated it.” At age thirteen, she had the opportunity to change it to Siedah, which means “shining and star-like.”

During Siedah’s childhood, the family would move every nine months. “My mother had it figured out,” explains Siedah with a wink-wink, talking about her and her younger sister, Cynthia. “She had an aversion to paying rent.” Her mother would pay the first and last month’s rent and then it would take about nine months for the landlord to legally kick them out of the apartment. In the meantime, the gas and electricity might be turned off, and there were frequent knocks on the door by people demanding the rent. The furniture was also rented. To avoid repo, the family would move, sometimes in the middle of the night.

Siedah’s paternal grandmother, Laura Draugh, put a stop to the vagabond lifestyle by threatening to call the CPS (Child Protective Services) unless she was permitted to care for her grandchildren. Grandma lived in Watts, but she wanted her grandkids to attend Compton’s better schools. The resolution was to use her Aunt Earlestine’s Compton address. Grandma would drive the kids to school in the morning and Aunt Earlestine would pick them up. They’d stay at her house with their cousins, Cokie and his two older sisters, until the grandmother would pick them up.

“Every single day, the loving and caretaking of my paternal grandmother lives with me. I think of her more often than I ever did when she was alive,” offers a heartfelt Garrett, disclosing that Laura died when she was sixteen. Siedah’s mother, Doris, who wrote books under the name of Penny Rich, sadly died last summer of pancreatic cancer.

At fifteen, Siedah started singing. She was part of a five-piece band called Black Velvet & Satin Soul, performing top 40 cover songs at local clubs and private affairs. It was a cattle call (an audition where tons of people show up on a first come, first served basis) that transformed Siedah’s life. She was in her mid-twenties.

“I had a girlfriend that I had been singing with for a few years and she knew about the audition,” recalls Siedah. Then she lowers her voice and adds, “but she didn’t tell me.” She purses her mouth, her foxy golden eyes dart to the side, and she whispers in patronizing rhythm, “Yep, that’s my friend!” Siedah found out about the audition when her friend’s boyfriend called her. She asked for the address; he gave it to her, but he didn’t know the time. Siedah showed up at seven a.m. The actual audition didn’t start until noon. By that time there were people lined up around the block, but Siedah was the third person to be seen.

Quincy Jones was looking to create a new vocal group like Manhattan Transfer or Fifth Dimension, though he, himself, did not conduct the initial auditions. For nine months, Siedah received letters —“Congratulations, you’re one of 500”; “Congratulations, you’re one of 250,” then 100, then 50, 25, 10. Finally Siedah was picked, along with three guys, and the band Deco was formed. (She didn’t meet Quincy until after her third callback.)

Years later Quincy confided to Siedah that it was she who set the standard for everyone else who auditioned, “They had to be either better than Siedah or as good as Siedah.”

When it came time to sign the contract, Quincy offered the band a publishing agreement and an artist agreement. She knew she could be an artist but had never written a song before. Siedah told the guys that she didn’t favor this part of the contract. The other band members took her plea to Quincy and he responded in a strict tone, “Either you all sign it or nobody signs.” The guys returned to Siedah and said, “Bitch, you better sign this contract!” Adjusting her position at the table, Siedah lets out a howl and says, “When three large black men tell you to sign, ya sign!”

Not wanting to disappoint Quincy Jones, she learned the craft of songwriting. After a year, the band dissolved and Siedah was kept on for seven more years with Quincy Jones and Warner-Chappell Music. During those years, she also recorded a solo album for Quincy’s Qwest Records.
“Do you want more water?” asks Siedah. She goes to the huge double-doored ultramodern built-in fridge to collect it. While there, she pours herself more tea.

Two and a half years into Siedah’s contract, Quincy was in the studio with Michael Jackson. Quincy informed her and the other five songwriters on staff that Michael needed one more up-tempo pop song. Siedah went to her friend and fellow songwriter, Glen Ballard, who went to the keyboard and began to peck out some notes. While he was composing, Siedah flipped through her lyric book. She came across a phrase that she had written down two years prior, “The Man in The Mirror.” Siedah straight away started to construct. “I couldn’t write fast enough,” she enthuses, adjusting to avoid the sun, which is now creeping into her area. Within twelve minutes they had the first verse and the chorus. They split, agreeing that each of them would work on the song then reunite the following day to record a demo.

It was Friday night when they finished recording the demo but it was too late to call Quest Publishing offices and Siedah wanted Quincy to hear the song that night. She called him. “Q, Glen and I have really come up with a great song for Michael!” Quincy asked that she take it into his office, he’d listen to it, and get back with her on Monday or Tuesday.

“Can I just drop it off now?” she pleaded eagerly.

“No, I’m in the middle of a meeting with twelve people sitting around the table,” Quincy answered.
Siedah insisted, knowing that Quincy had six daughters, so “he knew he wasn’t going to win [this argument],” says Siedah.

“All right. Shit…” responded Quincy, hanging up.

Siedah went to his home and handed him the demo cassette. Siedah stressed, “Quincy, the only thing I ask is, please get back with me. Don’t make me wait.” He agreed. Three hours later, Siedah was making dinner and the phone rang. “Sid, this is the best song I’ve heard in ten years, but….” Siedah froze, not hearing anything else. She went numb, awash in the moment. When she returned to reality, Quincy was saying, “….Michael has been in the studio for over two years; he hasn’t recorded anything he didn’t write, but don’t worry, Sid. If Michael doesn’t do it on his record, I’ll do it with James Ingram on my record.”

Four days later Siedah got a call from Quincy, who was in a playful spirit. “We in da studio recordin’ your ol’ piece of sooong.” Siedah glows. Quincy adds, “But…Michael says the chorus is not long enough. Hold on.” Siedah heard in an inaudible low singsong hushed voice, “Nee, nee, nee. Nee, nee, nee, nee, nee.” (Listening to this engaging storyteller is sheer heaven as she’s captivating, humorous, and absolutely entertaining, mimicking Michael to a “T,” in a good-natured way). 
Quincy said, “Sid, Michael says he really wants you to bring home the idea of…Hold on.” Again she hears, “Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, hee..” Quincy says, “Wait a minute, Sid.”

Siedah continues. “Q puts…”—she pauses, straightens up, throws her shoulders back and says in a regal manner, as if being announced to the Queen—“…Michael Jackson…on the phone. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, Michael Jackson was my husband,” screeches Siedah, nearly breaking into tears with passion, while her voice cracks. “So in my mind, I’m on the phone with my husband. But I didn’t want to be a….” She dons the persona of a hysterical fan, screaming nonsensical words, flailing her arms like an octopus. Instead of behaving the way she truly felt, she composed herself. When Michael came to the phone, Siedah replied with the coolest AT&T delivery, “How can I help you?”

The first thing Michael said to her was, “I love this song,” then he followed with, “I love your voice.” Siedah was in bliss, but she replied in a soft modest timbre, “Why thanks.”

Days later, Quincy invited Siedah to the studio to meet Michael. Michael began listening to the demo, as Quincy, Siedah and engineer Bruce Swedien were stationed around the mixing board. Quincy took Siedah aside and said, “Michael says the key is too high. Can you sing it for him in a lower key?” She agreed. Siedah was making her way back to the vocal booth when she realized Michael was filming her.

Surprised and slightly disturbed, she asked, “What are you doing?”

He answered, “I want to film you recording this song.”

“Whhhy..?” she begged.

“Because I…want…to…sing…it…like you,” said Michael.

Siedah flatly declared, “Great Mike. All my friends are really going to believe me when I tell them…he wants to sing it like me!”

This footage can be found in Spike Lee’s 2012 documentary BAD 25. “You can see Michael filming me and his reflection on the glass in the studio,” Siedah points out. “So I’m the chick in the mirror while the man in the mirror is filming me.”

The rising sun’s afternoon rays intensify. We move inside and sit on white bar stools at a mammoth white Formica counter, centered in the kitchen. Siedah replenishes us with more fluids, as we delve into another mirror.

 In 1981, when the AIDS epidemic emerged, Siedah learned that her cousin Cokie had died. They had grown up together but weren’t close as adults. “I heard he was sick, lost a lot of weight, then I heard he died,” she laments, closing her eyes. “He was only in his twenties.” Siedah takes a moment. “No one knew what it was, no one had ever heard of it, and there wasn’t a cure.”

Fast-forward nearly three decades. Siedah is performing at the Bermuda Music Festival with Quincy Jones. Afterward, they had dinner with the Premier of Bermuda, Ewart Brown, MD. 
Twenty people were seated around a huge table, alongside the Premier. Quincy introduced Siedah. The Premier murmured, “Hmm, Garrett….” Then he continued, “Are you any relation to Cokie?”

Siedah was dumbfounded. “I…went…ghost. I felt my blood drain….” She doesn’t finish the sentence.

While the Premier awaited Siedah’s reply, she pondered, ‘He doesn’t mean my cousin?! He can’t mean him!’

Siedah exclaimed to the Premier, “Cokie Garrett?

He answered, “Yes, Cokie Garrett.”

She replied, “That’s my cousin.”

Siedah’s speech wobbles and she fights back tears, but continues. “The Premier said, ‘I was his physician. I took care of him when no one would touch him.’”

Siedah halts. She surrenders to the primal gut-wrenching emotion, and weeps. Tears stream down her cheeks. I hand her a tissue and stroke her back. “Oh my gosh. Thank you,” she says, surprised at her own outburst. Breathing heavily, she clarifies, “When I was talking to him I just started crying uncontrollably. I felt so embarrassed. Here’s the Premier of Bermuda and I’m bawling. Quincy was at the other end of the table wondering what the hell was going on. I’m losing it. So I thank this man for taking care of my cousin when no one else wanted to touch him.”

The epidemic had affected Siedah when her cousin died, but the full impact didn’t come until decades later.

Reminiscing about this strikes a chord. She’s returns to the early days of AIDS when some songwriting friends of hers would take a daily swim at the YMCA. One day they didn’t go anymore and she wondered why. They told her, “There are gay people who swim in the pool.” At that time, people did not know how this disease was transmitted, so they were frantic, creating their own fear.

Siedah Garrett and her BAD wall in her home. Photo courtesy Erik Nuri

 Siedah has not yet written a song about the epidemic. Although the majority of her songwriting is now commissioned for special projects and events, television, film, and musicals, several times this afternoon she brings the topic up. “I’m going to get around to writing that song…,” she insists, twirling her dreadlocks. She starts singing Prince’s song, “Sign o’ the Times”: “‘…a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name….’ We all knew Prince was talking about AIDS.”

I support her idea of composing a song. As we walk toward the front door, I can picture notes and lyrics swirling in her head. (Siedah is also open to doing a PSA about HIV prevention, as well.) Husband Erik, who has an HIV-positive older brother, is collaborating with Siedah on a screenplay about music in the late forties and early fifties. We near the atrium where we pass the BAD album wall, which is plastered with elegant framed platinum records, awards, and pictures of Siedah and Michael, including one of the original demo.

As we are walking into the atrium that leads to the iron door, Erik, who’s been working in another room, sees us through the glass walls. He joins us. Gracious and hospitable, they leisurely walk me outside. We bid farewell.

Gazing into the mirror with Siedah today was inspirational. It reflects the light upon all who share the hope that compassion still exists and will thrive, especially in the unprecedented and uncertainity of our new political era. Let’s take a look at ourselves and make a change.

Wardrobe, styling & accessories provided by Siedah Garrett. Designer knits by Siedah Garrett: #siedahcreations.Hair & makeup: Jeff Jones; Post-production (digital styling) by Eve Harlowe Digital Styling( Shot at Apex Photo Studios, Downtown L.A.:

For more information, log on to:

Dann Dulin is a Senior Editor of A&U.

Read more articles from A&U, here.

We’re One Step Closer to a Single-Dose HIV Vaccine

February 01 2017
The dream of long-acting HIV drugs is becoming a reality each and every day, thanks to sophisticated medical breakthroughs. One of the newest drugs to get our attention has shown promise in creating HIV drugs that can be administered once or twice a year. 

As published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers developed a drug called URMC-099, which has the purpose of lifting the brakes on a process called autophagy. 
What is autophagy, you ask? 

It works like this: Autophagy is a process our cells use to rid itself of waste, thus allowing them to invade viruses. Without it, our cells are vulnerable to becoming consumed by viruses. HIV in particular prevents autophagy from happening altogether, which is why it’s so hard to kill. But scientists have found a way to lift HIV’s brake on autophagy. As a result, cells are free of the virus for longer periods of time. 

URMC-099 turns autophagy back on in our cells. When combined with nanoformulated antiretroviral drugs, it has potential of unleashing a long-acting HIV defense.

While strategies of developing an HIV vaccine to give lifetime protection from the virus are taking place around the world, URMC-099 seems to be closest to production. 

Researchers tested URMC-099 in combo with nanoformulations of two FDA-approved HIV medications (a protease inhibitor called atazanavir and an integrate inhibitor called dolutegravir), according to the study. Experiments were done using human immune cells and in mice engineered to have a human immune system. 

After these experiments, it was found that URMC-099’s initiation of autophagy allowed the HIV drugs to be in cells for a longer period of time — nearly 50 times longer! 

URMC-099 developer Harris A. Gelbard, professor and director of the Center of Neural Development and Disease at the University of Rochester said the treatment will be mobilized for human use in the next five years. 

“This study shows that URMC-099 has the potential to reduce the frequency of HIV therapy, which would eliminate the burden of daily treatment, greatly increase compliance and help people better manage the disease,” Gelbard said to 

Read more articles from PLUS, here.


Misconceptions About Nicotine Among People Living with HIV

Leah Mangini, 2017 PharmD candidate, 
the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy
 JANUARY 26, 2017
Limiting nicotine content in tobacco products can reduce dependence and overall tobacco use, and may subsequently reduce morbidity and mortality. However, the success of such measures is limited by the public’s misperceptions about nicotine’s safety. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University investigated knowledge of smoking and nicotine among HIV-positive smokers in a study published online in Addictive Behaviors.

Current smokers living with HIV completed an online survey regarding demographics, tobacco use, and knowledge about smoking and nicotine. Of those surveyed, the majority were light smokers—defined as those who do not smoke daily—and nicotine dependence was low.

A majority correctly identified the chemicals in cigarette smoke, and also recognized nicotine as the addictive component. The authors noted that public health efforts to educate consumers about the dangers of smoking are working, as evidenced by the number of correct responses to their survey.

However, most participants incorrectly identified nicotine as the cause of smoking-related cancers and other morbidities. Lack of differentiation between nicotine’s effects and tobacco smoke in public health campaigns may be to blame for this confusion.

The belief that nicotine is the harmful component may have repercussions. It may lead smokers to perceive that products with reduced nicotine levels are safe, create a reduced urge to quit among smokers, or even encourage former smokers to resume smoking.  This misconception may even limit the success of nicotine reduction policies.

Income, education level, and cigarettes per day did not consistently correlate with knowledge the way the authors expected. For example, neither greater education nor higher income positively correlated with knowledge. The researchers concluded that additional research is needed to elucidate these associations.

Because most people living with HIV have regular contact with the medical system, ample opportunity for screening and education about smoking cessation exists. The authors called for clarification on tobacco product labels and in educational materials about the relative harm of nicotine replacement and nicotine reduction.


Pacek LR, Rass O, Johnson MW. Knowledge about nicotine among HIV-positive
smokers: Implications for tobacco regulatory science policy. Addict Behav. 2017; doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2016.10.008. PubMed PMID: 27792909; PubMed
Central PMCID: PMC5140741.

Read more articles from Pharmacy Times, here.

“FADA” Freedom against Discrimination


 Giving anyone the RIGHT to DISCRIMINATE based on

David Moorman

Below is the legislation introduced in 2015 that the GOP and the RADICAL “EVANGELICAL” CHRISTIAN’s have been PUSHING so hard to get passed. The ONLY purpose of this BILL is to DISCRIMINATE against the LGBTQ COMMUNITY. Basically they are pushing for legislation to Go AGAINST the 1st and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the USA.

The RELIGIOUS RIGHT is calling it “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT” which is DECEPTIVE because we already have a “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT”; It’s called “THE FIRST AMENDMENT” of the CONSTITUTION of the USA. Let’s look at what that FIRST AMENDMENT is all about.

About the First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
  • First Amendment timeline
The First Amendment was written because at America’s inception, citizens demanded a guarantee of their basic freedoms.
Our blueprint for personal freedom and the hallmark of an open society, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.
Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be persecuted, the government might well establish a national religion, protesters could be silenced, the press could not criticize government, and citizens could not mobilize for social change.
When the U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, it did not contain the essential freedoms now outlined in the Bill of Rights, because many of the Framers viewed their inclusion as unnecessary. However, after vigorous debate, the Bill of Rights was adopted. The first freedoms guaranteed in this historic document were articulated in the 45 words written by James Madison that we have come to know as the First Amendment.
The Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the Constitution — went into effect on Dec. 15, 1791, when the state of Virginia ratified it, giving the bill the majority of ratifying states required to protect citizens from the power of the federal government.
The First Amendment ensures that “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein,” as Justice Robert Jackson wrote in the 1943 case West Virginia v. Barnette.
And as Justice William Brennan wrote in New York Times Co. v. Sullivanin 1964, the First Amendment provides that “debate on public issues … [should be] … uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.”
However, Americans vigorously dispute the application of the First Amendment.
Most people believe in the right to free speech, but debate whether it should cover flag-burning, hard-core rap and heavy-metal lyrics, tobacco advertising, hate speech, pornography, nude dancing, solicitation and various forms of symbolic speech. Many would agree to limiting some forms of free expression, as seen in the First Amendment Center’s State of the First Amendment survey reports.

Most people, at some level, recognize the necessity of religious liberty and toleration, but some balk when a religious tenet of a minority religion conflicts with a generally applicable law or with their own religious faith. Many Americans see the need to separate the state from the church to some extent, but decry the banning of school-sponsored prayer from public schools and the removal of the Ten Commandments from public buildings.
Further, courts wrestle daily with First Amendment controversies and constitutional clashes, as evidenced by the free-press vs. fair-trial debate and the dilemma of First Amendment liberty principles vs. the equality values of the 14th Amendment.
Such difficulties are the price of freedom of speech and religion in a tolerant, open society.

Lets look at the EQUAL Protection found in the Constitution of the USA. That would be the 14th Amendment with all its added Clauses. For this piece let’s just focus on Equal Protections and Civil Rights.
The Equal Protection Clause is part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Many view it as the attempt to uphold the professed “all men are created equal” clause written in the Constitution. The Equal protection law implies that no State has the right to deny anyone within jurisdiction equal protection of the law.

The implementation of the Equal Protection Clause marked a pivotal point in the American Constitution. Before the Equal Protection Clause (part of the Fourteenth Amendment), the Bill of Rights was only limited to the protection of individuals from the Federal Government. 

Once the Fourteenth Amendment was enacted, the Constitution was extended to provide protection from State governments. 

The Fourteenth Amendment was implemented in 1868, a short time after the American Civil War. It preceded the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery, leading many former Confederate states to adopt Black Codes after the Civil War.To combat the list of Black Codes enacted in Southern states, Congress imposed the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

This Act was a direct effect of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott v. Sanford case. The law required that all citizen regardless of race and color have the equal benefits of all laws, as enjoyed by white citizens. The doubts that arose with the law under the Constitution that was in existence then lead Congress to implement changes to the Constitution, which became known as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

In order to ensure the fair practice of the Equal Protection Clause, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to apply different tests to the different State classifications and its response to fundamental rights. Usually the Court finds a State classification Constitutional as long as it has a “rational basis” to a “legitimate state purpose”. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, established a firmer sense of analysis to certain cases. 

To measure the form of equal protection it will scrutinize any distinction when it encounters suspect classifications. When the Supreme Court orders a classification subject to scrutiny, it must have substance that a State law or the State’s administration holds intentions to discriminate. If any intent of a State law provides discrimination, the U.S. Supreme Court further analyzes the basis of race, national origin and in some cases U.S. citizenship. In order for a classification to pass a U.S. Supreme test, the State must prove that that there is an imperative interest to the law and the classification is needed to further its interest. The U.S. Supreme Court will also apply strict scrutiny if any classification interferes with the fundamental rights, such as the First Amendment, the right to travel, or a persons right to privacy.

The Equal Protection Clause was implemented to ensure the fair treatment of all legal citizens of the United States. All states must comply with the rulings of the Supreme Court, which continuously reviews the laws applied by each State to ensure it is following guidelines of fair practice and treatment.

Equal Protection


The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from denying any person within its territory the equal protection of the laws.  This means that a state must treat an individual in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances.  The Federal Government must do the same, but this is required by the Fifth Amendment Due Process.

The point of the equal protection clause is to force a state to govern impartially—not draw distinctions between individuals solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate governmental objective.  Thus, the equal protection clause is crucial to the protection of civil rights. Read the rest of this article, here.

Civil Rights

civil rights: an overview

A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places. Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class. Various jurisdictions have enacted statutes to prevent discrimination based on a person’s race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin, and in some instances sexual orientation. 

Read the rest of the Civil Rights Article, here. 

So now that you have had a short lession on the Amendments being attacked by “FADA”, better known as First Amendment Defense Act, I want you to take the time to read and think about the MEANING of this Legislation to form your own opinion. You will better understand this “FADA” now that you have a better understanding of the 1st and 14th Amendments.

First Amendment Defense Act

Introduced in House (06/17/2015)

Prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.

Defines “discriminatory action” as any federal government action to discriminate against a person with such beliefs or convictions, including a federal government action to:

  • alter the federal tax treatment of, cause any tax, penalty, or payment to be assessed against, or deny, delay, or revoke certain tax exemptions of any such person;
  • disallow a deduction of any charitable contribution made to or by such person;
  • withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, or otherwise deny any federal grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, loan, license, certification, accreditation, employment, or similar position or status from or to such person; or
  • withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, or otherwise deny any benefit under a federal benefit program.

Requires the federal government to consider to be accredited, licensed, or certified for purposes of federal law any person who would be accredited, licensed, or certified for such purposes but for a determination that the person believes or acts in accordance with such a religious belief or moral conviction. 

Permits a person to assert an actual or threatened violation of this Act as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding and to obtain compensatory damages or other appropriate relief against the federal government.

Authorizes the Attorney General to bring an action to enforce this Act against the Government Accountability Office or an establishment in the executive branch, other than the U.S. Postal Service or the Postal Regulatory Commission, that is not an executive department, military department, or government corporation. 

Defines “person” as any person regardless of religious affiliation, including corporations and other entities regardless of for-profit or nonprofit status.

No matter how you at it this piece of legislation is just WRONG. It is so sad to me that in this day and time we are still having to fight for our rights JUST TO BE HUMAN like God created us to be.

You better leave the LGBTQ COMMUNITY will STAND UP together and fight every piece of  HATEFUL Legislation thrown out the next four years.


“First Amendment Defense Act” information from

 About the First Amendment information from First Amendment

Knowing the Equal Protection Clause information from 

Women With HIV Who Smoke Are at Very High Risk of Pregnancy Loss


Having HIV amplifies the existing high risk of miscarriage or stillbirth among women smokers.

January 20, 2017

Among women smokers, having HIV amplifies the existing high risk of pregnancy loss through miscarriage or stillbirth, aidsmap reports.

Publishing their findings in the journal AIDS, researchers from the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) followed 659 women who had 1,033 pregnancies over a 20-year period. A total of 396 of these women were living with HIV; they had 592 pregnancies.

The women lost about a third of the pregnancies, through 314 miscarriages and 12 stillbirths.

HIV-positive and HIV-negative women had similar overall rates of pregnancy loss, a respective 33 percent and 30 percent. Among nonsmokers, the respective pregnancy loss rates were also similar: 22 percent and 25 percent. Among smokers, the respective pregnancy loss rates were starkly different: 52 percent and 33 percent.

After adjusting the data for various factors, the researchers found that smoking increased the risk of pregnancy loss by 31 percent among HIV-negative women and by 74 percent among HIV-positive women.

To read the aidsmap article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.

Read more articles from POZ, here.