COVID-19 continues to rear its ugly head on safe spaces for the queer community. The historic downtown Los Angeles venue The New Jalisco has become the latest business to plead with the general public for help.
The New Jalisco opened in the 1990s to cater to LA’s growing LGBTQ Latino crowd. Now, more than 20 years later, the bar faces permanent closure due to mounting debts amid the ongoing pandemic. To counter the financial strain, owner Rosa Hernandez launched a GoFundMe page on December 20 in hopes to keeping the business open.
“Like countless small businesses, The New Jalisco Bar is struggling to stay alive during this ongoing pandemic,” Hernandez wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Our doors have been closed since March 2020 and we have not been able to obtain financial relief to support our business expenses or rent commitments. Unfortunately, we now owe our landlord 10 months of rent with interest. This debt puts us at risk of closing down permanently.”
Related: Success! Owners of LA’s Akbar raise $150,000 in under 24 hours
“We are reaching out to our clients, supporters, and friends to please consider donating to our cause,” she concludes. “Your contributions will help save a community space that has served as a safe haven for generations of Angelenos in our city.”
The New Jalisco has set a goal of raising $80,000 in hopes of staying afloat. At the time of this writing, the fundraiser has generated just over $18,000. Patrons can learn more or donate by visiting the bar’s GoFundMe site.
Queer businesses in Los Angeles have endured massive hardship due to COVID-19. In West Hollywood, the popular and historic venues Rage, Flaming Saddles, Gym Bar, Cuties and Gold Coast have all shut down permanently due to mounting bills and ongoing disputes with landlords. In Silverlake, the popular queer hipster bar Akbar also teetered on the brink of closure before a similar crowdfunding campaign raised $200,000 to address the bar’s debts.
Against the backdrop of country fields and blue skies, Kristin and Angela celebrated their love. The Reston, Virginia, couple married at Buckley Farm, New York, among friends and family. From the flowers grouped in mason jars to the lovable dog watching the going-ons, the outdoor wedding was an exquisite way to commit to each other. Eucalyptus branches and maple leaves added delicate touches to their floral arrangements, and the weather couldn’t have been lovelier for an outdoor wedding. They each walked down the aisle with their parents, Angela first, then Kristin. Under a majestic weeping willow, the two brides said their vows. Afterward, the couple moved the celebration inside to one of Buckley Farm’s historic barns.
Kristin and Angela both wore white wedding gowns, telling Equally Wed it was stressful to “keep each other’s dress from each other, while worrying that we might pick the same one.” But no detail was too worrisome: they were “able to laugh about all the challenges that go into planning a wedding.” As an LGBTQ+ couple, they said they were concerned about finding accepting LGBTQ+ inclusive wedding vendors. Yet the couple was ultimately delighted by “just how supportive everyone was. We felt so much much love through the entire process.” More than anything, the wedding was filled with “filled with love, laughter and joy.”
“You don’t have to fit into any molds or stereotypes,” they advise other LGBTQ+ couples. “Just make your wedding fit you and surround yourself with people who love and support you.”
Following the appointment of conservative Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Jason Melcher and Johnnie Wonders worried that their right to marry as a gay couple could be revoked. An historic election day that could further impact their fate was just around the corner, so the pair rushed to the altar, planning their special event in just under two days. The couple lives in the swing state of Pennsylvania in an area that Jason refers to as Trump territory. Multiple neighbors flaunt yard signs that promote the incumbent, and even larger, more prominent displays can be seen a few miles down the road. Johnnie says, “I wish they could realize how their unwavering faith in this president affects us,” adding that Trump’s bigotry and problematic perspectives impact the lives and mental health of marginalized people in ways that his supporters don’t seem to understand. Johnnie says, “We might do things they wouldn’t do with their own lives, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not like them when it comes to our relationships and how we love one another.” Jason explains that one reason to get married so quickly was to guarantee protections the couple could otherwise be denied. He cites the importance of hospital visitation, sharing health insurance, the right to make decisions for each other in an emergency, and other rights that could be important during a pandemic. He adds, “It’s literally just a piece of paper but it means so much more in the political sense. It’s a giant middle finger to the current president and Amy Coney Barrett or anyone else who isn’t sure we should be married.”
It was difficult to find time for the ceremony because both men are working two jobs, but they ultimately invited guests to a late-night affair in the early hours of Halloween. The wedding day was also a work day for Jason, who went straight from his full-time job at a local, queer-centered nonprofit to an evening shift at McDonald’s. Jason didn’t return home until after midnight, leaving just enough time to shower and change clothes before walking down the stairs of the couple’s home with his groom at 1 a.m. The pair was joined in person by Jason’s parents and twin as well as two of their close friends in addition to Jason’s older brother who connected via live-stream. They gathered in front of their fireplace mantle which Johnnie decorated with sparkling lights and festive garlands hours before the event. A Progress Pride flag hung on a nearby wall in the living room as they exchanged vows in matching Renaissance garb.
Both men wore black harem pants and matching boots paired with similarly styled vests that had pointed shoulders and chain details. A gold collar, lapel and cuffs accented Jason’s burgundy, leather vest, which he paired with a black, long-sleeved v-neck. Wonders donned similar attire, but his vest was black with purple embellishments, and he carried a decorative knife. Guests dressed in the theme with outfits they’d typically sport at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire.
Their original wedding date was scheduled for a Renaissance Faire weekend, an event both men feel deeply connected to after growing up visiting the destination and eventually developing a strong community there. Jason isn’t too disappointed that his original wedding plans didn’t come to fruition because the pair hopes to renew their vows in a ceremony that will match his dreams. The new date of October 31 is significant for Johnnie who is Wiccan, and the couple incorporated a Pagan handfasting ritual into the ceremony. The couple didn’t exchange rings, but they tied a braided embroidery thread into a knot around their shared clasp to signify their union.
At 6-foot-6, Jason was the tallest person present—standing just inches below the ceiling and 14 inches higher than Johnnie who is only 5-foot-4. “Every aspect of our relationship is opposites attract,” Jason says as he begins to list their differences. He describes himself as a lap dog who needs a lot of cuddling and Johnnie as someone who prefers more space. He notes that they approach finances and the perceptions of the world from a different lens because of the ways they grew up. Johnnie, 43, was raised by his grandfather in rural Pennsylvania, going to high school across the parking lot from a cow field, and developing his sense of self in a space where being gay isn’t always affirmed. In contrast, Jason, 26, grew up in suburbs that border Philadelphia, immersed in a younger generation of queer people and is around those who embody more diverse aspects of identity, such as nonbinary and agender descriptors.
Johnnie is a homebody whereas Jason likes to go out—but Jason notes, “He gives me a valid reason to stay home and relax—to spend time with him rather than go, go, go. I do the opposite for him, so we offer balance to each other—where he reminds me to rest and I remind him to live a little more.” Johnnie underlines that each of their differences is a positive attribute in their relationship that helps them grow and feel grounded together.
The pair met four years ago at a leather and fetish event and proudly embraces a dominant-submissive dynamic, but most people make the wrong assumptions about who’s who. Johnnie explains, “Everyone thinks Jason is the more dominant one because he’s so much bigger, but we defy stereotypes.” Johnnie says that he’s learned there just isn’t a specific concept for norms regarding relationships anymore. He underlined, “And in that way, our relationship is no different than anyone else’s.” Johnnie mailed his ballot the day of their wedding and both men are trying to practice self-care, enjoy virtual time with friends, and pour themselves into work while awaiting results—which experts say might take until Friday to finalize in Pennsylvania. When explaining how he hopes those in leadership will view queer and marginalized people over the next four years, Johnnie says, “I want the world to realize that there’s only one thing that should matter. It’s just love. Plain and simple. Just love.”
Army Sergeant Shane Ortega laces up boots before posing for a portrait at home at Wheeler Army Airfield on March 26, 2015 in Wahiawa, Hawaii. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
Democratic lawmakers have pressed for an end to Donald Trump ‘s ban on transgender people serving in the military, in wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on LGBT+ civil rights protections.
In its ruling last month, the Supreme Court made clear that anti-discrimination protections enshrined in the 1964 Civil Rights Act also protect people from discrimination in employment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBT+ activists are hopeful that the ruling means that days are numbered for the ban on trans people serving in the armed forces, which was imposed in the wake of an infamous Trump tweet-storm in 2017.
Trump administration warned of ‘certain defeat’ over trans military ban
In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr published Wednesday, Democrats in the House of Representatives urged the Trump administration to “immediately” eliminate the ban and cease resisting court action on the issue in the face of “almost certain defeat.”
The letter states: “This policy denies transgender people the ability to enlist in the military and puts transgender troops at risk of being discharged for living openly and authentically.
“The Bostock decision unambiguously clarified that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex includes protections for LGBTQ workers.
“Justice Gorsuch wrote ‘[t]he statute’s message for our cases is equally simple and momentous: An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.’”
Noting the four ongoing lawsuits challenging the ban working their way through the court system, the letter adds: “The US Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock will provide significant weight to those already substantial claims: the principle announced— that gender-identity discrimination is discrimination ‘because of sex’—applies equally to claims under the Constitution.
“Prolonging the litigation in the face of almost certain defeat, and thereby prolonging the existing policy, will continue to inflict serious harm on transgender people seeking to serve our country and on those already serving while living in the shadows, enduring the dignitary harm of being told they’re a burden.
“This policy is an attack on transgender service members who are risking their lives to serve our country and it should be reversed immediately.”
The White House declined to comment on the letter, according to forces outlet Stars and Stripes.
The letter, spearheaded by Washington Democrat Suzan DelBene, is signed by 113 Democratic members of Congress, including every single out LGB House lawmaker – David Cicilline, Angie Craig, Sharice Davids, Sean Patrick Maloney, Chris Pappas, Mark Pocan and Mark Takano. There are no out transgender people elected to the House of Representatives.
Joe Biden has already vowed to immediately scrap trans ban
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has already pledged to scrap the ban if elected in November.
His policy plan makes clear: “Every American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to do so—regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and without having to hide who they are.
“Biden will direct the US Department of Defense to allow transgender service members to serve openly, receive needed medical treatment, and be free from discrimination.”