- February 4, 2016
SHKRELI SMIRKS, PLEADS FIFTH, CALLS LAWMAKERS “IMBECILES”: This morning, former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO and world’s worst person Martin Shkreli appeared before the House Oversight Committee and delivered a cringe-inducing performance. After smirking and pleading the fifth more than a dozen times, Shkreli capped off his appearance by tweeting that the committee lawmakers were “imbeciles.” Shkreli became infamous after acquiring the rights to Daraprim, a life-saving drug for those with compromised immune systems, and then hiking the price by 5,000 percent overnight. Turing also allegedly bought up the available supply of Daraprim in order to prevent a generic version from being made -- and documents subpoenaed by Congress show Turing celebrated the profit they would make on monopolizing this crucial drug. Despite his display before Congress today, internal documents released by the House Oversight Committee earlier this week give us a clear picture of the grotesque greed that drove Shkreli’s push for that massive price hike. Some highlights, or, rather, lowlights include: May, 27, 2015, Shkreli emails Turing board chairman in response to progress being made in acquiring Daraprim: “Very good. Nice work as usual. $1b here we come” and August 27, 2015, Shkreli emails an outside contact about anticipated profits from Daraprim price hike: “I think it will be huge….So 5,000 paying bottles at the new price is $375,000,000--almost all of it is profit and I think we will get 3 years of that or more."
UNDER OATH, TURING PHARMACEUTICALS OFFICIAL CALLS LIFE-SAVING DRUG DARAPRIM AN “INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY”: While Shkreli’s testimony -- or lack thereof -- was quite a sideshow, the rest of the panel’s testimony was equally disturbing. During today’s hearing, Turing Pharmaceuticals official Nancy Retzlaff defended their 5,000 percent price hike and disingenuously denied curtailing patient access to the drug. Last fall, at HRC’s urging, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began investigating whether Turing Pharmaceuticals may have violated antitrust laws by limiting distribution of the drug. HRC also sent letters to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairs of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Committee on Energy and Commerce and Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. ICYMI, HRC live-tweeted today’s hearing on the reprehensible tactics drug companies use to earn a buck. Follow the conversation at #PeopleNotProfits.
MARCO’S NO MODERATE -- THE SANTORUM GIVES A DISTURBING SEAL OF APPROVAL TO RUBIO’S ANTI-LGBT WORLDVIEW: Yesterday, following the suspension of his long-shot bid for the White House, Rick Santorum endorsed Marco Rubio for president, a candidate who’s made turning back the clock on LGBT progress a priority. While Santorum had a hard time articulating why he was supporting Rubio, HRC’s Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof connected the dots. “Rick Santorum and Marco Rubio share a disturbing worldview, where LGBT people are second-class citizens unworthy of the most fundamental rights and basic protections. Not only do they oppose marriage equality, they believe in a world where it's acceptable for someone to be fired or evicted from their homes because of who we are or whom we love. That’s fundamentally wrong, and today's endorsement is only further proof that electing Marco Rubio would be a disaster for LGBT Americans,” she said. “We can't allow Marco Rubio to revoke, repeal, and overturn the gains made on LGBT equality during President Obama’s two terms in office.” Head to the HRC blog for a breakdown of some of this pair’s greatest hits on issues like marriage equality and Kim Davis.
IN NH TOWN HALL, CLINTON AGAIN VOWS TO PROTECT & ADVANCE LGBT EQUALITY: Last night at CNN’s presidential primary forum in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton vowed to protect the balance on the Supreme Court, protect marriage equality, and vowed to fight to advance additional LGBT nondiscrimination protections. From The Advocate: “Although no one chosen by CNN to pose a question asked about LGBT issues, frontrunner Hillary Clinton introduced the topic in answer to a question about what she would look for in Supreme Court Justices.” She also campaigned on lowering drug prices for those living with HIV. “Sanders did not specifically reference LGBT-specific issues during the town hall,” the Blade reported.
TRANSTECH AND HRC PARTNER ON NEW VIDEO SERIES: In partnership with TransTech Social Enterprises and its founder and CEO Angelica Ross, HRC has sponsored a new video series featuring transgender people talking about their lives and experiences. The series, “Let’s Talk About the T,” which will be released in the coming months, focuses on a range of topics, including what it means be transgender to personal safety. The project not only features a diverse cast of transgender people, but an almost entirely transgender crew created, staffed and produced the videos. For more information on HRC’s work for transgender equality, visit hrc.org/transgender.
TWO MORE EXTREME ANTI-LGBT MEASURES ADVANCE IN SOUTH DAKOTA: Yesterday, South Dakota lawmakers moved forward with two more pieces of discriminatory legislation targeting LGBT South Dakotans, HB 1112 and HB 1107. Both passed through the House State Affairs committee by a vote of 10 to 3, HB 1112 could ban transgender students from participating in athletic activities consistent with their gender identity, and HB 1107 seeks to explicitly authorize taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT South Dakotans and single mothers. HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow decried the unconscionable decision saying, “Fairness and equality are under attack in South Dakota. Both of these pieces of legislation shamefully passed today by the House State Affairs committee are dangerously far-reaching and would have severe consequences, not just for LGBT South Dakotans and their families, but for the entire Mount Rushmore State. Fair-minded people across the state must stand up and demand their lawmakers stop these extreme, discriminatory measures.” HB 1112 is the second piece of legislation moving forward in South Dakota that specifically targets transgender students. Last week by a vote of 58 to 10, the South Dakota House of Representatives passed HB 1008 – extreme legislation seeking to prevent transgender students in public schools from using sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity and putting state law in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Education. More here: http://bit.ly/1PSQQfd
VIRGINIA LAWMAKERS HAVE INTRODUCED A WHOPPING 10 ANTI-LGBT BILLS THIS SESSION: HRC and Equality Virginia are sounding the alarm on a flood of shameful anti-LGBT bills being pushed by anti-LGBT extremists in the Virginia state legislature. Three weeks into the 2016 legislative session, at least 10 bills attacking LGBT Virginians and their families are already up for consideration. Among the bills introduced are attempts to undermine marriage equality, proposals aimed at authorizing individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people, a bill to prevent state universities and public schools from adopting LGBT non-discrimination protections, a bill to prevent transgender Virginians from changing their birth certificates to match their identity, and multiple bills seeking to restrict transgender people from using facilities consistent with their gender identity. Three of these anti-LGBT bills will be heard in committee today. The good news is that the Virginia Senate recently passed two LGBT non-discrimination bills, SB 67 and SB 12. Similar legislation passed the Senate last year but failed to pass the House of Delegates.The attacks on fairness and equality in Virginia are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking nearly 150 anti-LGBT bills in 30 states. For more information, check out www.hrc.org/2016legislature.
INDY STAR: REFUSAL TO PASS LGBT PROTECTIONS CONTINUES TO TARNISH INDIANA: The editorial board of the Indianapolis Star lambasted the failure of Indiana’s elected officials to pass LGBT non-discrimination protections, saying their lack of leadership “continues to tarnish Indiana’s image and jeopardize long-term economic prosperity.” As the evidence continues to mount of the damage inflicted on the state, the Indianapolis Star is not the only one expressing their “bitter disappointment” to pass these crucially needed protections and move the state forward. More here: http://indy.st/1SKG2oG and here: http://abcn.ws/1T02jjL
NASHVILLE METRO COUNCIL ASKS TENNESSEE TO ACCEPT MARRIAGE EQUALITY: In a welcome move earlier this week, Nashville’s Metro Council unanimously voted to approve a resolution asking the state legislature to oppose bills opposing the Supreme’s decision on marriage equality, like the Natural Marriage Defense Act which died last week. Ahead of the vote the resolution’s lead co-sponsor, Nancy Van Reece, who is openly gay (and officiated a same-sex wedding yesterday!), spoke on how personal the vote was for her and asked her colleagues to “reaffirm [her] right to marriage equality.” This is great news considering the fact that several Tennessee counties have passed anti-marriage equality resolutions over the past fews months, and continue to so despite the vote against the Natural Marriage Defense Act. Several anti-LGBT bills have been filed in retaliation however, including 2 anti-trans bathroom bills, a marriage bill defining the term “husband” to mean a “natural-born male” and “wife” to mean “natural-born female” as defined by their birth certificates, and a Supreme Court nullification bill. More here: tnne.ws/1KYjp9I
D.C. COUNCIL PASSES LGBT CULTURAL COMPETENCY LEGISLATION: Earlier this week, the D.C. City Council unanimously voted in favor of the LGBT Cultural Competency Continuing Education Amendment Act of 2016, legislation that according to the Washington Blade, “amends an existing city health care licensing law to require health care professionals, including doctors and mental health practitioners, to receive two credits of instruction on LGBT subjects as part of their continuing education programs.” Introduced by council member David Grosso (I-At-Large), the amendment is believed to be the first of its kind, and now goes to Capitol Hill for legislative review. HRC provided testimony in favor of the bill when it was being considered in October. Let’s hope that Congress doesn’t interfere with local control and try to overturn it. More here: http://bit.ly/1R5Pi6P
LOUISIANA GOVERNOR ADDRESSES HRC’S STATE EQUALITY INDEX: Yesterday, newly-elected Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards addressed Louisiana’s lack of LGBT protections outlined in HRC’s latest State Equality Index (SEI). Louisiana is one of 30 states in the country that lack explicit state-level workplace protections for all LGBT employees and falls into the lowest-performing category, “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality.” Gov. Edwards told WAFB “I believe we ought to be an inclusive place that doesn't discriminate, while we also respect religious freedom. And I know that there's a proper balance to it. There's a sweet spot." Shortly after he was elected, Edward’s office announced plans to issue an executive order protecting LGBT state employees and government contractors from discrimination, a move that will certainly help many LGBT people and families. Watch here: http://bit.ly/1PUkHnm and check out the SEI here: hrc.org/SEI
AROUND THE WORLD
NEW SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS STRUGGLES OF INTERSEX AUSTRALIANS: In a groundbreaking survey, the University of New England has conducted the largest- ever survey of intersex Australians. The survey found that intersex people in Australia have heightened rates of dropping out of high school, experiencing poverty and attempting suicide. They have also reported that they are often subject to invasive surgeries aimed to make their sex characteristics “match” that of a binary sex. This is often done without giving the intersex person proper information about the (lack of) necessities of such surgeries, and sometimes done without the person’s knowing consent. More here: bzfd.it/1JYWRLp
HOW DO YOU SAY CENSORSHIP IN RUSSIAN?: Sergei Alekseenko has been fined under Russia’s heinous anti-LGBT “propaganda” law. Apparently telling youth that LGBT people are not evil, and that “a gay person loves someone of the same gender, and there is nothing wrong in that,” was too much for Russian sensibilities. Fascinating how Alekseenko and those spreading messages of love and support are subject to the law, yet thugs who violently attack LGBT people remain at large. More here: http://bit.ly/20IJnaA
BuzzFeed exposes the desperate measures people are going to to access the HIV-prevention treatment, PrEP… The Guardian profiles the anti-LGBT Liberty Counsel… The Gazette highlights the struggle Rome has in passing marriage equality considering it’s proximity to the Vatican… The New York Times shows how Ted Cruz says one thing to donors and another to voters when it comes to social issues… KULR introduces us to Montana’s first openly gay candidate for Congress…. and The London Free Press breaks down a new study that explores the gap in service for LGBT people at homeless shelters.