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White House website allows users to specify pronouns for first time



The day President Joe Biden was sworn in, the White House website was updated to allow visitors to specify what pronouns they use.

LGBTQ advocates see the change as a small but symbolic example of the Biden administration reaching out to transgender and nonbinary Americans.

On Wednesday, the contact form at added a drop-down menu with pronoun options, including “she/her,” “he/him,” and “they/them.” Users can also select “other,” and write in their own selections or indicate they “prefer not to share” their pronouns.

The list of prefixes has also been updated to include the gender-neutral “Mx.” along with “Mr.” “Mrs.” and “Ms.”

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, former White House LGBTQ liaison under the Obama administration and the first openly transgender person to work as a White House staffer, said, “It’s truly wonderful to see the White House so sensitively and prominently signal inclusion.”

“Allowing visitors, whether transgender, nonbinary or cisgender-identified, to indicate their preferred pronouns when visiting the home of President Biden, demonstrates the kind of welcoming place 1600 Pennsylvania will now be for all Americans,” she told NBC News.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, called the update “more than just a demonstration of allyship.”

“Research has shown that recognition and respect of our pronouns can make all the difference for our health and well being — especially when it comes to LGBTQ youth,” Ellis said in a statement.

Shortly after Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, the White House website removed a page dedicated to LGBTQ rights that had been published during the Obama administration.

The Biden administration did not respond to a request for comment about whether the page would be restored. As of Thursday morning, it was still down. The White House did restore a Spanish-language translation of the website and add new accessibility options, The New York Times reported.

The Biden administration’s inclusive pronoun options are in sharp contrast to the Trump White House, which refused to use female pronouns when referring to Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman at the center of the landmark 2020 Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia.

A 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center found more than 40 percent of Americans believe forms should include gender options beyond “male and female.” And roughly 1 in 5 Americans said they know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, according to a separate Pew survey from 2019.

Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., recognize nonbinary gender markers on IDs and driver’s licenses and 13 allow such designations on birth certificates, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

One in 4 LGBTQ youth use pronouns or pronoun combinations that fall outside of the gender binary, according to The Trevor Project, a suicide-prevention hotline for queer youth. Most use some combination of conventional pronouns — “he and they” or “she and they,” for example — though 4 percent use “neopronouns,” including “ze/zir,” “xe/xim” and “fae/faer.”

“Respecting pronouns is part of creating a supportive and accepting environment, which impacts well-being and reduces suicide risk,” the Trevor Project said in a statement.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci says he feels liberated to speak freely about science, risk of Covid under Biden



WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the government’s top public health experts, signaled that he feels free to speak honestly about Covid-19 now that former President Donald Trump is out of office.

In his first news briefing since President Joe Biden was sworn in, Fauci said that the new administration was committed to being “completely transparent, open and honest,” a sharp break from the Trump White House, when Fauci said he often felt there would be repercussions for speaking honestly about the pandemic.

“It was very clear that there were things said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that, that really was uncomfortable because they were not based in scientific fact,” Fauci told reporters, speaking about the Trump administration.

“The idea that you can get up and talk about what you know, what the evidence is, what the science is,” Fauci continued, “it is somewhat of a liberating feeling.”

Fauci helped lead the nation’s response to the coronavirus when the pandemic hit nearly a year ago, working alongside Trump and members of his White House coronavirus task force. But the relationship was rocky.

Trump was criticized for spreading false or misleading information about the pandemic, frequently contradicting warnings from Fauci and other experts that the situation was dire and needed to be taken seriously. He often refused to wear a mask and ultimately caught the virus himself.

Early on in the pandemic, Fauci often appeared alongside Trump in the briefing room as he used the platform to give long-winded news conferences aimed at touting his own record as president while he was on lockdown in Washington and unable to campaign in-person for his re-election.

Those news conference often put Fauci in a difficult position, as he attempted to delicately push back on Trump’s inaccurate claims on live television.

There was frequent speculation that Trump would fire Fauci for contradicting him.

Fauci said that just 15 minutes before the news conference he had met with Biden and discussed how “everything we do will be based on science and evidence.”

“One of the new things about this administration is that if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. Just say you don’t know the answer,” Fauci said in response to a reporter’s question on a matter he was unaware of.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said Fauci and other public health officials will make more regular appearances in the briefing room to discuss the coronavirus after the Trump administration largely declined to update the public in its final months.

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Senate Republicans throw cold water on Biden’s immigration proposal



WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s sweeping immigration plan ran into quick resistance from key Senate Republicans, including some who championed a similar effort eight years ago.

Immigration activists widely praised the legislative proposal, but senior Senate aides in both parties expressed skepticism that it has a path, at least without major changes, to winning the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster, which means at least 10 GOP votes.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a key figure in the “Gang of Eight” overhaul in 2013 that passed the Senate but died in the Republican-controlled House, called it a nonstarter.

“There are many issues I think we can work cooperatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” he said in a statement Tuesday, the day before Biden was sworn in.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he doubts Biden’s plan can pass, describing it as “to the left” of the 2013 legislation that he helped craft, citing fewer provisions to beef up border security.

Graham, who took on a more hard-right posture during the Trump administration, said the most likely endgame is a smaller deal centered on codifying the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Barack Obama set up unilaterally.

“I think probably the space in a 50-50 Senate would be some kind of DACA deal,” Graham said Thursday. “Comprehensive immigration is going to be a tough sell given this environment, but doing DACA, I think, is possible.”

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Rubio and Graham are the two remaining GOP members of the group that crafted the 2013 bill, making their resistance a significant warning for Biden. His plan would grant an eight-year path to citizenship to the estimated 11 million people who are in the U.S. illegally after they pass background checks and pay their taxes, while linking green cards to economic conditions and easing asylum restrictions.

In a symbolic recognition of the U.S. as a nation of immigrants, Biden’s plan would also change the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in the context of immigration law.

Of the 13 Republican senators who voted for the 2013 immigration bill, just five remain: Rubio, Graham, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. It was produced after Obama’s re-election victory, when many Republican elites decided that the party needed to embrace a more liberal immigration policy. But Donald Trump upended the calculation in his 2016 presidential campaign, which mobilized conservative voters around an anti-immigration platform.

The Senate GOP’s campaign arm, which is focused on recapturing the majority in 2022, quickly dubbed Biden’s immigration plan “amnesty and open borders.”

Even if all 50 Democrats unite, finding 10 Republicans for the bill would be a daunting task.

“I don’t think I can even count to one,” said a senior GOP aide who wasn’t authorized to speak about the plan’s prospects, arguing that the path to citizenship is “an issue” for Republicans.

The aide suggested that Biden’s plan was an attempt to placate progressives, not a “take it or leave it” product. Adding border provisions could help, but it may not be enough, the aide said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tore into Biden’s plan Thursday, calling it “a massive proposal for blanket amnesty that would gut enforcement of American laws while creating huge new incentives for people to rush here illegally at the same time.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he has “very serious concerns” about Biden’s immigration policy. He is holding up a Senate vote to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas to be secretary of homeland security, saying Mayorkas should first explain how he would enforce immigration laws.

Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said Thursday that they will study the plan more closely before commenting.

Among Democrats in both chambers, Biden’s plan was met with wide praise.

“I personally would support all of the elements in it,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.

Some Democrats want to make the plan more progressive.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., called the proposal “very, very strong,” but she said she wants more provisions related to detention of immigrants.

“It’s so wonderful to have a president who is finally looking at immigrants in a positive light,” she said.

And if Republicans block the bill in the Senate?

“Reform the filibuster if Republicans are refusing to go along,” Jayapal said.

A senior Democratic staffer said Republicans don’t appear to have the political appetite for a broad immigration overhaul, saying: “I don’t know where you would start to find 10.”

The staffer said a filibuster of immigration overhaul, as well as other Democratic priorities, like protecting voting rights, would elevate a debate inside the party about abolishing the 60-vote rule.

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