‘Transracial Black’ Woman At Gov. Hobbs’ Signing of Hair Discrimination Ban

‘Transracial Black’ Woman At Gov. Hobbs’ Signing of Hair Discrimination Ban

By Corinne Murdock |

The “transracial” woman who stirred national controversy about eight years ago for falsely claiming to be Black attended Gov. Katie Hobbs’ signing of a ban on hair discrimination last Friday.

Rachel Dolezal, who now goes by Nkechi Amare Diallo, formerly served as the president of an NAACP chapter in Washington, as well as an Africana studies professor at Eastern Washington University. The truth of Dolezal’s race came to light after her parents came forward to disavow her claimed identity, following her Black rights activism and claims to police and media that she was the victim of racially-motivated hate crimes.

Hobbs signed the executive order — titled the “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” Act, or “CROWN” Act — on Friday. The California-originating model legislation prohibits public schools and state employers or contractors from discriminating against employees’ hair texture and protective styles, such as braids, locs, twists, knots, and headwraps.

“Black women, men, and children should be able to wear their natural hair with pride and without the fear of discrimination,” tweeted Hobbs, echoing a line from the executive order.

Dolezal wasn’t included in the published version of the photo posted by the governor. 

California lawmakers passed their version of the CROWN Act in 2019. New York, New Jersey, Washington, Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Illinois all followed suit in passage of their version of the model legislation.

The Arizona legislature last considered a version of the CROWN Act in 2021 under HB2593 from former Democratic State Rep. Aaron Lieberman. The legislation didn’t make it to committee.

Reactions to Hobbs’ executive order were mixed, mainly along party lines. 

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) questioned Hobbs’ priorities: making time for an executive order declaring the professionalism of certain hairstyles while other issues such as the border crisis continue unsolved.

“We don’t have a budget or a secure border, inflation is raging, our elections are a laughingstock and our schools are a parent’s worst nightmare. But at least there’s this,” tweeted AFEC.

However, some criticism came from within Hobbs’ own party. Talonya Adams — the woman impacted by racial discrimination under Hobbs when the governor was Senate Minority Leader in the legislature — indicated that Hobbs’ executive order was an attempt to placate the Black community.

In a since-deleted tweet, Adams questioned Hobbs’ decision to prioritize a social issue like hair discrimination over other, more pressing issues like the homeless crisis or offering an explanation of the Oman trip.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Protection Of Pregnant Women Bill Sparks Interesting Exchange

Protection Of Pregnant Women Bill Sparks Interesting Exchange

By Daniel Stefanski |

An Arizona Republican’s legislative proposal to enhance protections for pregnant women is meeting resistance from Democrats – and created an interesting exchange in a Senate committee last week.

HB 2427, sponsored by Representative Matt Gress, deals with sentencing standards for domestic violence against pregnant victims. According to the purpose of the bill provided by the State Senate, HB 2427 “classifies, as aggravated assault punishable as a class 3 felony, assault against a pregnant victim if the person knows or has reason to know the victim is pregnant and circumstances exist that classify the offense as domestic violence.”

In January, this legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee with a 5-2 vote (with one Democrat voting ‘present’). It later passed the Arizona House at the end of February with a party-line 31-28 vote (one Democrat not voting). The Arizona House Democrats strongly warned about this bill before it was approved by that chamber, writing, “Bad bills heading to the House floor this morning: Rep. Matt Gress’ attempt to sneak extreme anti-abortion fetal personhood language into domestic violence and child support statutes. Don’t be fooled, HB2502 and HB2427 are about entrenching ideological language into law.”

After voting for the bill, Republican Representative Austin Smith tweeted: “You shouldn’t harm pregnant women. All Democrats voted NO on Matthew Gress’s HB2427.”

Last week, HB 2427 was considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee and led to a noteworthy exchange between a member and a witness. The chairman of this committee, Senator Anthony Kern, asked a witness if men could get pregnant – and received an answer in the affirmative. He then pressed the witness to give her definition of a “woman” but received pushback from the witness and his colleagues on the other side of the aisle for the relevance of that question. The witness finally answered that “there are people who identify as different genders who are capable of getting pregnant” and added that she was not going to “feed into the bigotry of that question.”

The Arizona Senate Republican Caucus wasted no time in responding to what they had heard in the committee, saying: “During testimony given at committee today on HB2427, there seems to be confusion over which gender can have a baby. HB2427 would increase penalties on those guilty of domestic violence against PREGNANT WOMEN. This is the difference between Republicans and Democrats.”

Senator Mitzi Epstein voted no on the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee and explained that she was against the legislation because she had heard from people who help victims of domestic violence that this bill could “make some victims more hesitant to call for help because it makes the penalties worse for their partners.” She subsequently noted her desire to protect “people” who are vulnerable.

Representatives from the Secular Coalition for Arizona, Arizona Center for Women’s Advancement, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, AZ National Organization for Women, and the American Civil Liberties Union of AZ all registered in opposition to HB 2427 during the ongoing legislative process.

Senator Kern had the final word – both in committee and on Twitter, writing: ALERT: The democrat left says men ‘can’ get pregnant, and they ‘cannot’ define what a woman is. TRUTH: Men cannot get pregnant and real MEN protect real WOMEN!”

HB 2427 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 4-3 partisan vote, and is expected to be considered by the full chamber in the near future. It is assuredly dead on arrival with Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs should the Senate pass the legislation onto the Ninth Floor of the Arizona Executive Tower.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Pima County Offering Mental Health Services To Minors Without Parental Consent

Pima County Offering Mental Health Services To Minors Without Parental Consent

By Corinne Murdock |

This past week, Pima County began offering mental health services for minors without parental consent required, through a new program called “Not Alone.” Arizona law requires written or oral consent of a parent or legal guardian prior to a minor receiving mental health screenings or treatments. 

Children under 13 years old must have their parents reach out to join the program. However, the program states that children 13 years old and older may obtain services without parental consent. 

The program also will withhold information from parents. Clinicians won’t disclose information about a minor’s sexuality or gender identity, or any “consensual” sexual activity for minors aged 14 through 17, and will only inform parents if their child engages in a new form of self-harm.

Only in cases of suicidal intent, sexual or physical abuse, or expressed intent and planning to harm another then the program disclosed that a clinician will break confidentiality — but the program’s confidentiality protocols didn’t explicitly state that clinicians would inform parents.

According to the Parents’ Bill of Rights, the “liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children is a fundamental right” (emphasis added). Statute also dictates that attempts to “encourage or coerce a minor child to withhold information from the child’s parent shall be grounds for discipline[.]” Pima County’s webpage for the new program encourages those 13 years old or older to independently contact the program partner, COPE Community Services, for help, information, or “just to talk.” The program also offers to come meet minors wherever they’re located to assist them, or to work with them virtually.

The Pima County Health Department announced the program, “Not Alone,” last Thursday. The program receives existing Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity (ELC) K-12 Schools Reopening Grant funding provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). 

The program specifically offers mental health services for both students and teachers diagnosed with COVID-19 after May 2021. Initial public statements on the program implied that the threat and experience of disease itself, and not the mitigation strategies such as forced school closures and distance learning, caused mental duress. 

Theresa Cullen, the department director recently rejected by the Arizona legislature in her nomination by Gov. Katie Hobbs to lead the Department of Health Services, described the program in a letter as necessary to not only combat suicidal ideation in students but “compassion fatigue” for teachers.

“According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide remains the third leading cause of death for adolescents and 1 in 3 high school students reported that their mental health was not good. Teachers and staff often experience compassion fatigue, stress, and anxiety,” stated Cullen. “The ‘Not Alone’ campaign is designed to provide brief intervention treatment services for K-12 students and school faculty who have tested positive for COVID-19 since May 1, 2021,” stated Cullen.

Cullen was first appointed to the Pima County Health Department in June 2020. Senate Republicans called Cullen’s administration “repressive,” citing the curfew she imposed as one example, and noting that her policies to mitigate COVID-19 weren’t supported by science.

Overseeing the program is Matthew Schmidgall and Michael Webb, part of the department’s Youth and School Communities program. The program will also partner with several school districts to deploy an advertising campaign through social media, movie theaters, billboards, and radio.

The program also receives partnership assistance through pop star Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. The nonprofit offers a free mental health course online that awards a certificate upon completion, the “Be There Certificate,” which asks an individual which gender they “identify with,” with the option to select multiple genders and identities and if they’re transgender.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Ousted ASU Hockey Player Goes Viral For Pushing Woman’s Wheelchair Down Stairs

Ousted ASU Hockey Player Goes Viral For Pushing Woman’s Wheelchair Down Stairs

By Corinne Murdock |

A former Arizona State University (ASU) hockey player went viral for a video that depicts him pushing a woman’s wheelchair down the stairs at a bar in Pennsylvania. He is now under investigation by his current university for the act.

The player, Carson Briere, now plays for Mercyhurst University’s team in Erie, Pennsylvania. ASU’s hockey team dismissed Briere after the 2019-20 season, his first, due to violations of undisclosed team rules. Briere admitted in an interview with College Hockey News that his dismissal was due to “too much partying.” ASU has consistently ranked as one of the top party schools in the nation over the years.

“I was just going out; I wasn’t taking hockey seriously. It wasn’t anything bad, it was just not being committed to hockey, I was more committed to having fun at school,” said Briere. “Too much partying, that’s probably the best way to put it.”

The individual who posted the video claimed to know the owner of the wheelchair. The user disclosed that the wheelchair owner was a woman who had to leave her chair at the top of the stairs and be carried down the stairs to reach the restrooms.

According to the original poster, the wheelchair owner reportedly plans to take legal action.

Briere’s father is Daniel Briere, a former NHL hockey player and interim general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers. The elder Briere began his career in Phoenix with the Coyotes, where Briere was born. Briere committed to ASU in 2019. 

The original poster behind the viral post helped organize a GoFundMe to raise funds for a new wheelchair. As of this report, the crowdfunding effort had raised over double its $1,500 goal.  

Later the same day after the video was posted, Mercyhurst University issued a statement promising an investigation.

“Late this afternoon, Mercyhurst University became aware of a disturbing video in which one of our student-athletes is seen pushing an unoccupied wheelchair down a flight of stairs at a local establishment,” stated the university. “Our Office of Student Conduct and Department of Police and Safety are investigating.”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.