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Navy Secretary Spencer says ‘any patriot’ should be allowed to serve

Trans policy update

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at a press conference about readiness against North Korea, August 9: “The United States and its allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend themselves from an attack,” he said in a statement. (Photo courtesy Department of Defense)

Friday morning, President Trump tweeted out his best Charlton Heston interpretation, upping the ante yet again in the escalating nuclear threat level against North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” he wrote.

The US and South Korea are about to engage in a pre-planned 10-day joint military exercise in an increasingly hostile environment where North Korea has threatened to fire missiles at Guam if the US doesn’t de-escalate the rhetoric.

Despite the threat of a possible nuclear war, the ban on transgender military service continues to be an issue, no doubt unsettling to active duty trans service members, their allies and commanders. On Friday, August 11, recently confirmed Trump-nominated Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer added his voice.

“We will process and take direction of a policy that is developed by the [Defense] secretary [with] direction from the president and march out smartly,” Spencer told reporters Thursday night after visiting Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, The Hill reported. “On a fundamental basis, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military.”

Spencer echoes remarks by Coast Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft shortly after Trump tweeted July 26 that, after consultation with “my Generals and military experts,” he was changing military policy to “not accept or allow” transgender people to serve “in any capacity.”

“The first thing we did is we reached out to all 13 members of the Coast Guard who have come out” as transgender, Zukunft said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event, citing Lt. Taylor Miller who is in the process of transitioning. “I told Taylor, I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard and I will not break faith,” Zukunft said. “And so that was the commitment to our people right now. Very small numbers, but all of them are doing meaningful Coast Guard work today.”

Last month, during his confirmation hearing, Spencer said the military should not be a “Petri dish for social experiments,” adding “I totally believe that policy should be developed at the DOD level, and then discussed and socialized and deployed and then obeyed,” which has been the process for lifting the trans ban.

“We have to work together, including all our service people, to make sure that they are given what they need, whether that be spiritually, whether that be psychologically, whether that’s materialistically, to fight forward so that — so readiness is the key and lethality is the product,” Spencer said.

After Trump’s tweets, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military’s transgender policy will remain unchanged until the White House sends the Pentagon an official directive.

On Friday, Aug. 4, the Los Angeles Blade reported, based on reliable anonymous sources familiar with the undertaking, that the White House had developed a new policy to comply with Trump’s tweeted order. “A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out” was certified by the White House Counsel’s Office after repeated advice that it would result in lawsuits. The policy encouraged early retirement, would usher out any enlisted personnel at the end of their contract, and would fire trans officers up for promotion. The new Trump policy allowed trans service members to continue serving but without protection from discrimination or harassment and without transgender-specific medical care.

At the same time information about the new Trump policy emerged, Sec. of Defense Mattis distributed a memo reminding military service members about their ethical obligations. “I want our focus to be on the essence of ethical conduct: doing what is right at all times, regardless of the circumstances or whether anyone is watching,” he wrote.

The Guidance was expected to be transmitted to the Pentagon the week of Aug. 7 but the threat of war, internal conflict within the White House and pushback from the military prompted the authors of the new Trump policy to revise it again. According to reliable sources familiar with the process, the Guidance has allegedly been weakened to soften criticism and be less open to legal challenge. The watered-down policy still forbids new transgender recruits or commissions and still prohibits coverage of transitioning or other medical costs. But active duty trans servicemembers will not be forced out at the end of their contracts or when they seek promotion.

It is unclear if Trump is aware of the revised policy ban with allegedly softened language—which will no doubt infuriate his Religious Right base that pushed strenuously for an outright ban. But at an impromptu news conference at his New Jersey vacation golf resort on Thursday, Trump indicated that execution of his new policy is proceeding.

“No, no, no. I have great respect for the community,” Trump said, when asked if the ban was a betrayal of his campaign promise to protect LGBT people. “I think I’ve had great support, or I’ve had great support from that community. I got a lot of votes. But the transgender, the military’s working on it now… It’s been a very difficult situation and I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it. As you know, it’s been a very complicated issue for the military, it’s been a very confusing issue for the military, and I think I’m doing the military a great favor.”

In fact, LGBT voters rejected Trump by lopsided 4-1 margin, voting instead for the consistently pro-equality Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. Additionally, trans service members have been serving openly without incident since the original ban was lifted by Defense Sec. Ash Carter in July 2016, after a year of study and deliberation.

Defense Secretary James Mattis, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top military leaders said they were blindsided by Trump’s July 26 tweets announcing a complete transgender service ban. Mattis and the generals were also caught off guard by Trump’s impromptu bellicosity towards North Korea.

Given the need for all hands on deck during this time of a heightened state of military readiness, Mattis has said he will deal with no personnel issues right now, effectively putting the ban or even the weakened trans military policy on hold until further notice.

Meanwhile, five transgender service members filed a lawsuit in the DC District court on Wednesday against Trump and Pentagon officials.  “It is critical to act now because the harms are happening now,” said Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “These service members deserve to know where they stand.”

Politics

Marjorie Taylor Greene tweets homophobic attack on Sen. Wiener

“Greene is a toxic person & embodies why the MAGA movement is dangerous, a threat to our democracy & to the personal safety of LGBTQ people”

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Calif state Sen. Scott Wiener, (D-San Francisco) (Photo credit: California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus)

LOS ANGELES – Far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene attacked Calif. State Sen. Scott Wiener, (D-San Francisco) on Tuesday after Wiener made a point of calling out use of the word “groomer,” as the abusive reaction and fallout from right-wing sources regarding the mass-shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, continues to ratchet up against the LGBTQ+ community.

The word “groomer” is categorically an anti-LGBTQ hate word. It’s super homophobic/transphobic. It plays into the slander that LGBTQ people are pedophiles. It’s no different than calling someone a fagg*t. If you call someone groomer, you’re inciting violence against LGBTQ people,” Wiener stated in his tweet.

Quoting Wiener’s tweet the far-right MAGA Georgia congresswoman called the Senator a “communist” questioning Wiener’s loyalty and service to both the State of California and the U.S. she then went on to accuse Wiener of being a “groomer” implying that the Senator was a predator of minors for sexual purposes:

Pass my Protect Children’s Innocence Act to stop communist groomers like this from using state government power to take children away from their parents to allow a for-profit medical industry to chop off these confused children’s genitals before they are even old enough to vote.”

In an emailed statement, Senator Wiener responded to the homophobic attack by the Georgia Republican:

“The same day Elon Musk reinstated QAnon extremist Marjorie Taylor Greene, she launched a vile homophobic attack on me because of my vocal advocacy in response to the Club Q slaughter. When Greene has attacked me in the past, threats against me have typically increased. She is a toxic person and embodies why the MAGA movement is so dangerous. Green is a threat to our democracy and to the personal safety of LGBTQ people.”

The term ‘groomer’ is considered highly offensive as it broadly brushstroke paints LGBTQ+ people as child molesters.

The definition according to the Urban online dictionary:

groomer

1 (the crime definition): An adult that builds a sense of trust with a minor to exploit and/or abuse them, typically (but not always) in a sexual manner. This is a crime, and it also causes harm to the minor.

2 (in US politics): What republican politicians and supporters refer to LGBTQIA+ people and their allies as, to manipulate their audience to pass anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. This is targeting and harming LGBTQIA+ people and the people using the word in this manner typically are (or have connections with those who are) actual groomers.

National Public Radio, (NPR) reported this past May the Movement Advancement Project’s executive director, Ineke Mushovic, pointed out:

“What the far right often does is they engage people’s reptilian brains, the fight-or-flight instinct,” says Mushovic. “And so it behooves far-right conservatives to put people in a state of fear, because then they’re reactive. They don’t support change.”

The “grooming” narrative, Mushovic added, “taps into this primal sense of fear and this kind of parental protective instinct. But we know it’s a completely false narrative.”

The “grooming” narrative has been actively promoted by conservative activist Christopher Rufo, and Daily Wire pundit and transphobe Matt Walsh who have both attacked gender affirming care in their assaults on the LGBTQ+ community.

Green’s H.R.8731 – Protect Children’s Innocence Act, was introduced this past August 19 and has forty-nine Republican members listed as co-sponsors. The language as introduced stated targets primarily Trans youth healthcare and targets colleges and universities from “offering instruction in gender affirming care:”

This bill places restrictions on the provision of gender affirming care. Gender affirming care includes performing surgery, administering medication, or performing other procedures for the purpose of changing the body of an individual to correspond to a sex that differs from the individual’s biological sex.

Specifically, the bill makes it a felony to perform any gender affirming care on a minor and it permits a minor on whom such care is performed to bring a civil action against each individual who provided the care.

Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of federal funds for gender affirming care or for health insurance that covers such care. Such care may not be provided in a federal health care facility or by a federal employee. The bill also prohibits qualified health plans from including coverage for gender affirming care. Further, plans that include coverage for such care are not eligible for federal subsidies. […]

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Politics

Out AG candidate wins, Rollins concedes congressional race

‘Fixing our system of disagreement matters. Integrity matters. Truth matters. Democracy matters, elections matter’

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Kris Mayes & Will Rollins (Photo Credit: LGBTQ Victory Fund/Rollins Campaign)

PHOENIX – The closest statewide competition in the Grand Canyon State was the race for Arizona attorney general. On Monday Maricopa County released its final election results that had openly Out candidate Kris Mayes beating her Republican opponent Abe Hamadeh by only 510 votes.

“Kris’ victory is a win for all Arizonans. Voters chose a champion of equality who believes in democracy over a cynic who spread election disinformation for his own perceived political gain. In a state with bans on abortion and same-sex marriage still on the books, the symbolism of voters choosing an out LGBTQ Attorney General cannot be overstated,” Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Kris has a long track record of taking on big fights and winning on behalf of her community and will be a powerful pro-equality, pro-choice force in Arizona. Today’s results are a resounding rebuke to the hate and intolerance sweeping our country. Voters made their voices heard loud and clear: enough is enough. It’s time for change, it’s time for courage.”

There are currently just two out LGBTQ state Attorneys General in the United States, according to LGBTQ Victory Institute: Dana Nessel in Michigan and Maura Healey in Massachusetts. In case of Massachusetts, Healy is now the governor-elect of Massachusetts, having won the 2022 election.

According to Phoenix NBC News affiliate KPNX 12, the state’s unofficial final results have placed Mayes only 510 votes ahead of Hamadeh to become the state’s next attorney general. The results will likely spur an automatic recount after state election numbers are certified on Dec. 5. 

********************************

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – In the race to represent California’s 41st Congressional District in the House of Representatives, openly gay Democratic candidate and former federal prosecutor Will Rollins congratulated his GOP opponent Ken Calvert and conceded the race.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Rollins said: “I have called Representative Calvert to offer my congratulations. I had hoped for a different result, but I respect our democratic system and am sure that our fine election workers did their jobs honestly and responsibly, and I accept the count. Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of you who voted.” 

He added:

“So, what’s next? What’s next for our communities, and what’s next for our country? The truth is that we are in a moment of uncertainty, because America is divided. And there are a lot of people out there who benefit – financially, militarily, politically – when Americans turn against one another.

“But this campaign proves that ordinary Americans have the power to reject those who try to divide us. That is how we built this country, and that is how we built this campaign. We are a community of Democrats, Republicans, and independents who came together to restore compromise, civility, and progress in the United States.”

Rollins also noted:

“This community is growing. Ordinary Americans of good faith uniting to elect leaders who know that this country is about more than one person, more than one president, more than one party, and more than one congressman. We may not always agree on how to solve the country’s problems, but the point of this campaign has always been that the way we disagree matters. Fixing our system of disagreement matters. Integrity matters. Truth matters. Democracy matters.”

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Kelly cites white supremacy after losing House race in Tennessee

A 2022 report by The Sentencing Project shows that 21% of Black voters in Tennessee are permanently barred from voting

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Odessa Kelly lost her House race in a gerrymandered district. (Photo by Shance Ware)

NASHVILLE – Odessa Kelly was on track to become the first openly gay Black woman elected to represent Tennessee in the U.S. House. On election night, as votes were counted, Kelly watched that dream slip out of reach. 

“The loss didn’t come because I’m an openly gay Black woman in the South, the loss came because of racism,” Kelly said in an interview with the Blade.

Kelly, who ran to represent Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District against incumbent Mark Green (R), lost the election by more than 20 points. Kelly blames white supremacy, gerrymandering, and voter suppression for her loss.

“I just lost a congressional race due to White Supremacy, Gerrymandering, Racist (GOP), Undercover Racist BlueDog Dems, and Voter Suppression,” Kelly tweeted post-election.

Republican-led gerrymandering parceled predominantly Democratic Davidson County, which includes Nashville, into three separate congressional districts. This gerrymandering obliterated representation for Nashville residents at the state and federal level. 

“We have zero representation in the largest, most populated city in Tennessee,” Kelly said. 

Gerrymandering often intentionally marginalizes minority communities’ voices and votes by relocating them to conservative districts. East Nashville, the minority ruled and politically Democratic district where Kelly grew up, was moved to the conservative and predominantly white district of Cookeville. But Nashville residents aren’t the only Tennesseans affected by gerrymandering in the state. 

Statewide, Tennessean voters of color were disproportionately split up and relocated to districts where they are outnumbered and their voices are drowned out. This leaves communities of color at the mercy of Jim Crow and racist political tactics that suppress their voices and their votes because they no longer hold a majority vote in any of these new districts. 

“White supremacy showed up in our state legislature and in me losing this race,” Kelly said. 

The systemic disenfranchisement of Black voters in Tennessee also played a major role in Kelly’s loss. A 2022 report by The Sentencing Project shows that 21% of Black voters in Tennessee are permanently barred from voting, while only 8% of adult voters are barred statewide. 

And a Tennessee Advisory Committee Report shows that Tennessee is one of 11 states that permanently disenfranchises voters. With some of the toughest laws and requirements for voting, the state makes it hard for Tennesseans to earn the right to vote again. 

“I assume that the majority of those individuals who can’t vote would probably vote for me because they’re looking for relief and pathways out of poverty,” Kelly said. “And those are the things that I’m fighting for.” 

As for what’s next, Kelly says she is determined to keep fighting for a country and political system where those forgotten by the status quo are represented. .

“I will not stop. I will not give up. I will keep fighting because the issues don’t change.” 

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California Politics

Lindsey Horvath elected to LA County Board of Supervisors

Horvath extended her appreciation to outcoming Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who had endorsed and backed her in the campaign to succeed her

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Lindsey Horvath (Screenshot/YouTube CBS Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath won slightly more than a plurality of the vote gaining a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors representing District Three after State Senator Bob Hertzberg conceded Thursday afternoon.

In a statement released Hertzberg wrote; “I want to offer my sincere congratulations to Sup-Elect Horvath. The challenges LA faces are extraordinary and it’ll take someone with her work ethic to be successful. Thank you to everyone who has supported me- my family, friends, elected leaders, & residents across SD3.”

 

“I am humbled and honored that the voters have chosen me to serve as their next Supervisor. Their confidence and support fueled our people-powered campaign across the finish line, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to represent the people of District 3,” Horvath told supporters and county residents in a statement Thursday evening.

“I want to thank Senator Bob Hertzberg for his incredibly generous and kind phone call, for his commitment to public service, and for engaging in this hard fought campaign to make Los Angeles a better place. I welcome his supporters into the work we will all need to do together. Regardless of who you voted for, I will always work my heart out to represent you and the best interests of our communities,” she said.

She also extended her appreciation to outcoming Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who had endorsed and backed her in the campaign to succeed her in the seat.

SUPERVISOR 3RD DISTRICT

Candidate(s)VotesPercent
LINDSEY HORVATH (N)227,56152.24%
BOB HERTZBERG (N)208,01947.76%
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Politics

Cicilline joins clergy rallying support of Respect for Marriage Act

The legislation presents a rare area on which the deeply divided Congress has struck an agreement to pass a significant bipartisan bill

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U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) speaks during a rally in the Lower Senate Park on Nov. 16, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

WASHINGTON – Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline, chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees, joined multi-faith clergy for a rally on Thursday at the Lower Senate Park in support of the Respect for Marriage Act.

Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat who co-sponsored the U.S. House of Representative’s version of the legislation, which the lower chamber passed this summer, celebrated the U.S. Senate’s expected vote today to send the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The congressman said that while faith has sometimes been misused as a cudgel to argue against same-sex marriage, “many people support marriage equality not despite their religious beliefs but rather because of them.”

“As a proud Jew, it’s part of my religious community and tradition,” Cicilline said. “We’re taught to heal the world and repair the broken world. I’m proud as a member of Congress and chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus to follow our Biblical command to pursue justice.”

Cicilline’s message about the personal significance of the protections offered by the Respect for Marriage Act was echoed by, among other speakers, Revs. Nicole Garcia, faith work director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, and Paul Raushenbush, president of the Interfaith Alliance.

Yesterday, a dozen Senate Republicans joined their 50 Democratic colleagues to support a procedural cloture vote, which advanced the Respect for Marriage Act to a floor vote by the full chamber.

Biden and a chorus of LGBTQ, civil rights, and legal advocacy organizations celebrated the GOP members’ support of the bill, which leadership in the House and Senate have made a major priority for Congress’s lame duck session.

The Respect for Marriage Act presents a rare area on which the deeply divided legislature has struck an agreement to pass a significant bipartisan bill.

The impetus behind the legislation was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which saw a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas in which he pledged to revisit the high court’s precedent-making rulings on other matters, including same-sex marriage.

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Pelosi announces end of her tenure as House Speaker

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also announced he will step down from leadership to pave the way for “a new generation of leaders”

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Nancy Pelosi addresses the House from the chamber floor Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 announcing she is stepping down from leadership (Screenshot/YouTube Washington Post)

WASHINGTON – On Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) announced her decision to pass the leadership torch to the younger generation of Democratic members in the lower chamber, stepping down after decades of service in that role.

“I will continue to speak from the people of San Francisco as a member of the House,” she said, but “I will not seek reelection to democratic leadership in the next caucus.”

Republicans secured a narrower-than-expected seven-seat majority in the 2022 midterm elections, with Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) poised to become the next House Speaker when the new Congress is seated in January.

Pelosi, whose decision to step down comes weeks after her husband was brutally attacked in the couple’s San Francisco home, reached an agreement with fellow Democratic members in 2018 that she would resign from her position in leadership by the end of this year.

While she did not address the question of who might succeed her as Democratic leader of the House, the website Puck reported on Thursday that Pelosi plans to throw her support behind Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Ny.).

“Never did I think I would go from homemaker to House Speaker,” Pelosi said from the floor of the House. Reflecting on her 35 years of service in the chamber, the congresswoman celebrated the work that she and the Democratic caucus have accomplished.

This included passage of transformative legislation under the administrations of three presidents, she said: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. Pelosi, who became the first woman Speaker of the House in 2007, also held that role under former President Donald Trump’s tenure.

“When I think of Nancy Pelosi, I think of dignity,” opens a statement from President Joe Biden on the Speaker’s announcement:

“History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history. There are countless examples of how she embodies the obligation of elected officials to uphold their oath to God and country to ensure our democracy delivers and remains a beacon to the world. In everything she does, she reflects a dignity in her actions and a dignity she sees in the lives of the people of this nation.”

Democratic Senator Alex Padilla of California also released a statement, which read in part: “Speaker Pelosi’s perseverance and commitment to unity has served as a source of strength both at home and abroad in the face of extremist attempts to harm our democracy, our nation’s Capitol, and even her own family.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement in which he said, in part: “Her career in Congress, and as Speaker, has been a masterclass in powerful, empathetic leadership, guided by her strong moral compass and unmatched political skill.”

The LGBTQ Victory Institute hailed the Speaker’s record on matters of consequence to the community. Pelosi, the group wrote, “is the most pro-LGBTQ Speaker in American history – constantly championing our rights and causes – and the relief and pride that came with having a fierce defender in that position cannot be understated.”

“From her first floor speech in 1987 to today’s, Speaker Pelosi has been an indefatigable champion for LGBTQ+ civil rights, reproductive freedom and the health and well-being of all Americans,” Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang said in a statement. “She is, without question, the most effective Speaker in history, and we are eternally grateful for her service.”

Also on Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced in a letter to his Democratic colleagues that he would not seek another term in leadership.

Having served in leadership positions for 36 of his 42 years in the House, Hoyer wrote, “I have been honored to serve alongside Nancy Pelosi, whose tenure as Speaker was both historic and extraordinarily productive.”

Hoyer announced his endorsement of Jeffries to replace him as the House’s Democratic Leader.

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