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California reckoning: Kevin de León is challenging Dianne Feinstein’s Senate re-election

With whom will the LGBT community side?

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California State Sen. Kevin de León. (Photo courtesy Equality California)

Kevin de León, the progressive president pro-tem of the California State Senate, made it official on Sunday, Oct. 15—he’s challenging 25-year incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the June 5, 2018 Democratic primary. LGBT loyalties are about to be tested.

California Democrats are just starting to settle after the bruising battle by ‘Berniecrats’ over the election of out gay Eric Bauman as Chair of the California Democratic Party to succeed longtime Chair John Burton. For 17 years, Bauman worked as a powerful statewide strategist and organizer, electing Democrats to federal, state and local seats as chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, representing over 2.4 million registered Democrats. Last week, on Oct 12, the LACDC elected Bauman’s pick— young gay politico Mark Gonzales—to lead them into the critical 2018 elections.

The CDP election denotes a longed-for political power shift from Northern to Southern California, which may give de León a good fighting chance against the rich, well-connected Feinstein. Though California has a population of 39.25 million, the state’s two US Senators have come from the San Francisco area since Republicans Pete Wilson and John Seymour, from the San Diego and Inland Empire areas, respectively, were elected in the early 1990s. And while, Los Angeles is essentially the ATM for the national Democratic Party, the last LA-based US Senator was actor George Murphy, a Republican elected in 1964.

De León, 50, announced his candidacy in an email to supporters and an online video six days after Feinstein, 84, announced she was running for a fifth full term. The contest is a dramatic playing out of the annoyed cry by younger congressional Democrats that it’s time for the torch to be passed to a new generation.

De León presents himself as a leader of that new activist generation. Having cut his political teeth fighting Wilson’s anti-immigrant Prop 187, he is the author of the once-unimaginable “sanctuary state” bill, recently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. The legislation is seen by many as a powerful middle finger of resistance to the anti-immigrant policies of President Donald J. Trump.

“We now stand at the front lines of a historic struggle for the very soul of America, against a president without one,” de León wrote in an email to supporters. “Every day, his administration wages war on our people and our progress. He disregards our voices. Demonizes our diversity. Attacks our civil rights, our clean air, our health access and our public safety. We can lead the fight against his administration, but only if we jump into the arena together.”

Though he didn’t mention Feinstein in his announcement video that focuses on his biography and the need for jobs to escape poverty, De León is calling out the more conservative Democrat for suggesting that Americans should exhibit “patience” with Trump, that he might still become “good president.”

“He cannot be a good president, at all, whatsoever” de León told the Sacramento Bee. “His values are antithetical to the values of the state of California.”

Bill Carrick, Feinstein’s longtime campaign strategist, told The Bee that de León’s progressive positions are “counterfeit.”

“He’s making himself sound like he’s been a leader of the progressive movement in California and that he’s out front in a direct appeal to Bernie Sanders voters,” Carrick said. “But the truth of the matter is he never supported Bernie Sanders. I don’t see a record of somebody being out on the cutting edge on a lot of issues.”

Democracy for America disagrees. The progressive group with nearly 300,000 California members issued an immediate endorsement of de León, citing in particular his work on behalf of undocumented immigrants and single-payer healthcare.

De León “didn’t ask people to sit back and wait, hoping maybe Trump would someday turn out OK,” DFA Executive Director Charles Chamberlain said. “He immediately began working to pass policies that would help the people most immediately affected by Trump’s bigoted, greedy policies.”

The contest may prove to be a trial for LGBT voters. Feinstein was the San Francisco Supervisor who found the body of her colleague Harvey Milk and announced the assassination to the world. But as mayor, she also vetoed a domestic partnership bill that many LGBT voters remembered when she ran for governor against Pete Wilson in 1990. However, as a highly regarded conservative senator, Feinstein’s very strong voice opposing the anti-gay Prop 8 in 2008 was critical and deeply appreciated. She said she changed her mind about marriage equality because of her out deputy, Trevor Daley, who used to represent Feinstein at LGBT functions.  She has also fought on behalf of binational couples and to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

On the other hand, de León is close with many LGBT activists and politicos, having fought for intersectional issues for a long time. He is an accessible and ubiquitous presence at LGBT events. He is of the new generation where the LGBT community is automatically included in his strategic thinking, not one on a list of constituencies.

Age, race, region, progressive-vs-conservative—all will play a part in the thinking of LGBT voters. But LGBT people also tend to be very loyal and that loyalty, earned for an emotional reason, may play an important role in who gets their vote next year.

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San Francisco

Padilla, local leaders celebrate passage of Respect for Marriage Act

“There’s no better place than San Francisco to celebrate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act & affirm lives of millions of LGBTQ people”

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Senator Padilla officiated a vows renewal ceremony of Cyn Wang and Tessa Chavez, a local lesbian couple, at San Francisco City Hall Dec. 2, 2022 (Photo Credit: Office of Sen. Alex Padilla)

SAN FRANCISCO —  U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) on Friday hosted a press conference with San Francisco Mayor London Breed, State Senator Scott Wiener, Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang, and local leaders following the Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.

Senator Padilla also officiated a vows renewal ceremony of Cyn Wang and Tessa Chavez, a local lesbian couple, at San Francisco City Hall to mark the historic occasion.

The Respect for Marriage Act requires the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed and guarantee that valid marriages between two individuals are given full faith and credit, regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin. The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 61-36.

“There is no better place than San Francisco to celebrate the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act and unequivocally affirm the lives of millions of LGBTQ people and interracial couples across our country,” said Senator Padilla. “We celebrate the progress that we have made today, but recognize the work still left undone to fully protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans. I’ll continue working to build on our efforts until we ensure that every American is treated equally under the law, free from discrimination.”

“I was proud to introduce the Respect for Marriage Act over the summer, and I’m even more pleased that the bill passed the Senate this week with strong bipartisan support,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein. “The Respect for Marriage Act will guarantee legal protections for millions of marriages in the United States. Simply put, Americans should be free to marry the person they love, regardless of sexual orientation or race, without fear of discrimination or fear that their marriages will be invalidated. This was a historic vote and one that every proponent of equality can be proud of.”

“The Respect for Marriage Act is an important step forward in the continued fight for LGBTQ and racial equality in America,” said State Senator Scott Wiener. “Today, we celebrate this victory for our civil rights, and tomorrow we recommit to fight even harder against the right-wing Supreme Court’s efforts to legalize discrimination in this country.”

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) on Friday hosted a press conference with San Francisco Mayor London Breed, State Senator Scott Wiener, Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang, and local leaders following the Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.
(Photo Credit: Office of Sen. Alex Padilla)

“San Francisco’s history is inseparable from the history of the LGBTQ community and the movement for marriage equality locally, at the state level, and nationally,” said Mayor Breed. “As we celebrate the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, we honor those who have endured discrimination and hate, and the many who lost their lives in the quest for equality. We recommit ourselves to protect the fundamental rights of all people regardless of who they are or whom they love. Thank you to Congressional leaders, especially Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, and Speaker Pelosi for their leadership to pass this historical legislation.”

“Equality California applauds this historic vote and the critical leadership of Senators Baldwin, Feinstein and Padilla, in getting this bill across the finish line,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “While this is an important step in affirming the dignity of the LGBTQ+ community, it will not end all discrimination against LGBTQ+ people or erase the hateful rhetoric of anti-LGBTQ+ politicians and extremists. Equality California will continue to fight for full, lived equality for all LGBTQ+ people until the work is done.”

“The Respect for Marriage Act removes an ugly, discriminatory stain on our federal law books – the 1996 so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” – and replaces DOMA with a rule requiring government at all levels to treat all married couples equally nationwide,” said Jenny Pizer, Chief Legal Officer, Lambda Legal. “We hope we never need it.  But if the U.S. Supreme Court were, outrageously, to erase the constitutional protection for the freedom to marry, this law will substantially reduce the harms. Yet, even if the Respect for Marriage Act were to become necessary, it would not be sufficient. We still urgently need the Equality Act to become law, to protect LGBTQ people from the widespread discrimination that persists in the commercial marketplace and in public services with harsh, unacceptable consequences.”

“It is a historic moment for the advancement and preservation of basic civil rights for all Americans, but by no means is our work done,” said Kris Perry, Prop 8 Plaintiff & Nonprofit Director. “Our family and thousands of families like ours can breathe easier tonight knowing our fundamental rights are protected.”

“After the Supreme Court overturned a woman’s right to choice, we feared same-sex marriages were next,” said Cyn Wang and Tessa Chavez. “The Respect for Marriage Act gives our family clarity and a sense of relief that our marriage, and those of all married couples regardless of sexual orientation or race, will be protected in this country.”

The Respect for Marriage Act now goes to the House of Representatives for passage and then to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Senator Padilla is committed to pursuing equality for the LGBTQ community, including in employment, housing, and credit lending.

Earlier this year, Padilla introduced the LGBTQ Business Equal Credit Enforcement and Investment Act, legislation that would protect the 1.4 million LGBTQ-owned businesses in the nation from lending discrimination to ensure equal access to economic opportunities. Padilla also joined Senate Democrats in introducing a resolution recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month to highlight the work of the LGBTQ community in fighting to achieve full equality, including for marriage.

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Southern California

Triple A: Gas price averages drop below $5 & may move lower

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.90, which is 21 cents lower than last week

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Screenshot/YouTube ABC 10 News Sacramento

LOS ANGELES – Most areas of Southern California now have average gas prices of less than $5 a gallon after additional hefty price declines in the last week, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.90, which is 21 cents lower than last week. The average national price is $3.47, which is 12 cents lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $4.97 per gallon, which is 21 cents lower than last week, 63 cents lower than last month, and 26 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $4.94, which is 21 cents lower than last week, 63 cents lower than last month, and 28 cents higher than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $4.95, which is 20 cents lower than last week, 62 cents lower than last month, and 31 cents higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $4.84, which is 20 cents lower than last week, 60 cents lower than last month, and 21 cents higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.28 average price is 11 cents lower than last week, 50 cents lower than last month, and 63 cents higher than a year ago today.

“Despite a record number of Southern California travelers hitting the road for Thanksgiving, average pump prices have dropped below $5 a gallon for the first time since early March,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. “Oil Price Information Service reports a substantial drop in demand statewide and high unleaded gas inventories. This week Los Angeles wholesale gasoline prices reached their lowest level of 2022, and if that trend holds, we should see additional pump price reductions. The least expensive gas station prices today are about $4.10 a gallon, so it’s possible we will see stations charging less than $4 a gallon soon.”

The Auto Club reminds drivers of the following tips to save money on gas:

  • If you use premium unleaded fuel, make sure it is required for your vehicle, not just recommended. The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center found that vehicles with recommended premium fuel performed safely with regular unleaded gasoline.
  • Make sure your tires are properly maintained and inflated to the correct level.
  • Maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regular service will ensure optimum fuel economy.
  • Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard accelerations. These actions greatly increase fuel consumption.
  • Slow down and drive the speed limit. Fuel economy peaks around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speed increases. Reducing freeway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%.
  • Use cruise control on the highway to help maintain a constant speed and save fuel. However, never use cruise control on slippery roads because you could lose control of the vehicle.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning.
  • Avoid extended idling to warm up the engine, even in colder temperatures. It’s unnecessary and wastes fuel.
  • Remove unnecessary and heavy items from your car.
  • Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use.
  • Download the AAA App to find the cheapest gas prices near you. 

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Dec. 1, averages are:

120122 chart
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State Department

Blinken: PEPFAR shows ‘what American diplomacy can do’

Secretary of state spoke at World AIDS Day event in D.C. on Friday

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a World AIDS Day event at the Hay-Adams Hotel in D.C. on Dec. 2, 2022. (Screen capture via U.S. Department of State YouTube)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday noted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has saved more than 25 million lives since its launch in 2003.

Blinken, who spoke at the Business Council for International Understanding’s World AIDS Day event at the Hay-Adams Hotel in D.C., said the more than $100 billion the U.S. has earmarked for PEPFAR over the last two decades has funded 70,000 new community health clinics, 3,000 new laboratories and the hiring of 340,000 health care workers.

“Entire public health systems formed, with over a dozen countries which have either reached their HIV-treatment goals or managed control of the virus altogether,” said Blinken.

Then-President George W. Bush in 2003 signed legislation that created PEPFAR. California Democrat Barbara Lee, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief White House medical advisor who is retiring at the end of this month, are among those who played a key role in PEPFAR’s creation.

“PEPFAR has benefitted from bipartisan support, as we’ve heard, across four presidencies, across ten Congresses,” said Blinken. “It’s resulted in an investment of more than $100 billion to the global HIV/AIDS response. This is the largest commitment by one country ever to address a single disease.”

Lee and Fauci were among those who attended the event alongside U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator John Nkengasong; Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine; Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House Coronavirus Response Director, and HIV and Hepatitis Policy Institute Executive Director Carl Schmid.

Blinken in his speech noted “the systems put in place by PEPFAR have become an integral part of the health security architecture of countries around the world.”

Blinken also said PEPFAR has bolstered responses to COVID-19, Ebola and the avian flu.

“We are continuing to build on PEPFAR’s many successes to create a stronger global health security architecture to prevent, to detect, to respond to future health emergencies. Doctor Fauci, you once said that PEPFAR ‘shows what the goodwill of a nation can do,’ and you were right,” said Blinken. “PEPFAR also shows us what American diplomacy can do: Bring together governments, bring together the public and private sectors, communities to tackle challenges that none of us can actually effectively deal with alone and that creates and has created a healthier, safer and ultimately more secure world.” 

Five-year PEPFAR strategy to target LGBTQ+ people

Blinken acknowledged there is still “very serious work still required for us to end the global HIV health epidemic by 2030,” noting HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ and intersex people and other marginalized groups.

“Too many countries still have fragile and insufficiently resourced public health systems, which makes it difficult to offer services beyond HIV/AIDS treatments, and that undercuts our capacity to respond to emerging threats,” he said.

Blinken noted the U.S. on Thursday announced a new PEPFAR strategy that will help “fill those gaps” over the next five years. It includes the following:

• Targeted programming to help reduce inequalities among LGBTQ+ and intersex people, women and girls and other marginalized groups

• Partnerships with local organizations to help reach “hard-to-reach” communities.

• Economic development and increased access to financial markets to allow countries to manufacture their own antiretroviral drugs, tests and personal protective gear to give them “the capacity to meet their own challenges so that they’re not dependent on anyone else.”

“This latest PEPFAR strategy will keep making advancements like that possible so that millions more people can live healthy lives and live lives to their full potential,” said Blinken. 

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Transphobic Fox host: Trans people are “Deeply Anti-Human”

Fox news host Laura Ingraham launched into a transphobic rant claiming the political left are cheering on what she termed anti-humanism

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Screenshot/YouTube Fox News

By Media Matters Staff | NEW YORK – On her show last night, Fox news host Laura Ingraham launched into a transphobic rant claiming among other things that those on the political left are cheering on what she termed anti-humanism.

Then she pivoted to the transgender community:

“Crusaders for climate change, abortion, euthanasia, gender fluidity, they all lead — eventually, their thinking — to the devaluing of human life.

“At its core, being anti-human means being anti- truth because it involves the questioning or denying of objective facts, including those at the very heart of our existence. 

“The cult of gender deviancy collapses into meaningless slogans and blather. None of it makes any sense, but it’s deeply anti-human.” 

Watch the Media Matters for America video clip:

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Minnesota

Minneapolis felon charged in Gay Bar brandishing incident

According to U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger, Conell Walter Harris, 29 has been charged with felony illegal possession of a firearm

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Booking Photo: Conell Walter Harris/Hennepin County Jail

MINNEAPOLIS – A Minneapolis resident is facing federal charges for illegal possession of a firearm during a criminal brandishing, uttering threats and homophobic slurs at a popular LGBTQ+ bar in the downtown area of the city.

According to U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger, Conell Walter Harris, 29 has been charged with felony illegal possession of a firearm.

In court documents filed in Hennepin County, on November 28, 2022, Minneapolis Police officers responded to a call that a person at 19 Bar, located near downtown Minneapolis, had pulled out a gun after being asked to leave.

When officers arrived, several people pointed at a man, who was later identified as Conell Walter Harris, 29.  Harris resisted arrest and tried to reach into the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. Officers recovered a stolen .45 caliber Glock model 30 pistol from Harris’ pocket. Officers spoke to bar employees and customers and learned that Harris had become upset after an employee asked to see his identification, which Harris refused to show.

The employee then asked Harris to leave the bar. Harris became combative and pulled out a pistol. An employee attempted to deescalate the situation but Harris became more aggressive and made multiple threatening statements. Harris then left for a short time but returned to the bar before law enforcement arrived.

Screenshot/YouTube KARE 11

Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE 11 reported:

The complaint and affidavit outline the events that allegedly took place at Minneapolis’ 19 Bar the night of Nov. 28, claiming officers first responded to the bar around 11 p.m. on reports of a person with a gun.

When officers arrived, prosecutors say, bar patrons identified Harris. The complaint says Harris “resisted arrest and kept reaching into his hoodie pocket,” leading police to recover a .45-caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun.

Court documents allege that based on eyewitness accounts, police were informed that Harris was “acting strangely” when he entered the bar and became upset when an employee asked to see his ID. A 19 Bar bartender then asked Harris to leave, according to the complaint, and Harris refused, telling the bartender, “I ain’t going nowhere,” while pulling out the firearm.

Prosecutors say Harris then began yelling profanities and slurs at the bartender before leaving for a short time and then returning.

When Harris later reentered the bar, court documents allege he began playing pool until officers arrived.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Harris is charged in a criminal complaint with felon in possession of a firearm. He made his initial appearance today in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung. Harris was ordered to remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing scheduled for December 5, 2022. 

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Minneapolis Police Department.

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Politics

Obama rallies for Warnock as Walker goes transphobic in latest ad

“Tomorrow is the last day for early voting and then we need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday, which means we still got work to do”

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Former President Barack Obama with Sen. Raphael Warnock (Pool photo via CNN)

ATLANTA – Former President Barack Obama held a rally with Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) tonight in Atlanta as the Georgia election runoff for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Warnock enters its final week.

Speaking to the enthusiastic crowd in the historic Pullman Yard, Obama urged supporters to continue pressing to secure Warnock’s chances as early voting ends Friday ahead of next Tuesday’s election.

“Now I know a lot of folks have been voting early over the last few days, that is a good thing. That is an encouraging thing. But — you knew there was a but —plenty of folks haven’t voted yet. Tomorrow is the last day for early voting and then we need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday, which means we still got work to do,” Obama said.

A spokesperson for the the Georgia secretary of state’s office told the Blade that more than 1.1 million votes have been cast so far.

Warnock’s Republican challenger meanwhile focused on his opposition to transgender rights. In a recent campaign ad, Herschel Walker is featured alongside cisgender former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who tied with University of Pennsylvania trans female swimmer Lia Thomas.

In the ad Gaines says she “worked so hard” at competitive swimming but she was “forced to compete against a biological male.”  The ad also goes on to attack Warnock in the Chyron onscreen stating: “Raphael Warnock voted to allow biological men to compete in women’s sports.” That particular charge by Walker’s campaign is factually incorrect as the U.S. Senate has not held any votes on the subject of transgender women in sports.

Politico’s National political reporter Natalie Allison tweeted:

During the rally in Atlanta this evening Politico reported Warnock received roaring applause when he poked fun at Walker, something Obama also did, referencing a series of outlandish comments the retired football star has made over the course of his candidacy.

“We all know some folks in our lives who, we don’t wish them ill will, they say crazy stuff … but you don’t give them serious responsibility,” Obama said.

“He was an amazing running back,” Warnock said of Walker. “And come next Tuesday, we’re going to send him running back to Texas.”

Walker, who was raised in the Peach State and was a star player at the University of Georgia, lived the majority of his adult life in Texas before returning to run for Senate in 2021.

Politico also noted that Warnock, the pastor of the Atlanta church that Martin Luther King Jr. attended, tied the election to the long struggle of African Americans for equal rights, noting the crowd had gathered on the 67th anniversary of Rosa Parks refusing to get up from a bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama. Walker is also African American.

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