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U.S. diplomat speaks at Costa Rica same-sex marriage conference

State Department seeks to highlight pro-LGBTI efforts

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Eric Catalfamo of the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, left, speaks at the opening of the Civil Marriage Equality Congress in San José, Costa Rica, on Nov. 9, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — An official with the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica on Thursday stressed the U.S. continues to support the rights of LGBT and intersex people around the world.

“Our government has a strong commitment to support the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” said Eric Catalfamo at the opening of the Civil Marriage Equality Congress that is taking place at the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in the Costa Rican capital of San José.

Catalfamo, who spoke on behalf of U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Sharon Day, said the embassy continues to work with Costa Rican LGBT rights advocates.

He noted embassy personnel took part in San José’s 2016 Pride march, which included a tribute to the 49 people who were killed inside the Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016. Catalfamo also pointed out the embassy flies the rainbow flag throughout the month of June.

Catalfamo in his speech noted he himself is gay and cited Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Pride month statement in which he said, among other things, the State Department and the U.S. “will continue to support the human rights of LGBTI persons together with like-minded governments, businesses and civil society organizations globally.”

“The dignity and equality of everyone is engrained into the constitutional, fundamental principles of the U.S.,” said Catalfamo, referring to the statement.

Catalfamo also highlighted efforts to secure marriage rights for same-sex couples in the U.S. that culminated with the 2015 Obergefell decision that allowed gays and lesbians to tie the knot throughout the country.

Conference is ‘very important’

Hundreds of activists from across the Western Hemisphere are expected to attend the three-day conference, which is the first of its kind in Latin America that focuses exclusively on marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Herman Duarte of Fundación Igualitos, a Costa Rica-based group that advocates for marriage rights for same-sex couples, organized the conference alongside HduarteLex, his law firm that fights discrimination based on sexual orientation. Two Costa Rican advocacy groups — Acceder and Asociación Costarricense de Derecho International — are also co-hosting the gathering that Catalfamo described as “very important.”

Catalfamo spoke alongside Swiss Ambassador to Costa Rica Mirko Giulietti, Dutch Ambassador to Costa Rica Peter Hof, Alice Shackelford of the U.N. and Bertrand-Xavier Asselin of the Canadian Embassy in Costa Rica. Duarte and Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, also took part in the conference’s opening panel.

State Department seeks to highlight pro-LGBTI efforts

The conference is taking place a year after President Trump’s election.

The State Department and its personnel continue to work with LGBT and intersex rights advocates around the world, even though many of them have become increasingly critical of U.S. foreign policy under the Trump administration.

Tillerson in August told U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) — who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — the special U.S. envoy for the rights of LGBT and intersex people will remain in place under a State Department overhaul. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Randy Berry — a career Foreign Service officer who former Secretary of State John Kerry named to the position in 2015 — remains at the State Department.

The State Department in recent weeks has publicly condemned the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdowns in Egypt and Azerbaijan.

Reports indicate Tillerson over the summer raised the ongoing crackdown against LGBT Chechens in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert have both publicly condemned the crackdown, but Tillerson and Trump has yet to do so.

The U.S. last month led efforts to block the removal of a reference to discrimination that includes sexual orientation from an Olympics resolution at the U.N. The U.S. on Sept. 29 voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that includes a provision condemning the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts.

An American official told the Washington Blade after the vote the U.S. “did support language in the resolution against the discriminatory use of the death penalty based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, while also requesting changes to make the larger resolution in accordance with U.S. law” that says the death penalty is legal. The official noted the resolution’s main sponsors “did not take those edits onboard, so we were unable to support the larger resolution, which called for a global moratorium on the death penalty, in spite of the fact that it included parts that we support.”

The State Department on Oct. 26 issued a statement that acknowledged Intersex Awareness Day. Nauert a week earlier promoted Spirit Day, which is a campaign that seeks to combat bullying.

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California Politics

Rep. Karen Bass to enter Los Angeles mayoral race

Bass has been working to dismantle systemic racism, as well as other forms of social, racial and economic injustice, for decades

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Rep. Karen Bass, (D-37) (Photo Credit: Blade file photo by Karen Ocamb)

LOS ANGELES – In a breaking story published Friday morning, the Los Angeles Times reported that Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass, who represents California’s 37th congressional district, which covers several areas south and west of downtown LA will enter the mayor’s race.

U.S. Rep Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) intends to run for Los Angeles mayor, according to three people familiar with her plans. Such a move would shake up a contest that, until this past week, which saw the field of candidates increase, had been a fairly sleepy affair. Bass, a high-profile Democrat who has served in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C., could announce her entry into the mayor’s race as early as next week, those sources told The Times.

Bass has been working to dismantle systemic racism, as well as other forms of social, racial and economic injustice, for decades. She is a community activist who was raised on civil rights activism in LA’s Jewish Venice-Fairfax district, volunteered for Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign in middle school, graduated from Hamilton High School in West LA in 1971, studied philosophy at San Diego University but switched her attention to healthcare, graduating from USC’s Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. She subsequently received her BA in health sciences from Cal State/Dominguez Hills and her Masters in Social Work from USC.

Bass focused that training on fighting the crack epidemic in South LA, where she founded the Community Coalition to fight for substance abuse prevention programs and better foster care and relative caregivers, like grandmothers.

She also fought the AIDS epidemic — all experience directly applicable to dealing with the ongoing Opioid crisis, as well as COVID-19.

“I went through the AIDS crisis from its very beginning. I watched all of Santa Monica Boulevard get wiped out near Vermont (Ave.). That whole area there. I watched everybody die within a matter of two years,” Bass told the Los Angeles Blade. “But I think that this [COVID-19 crisis] is really hard because you don’t have to have any physical contact….People are building the plane while it’s flying.”

Torie Osborn, the executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center in 1989, met Bass at a meeting of progressive grassroots activists in a South LA church basement.

“This woman I didn’t know came up, introduced herself as Karen Bass from South LA, an anti-police violence activist and a physician assistant,” Osborn says. The two talked all day with Bass noting that the gay community’s experience of AIDS deaths was similar to what the Black community was experiencing during the crack epidemic.

“I had never heard anything like this before. She knew gay men. She clearly was an ally,” Osborn says.

Last summer the Biden campaign vetted Bass as a potential candidate for the number two spot on the Democratic ticket in the race for the White House, which ultimately ended up with then California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris as Biden’s choice.

“Los Angeles is facing a humanitarian crisis in homelessness and a public health crisis in the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had on Angelenos,” Bass spokesman Zach Seidl said in a statement, when asked for comment by the Times. “She does not want to see these two issues tear the city apart. Los Angeles has to come together. That’s why the Congresswoman is considering a run for mayor.”

Earlier this past week, another LGBTQ ally, Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León, a Democrat, announced his intention to seek the mayor’s chair after current Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was elected for a four-year term in 2013 and again in 2017- who’s limited to serving no more than two terms- was picked by President Joe Biden to serve as the U.S. ambassador to India on July 9, 2021.

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Politics

Head of Anti-LGBTQ group worked with Trump to overturn election

Eastman and the former president had a secret scheme to try to get former Vice-President Mike Pence to overturn election

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NOM Head John Eastman with Rudy Giuliani on January 6, 2021 (Screenshot via YouTube)

By David Badash | PROVINCETOWN, Ma. – The head of a once well-known anti-LGBTQ organization that spent countless millions in dark money to try to block the advancement of same-sex marriage worked with then-President Donald Trump and his legal team on a secret scheme to try to get Vice President Mike Pence to subvert the U.S. Constitution and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

John Eastman, who until January 13 was a tenured professor of law and dean at the Chapman University School of Law in California, advanced a six-point plan detailing the steps he wanted Pence to take on January 6.

Eastman, who is the chairman of NOM, the National Organization For Marriage, “tried to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence that he could overturn the election results on January 6 when Congress counted the Electoral College votes by throwing out electors from seven states, according to the new book ‘Peril’ from Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa,” CNN reports.

“You really need to listen to John. He’s a respected constitutional scholar. Hear him out,” Trump told Pence during a January 4 meeting with Eastman in the Oval Office, according to “Peril.”

In addition to directing that Pence would falsely claim that the seven states had competing electors, Eastman suggested Pence make all these moves without warning.

“The main thing here is that Pence should do this without asking for permission — either from a vote of the joint session or from the Court,” Eastman wrote. “The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter. We should take all of our actions with that in mind.”

Pence disagreed with Eastman’s legal claims and did not enact the secret scheme.

Eastman spoke at the January 6 “Save America” rally that many claim Trump used to incite the insurrection.

One week later he “abruptly” resigned from Chapman University “amid criticism of his role in stoking the violent attack,” and “calls for his firing,” Law.com reported at the time.

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David Badash (@davidbadash) is the founder and editor of The New Civil Rights Movement, an award-winning news & opinion site.

The preceding article was first published by The New Civil Rights Movement and is republished by permission.

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Politics

The White House marks the 10th anniversary of the repeal of DADT

“A great injustice was remedied & a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of American service members”

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President Obama signs the certification stating the statutory requirements for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" have been met 9-20-2011 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON – President Biden recognized in a statement on Monday the tenth anniversary of the end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that once discharged service members from the military for being openly gay or bisexual.

“Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members,” Biden said. “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all.”

Biden recognized high-profile openly gay appointees in his administrations who are also veterans, naming Air Force Under Secretary Gina Ortiz Jones and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Biden also names Shawn Skelly, assistant secretary of defense for readiness, who would have been discharged from the military under President Trump’s transgender military ban.

“On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation,” Biden said. “We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.”

Technically speaking, the anniversary of Obama signing repeal legislation was in December. Today is the anniversary of defense officials certifying the military is ready, which put an end to the policy.

Statement by President Joe Biden on the Tenth Anniversary of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all. It was the right thing to do. And, it showed once again that America is at its best when we lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.
 
Despite serving with extraordinary honor and courage throughout our history, more than 100,000 American service members have been discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—including some 14,000 under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Many of these veterans received what are known as “other than honorable” discharges, excluding them and their families from the vitally important services and benefits they had sacrificed so much to earn.
 
As a U.S. Senator, I supported allowing service members to serve openly, and as Vice President, I was proud to champion the repeal of this policy and to stand beside President Obama as he signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act into law. As President, I am honored to be Commander-in-Chief of the strongest and most inclusive military in our nation’s history. Today, our military doesn’t just welcome LGBTQ+ service members—it is led at the highest levels by brave LGBTQ+ veterans, including Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly, who served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I was gratified to appoint the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and Afghanistan veteran who joined the military under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. And during my first week in office, I proudly delivered on my pledge to repeal the discriminatory ban on open service by patriotic transgender service members.
 
On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation. We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.

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