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Randy Berry is no longer US LGBTI envoy

State Department said to be seeking replacement

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Randy Berry, gay news, Washington Blade

The Washington Blade has confirmed Randy Berry is no longer the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights around the world. Berry remains at the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade has confirmed that Randy Berry is no longer the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights abroad.

A State Department spokesperson on Thursday told the Blade that Berry is “currently serving as a deputy assistant secretary” in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.” The spokesperson said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby is currently carrying out the “role and responsibilities” of the special envoy.

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry announced the position in early 2015 as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to promote LGBT and intersex rights abroad. Berry — a career Foreign Service officer — had been in the post since April 2015.

“Mr. Berry is a career Senior Foreign Service Officer who served as the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons for two years, which is a common duration for foreign service officer assignments,” the State Department spokesperson told the Blade.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in August told U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) — chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — the special envoy position will remain in place under a State Department overall. The State Department spokesperson with whom the Blade spoke on Thursday reiterated Tillerson’s comment.

“The position of the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons will be retained and continue to be organized under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL),” said the spokesperson. “The department is looking to fill the position.”

The State Department has continued to support LGBT and intersex rights abroad since President Trump took office.

U.S. Ambassador to Chile Carol Pérez on Nov. 25 spoke at an LGBT and intersex rights rally in the country’s capital of Santiago that drew more than 100,000 people. Eric Catalfamo, a gay official with the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, earlier this month spoke at the opening of a same-sex marriage conference that took place in the country’s capital of San José.

The U.S., France and Brazil blocked Russian and Egyptian efforts to remove a gay-inclusive reference to discrimination from an Olympics resolution the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted on Nov. 13. The U.S. in September 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 “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 has publicly condemned the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdowns in Egypt and Azerbaijan that have spark outrage around the world.

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 State Department this year acknowledged Pride month, the Transgender Day of Remembrance and Intersex Awareness Day. Nauert last month promoted Spirit Day, which is a campaign that seeks to combat bullying.

Politics

Charlie Kirk smears Out Calif. State Sen. Scott Wiener on Twitter

“Kirk is leading the movement to slander gay men and trans people as ‘pedophiles’ and ‘groomers,’ & these heinous words have consequences”

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Charlie Kirk speaking on the 2021 Turning Point USA college tour (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

SAN FRANCISCO – In a lengthy tirade on Twitter Tuesday, far-right extremist radio chat show host Charles J. Kirk, while loosely channeling an InfoWars host Alex Jones style-attack, went after California State Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF District 11) implying that the veteran lawmaker endorses and supports child molestation.

Kirk, 29, is a co-founder of Turning Point USA, a conservative right-wing political group aimed at influencing college and university students and young people. Ironically, Kirk himself dropped out of Harper College, a junior community college near Chicago, without having completed any degree or certificate.

Kirk hosts a daily three-hour radio talk show, called The Charlie Kirk Show, on Salem Media which is known for owning conservative websites Townhall.com, RedState, Hot Air, and PJ Media, as well as Twitter aggregator Twitchy, calling itself a ” for-profit Christian broadcast corporation.”

He is also an avid supporter of impeached former president Donald Trump, consistently refers to himself as a MAGA Republican and has asserted that the concept of white privilege is a myth and a “racist lie.” He also has spread false information and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 on social media platforms, such as Twitter, in 2020.

Recently Kirk has been attacking the LGBTQ+ community on the subjects of trans youth and also following the lead of far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-GA) in attacking Senator Wiener:

Kirk’s attack on the senator commenced with: “Thousands of pedophiles in California are going free after just a few months in jail, thanks to the state’s radically reduced penalties for child molestation. One reason so many of these predators are going free so early is California lawmaker Scott Wiener.”

Then he went on to state in the thread: “That name and photo might ring a bell. Wiener is one of the most effective lawmakers in the entire country. He’s behind California’s new law that will protect parents who kidnap their children and take them to California to receive mutilating surgeries.

Wiener was also behind California’s law lowering penalties for intentionally spreading HIV to other people, and their law creating a third “nonbinary” gender for government documents.

If there’s some horrifying idea related to modern gender and sex ideology, Wiener has probably written and passed a bill about it in California.

If elected Republicans cared as much about their voters’ concerns as Scott Wiener cares about freeing pedophiles and mutilating children, they’d have won total victory long ago.”

Editor’s Note: It needs to be made clear, California has NOT reduced penalties for child molestation.

(REUTERS) Posts on Facebook claim that SB-145, a bill passed by the California State Senate on August 31, 2020 seeks to “legalize pedophilia.” This claim is false, as the bill is intended to reform the state’s sex offender registry to be fairer to young LGBT adults who may be in technical violation of statutory rape laws. The bill seeks to treat all statutory rape cases—regardless of what kind of sex they involve—equally.

Senator Wiener responded to Kirk’s attacks saying on Twitter:

Charlie Kirk — one of the biggest attention-seeking liars around — is spreading bald-faced lies about me. These statements are absolutely false & defamatory. These are the lies bigots have always spread about LGBTQ people — lies that lead to violence against our community.

In an emailed statement to the Blade Wiener said:

“LGBTQ leaders around the country are under attack by toxic, far-right ideologues and elected officials. These MAGA talking heads – whose party performed far worse than expected in the midterm elections – have no meaningful policy solutions for the issues facing our country. Instead, they are focused on slandering and demonizing gay and trans people, and using us as scapegoats. Specifically, they’re employing the age-old slander that LGBTQ people are threats to children, and that is what Greene and Kirk tweeted about me.

“Charlie Kirk is a prime example of this type of extremist right-wing grifter, and he joined Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene in tweeting about me repackaged versions of centuries-old homophobic lies. Kirk and Greene are leading the movement to slander gay men and trans people as ‘pedophiles’ and ‘groomers,’ and these heinous words have consequences. Be it the massacre at Club Q or the death threat I just received this morning referencing Kirk’s tweet, LGBTQ people everywhere are experiencing an onslaught of violence and threats.

“People like Kirk and Greene are a stain on our country, and they should be held accountable for spreading vile, homophobic misinformation.”

In his statement Wiener was referencing last week’s attack by Far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-GA) who 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.”

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 a tweet.

Equality California, the largest statewide LGBTQ equal rights advocacy group reacted to Kirk’s smears Wednesday afternoon. In an text message to the Blade, Equality California spokesperson Jorge Reyes Salinas said:

“It is disgusting but not surprising that days after a mass shooting fueled by dangerous rhetoric from extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Charlie Kirk posts lies to spread anti-LGBTQ+ hate. The statements made are false, defamatory and lead to violence  against our LGBTQ+ community. This is another performance to build up hatred.”

The organization had previously tweeted at Kirk defending the senator:

“This is a lie. It’s false, offensive and dangerous — the exact type of disinformation that has fueled violent attacks like the Club Q shooting in #ColoradoSprings. Shame on you, and shame on @elonmusk [Twitter owner and CEO] for allowing these dangerous lies to proliferate.”

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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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Politics

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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