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Equality California endorses Gavin Newsom for Governor

Battle over LGBT vote begins

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Gavin Newsom (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Equality California formally endorsed Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom for Governor of California on Tuesday. Newsom, who famously stood for marriage equality as Mayor of San Francisco when President George W. Bush advocated for a constitutional amendment to ban it, is running against fellow Democrats former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang  and former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin.

All the Democratic candidates back LGBT equality but Newsom and Villaraigosa have been on the frontlines in numerous battles.

“We were fortunate to have a number of strong allies with longtime records of strong support for LGBTQ equality and social justice,” says the EQCA press release. “However, in this race, one candidate stood out and the choice was clear. Based on the historical significance of his actions to support marriage equality in California, his longstanding commitment to LGBTQ civil rights and social justice throughout his public service career, his greater understanding of the challenges that face the LGBTQ community and his commitment to solving these problems with innovative ideas, specific policy solutions, and funding, Equality California strongly endorses Gavin Newsom for Governor.”

Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California, underscored the significance of that stand when Newsom, EQCA’s Geoff Kors and National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Kate Kendell, among others, orchestrated Newsom officiating at the wedding of icons Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon in 2004. That move, which he said he decided after hearing Bush advocate for the constitutional amendment in his 2004 State of the Union address, initially cost him dearly politically, with some prominent Democrats refusing to acknowledge him and giving him poor placement in party speaking engagements.

“Advancing civil rights and social justice for LGBTQ people is one of the defining priorities for Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom,” Zbur said. “He not only stood up boldly and publicly for marriage equality when it was not supported by a majority of Californians and when doing so presented significant political risks, but he has continued to be one of our community’s most dedicated champions in the years since, always on the forefront of the fight to advance LGBTQ civil rights both within California and nationally.”

Antonio Villaraigosa (and children) at CSW Pride parade in early 1990s with Stonewall Democratic Club president Eric Bauman (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

But Villaraigosa actually has a longer, equally intense—if less nationally visible—history of support for both marriage equality and LGBT rights from his first meeting with Stonewall Democrats. In fact, Villaraigosa befriended California’s first out state legislator, Sheila Kuehl, when they were elected in 1994 and put his Assembly Speakership on the line in 1998 to pass out Assemblymember Sheila Kuehl’s “Dignity for All Students” bill.

Newsom got involved in local politics two years earlier, in 1996, when San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown appointed the businessman to a vacant seat on the Parking and Traffic Commission. The next year, Brown appointed him to the Board of Supervisors, where he easily won reelection in 1998. A 32-year old moderate representing a rich, heavily Republican district, Newsom ran unopposed in 2000 but nonetheless paid the San Francisco Republican Party $500 to be on their endorsement slate. That was the year the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Texas Gov. George W. Bush over Vice President Al Gore. At this point, nothing in Newsom’s public advocacy  indicated that he would become a national LGBT hero.

Villaraigosa, meanwhile, not only fought in the Assembly alongside Kuehl, who has endorsed him for governor,  but he chaired the No on Prop 22 campaign and personally contributed $10,000 to fight the anti-gay marriage measure in 2000.

When Villaraigosa won his race for LA Mayor in 2005, he said the LGBT vote was second only to the Latino vote in turnout for him. In 2012, he was out in front of President Obama as chair of the Democratic National Convention in advocating for marriage equality to be put in the party platform. As one of his last acts before being termed out of office in 2013, Villaraigosa officiated at the wedding of Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami at LA City Hall. While appearing at several LGBT events since then, Villaraigosa may not be as familiar to younger LGBT voters in 2018.

Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa at LA LGBT Pride in 2009. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

So, since both candidates strongly support LGBT rights, why did EQCA select Newsom? According to Zbur, it had to do with depth of knowledge and a vision for the future.

“In our endorsement process, Newsom stood out in his understanding of the challenges and priorities of the LGBTQ community, including the need to address the disparities in health and wellbeing faced by LGBTQ people, including: extremely high rates of homelessness, violence, depression, suicide, substance abuse, poverty, school drop out, bullying and lack of acceptance, and lower rates of health insurance coverage,” Zbur said. “He presented specific policy proposals to address these needs, which are aligned with Equality California’s organizational priorities and mission.

Gavin Newsom with Prop 8 plaintiffs Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami at a Victory Fund event in 2014 (photo by Karen Ocamb)

“Although a number of candidates have been strong allies of our community,” Zbur continued, “Newsom’s in-depth understanding and prioritization of our community’s needs, his specific policy proposals to address them, and demonstrable and continuous record fighting for LGBTQ civil rights and social justice makes him the clear choice for the LGBTQ community for California Governor in 2018.”

The primary will be held on June 5, with the top two winners competing to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown on Nov. 6, 2018. According to the LA Times,  the election could

be decided by Angelinos, “where 1 in 4 of the state’s voters live.” Equality California’s endorsement assures that the LA-based statewide lobbying organization will focus on turning out their members.

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California Politics

Race to the Midterms Preview: Victory Fund’s Annise Parker

MAGA GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy only needs five seats to take back the Speaker’s gavel from fellow Californian Nancy Pelosi

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Annise Parker (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The tension is nearly intolerable. Just six weeks until the Nov. 8 midterm elections and headaches abound. Will voters really stick to tradition and give Republicans, the party out of power, congressional gains over quixotic turns in the economy, despite the GOP promise to pass a federal ban on abortion? California’s MAGA Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy only needs five seats to take back the Speaker’s gavel from fellow Californian, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.   

And it’s not just the House. “Yes, Democrats’ fortunes have improved, but the most likely outcome of the midterm elections is still a shift in power to the Republicans — and bigger headaches for President Biden over the next two years,” Axios reported Saturday. “Despite the streak of discouraging news, Republicans still have a clear path to retaking the Senate majority. They only need to net one seat to win back the upper chamber, and there are plenty of paths to get there even if many of their recruits fizzle out.”

Why are our LGBTQ leaders not screaming from the rafters? Report after report after report warns that LGBTQ people are at risk of not only losing access to the fruits and freedoms of democracy — including the First Amendment right to free speech — but could be erased state by state by state by state without more than a flareup of protest.  

“On March 28, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that effectively bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida’s schools. The so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill creates new restrictions on classroom speech around LGBT people and same-sex families and empowers parents to sue a school if the policy is violated, chilling any talk of LGBT themes lest schools or teachers face potentially costly litigation,” the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law recently reported. “This bill is the latest in a record-setting year of legislation targeting LGBT people: in 2022 alone, more than 200 anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in state legislatures across a range of issues, with a majority targeting transgender individuals,” despite a recent PRRI poll showing that 79 percent of Americans favor laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination. 

“LGBT rights are the canary in the coal mine of democratic backsliding,” the report continues. “Authoritarian leaders may target LGBT people precisely because their rights are seen as less institutionalized than other groups….Even Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill was explicitly modeled after similar efforts in Hungary.  Against this backdrop, we should recognize the propagation of anti-LGBT laws in the U.S. for what it signifies: an existential threat to our inclusive democracy.”

One leader traveling around the country, raising the alarm and raising the stakes for the LGBTQ community facing the midterms is former Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker, now President and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the Victory Institute. Founded in 1991 with two LGBTQ candidates, the Victory Fund has now endorsed and promoted more than 450 out candidates seeking election on Nov. 8 to not only congressional seats but down-ballot state and local seats, as well. Victory’s Political Team is also on the ground campaigning and getting out the vote in states such Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Minnesota, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Connecticut. 

In the upcoming special episode of Race to the Midterms, produced by Karen Ocamb and Max Huskins in conjunction with the Los Angeles Blade, we talk to Annise Parker about the state of the nation and the Out candidates running to make America better.

“Our candidates win at the same rate that any other candidates win,” says Parker. “When you control for your experience and the demographics of the district and the quality of the campaign, which is a really good sign. , and the fact that more and more people are acknowledging their gender identity or their sexual orientation — for us, having been in this game for so many decades with a singular purpose, whether someone is successful, I mean, we do want to see candidates win, but whether they ultimately are successful at the ballot box — when they run as their authentic selves, they’re true to themselves, they’re comfortable in their own skin, it has a transformative effect. And we’re excited about the possibilities this year.”

Check LosAngelesBlade.com later today to see the full interview and clips of some of the candidates Parker highlights. 

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Anti-LGBTQ+ Libs of TikTok hit with [another] 7 day suspension

LGBTQ activists pushed for Twitter to permanently ban Libs of TikTok from its platform permanently although so far no actions have been taken

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Chaya Raichik (Screenshot/YouTube Fox News)

SAN FRANCISCO – The social media account Libs of TikTok, known for its attacks against LGBTQ people, was suspended from Twitter for seven days on Sunday, according to a letter made public Wednesday.

James Lawrence III, a lawyer at the Raleigh-based Envisage Law representing Raichik, sent the letter to Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde – requesting the account be reinstated. It claims Twitter “again wrongfully” suspended Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok. 

The Los Angeles Blade reached out to Gadde for comment. The request has not yet been returned. 

The account has not made a post on Twitter since Sunday. 

Libs of TikTok has grabbed headlines for spreading what advocates call anti-LGBTQ hate speech. In August, the account was temporarily suspended from Meta’s Facebook for falsehoods attacking Boston Children’s Hospital’s gender-affirming treatments. The hospital received “well over a dozen distinct threats” following a harassment campaign, according to FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonta.

More recently, the American Library Association (ALA) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray expressing concerns about the ongoing serious threats directed toward libraries, asking the FBI to launch an investigation. Raichik, a former Brooklyn real estate agent, promulgated many of the disruptions and threats on social media. 

“Our client’s reporting may be offensive to Twitter users, including users who identify with protected categories, but that is not sufficient in and of itself to cut LOTT off from your company’s platform and our client’s audience,” Lawrence wrote. 

According to the letter, Twitter has suspended the account multiple times – the last coming a month ago. 

In a Substack blog post, Raichik said she is the target of a “harassment campaign from the Left to deplatform” her.

“The truth is I haven’t engaged in hateful conduct,” she said. “I’ve just exposed the Left’s depravity by reporting the facts. There’s no rule against that, so they have to make up violations I’ve never committed.”

A spokesperson for GLAAD, an LGBTQ media advocacy group, previously told the Blade the account was “synonymous with maliciously targeting LGBTQ organizations, people, and allies by posting lies, misinformation, and blatant hate,”

In addition, Raichik said she is “not taking it lying down,” vowing to sue Twitter if it permanently suspends her Libs of TikTok account. She also asked for donations through her legal defense fund to cover “legal fees associated with fighting back against not only Big Tech, but every single media outlet that has lied about me to try and get me deplatformed.”

On Twitter, LGBTQ activists pushed for Twitter to permanently ban Libs of TikTok from its platform. 

“They need to be suspended PERMANENTLY,” said Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic. “No other account has gotten this much special consideration or consecutive lockouts without a permanent suspension. It’s clear they are getting special treatment.”

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

American Library Association asks FBI to investigate threats

The letter also specified attacks on social media platforms. Many of these threats have been initiated specifically over LGBTQ+ books

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Chicago headquarters buildings of the American Library Association, (ALA) (Photo Credit: ALA)

CHICAGO – On Monday the executive board of the American Library Association (ALA) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray expressing concerns about the ongoing serious threats directed towards public and school libraries and library workers since last Spring and asking Wray to launch an FBI investigation.

While the ALA Executive Board didn’t state there was a direct connection between recent threats and opposition to library materials and programs, the board on behalf of its member libraires expressed deep concerns over the volume and intensity of the threats which have included violent disruptions of programs and verbal threats of physical harm.

The letter highlighted bombing or shooting threats that forced the temporary closures of Hawaii State Public Library System, Salt Lake City Public Library System, the Denver Public Library, the Fort Worth Public Library and the Nashville Public Library.

The letter also specified attacks on social media platforms over the past year. Many of these threats have been initiated specifically over LGBTQ+ books or books on race, along with violent threats and disruptions over drag queen story hours across the nation.

Notably, many of the disruptions and threats are promulgated by the Twitter account of Chaya Raichik, a former Brooklyn, New York real estate agent, who appears to be negatively obsessed with LGBTQ+ people.

When Raichik tweets to her 1.3 million followers, violence or threats of threats inevitably follow. The people acting on her tweets are very often members of the white supremacist group the Proud Boys, who analysts say have targeted nearly every event Libs of Tik Tok has tweeted about, and who rarely or never target events she doesn’t tweet about.

Raichik also zealously targets transgender people with special emphasis on spreading lies and propaganda as she has reintroduced Anita Bryant 1970’s era far-right anti-LGBTQ+ ideology and language, defining trans females and gay men as “groomers” which has reinvigorated anti-LGBTQ+ extremists.

“Libs of TikTok is synonymous with maliciously targeting LGBTQ organizations, people, and allies by posting lies, misinformation, and blatant hate,” said a GLAAD spokesperson to the Blade.

In addition to the FBI Director, with a copy forwarded to Merrick Garland, Attorney General of the United States, the ALA is cautioning its members, urging that the “safety of library workers and patrons must be a priority. We encourage directors, supervisors and managers to review their institution’s safety procedures with all staff so that everyone knows how to respond if they receive a threat or are threatened directly.”

Transcript of the letter:

LETTER OF CONCERN TO FBI re: threats of violence in libraries: September 27, 2022

September 27, 2022

The Honorable Christopher A. Wray
Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20535

Dear Director Wray:

We, members of the executive board of the American Library Association (ALA), are writing to register our concern over threats that are being directed at public libraries and library workers. In the past two weeks, bombing or shooting threats forced the temporary closures of Hawaii State Public Library System, Salt Lake City Public Library System, the Denver Public Library, the Fort Worth Public Library and the Nashville Public Library.

The bombing and shooting threats in these five metropolitan libraries come on the heels of other threats to library workers in school and public libraries, who have been increasingly targeted by violent disruptions of programs and verbal threats of physical harm, as well as attacks on social media platforms over the past year. In addition to documented instances reported in the media in recent months, library workers are reporting to ALA that they are receiving direct threats. We are concerned that these threats, some of which include the disclosure of personal details and false and defamatory claims, may lead to actual violence towards library workers.

Given the seriousness and proliferation of these threats of violence and other acts of intimidation increasingly taking place in America’s libraries, we are gravely concerned for the safety of library workers and the millions of Americans who visit libraries each day.

We appreciate your attention to our concern about these threats to libraries and library workers and ask that you initiate an investigation as to whether there is any connection among them.

Sincerely,

The Executive Board of the American Library Association

Cc: The Honorable Merrick Garland, Attorney General of the United States

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