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California governor’s race: Newsom’s new ad features 2004 marriages (video)

Happy Valentine’s Day

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People forget, but 14 years ago the fight for marriage equality abruptly changed. Since 1999, Marriage Equality USA in California organized Valentine’s Day “Freedom to Marry” protests at local city or county clerk’s offices where same sex couples would ask for a marriage license and be turned away. In Los Angeles, the occasion was regularly recognized by Robin Tyler and Diane Olson and Rev. Troy Perry and Phillip DeBlieck with their attorney Gloria Allred, who then held a news conference outside the Beverly Hills Courthouse decrying gay and lesbian second class citizenship.

But on Feb. 12, 2004, two days before Valentine’s Day, newly elected San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom shocked the world by not only announcing that the city and county would issue marriage licenses but that he would officiate at the first marriage himself, celebrating the 50 year love of icons Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

Newsom’s stunning decision was in reaction to President George W. Bush’s announcement in his State of the Union address that he supported a federal constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage and while same sex couples everywhere were elated, Democrats were furious. Newsom, they argued, just cost them the 2004 elections—and they were right as Bush’s brain, Karl Rove successfully drove anti-gay marriage initiatives in 11 states.

The LGBT community was forever grateful as he helped make full equality a serious political issue. Soon thereafter, Assemblymember Mark Leno authored AB 19, the marriage equality bill, with backing from Geoff Kors and Equality California—which made support for full equality a litmus test to win an endorsement. Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by Allred on Feb. 23, 2004  after Tyler and Perry tried for a marriage license again, also on Feb. 12, coupled with lawsuits filed after an injunction halted the thousands of same sex marriages that occurred between Feb. 11 and March 11 were consolidated into In Re Marriages.

On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled the ban on same sex marriages was unconstitutional. Newsom again officiated at the marriage of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. The two lesbian feminists were initially against participating in the patriarchal institution of marriage—but did so for the cause in 2004 and because friends like Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, asked them to. On June 16, 2008, they wanted to. Del Martin died 10 weeks later, on August 27, 2008.

There was some vindication for the mayor, but Newsom’s name was mud with many establishment Democrats for years after his bold action on marriage equality. During the initial contretemps in Feb. 2004, he declared that denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry “is wrong and inconsistent with the values this country holds dear.”

“I think we’re on firm legal footing and legal grounds, and certainly I believe very strongly and passionately we’re on the right moral ground,” Newsom said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

“I will not abdicate and step back and say what we were doing 10, 15 days ago — before this action — is appropriate,” Newsom said. “I do not believe it’s appropriate for me, as mayor of San Francisco, to discriminate against people.

“And if that means my political career ends, so be it.”

This Valentine’s Day, Newsom—who has already been endorsed by Equality California —released an online ad highlighting that once politically dangerous position as emblematic of why he should be elected California’s next governor. Robin Tyler and Diane Olson’s June 16, 2008 marriage is featured, too.

“Today we can confidently say is the first day in the state of California that we are providing marriage equally and fairly to everyone and denying no one their right and their opportunity to live their lives out loud,” says Newsom in the ad after Phyllis and Del’s 2004 marriage.

Newsom is betting the message holds true in the Trump era, too.

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Congress

Hakeem Jeffries makes history as new leader of House Democrats

Reps. Katherine Clark & Rep. Pete Aguilar become the new House Democratic Whip & House Democratic Caucus Chair

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New Democratic leadership team, Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-Ny.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) (Photo Credit: Office of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries)

WASHINGTON – With his election on Wednesday to take over as House Democratic minority leader next year, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Ny.) became the first ever Black lawmaker from either party who will serve in that role in either of the two chambers of Congress.

House Democrats also chose, for the second and third-highest ranking positions, Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Caif.). All ran unopposed and rather than by formal ballots were elected by voice vote for unanimous consent.

The moves signaled broad consensus among House Democrats in their decision to send the new slate of lawmakers, young and diverse with some progressive bona fides, to serve in the party’s senior leadership positions.

The three lawmakers are all members of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and longtime allies of the community. Jeffries, as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, introduced the Respect for Marriage Act in the House this summer.

The Caucus declined to comment on the House Democratic leadership elections.

When Aguilar succeeds Jeffries in that role next year, it will be the highest-ranking position in House leadership ever held by a Latino member. Clark, meanwhile, will become the second woman to serve as Democratic House Whip after Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the current House Speaker.

Pelosi announced on Nov. 18 her plans to step down from House Democratic leadership after the next Congress is seated. She made history in 2001 as the first woman elected to the second highest-ranking position in the chamber, and then again in 2007 when she took the top slot, becoming the first woman Speaker of the House.

Following her announcement, Pelosi was celebrated for her many legislative accomplishments at the top of her party’s caucus, where she served for two decades under four presidents. A Washington Post column called Pelosi the “best speaker in US. history.”

Considering that Pelosi also presided over some of the biggest legislative milestones in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, such as the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Jeffries has a high bar to clear when he’s handed the torch in January.

Jeffries is distinguished for his vocal support of the LGBTQ community

In addition to his leadership on the Respect for Marriage Act, Jeffries has been a major advocate in Congress for other pro-LGBTQ pieces of legislation like the Equality Act and, in 2014, the Hate Crime Reporting Act.

Jeffries has been a vocal champion of measures to make the U.S. Capitol more welcoming for transgender and gender nonconforming people – such as by calling for single-occupancy gender-neutral restrooms on the Hill and rules that would adopt gender-neutral language in the House.

He has also spoken out forcefully against anti-LGBTQ hate from some members of the House Republican caucus, such as the dangerous rhetoric from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who has repeatedly tried to link queer people to child sexual abuse.

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Congress

Rep. Raul Ruiz calls for ending IRS rule for same-sex couples 

The letter comes after the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage

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Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) meeting constituents (Photo Credit: Office of Congressman Ruiz)

WASHINGTON – In a letter sent to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Thursday, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) led over 50 members of Congress in calling for the IRS to reverse current regulations that prevent some same-sex couples from receiving survivor benefits. 

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act allows qualified retirement plans to establish a one-year marriage duration requirement for survivor’s benefits, and in 2014 the IRS issued guidance clarifying that these rules apply equally to same-sex couples — meaning if a same-sex couple was not married for the required length of time prior to one spouse’s death, the surviving spouse would not qualify for pension survivor benefits.  

However, in many cases, couples were not legally allowed to be married for long enough to meet that requirement, since unconstitutional laws barring same-sex couples from marriage remained in effect until 2015. For same-sex survivors for whom marriage equality came too late, the one-year marriage duration requirement poses a total bar to access their loved one’s benefits.

“It is imperative that the IRS clarify that a qualified retirement plan will be disqualified if it fails to provide these same-sex survivors barred from marrying with an equal path to survivor’s benefits despite their having been unable to meet the one-year marriage duration requirement before the employee’s death,” Dr. Ruiz and the members wrote. While plans would retain discretion regarding whether to have a marriage duration requirement at all, where they do so, such requirements should not be allowed to further penalize those same-sex survivors who already felt the sting of discrimination while their loved ones were still alive.”  

The letter comes after the U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. The legislation also safeguards against the denial of any benefit, right, or status of an otherwise eligible person or entity – including tax-exempt status, tax treatment, grants, contracts, agreements, guarantees, educational funding, loans, scholarships, licenses, certifications, accreditations, claims, or defenses – provided that the benefit, right, or status does not arise from a marriage. 

Dr. Ruiz’s letter was inspired by a Palm Springs constituent who has faced roadblocks from receiving his survivor benefits for years due to the IRS policy. 

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District of Columbia

Portrait of Matthew Shepard dedicated at National Cathedral

“It’s amazing how similar & what a great job [the artist] has done to make it look like and showing the essence of Matt,” said Dennis Shepard

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Judy and Dennis Shepard stand in front of a portrait of their son, Matthew. Matthew Shepard was honored at a ceremony on Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

WASHINGTON – Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime while tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyo., will be honored at a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral dedicating a newly commissioned portrait of Shepard.

Officials at the cathedral said the portrait by artist Kelly Latimore and commissioned by LGBTQ members of the Cathedral staff, is the only artistic image of Matthew Shepard created in collaboration with Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who were present during the ceremony.

Matthew Shepard’s ashes were interred at the Washington National Cathedral in 2018, 20 years after his death. The Cathedral announced in a statement this week that the Dec. 1 dedication of the Shepard portrait would also take place on what would have been Shepard’s 46th birthday.

A Thanksgiving and Celebration of Matthew Shepard service was held on October 26, 2018 at the Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“The horrific murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs are a tragic reminder that our LGBTQ friends and family continue to be targeted for who they love, and Matthew Shepard’s legacy reminds us of the urgency to confront bigotry and embrace people of all backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations,” said The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, in a statement.

Events surrounding the portrait dedication began with a 7 a.m. online prayer service “to celebrate and recall Matthew Shepard’s life,” the statement released by the Cathedral says. The service was led by Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

The Cathedral next hosted a preview of the portrait for the news media at 10:30 a.m., where Dennis and Judy Shepard talked about the portrait and their son’s life and the impact his death had on the nation’s understanding of hate crimes.

“It’s amazing how similar and what a great job that Kelly [Latimore] has done to make it look like Matt and showing the essence of Matt,” Dennis Shepard told the Washington Blade while viewing the portrait in the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where the portrait was on display.

Artist Latimore, who also spoke to reporters during the morning briefing at the chapel, said he was moved in his discussions with Judy and Dennis Shepard while getting ready to begin work on the painting by copies of dozens of letters they sent him that had been sent to the Shepards by people across the country after their son’s death.

Latimore included written excerpts from dozens of those letters as the background to his portrait of Matthew Shepard, which can be seen and read when standing close to the portrait.

Artist Kelly Latimore (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

“Matthew will not be forgotten,” an excerpt from one of the letters on the portrait says.
Dennis and Judy Shepard created the Matthew Shepard Foundation shortly after Matthew’s death, which has been credited with playing a lead role in advocating for the passage by Congress in 2009 of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The measure was the first federal hate crime statute that expanded the coverage of the federal hate crimes law to include a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class.

President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act on Oct. 22, 2009. (Washington Blade archive photo by Michael Key)

The Cathedral was to open its St. Joseph’s Chapel from 2-5 p.m. on Thursday to visitors where the Matthew Shepard portrait was on display. Dennis and Judy Shepard were scheduled to be present to greet visitors.

According to the statement released by the Cathedral, later in the evening at 7 p.m., the portrait was to be officially dedicated in a private service in the Cathedral’s crypt near the site where Shepard’s ashes were interred.

“A longtime supporter of the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the church, the Cathedral considers LGBTQ equality one of the great civil rights issues of the 21st century,” the statement released by the Cathedral says.

One of the two men charged with Matthew Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to a murder charge in exchange for an agreement by prosecutors not to seek a death sentence. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The other man charged in the murder, Aaron McKinney, pleaded not guilty and went to trial, where he was convicted of murder by a jury. In a dramatic statement before the judge at the conclusion of the trial, Dennis Shepard announced and he and his wife had asked prosecutors and the judge to spare McKinney from being sentenced to death, something he said McKinney did not do while fatally striking his son in the head multiple times with the barrel of a gun after the two men tied him to a fence post in a remote field outside Laramie.

The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.

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Federal Government

One million plus same-sex households in U.S., California has most

Data also revealed that roughly 710,000 of the same-sex couple households were married and about 500,000 were unmarried

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US Census Bureau Headquarters, Suitland, Maryland (Photo Credit: Photo by Hubert Dobson, U.S. Census Bureau)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Census Bureau last week released a report that detailed that there were about 1.2 million same-sex couple households in the United States in 2021. Data also revealed that roughly 710,000 of the same-sex couple households were married and about 500,000 were unmarried.

Since 2005 the number of same-sex households in the U.S. has steadily increased, with about 540,000 reported in 2008 and then in 2019, the last year the Census reported data, there were about 980,000 same-sex households in the country.

The data, based on American Community Survey (ACS), which shows estimates from 2005 through 2021, was not released in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 on ACS data collection.

Other highlights from the release:

  • The average age of householders in same-sex married couples (48.9 years) was lower than in opposite-sex married couples (52.8 years). But the average age of householders in same-sex unmarried couples (42.0 years) was higher than in opposite-sex unmarried couples (39.9 years).
  • The share of female-female and male-male couples with both partners employed did not differ significantly, though median household income in female same-sex couple households ($92,470) was lower than in male same-sex couple households ($116,800).
  • Both partners had at least a bachelor’s degree in a larger share of same-sex (29.6%) than opposite-sex (18.1%) unmarried couples.
  • A larger share of same-sex (31.6%) than opposite-sex (18.4%) married couples were interracial.
  • The District of Columbia (2.5%) had the highest percentage of same-sex couple households of any state or state equivalent. California has the most same-sex households at 163,964.
  • States with the highest number of same-sex households include Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Delaware, Oregon, California, Florida and New York, all of which include more than 1 percent of same-sex households in the total household population.

This is the second time the Census Bureau has released ACS estimates of same-sex couple households since revising the survey’s relationship to householder question to more accurately capture same-sex relationships.

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Middle East

Far-right Israeli politician vows to cancel Jerusalem Pride parade

Avi Maoz rebuked by Benjamin Netanyahu

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Avi Maoz (Screen capture via i24NEWS English YouTube)

JERUSALEM — A far-right Israeli politician on Wednesday said the country’s new government should not allow the annual Jerusalem Pride parade to take place.

Walla News Diplomatic Correspondent Barak Ravid noted Avi Maoz, a member of the Israeli Knesset who is a member of the far-right Noam party, told the Olam Katan newspaper the incoming government needs “to cancel the Jerusalem Pride parade.”

“It’s a disgrace,” said Maoz. “I am as serious as I can be. It didn’t come up in the coalition agreement, but I am not hiding, I want it cancelled.”

President Isaac Herzog has asked Netanyahu to form a government after his Likud Party won the election that took place on Nov. 1. Maoz’s party is among those that could form a coalition government with Netanyahu as prime minister.

WDG, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel, previously reported Maoz promotes an anti-LGBTQ agenda based on the preservation of family values.

Ravid noted Netanyahu has said the Jerusalem Pride parade “will continue.”

“My government will not harm the rights of the LGBT community or any of Israel’s citizens,” said Netanyahu. 

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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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