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Maxine Waters: You have a right to be angry at Trump (video)

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Adam Rippon also make waves

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LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 10: Congresswoman Maxine Waters speaks onstage during The Human Rights Campaign 2018 Los Angeles Gala Dinner at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on March 10, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Human Rights Campaign (HRC))

Longtime LGBT ally Rep. Maxine Waters sliced ‘n diced, jabbed, up-ended and eviscerated Donald Trump at the Human Rights Campaign gala at the JW Marriott on Saturday, just as the politically hungry crowd hoped she would, calling the Republican president “one of the most dishonorable, deceitful, and despicable people ever to hold public office.”

But what really happened at the HRC gala conveyed a broader message than appeared in the headlines about Waters’ impassioned speech. Reactions to bisexual centrist Arizona Democrat Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who is running for the US Senate, and non-political Olympic bronze medal winner Adam Rippon suggest that out-of-power Democrats, keen on the fierce urgency of saving a crumbling democracy, are foregoing any absolutist litmus test to win voter support in the 2018 midterms.

Maxine Waters, affectionately adopted by millennials as their “Auntie Maxine,” did not disappoint audience expectations, running through a litany of Trump’s crass affronts to human decency—such as pretending he was shooting hoops as he tossed paper towels at desperate Puerto Ricans seeking hurricane relief to supporting reliably accused pedophile Roy Moore in his Alabama Senate race. She also ticked off a list of “hostile overtures” toward the LGBTQ community, including the Trump/Pence proposed ban on open transgender service in the military.

Waters also pledged allegiance to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials to interfere with the 2016 election, as well as corruption and attempts by the administration to obstruct justice.

“I have so much faith in him. I like the work that he’s doing. I organized most of the Democrats to send a letter of support,” she said, going off teleprompter. “And in the final analysis I think he’s going to get him. And if for some reason he is not able to get him, I’m counting on Stormy to do it.”

Waters was referring to porn star Stormy Daniels who is suing Trump over a “hush agreement” about their alleged sexual affair. Daniels has taped an interview with Anderson Cooper for “60 Minutes” that Trump’s lawyers are trying to block. Daniels says she’ll repay the $130,000 in “hush money” to be able to speak freely. New York Times columnist Charles Blow posits that Trump’s wife Melania probably knew about the hook up, which started four months after the birth of their son, Barron. The affair has made Trump’s character headline news and perhaps just a tad too much sinning for his white female evangelical base.

The HRC/LA audience was primed for Waters’ blistering retort to Trump, who on Saturday continued his racist attacks on the African American congresswoman at a campaign rally for a Pennsylvania special House election. “We have to defeat Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters, a very low I.Q. individual,” Trump said, as the crowd booed. “You ever see her? You ever seen her? You ever see her? ‘We will impeach him! We will impeach the president!’ But he hasn’t done anything wrong. It doesn’t matter, we will impeach him! She’s a low I.Q. individual. You can’t help it. She really is.”

Waters has been calling for Trump’s impeachment since Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, saying in a May 2017 tweet that “Donald Trump should follow his FBI Director out the door.”

 

Maxine Waters marches with Black AIDS founder Phill Wilson and “Empire’s” Jussie Smollett at the June 2017 #ResistMarch (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Waters gave one of her most rousing calls for impeachment at the #ResistMarch in West Hollywood last June.

“He’s not my president! He’s not your president! He lies. He cheats. He’s a bully. He disrespects us all. If he thinks he can mess with the LGBT community, he better look at what happened right here in West Hollywood! You deny, you disrespect and you will find that there are the people who have the courage to organize and to take back whatever needs to be taken back. We resist this president because he stands for the worst of everything,” Waters said to almost unending applause. “I know that people may not quite be ready. I know that some are a little hesitant. I know that some are saying, ‘I’m not so sure, Maxine, what you’re saying is the right thing to say.’ But I’m saying: Impeach 45!”

But re-taking the House and Senate is required to move beyond rhetorical and nose-thumbing resistance. That means disrupting and protesting harmful actions—and finding ways to compromise, negotiate and move the levers off full-throttle hatred. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is among those who want Waters to temper her protests and chill on the impeachment talk lest persuadable independents and disgruntled Republicans voters are turned off by constant opposition with no solutions.

Enter Kyrsten Sinema who is as fiercely for bipartisan outreach as Waters is for impeachment. Interestingly, while the HRC crowd salivated over Waters’ fire and fury, they were also respectfully quiet, listened carefully and applauded as Sinema, the bisexual “problem solver” running for Senate in the deep red state of Arizona, espoused the virtues of bipartisanship and veered away from anything that could be misconstrued and misused against her.

Most politicos know Arizona is a must-win state if the Democrats want to retake the Senate. But it didn’t hurt that Sinema was introduced by Josh Duhamel, one of the stars of gay director Greg Berlanti’s new film, “Love, Simon.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 10: Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema speaks onstage at The Human Rights Campaign 2018 Los Angeles Gala Dinner at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on March 10, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Human Rights Campaign (HRC))

In a relatively soft-spoken manner, with flashes of humor, Sinema talked about meeting people where they are in life and seeking commonality. For instance, Sinema, the first member of Congress to finish an Ironman triatholon in 2013, said she teaches a bipartisan spin class—“that’s when yelling is appropriate.”

But while she says both parties must work together to get something done, Sinema’s also mindful of the importance of character—she says she has not nor will she take campaign money from the NRA.

“As opportunities for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters have grown exponentially over the last decade, we know there is still so much left to do,” she told the HRC crowd. “It’s up to us to make certain that being gay, lesbian bisexual or transgender will never again be an impediment to success. These battles will take place on many fronts. Under our new president, that has unfortunately meant returning to some of the fights we thought we left behind us,” she said to applause, including “that everyone who serves in our military is treated with the respect and dignity that the uniform requires.”

Jeff Zarrillo, Chad Griffin, and Paul Katami (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

After acknowledging the 17th anniversary of federal Prop 8 plaintiffs Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami with whom he previously worked through the American Foundation for Equal Rights, HRC President Chad Griffin brought back the fun of throwing of political shade.

“We are living in a different world than we were just a couple of years ago,” Griffin said. “Living through this moment can be truly exhausting. Every time we think this president’s behavior can’t get any more erratic, or that this vice president’s attacks on our community can’t get any more repugnant, it’s like clockwork—a news alert lights up our phones to prove us all wrong yet again.

“By the way,” Griffin continued, “have you ever wondered why Mike Pence is so obsessed with gay people? Wouldn’t you love to see his brower’s history?”

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 10: HRC President Chad Griffin speaks onstage at The Human Rights Campaign 2018 Los Angeles Gala Dinner at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on March 10, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Human Rights Campaign (HRC))

Then Griffin got serious, matching the political moment. “With all the insanity that comes out of Washington, it’s tempting to want to simply give up. To tune out; to turn it all off,” he said. “But you know what—that’s exactly what Donald Trump and Mike Pence and their entire cabinet of deplorables are hoping we’ll do. They want us to stop paying attention long enough for them to implement their bigoted blue print for America. But we can’t give in. We can’t grown complacent. We can’t back down. And together we have got to keep holding Donald Trump’s tiny little hands to the fire every single day.”

Griffin talked about the trans activism of Blossom Brown and Sarah McBride, HRC’s 24/7 rapid response team and HRC Rising, the organization’s “proactive grassroots campaign” that has identified millions of LGBT voters and 52 million “equality voters,” as well. Democrat Doug Jones’ Alabama win over Roy Moore was “only a preview of things to come,” Griffin said. “If we can win in Alabama, we can win anywhere.”

HRC President Chad Griffin with newly engaged trans activist Gigi Gorgeous and trans HRC spokesperson Sarah McBride (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Griffin’s message for politicians who stand on the wrong side of history: “we’re organized, we’re mobilize and we’re coming for you on Election Day.”

Griffin also said HRC and its members must remember icon Harvey Milk’s admonition to “always give them hope” and the importance of coming out. That was more that upheld by gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy, who presented his friend and fellow Olympic medal winner Adam Rippon with HRC’s Visibility Award. Kenworthy noted Rippon’s “graceful” skating that was also “a little bit ratchet.” He said they were proud to represent the US in the Winter Olympics and while they felt love and support, they also experienced a backlash and hatred.

“But neither of us toned it down,” Kenworthy said.

The crowd may have expected Rippon to comment on Vice President Mike Pence, whose call he refused to take because of Pence’s support for so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBT people. Instead, Rippon riffed on Maxine Waters.

Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Rippon said his mother found a photo of the skater and Waters and texted him, saying “my hero.” He texted her back, asking “which one?” After a comedic pause, Rippon said his mother texted back, saying: “’Good luck with your speech tonight.’ So Maxine Waters—thank you for all that you do, including stealing my mother’s love.”

Everyone laughed. But that was it for politics, per se. Mindful of the thousands of young people who would watch the video of his remarks online, Rippon gave an intensely moving speech about coming out.

“When I was little I used to care so much about what others thought of me,” the ice skater said said. “I was mindful of the way I dressed, my mannerisms, the way I talked. I was afraid people would think I was weak. I was afraid of making mistakes. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be welcomed by the LGBTQ community because someone like me wouldn’t be the role model they were looking for. Maybe I was too gay, and maybe I was just too myself.

“Throughout my life, I have fallen short many times. I have felt depressed. I felt not good enough. And I felt like there would never be a day where I would feel like I belong. I was living life afraid. I remember hearing the quote, ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ I remember really hearing it, and honestly asking myself, ‘What would I do differently?’ I remember making the choice to be unafraid.

“I made the choice to not care what others thought of who I was,” he continued. “I was going to be truly me. This was the biggest and most important decision I’d ever made: To live fearlessly. To take risks. To let go of my fear of what others may think of me, and to always keep learning. You will find that you will have your greatest success when you wear your scars proudly. Through my shortcomings and from my successes, I’ve learned that a champion is more than a medal. It’s a mindset.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 10: Visibility Award recipient Adam Rippon speaks onstage at The Human Rights Campaign 2018 Los Angeles Gala Dinner at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on March 10, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Human Rights Campaign (HRC))

Rippon reminded many that the act of coming out as authentically who you are is a political act of courage. “[You] are smarter than you think,” Rippon said. “You hold more strength than you may ever know. You are powerful. No matter where you have come from or where you are going to, there is someone who looks up to you, and they will find inspiration in your strength of just being yourself. Be a role model, and never forget that you can be someone’s champion. You are a winner. When we all come together, we can change the world.”

Brian Pendleton. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

There were many in the ballroom who grasped HRC’s four prong approach for the evening—unapologetic challenge, bipartisan outreach, grassroots activism, and “the personal is political” coming out stories—but perhaps none wore their politics better than Brian Pendleton, philanthropist, grassroots organizer of last year’s #ResistMarch, and flashy dresser, featuring purple sequins on this Saturday night. Pendleton learned political fundraising from the late Dr. Scott Hitt, who helped found ANGLE (Access Now for Gay & Lesbian Equality). After Stonewall and the incremental successes against bigotry in the 1970s, the Religious Right was born in 1977 with Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. The Religious Right flourished under President Ronald Reagan, who allowed HIV/AIDS to turn into a worldwide pandemic. Until the early 1990s when ACT UP and ANGLE and other groups fought back to save lives.

Millennials and students against gun violence have awakened to find civil rights activists fought for being rolled back and a callous administration too untrustworthy to be believed. And the Religious Right, thanks to Mike Pence, has a constant presence in the Oval Office. But as Teri Polo and Sherri Saum of “The Fosters” and Jen Slipakoff, mother of 8-year old trans dancer Allie, explained—the LGBT community is no longer unto itself alone.

Rep. Maxine Waters (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Maxine Waters made that connection during the HRC dinner, putting this fight in historic context: “No one has done more for you than you have done for yourselves.”

Then Waters named some of the gay people who “helped me become who I am today”—Morris Kight, Sheldon Andelson, Jewel Thais-Williams, Carl Bean, and David Mixner.

Every march she has gone to since November 2016, Waters said, has had one message: keep on fighting.

“I wanted everyone to know they had a right to be angry about the election of Trump—that this president is not normal—but that all is not lost. Because each of us has the power to set this country back on track,” Waters said. “I feel very confident and hopeful about the future because I know there’s so many people here tonight and in cities and towns across the United States who are about to reclaim their time – and reclaim this country. So we are counting on all of you to show up during the 2018 midterms and vote for people who will restore this democracy and uphold everything that we have fought for to advance LGBTQ equality.”

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Maine

High school students in Maine rescue Pride parade & festival

Maine’s motto is “Dirigo” Latin for “I Lead.” In keeping with that spirit a group of teens stepped up to make sure Pride happens this year

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Belfast Area High School/Facebook

BELFAST, Me. – Located at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River estuary on Belfast Bay and Penobscot Bay, Belfast is a coastal city of 6,938 people and county seat for Waldo County, 51 miles Southwest of Bangor.

The city is known for being a significant tourist destination in the region over the years due to its antique buildings, historic districts, theater and arts, delicious food, and opportunities to get out into nature.

This year it will be a destination for LGBTQ+ Mainers to celebrate Pride- thanks to some dedicated high schoolers.

The state motto of Maine is “Dirigo” which is Latin for “I Direct” or “I Lead.”  In keeping with that spirit, The Bangor Daily News reported that when no adults would revive the community Pride parade in Belfast, a group of motivated Belfast Area High School students stepped up to make sure that the event — which has been on a pandemic hiatus — happens this year.

The city’s first-ever Pride parade and festival took place in 2016, and became an annual tradition. But no adult organizers had come forward this year to keep the tradition going, the paper reported.

Enter members of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, which formed at Belfast Area High School eight years ago. According to the Daily News, Willa Bywater, 17-year-old president of the school’s GSA decided that keeping Pride alive, especially after the lock-downs and isolation of the coronavirus pandemic, was a critical need not just only for Belfast’s LGBTQ+ community but others as well.

Bywater and her fellow 20 club members secured a permit from the city of Belfast, found sponsors, raised money for banners, flags and other expenses and grappled with the procuring of liability insurance. Ultimately, the high school agreed to cover the event under the school’s policy, a move that surprised and pleased the teens, Annie Gray, the club’s co-advisor told the Daily News.

Bywater noted that it has been a lot of work to organize the parade — but it’s well worth it.

“I think that this is the Pride parade for Waldo County, and it feels really important,” she said. “After all these years of COVID, it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re all still here and still going.”

The students found support from local businesses the Daily News also reported.

Seth Thayer, a local businessman who was delighted that the high school students have taken the initiative to organize the event and that it will happen again this year. There’s something special about the way that rainbow flags fly from homes and businesses all over the city during Pride, he told the paper.

“The thing I love about Pride is that the whole town is involved,” he said. “It’s such an isolating feeling, to have to hide yourself. And just to see that visual support from people that you don’t know, just seeing the Pride flag, it’s a powerful thing. I’m excited that it’s going to happen.”

Thayer said he was glad to make a financial contribution to the students, who have been canvassing for donations.

“I’m really happy that the high schoolers took it over,” he said. “I think they’ll do a good job. Kids always bring a new energy to things.”

Those interested in participating in the Belfast Pride parade are asked to meet at Belfast Area High School at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 4, and the parade will begin at 11 a.m. The parade will end just before the Public Landing and Heritage Park.

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

U.S. Army considering letting LGBTQ+ troops transfer out of hostile states

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules

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Top Army G-1 officer & enlisted advisor speaking with Joint Base Lewis-McChord single and dual military parents (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

ARLINGTON, Va. – A draft policy is circulating among top officials of the U.S. Army that would allow soldiers to be able to request a transfer if they feel state or local laws discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race or pregnancy.

Journalist Steve Beynon writing for Military.com reported last week the guidance, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, is far from final and would need approval from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. But if enacted, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the Army amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ+ and restrictive contraception laws in conservative-leaning states, where the Army has a majority of its bases and major commands.

“Some states are becoming untenable to live in; there’s a rise in hate crimes and rise in LGBT discrimination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told Military.com. “In order to serve this country, people need to be able to do their job and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate a lot of the service members.”

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules, which are oft times fairly vague.

A source in the Army told Beynon the new guidance has not yet been fully worked out through the policy planning process or briefed to senior leaders including the Army Secretary or the Office of the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

“The Army does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a service spokesperson, told Military.com in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers may request for a compassionate reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring Soldiers and Families’ needs are supported and maintain a high quality of life.”

A base member wears rainbow socks during Pride Month Five Kilometer Pride Run at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 28, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

The Crystal City Virginia based RAND Corporation had published a study on Sexual Orientation, Transgender Identity, and Health Among U.S. Active-Duty Service Members in 2015 that listed approximate numbers of LGBTQ+ troops are 6% gay or bisexual and 1% is transgender or nonbinary.

A senior analyst for RAND told the Blade on background those numbers are likely much lower than in actuality as 2015 was less than 4 years after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell’ and prior to the Trump enacted Trans service ban in 2017 which was then repealed by the Biden Administration which has had a chilling effect on open service. Another factor is that the current 18-24 year old troops colloquially referred to as ‘Gen Z’ are much more inclined to embrace an LGBTQ+ identity and that would cause the numbers to be higher than reported.

Also factored in is uncertainty in the tweaking of policy in light of the recent leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would effectively repeal Roe v Wade.

According to Military.com it’s unclear whether the Army’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a means for some to argue for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.

One advocacy group pointed out that the current wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation will negatively impact the moral of service members:

“What we’re seeing across the board is a small group of elected officials who are trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. They’re not only doing that to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our service members,” Jacob Thomas, communications director for Common Defense, a progressive advocacy organization, told Military.com. “[Troops] can’t be forced to live in places where they aren’t seen as fully human.”

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Oklahoma

Oklahoma Senate passes anti-Trans bathroom bill sends it to Governor

The law stipulates that all students must use bathrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates

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Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (Screenshot/YouTube)

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Republican-majority state Senate passed SB 615 in a 38-7 vote, a measure that will bar transgender students in pre-K through 12th grade at public and public charter schools in the state from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The bill now heads to Republican Governor Kevin Stitt and will be effective upon his signature into law.

The law stipulates that all students must use bathrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. Transgender students who decline to use the restroom required under the measure would have to use “a single-occupancy restroom or changing room” provided by the school.

At the end of April Stitt signed that explicitly prohibits the use of nonbinary gender markers on state birth certificates and in March he signed into law Senate Bill 2, a bill which would restrict transgender girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity. 

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