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California Sen. Toni Atkins makes history, again

Atkins sworn in as Senate President Pro Tem



Toni Atkins sworn in by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, as wife Jennifer LeSar, Sen. Kevin de Leon and Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom look on, March 21, 2018, Sacramento (Photo courtesy Toni Atkins Twitter account)

At this critical moment in America democracy, the California Senate seems progressively prescient in picking a down-to-earth woman, a married lesbian who has fought her way up from Appalachian poverty, to serve as their President Pro Tem. At 2:14p on March 21, in an historic ceremony in the State Capitol, Senate Republicans and Democrats shattered glass ceilings and unanimously voted to hand San Diego Sen. Toni Atkins the gavel of power as the first woman, the first LGBT individual, and the first person to lead both the Senate and the Assembly since 1871.

The moment should be a universally Pinned Tweet. The often politically divisive legislators effusively praised Atkins’ authenticity, genuine consideration for others, and her willingness to listen. But, gay San Francisco Sen. Scott Wiener noted, don’t mistake Atkins’ kindness for weakness.

“She’s pretty damn tough,” he said, “but she has never forgotten where she comes from, ever.” Atkins’ childhood was spent in the poverty of Appalachia with no running water.

Perhaps the most surprising comments came from Senate Republican Leader Pat Bates of Laguna Niguel who revealed that about 48 hours after the Democratic Caucus selected Atkins as their successor to Sen. Kevin de León, Atkins reached out to Bates. Atkins said she looked forward to the opportunity to sit down with the Republican leader and hear “what you think we need” to move forward on issues such as homelessness, substance abuse, and addiction.

“We’re going to disagree,” Bates said, but we “want our paths to merge at some point.”

The nationally divisive Trump elephant balloon bouncing in the background of some observers’ minds had been pierced, expelling the hot, hateful rhetoric into an imperceptible wheeze. Instead, Bates said she and Atkins talked about political partnership. “You will have my ear,” Atkins told Bates. “We were all sent up here to find solutions,” said Bates. The chamber applauded.

Ironically, around the same time Bates was talking about possible of bipartisanship, former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ohio Gov. John Kasich were in Los Angeles at a forum organized by a new group intent on shaping the California GOP. As of Jan. 2, 2018, Republican voter registration in California is 25.4%, on par with No Party Preference at 25%. New Way California is the brainchild of conservative Republican lawmaker Chad Mayes, “who was ousted as the party’s Assembly leader after he worked with Democrats on climate change legislation,” the AP reports.

Inside the Capitol, Atkins, 55, was talking about change, as well—changing the culture so the inequality of “the good old days” is no longer the norm.

“The future is now,” said Atkins. “Diversity is our destiny. Inclusion—a reflection of our character. But it’s not just about who we are—it’s about what we can do—together.”

But Atkins said she’s not interested in happy rhetoric. “I’ll be happy when we get results,” she said. “And I’m willing to work with anyone willing to shake off the shackles of zero-sum thinking and put some big ideas on the table for the people of California.”

And that means an end to petty intra-party bickering. “If you think I might not care enough about the historical rivalry which separates the Senate from the Assembly,” Atkins said, “you’re right, I don’t care at all about the old fights and frictions.”

Never has a scolding about duty sounded so compassionate and conciliatory as Atkins tackled the “hard truths” about the workplace sexual harassment allegations roiling Sacramento, resulting in the resignations of three lawmakers, so far. “Great policymaking doesn’t exempt policymakers from personal responsibility,” the new Senate leader said.

“True culture change—holding ourselves to a higher standard—requires the active, every day, enlightened participation of every person who works in and around this Capitol,” said Atkins, adding: “I pledge to you, that will be our mission and our mandate.”

Atkins insisted that everyone be treated with respect, noting that while they have their differences, “we have more in common.” And, she said the legislators will succeed “or we fail together.”

“As the Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, I speak on behalf of our entire caucus in saying that we cannot wait to see all that she does to improve the lives of all those in our state who, like her, have lived their lives with the odds stacked against them,” out Assemblymember Evan Low told the LA Blade.
“There are young girls and LGBTQ children across California — and back in Appalachia — who will see the news out of Sacramento today and know that their futures are a whole lot brighter because of the trails Toni has blazed,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur.

“Toni’s understand of the challenges that are faced by women, whether it’s in the home, raising a family in poverty, in the workplace taking on sexual harassment—she is a true fighter and ally and a believer in women’s equality,” Atkins’ mentor, out former State Sen. Chris Kehoe told the LA Blade. “The women of the Legislature, the men of the Legislature, the women of the third house, could not have a stronger ally. She will fight to make this happen. But she’ll fight it in a Toni Atkins way. She’ll reach out to people. She will listen. She will build consensus. She’ll find common issues and she’ll move it forward—but she will make change.”

Read more about Atkins not missing the “Anita Hill moment.”


California Politics

New Poll: Adam Schiff has a five-point lead in U.S. Senate race

The survey was conducted last month and involved 1,100 likely voters- While still relatively slim, it is Schiff’s largest lead to date



Rep. Adam Schiff speaking at a private campaign event in Santa Barbara, California in August, 2023. ( Photo Credit: Adam Schiff for Senate/Louise Palanker Facebook)

SAN FRANCISCO – A new Public Policy Institute of California poll shows that U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) has a five-point lead in the race for the U.S. Senate seat that had been held by the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The seat is currently occupied by Newsom-appointee, Democrat Laphonza Butler, the first Black lesbian to serve in the Senate. Butler, announced in October that she would not run for a full Senate term in 2024.

California’s 2024 senate race already has a crowded field that includes Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee of Oakland, Katie Porter of Irvine and former Dodgers Major League Baseball star Steve Garvey, a Republican, also running.

The survey was conducted last month from Nov. 9 to 16 and involved 1,100 likely voters and has a 3.2% margin of error.

PPIC found that 21% of those surveyed would support Schiff in the primary race while 16% would vote for Porter. Republican Garvey had 10% support, while Lee polled at 8%. 

As with other prior California Senate surveys, PPIC found a large percentage of voters are still undecided. While still relatively slim, it is Schiff’s largest lead to date.

KTLA 5 News noted that a November Inside California Politics/Emerson College poll showed several other candidates, James P. Bradley, Lexi Reese, Eric Early, Christina Pascucci, Jonathan Reiss and Sarah Liew with support in the low single digits. That same poll found Schiff with a three-point lead over Porter, while a June survey showed Schiff and Porter in a virtual tie.

The results of a Public Policy Institute of California on the 2024 U.S. Senate Race. (PPIC)
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California Politics

Nonprofit leader aims to be 1st Out Santa Cruz County Supervisor

“I think it would send a really strong message to our county and region for a first openly LGBTQ supervisor in Santa Cruz County”



Monica Martinez is running for the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. (Photo Credit: Courtesy the candidate)

By Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor | FELTON, Calif. – Despite its reputation as a coastal liberal bastion, Santa Cruz County has yet to see an LGBTQ leader elected to its Board of Supervisors. Recent elections have seen the out candidate running for a seat on the countywide governing body come up short.

Nonprofit executive and queer mom Monica Martinez is aiming to break through that pink political glass ceiling with her bid for the board’s open District 5 seat. With another local leader opting against entering the race and instead endorsing Martinez, she is aiming to win the seat outright on the 2024 primary ballot.

“I don’t want to take anything for granted,” Martinez, 41, told the Bay Area Reporter about the campaign. “Certainly, my goal is to win in March and avoid a runoff in November.”

If she does win the race for a four-year term, Martinez will be the first woman elected to the District 5 seat; she told the B.A.R. a woman was appointed to it in 1979 and served two years. She would also be the first woman to serve on the county board since 2012 and the first elected since 2008.

“I am ready to work as hard as I can all the way through the election because diverse candidates like myself, we don’t have the privilege of walking into these seats,” said Martinez. “I am ready to work hard to understand the needs of our district so I can represent it well as a supervisor.”

Last June Supervisor Bruce McPherson announced he would retire at the end of his third term rather than run for reelection next year. It opened the door for Martinez, CEO of the county’s largest health and human services nonprofit, Encompass Community Services, to seek the seat that covers the northern section of the city of Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley.

The fifth supervisorial district also includes the San Lorenzo Valley and its communities of Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, and Felton, where Martinez resides. Most of it is unincorporated, with the county board providing services and governance.

“We haven’t had a representative who has lived in San Lorenzo Valley since 2002, even though we make up 60% of voters,” said Martinez. “Because we are unincorporated, we don’t get another elected voice.”

Two other candidates in the race, Christopher Bradford and Theresa Bond, have been focused on water issues in the district, while Tom Decker, who works for a company that builds accessory dwelling units, pulled papers last month to run. Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart ruled out also vying for the seat and endorsed Martinez in late October.

Last month, statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California endorsed Martinez along with several other out supervisor candidates on March ballots across the state, as the B.A.R. previously reported. She told the B.A.R. it is time for Santa Cruz County’s board to have LGBTQ representation.

“I think Santa Cruz does have a reputation of being very progressive. However, this has been a glass ceiling that hasn’t been broken yet,” said Martinez. “I think it is an important voice that has been missing from the county board.”

Becoming the first out supervisor from the board’s most conservative leaning district would also be significant, she noted. Particularly at a time when attacks against LGBTQ rights have broken out across the Golden State, added Martinez.

“I think it would send a really strong message to our county and region if the first openly LGBTQ supervisor in Santa Cruz County came from the fifth district,” she said. “I think it would be a really significant change and signal support for the values of inclusion and acceptance in our entire county, including in this district.”

First-time candidate

A first-time candidate for public office, her candidacy is already an example of how far the LGBTQ community has come in her lifetime, said Martinez. She never imagined in her childhood that she would seek to be elected one day.

“Originally being from Bakersfield, I just never thought as an out LGBTQ woman who is Latinx that I would be electable,” she said. “I have dedicated my life to public service and have been serving those in need in our community for my entire career. Over the last decade a lot has changed in what is valued in elected representation. My lived experience could be an asset; I could really help advance policy in our community.”

Born and raised in Bakersfield at the southernmost end of California’s Central Valley, Martinez grew up in a union household. Her father is a retired Kern County fire captain, while her mother is a retired public elementary school teacher.

Looking for a more welcoming environment post high school, Martinez enrolled at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo along the state’s Central Coast. As she worked toward earning her B.A. in political science, Martinez landed a summer job after her freshman year with the YMCA of San Francisco at its Camp Jones Gulch in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Nineteen and not wanting to return to her hometown during her break between semesters, Martinez told the B.A.R. the camp was “a beacon” for her where she met like-minded, accepting people in the other employees.

“I met the first lesbians I’d ever met there. They took me to my first Pride in San Francisco. This was in 2001,” she recalled. “I continued to work there for another five years during the summers.”

She also noted that she hasn’t missed Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the free annual music festival held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, in 15 years. (It was held virtually during the first two years of the COVID pandemic.)

“I love it. I love music,” said Martinez, who had just visited the city’s LGBTQ Castro district for the first time since the start of the health crisis in 2020 when she spoke with the B.A.R. by phone in mid-November.

After Martinez earned a master’s in public administration at the University of Southern California, she worked to provide services to homeless women living on Los Angeles’ Skid Row. In 2010, the nonprofit Housing Matters of Santa Cruz County hired her as its executive director.

She co-founded the 180/180 Initiative, a community partnership aimed at helping to house homeless individuals in the county. By 2014, Martinez had taken over the leadership of Encompass Community Services.

Martinez is a co-parent with her two children’s other mom, from whom she is separated. Because the couple adopted them out of the foster care system, Martinez is keeping their identities private, though she did tell the B.A.R. they are elementary school students ages 8 and 9 who are not biological siblings.

(Photo Credit: Courtesy the candidate)

She and her family had to evacuate their home during the CZU Lightning Complex Fire that tore through the Santa Cruz Mountains in August 2020. They were able to return after being displaced for a month.

“We were fortunate to have a home to come home to,” said Martinez.

That experience, and navigating the COVID pandemic as a parent working from home, provided her a unique perspective that she now wants to bring to the county board. In addition to knowing the inner workings of the county government due to her nonprofit work, Martinez has also chaired the Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Commission and serves on the executive committee of the Santa Cruz County Health Improvement Partnership.

“Given my experience navigating public services and county funding, I feel like I have a lot to offer,” she said. “I won’t be green in the job because I have been navigating these systems professionally my whole career. I feel really ready and that this is a natural next step for my career.”

Should she be able to secure the supervisor seat in the March 5 primary, it would allow Martinez to help usher in a new executive director at her agency before she is sworn into the supervisor seat next December ahead of the board’s first meeting in January 2025.

“The real reason I want to win in March is I run a large human services organization. If I have time to transition out of the role and support the organization in hiring and training a person during that time period, it will be good for the organization and the services we deliver in our county,” said Martinez. “I’d much rather have time to do that from March to January rather than have to campaign.”

To learn more about her candidacy, visit her website at

EQCA endorses out Santa Cruz council candidate

Another candidate looking to make political history in Santa Cruz County next year also picked up the support recently of EQCA. Joe Thompson is aiming to become the first nonbinary individual elected to the Santa Cruz City Council.

A former union organizer at Starbucks, Thompson came up short last year in their bid for a state Assembly seat. Thompson is now running for the District 5 council seat in Santa Cruz, as is former assistant city manager Susie O’Hara.

It includes the Pogonip open space area and the majority of the UC Santa Cruz campus, plus the city’s Upper West Side and Harvey West Park areas. (The coastal enclave is transitioning to having six district-based council seats plus an elected mayor, which began with the 2022 elections for two of the seats and a new mayor.)

Like the county’s supervisor races, the council race will be on the 2024 primary ballot. With just two candidates in the race, it is likely one of them will receive more than 50% of the vote come March 5 to win it outright and avoid a runoff race on the November ballot next year.

According to a map of LGBTQ elected officials maintained by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, there are no out members currently on the City Council in Santa Cruz. Former lesbian councilmember Donna Meyers left in 2022 after serving one four-year term, which included her becoming the city’s first lesbian mayor when she held the former ceremonial role in 2021.


The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.

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Megyn Kelly pushed extreme anti-trans positions as moderator

While voters have registered their relative lack of interest in trans policy, the former Fox News host has made it a personal priority



Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – In the December 6 Republican presidential primary debate, podcast host Megyn Kelly used her role as moderator to challenge former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over his opposition to a federal ban on transition for minors — part of a pattern by the former Fox News host of attempting to further radicalize the GOP field on the already contentious issue. 

In a lengthy exchange, Kelly first asked Christie, “Aren’t you way too out of step on this issue to be the Republican nominee?” The candidate replied that his opposition to medical bans stemmed from a belief in parents’ rights. 

Kelly followed up with an accusation that Christie signed legislation in 2017 requiring schools “to accept a child’s preferred gender identity even if the minor’s parents objected” and stating “that there is no duty for schools to notify parents if their son or daughter changes their gender identity.”

From the December 6, 2023, Republican presidential primary debate, hosted by Rumble:

Christie’s answer was poorly received by right-wing media figures; Daily Wire personality Matt Walsh called him a “stupid coward” and a “disgusting degenerate.” “Disqualifying,” added Libs of TikTok founder Chaya Raichik. 

Christie did sign two pro-trans laws in 2017, including a law to protect transgender students, as Kelly accused him of doing. “As he did with the conversion therapy ban, Governor Christie took a stand for LGBT youth in New Jersey by signing this important legislation,” Garden State Equality wrote in a statement at the time. But as Christie said in the debate, the guidance mandated by the education law was not issued to schools until 2018, after Christie had left office

Kelly’s prompting was not necessary to get the candidates to wade into vile anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis started with a speech about his record on trans issues, and he went out of the way later to accuse Al Qaeda terrorists of wearing “man dresses,” showing his dedication to ensuring everyone around him is dressed the way he would like them to be at all times. Vivek Ramaswamy bizarrely accused former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley of making a launch video that “sounded like a woke Dylan Mulvaney Bud Light ad.”

Nor was the debate light on big candidate promises to constrain the rights of trans people. Haley called trans women in women’s sports “the women’s issue of our time,” suggesting that she would take on legislation to ban trans sports inclusion, while Ramaswamy promised to hold federal highway funds hostage if states do not ban medical transition for minors. 

This is not the first time that Kelly has challenged GOP candidates to take more strident positions against equality for trans people. In a September interview, the podcast host, famous for declaring that Santa “just is” white, attempted to push former President Donald Trump on the question of whether a man “can become a woman.” 

Kelly has a long history of anti-trans extremism, saying that accepting trans children causes “confusion” for other children, calling gender-affirming care “a weird form of conversion therapy,” and laughing at the appearance of a transgender inmate

In multiple recent elections, voters have listed LGBTQ issues as a low priority, and a “red tsunami” of candidates agitating against trans inclusion failed to materialize in the 2022 midterms. 


The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Endocrine Society corrects mis-info about gender affirming care

The Endocrine Society, the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the clinical practice of endocrinology



Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) (Screen capture/Boston Globe-Fox News)

WASHINGTON – The Endocrine Society, the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the clinical practice of endocrinology, released a statement correcting misinformation about gender affirming healthcare that was spread at the fourth Republican presidential primary debate on Wednesday night.

The group said comments in which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) characterized care for transgender and gender-diverse youth as child abuse and genital mutilation “do not reflect the health care landscape” and contradict “mainstream medical practice and scientific evidence.”

“Pediatric gender-affirming care is designed to take a conservative approach,” the Endocrine Society wrote. “When young children experience feelings that their gender identity does not match the sex recorded at birth, the first course of action is to support the child in exploring their gender identity and to provide mental health support, as needed.”

The statement continues, “Medical intervention is reserved for older adolescents and adults, with treatment plans tailored to the individual and designed to maximize the time teenagers and their families have to make decisions about their transitions.”

Notwithstanding the remarks by DeSantis, other debate participants, and moderator Megyn Kelly, “gender-affirming genital surgery is rarely offered to anyone under the age of 18,” the statement says.

Additionally, “More than 2,000 scientific studies have examined aspects of gender-affirming care since 1975, including more than 260 studies cited in the Endocrine Society’s Clinical Practice Guideline.”

Other major scientific and medical groups like the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are “in alignment” with the Endocrine Society on “the importance of gender affirming care,” the statement notes.

Further, research shows it “can be life saving for a population with high suicide rates.”

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Fourth GOP debate sees return of transphobia, anti-LGBTQ+ hate

“Transgenderism is a mental health disorder,” Vivek Ramaswamy said, before pledging support for bans on gender affirming care until age 21



From left: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (Screenshot/NewsNation)

TUSCALOOSA — The fourth debate of Republican presidential candidates on Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala., saw a return of transphobic and anti-LGBTQ messages, practically from the outset.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis used his introductory remarks to go after former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is also a former South Carolina governor, for saying during a recent interview with CBS Mornings that “the law should stay out of it” when it comes to the options available for minors experiencing gender dysphoria.

DeSantis said Haley “caves anytime the left comes after her, anytime the media comes after her,” noting that “I did a bill in Florida to stop the gender mutilation of minors.”

“It’s child abuse and it’s wrong,” he said. “She opposes that bill. She thinks it’s fine and the law shouldn’t get involved with it.” The governor added, “If you’re not willing to stand up for the kids; if you’re not willing to stand up and say that it is wrong to mutilate these kids, then you’re not going to fight for the people back home.”

Haley responded, “He continues to lie about my record. I actually said his ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill didn’t go far enough because it only talked about gender until the third grade. And I said it shouldn’t be done at all — that that’s for parents to talk about. It shouldn’t be talked about with schools.”

“You didn’t respond to the criticism,” DeSantis said. “It wasn’t about the Parental Rights in Education bill,” using the name of the actual law that is more frequently dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”

“It was about prohibiting sex change operations on minors,” he said. “They do puberty blockers. These are irreversible.”

Gender affirming healthcare is supported by every mainstream scientific and medical society with relevant clinical expertise.

Later, moderator Megyn Kelly asked former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, “you do not favor a ban on trans medical treatments for minors saying it’s a parental rights issue … aren’t you way too out of step on this issue to be the Republican nominee?”

“As a father of four I believe there is no one who loves my children more than me,” he responded. “There’s no one who loves my children more than my wife. There’s no one who cares more about their success and healthy life than we do, not some government bureaucrat.”

Gender affirming care, Christie said, “is not something I favor. I think it’s a very, very dangerous thing to do. But that’s my opinion as a parent, Megyn, and I get to make the decisions about my children. Not anybody else.”

“Transgenderism is a mental health disorder,” entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said, before pledging his support for bans on gender affirming care until the age of 21.

DeSantis and Haley then sparred over their positions on “bathroom bills” that prohibit transgender people from using facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Not in attendance for this or the previous three debates was former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican frontrunner, who is supported by 59.6 percent of likely GOP primary voters according to FiveThirtyEight polling averages as of Wednesday.

He is trailed by DeSantis, who is in a distant second place with 12.7 percent support. They each gained only about three percentage points in the polls since the first Republican primary debate was held on Aug. 24.

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Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy calls it quits

Rep. Matt Gaetz who filed the motion to take the Speaker’s gavel from McCarthy, posted one word minutes after the news broke: “McLeavin'”



Former U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy signs the short-term stop-gap funding bill on Sept. 30, 2023 to keep government open that ultimately led to his ouster as Speaker. (Photo Credit: Official Photo by the U.S. House of Representatives)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was dethroned from the speakership by ultraconservative members of his party in October, announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday that he will resign from Congress at the end of this month.

The congressman pledged to “serve America in new ways,” writing “I will continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office,” adding, “The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders.”

The move puts additional pressure on Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who was elected following McCarthy’s ouster and who is now charged with leading a fractious GOP conference that was already operating with a razor-slim majority.

Now, House Republicans might have only three votes to spare before they must seek help from Democrats to pass measures.

Far-right U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a McCarthy ally who has repeatedly criticized her colleagues for toppling his speakership and, last week, for voting to expel disgraced former GOP congressman George Santos, posted about Wednesday’s news on X.

Meanwhile U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Republican firebrand congressman who filed the motion to take the Speaker’s gavel from McCarthy, posted one word minutes after the news broke: “McLeavin.'”

McCarthy has served in the House since 2007.

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Behind the scenes: LGBTQ staff working on Biden’s re-election

“We who work in politics feel like this is a choice between, most likely, Donald Trump & President Biden and Vice President Harris”



From left: Sergio Gonzales, senior advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris and the Biden-Harris reelection campaign; Becca Siegel, senior advisor to the campaign. (Photos courtesy of the subjects)

(Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series profiling senior LGBTQ staff working on President Biden’s re-election campaign. Part one was published on Nov. 21 and part two was published on Nov. 29.)

WILMINGTON, Del. — Last month from campaign headquarters, the Washington Blade spoke with Sergio Gonzales, senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris and the Biden-Harris reelection campaign, along with senior campaign adviser Becca Siegel.

On the importance of LGBTQ representation in the presidential campaign, Gonzales said, “When it comes to policies that affect the lives of millions of people in our communities across the country, having people who have that experience and that background really does matter.”
Moving into next year, he said, the team is working “to ensure that we have people from across the spectrum of America who are able to both bring their own personal experiences and lives into these roles, but also bring a lot of relationships across the country and being able to engage with the community, talk to the community, persuade the community, turn out the community.”

Gonzales has worked for Harris since she was elected to represent California in the U.S. Senate, and he said her record supporting and defending the LGBTQ community throughout her career was one of the major factors leading to his decision to join the campaign.

“Especially when it comes to issues related to LGBTQ rights and freedoms, this is something [Harris] has such a long history on,” he said. “She has always — both in her office and externally — formed these strong relationships with people in the LGBTQ community and those relationships have always been very, I think, important in not only ensuring her office and the work that she has done reflects the various things that we as a community need, but also just in the way she supports people of color and LGBTQ folks who have worked for her.”

In an election where, as the vice president says, so much is at stake for our fundamental freedoms and rights,” Gonzales said, “that is especially true for LGBTQ Americans. If you look at the number of attacks by GOP leaders at the local, state, and federal level across the country, so much is on the line in this election.”

On the right, Gonzales said, “We have a lot of leaders and a party in this country who are doing their best to try to attack fundamental rights and freedoms of a lot of different folks, including people in the LGBTQ community — and, in some ways, who are trying to turn back the clock on a lot of the progress we’ve made.”

Voters are aware of the fact that, for instance, Republicans elected “a new Speaker of the House who has a very, very alarming and disturbing record of attacking people in our community, including trying to outlaw you know, being gay,” he said.

“Both as senior adviser and personally as a very openly and proud gay man,” Gonzales said, next year’s election “is one of the most important if not the most important election of our lifetime,” because “I see what sits on the other side; I see all of these different states who are trying to attack our rights, who are banning books, who are passing ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws, who are attacking trans people and trying to undo gay marriage, who are — both through policy and through rhetoric — making the country more dangerous for people like me and our community.”

“I’m glad and proud to work for a principal and work for a campaign that is about continuing the progress and ensuring we don’t turn back the clock and we don’t go back on these things,” he said.

Gonzales noted the Biden-Harris administration’s appointment of record-breaking numbers of LGBTQ folks in senior positions in the White House and across the federal government, but stressed that the commitment to equality runs deeper.

“This administration is an administration that has ensured that not only is there representation for the LGBTQ community, but also has actually driven multiple policy wins, both through the executive level and through Congress, that ensure and afford greater rights and freedoms for people in our community,” he said.

Helping voters see the contrast between this and what Republicans — like the party’s frontrunner, former President Donald Trump — would do if elected will be an important part of the campaign’s work moving into next year, Gonzales said. “As things become much more clear and what we are up against, and Donald Trump comes more into focus, I truly believe that we’re going to see a lot of different parts of the country start to engage in this election,” he said.

Voters will also remember “the specific things that [Trump] did in his last administration,” Gonzales said. “They tried to erase LGBTQ people from the census. They imposed a ban on transgender individuals in our military, which this administration undid. They undid protections for LGBTQ Americans, including transgender individuals, in the workplace, and more broadly,” so, “this is not just bluster.”

And the Biden-Harris administration “has so much to run on” with respect to LGBTQ matters, Gonzales said, “whether we’re talking about health care, whether we’re talking about the Respect for Marriage Act, whether we’re talking about, you know, some of the ways that we’ve addressed bullying in schools — these are very real policy wins for our community.”
Like Gonzales, Siegel has “worked on many presidential campaigns.”

“Your whole life is here when you’re working on a campaign,” she said. “This is your work, but also your social life and your friends,” so “if you are not bringing your whole self to this community, you’re not bringing it anywhere in your life.”

Our job is to persuade and engage with voters,” Siegel said, “and we have to have a campaign that reflects the voters we are trying to engage with.”

“Core to my approach to this work is respect and empathy for voters,” she said. “That’s what we should think about every day. I think we are much better prepared to do that when we have a staff that looks like those voters.”

Siegel added, “It’s not just so that you walk into the office and it looks like it is a diverse place to work. That’s important, too. But it’s actually about the work.”

With respect to her individual role within the campaign, she said, it comes down to “let’s take that strategy” of using data to find a pathway to victory “and then make sure we are executing a campaign that reflects it.” When it comes to “travel, comms, which radio stations we’re on, what our TV ads say, where we’re allocating our money, where we’re hiring staff — do those things align with the strategy to get us to 270 electoral votes?”

The importance of representation, LGBTQ and otherwise, may not seem self-evident in data-centric roles, but Siegel noted, for instance, the persistent challenge of combatting bias within datasets.

Like Gonzales, Siegel stressed the contrast between the Biden-Harris administration and campaign and those run by the Republican opposition. “LGBTQ rights feel more under attack now than they have in the past,” she said, “and so that rises to the top of concerns for voters — and our policy and position on this is really far away from the Republicans’.”

“That’s a clear contrast between us and the opposition,” she said, adding, “It’s at the top of people’s minds. It’s something they care about, and we have a pretty unimpeachable record on it compared to the opposition.”

It is not necessarily so simple, however.

“We who work in politics feel like, of course, this is a choice between, most likely, Donald Trump and President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Siegel said, “but voters, especially the voters who are most persuadable, don’t feel that way right now, necessarily.”

The choice voters will face will crystalize and the contrast between the campaigns will deepen moving into next year, she said.

On lots of LGBTQ issues, Americans are on our side. And when it becomes a choice between, ‘there’s this version of America and then there’s Trump’s version of America,’ — then, that is really clear,” Siegel said.

The campaign is working to reelect the president and vice president to represent the people, the voters, who “have day-to-day things that prevent them from, like, reading Politico,” she said. “They have kids, they have to pay their bills, they have to worry about all kinds of things.”
Siegel added, “I have a lot of faith in voters. They care about their families. They want a good life. They care about people who are different than them. I think most people care about other people.”

For those working on the campaign, she said, “it’s really on us” to make sure to “explain and show and demonstrate to them what you are getting from this administration, from these candidates.”

“We get to run on issues that help people and are popular,” Siegel said. “That’s a great place to start from.”

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Johnson to headline gala whose leader defended Josh Duggar

The gala is hosted by the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a group led by former Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert



U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will deliver the keynote address Tuesday night for a gala hosted by the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a group led by former Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, a vocal defender of convicted sex offender Josh Duggar.

Johnson is slated to speak at 9 p.m. at the Museum of the Bible in D.C. His office did not immediately return a request seeking comment on his relationship with Rapert, who, like many far-right figures in the speaker’s orbit, proudly calls himself a Christian nationalist and has expressed extreme views, such as by comparing LGBTQ advocates to Nazis.

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers is funded by right-wing groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom, where Johnson worked as an attorney before running for public office. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the organization an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

Duggar, who starred with his family on the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” worked for another far-right, anti-LGBTQ outfit with close ties to Johnson, the Family Research Council, until 2015 when a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Duggar, while a teenager, had molested his younger sisters.

Along with Republican former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rapert, who had featured Duggar at campaign events and was photographed at the family’s home, was one of the first who “rushed to defend” him.

Duggar is now serving a prison sentence following a child pornography conviction in 2021.

Following his election as speaker in October, Johnson’s extreme anti-LGBTQ record drew renewed interest. Among other revelations were arguments he made in an op-ed that, “If we change marriage for the homosexual activists, we will have to do it for every deviant group. Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles and others will be next in line to claim equal protection.”

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Missouri: 21 likely anti-LGBTQ+ bills on first day of pre-filing

Missouri has seen several new bills introduced that promises to be contentious around LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people



Jerry Boykin, (Left) is a retired U.S. Army three-star general who since his retirement from the military in 2007 has fully involved himself as a Christian far-right activist and anti-Muslim propagandist. He is currently executive vice president of the Family Research Council, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Sen. Mike Moon is a noted anti-LGBTQ opponent serving in Missouri's upper chamber. (Photo Credit: Moon/Facebook)

By Erin Reed | JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – On December 1st, Missouri’s legislature commenced a period known as pre-filing, where legislators can start submitting bills to be considered in the 2024 legislative cycle.

Often, the first day of pre-filing provides insight into the legislative priorities for the upcoming session, which begins on January 3rd, 2024. For LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies, the first day of pre-filing revealed that the Missouri Republicans’ assault on queer and trans people is nowhere near over.

Notably, at least 21 bills specifically targeting LGBTQ+ people, with a particular emphasis on transgender individuals, were filed on the very first day. These bills aim to ban bathroom access, books, medical care, public drag performances, classroom topics, and more.

Individuals proposing these bills are likely recognizable to those who followed Missouri’s 2023 legislative session, which targeted transgender people heavily. For instance, Senator Mike Moon (R-29SD) has filed several bills in the 2024 session focusing on transgender people. He gained notoriety as the primary sponsor of the state’s gender-affirming care ban, leading to many trans youth losing access to their medication.

Furthermore, Sen. Moon infamously defended child marriage in a video clip that captured national media attention. Representative Mazie Boyd, who last year proposed one of the most restrictive drag bans in the United States, is also involved.

In a hearing last year, she declined to confirm that a daughter painting her father’s fingernails would be acceptable when directly questioned about her bill.

This year, Missouri has seen several new bills introduced in a legislative session that promises to be equally contentious around LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people. One bill, HB1574, would defund libraries that refuse to ban books. Another, HB1405, would force teachers to use the wrong pronouns for trans students who are not out to their parents. HB1543 would charge teachers with a crime for the distribution of what the law defines as “sexually explicit material.”

We know from debates over book bans in 2023 that many LGBTQ+ books in red states often get judged as “sexually explicit.”

See this excerpt from HB1574, which would remove funding from libraries that refuse to ban books or ban drag reading hours:

Many more bills focus on LGBTQ+ topics in schools, including a SB1024, a “Don’t Say Gay Or Trans” bill. Currently, Missouri is not among the 16 states that impose restrictions on LGBTQ+ discussions in schools. These restrictions are frequently referred to as “Don’t Say Gay” bills and often extend to targeting transgender teachers, potentially leading to their firing for using different pronouns or honorifics in class. This push for anti-trans school policies by Republicans is significant, given their unpopularity in the 2023 school board elections, where over 70% of candidates supported by Moms For Liberty were defeated.

One particularly bad bill is HB1520, which modifies the state’s current gender affirming care ban for trans youth and incarcerated adults passed in 2023. The original bill allowed those who were already getting care to continue to get care, and also set a sunset date for the law to August 28, 2027, ostensibly to wait for “further research” on care to be released. House Bill 1520 removes both of those exceptions, meaning that the gender affirming care ban would become permanent, and those already receiving care due to being grandfathered in would be no longer allowed to continue receiving care.

See this excerpt from HB1520, where those provisions are crossed out:

Missouri has seen the introduction of new bills this year aimed at “online obscenity.” Although the full texts of several bills seeking to ban youth from accessing “obscene content” online are not yet available, there is a history of similar legislation being used to target LGBTQ+ individuals. For example, in Montana, a bill of this nature was almost amended to include “acts of transgenderism.” 

On a national level, the Kids Online Safety Act, intended to regulate social media content accessible to minors, has encountered obstacles. A key stumbling block has been lead sponsor Republican Senator Blackburn’s statement that the bill would target transgender people. In Missouri, these proposed measures include HB1426, which seeks to prohibit “material harmful to minors” without age verification, and SB1084, an obscenity bill applicable to online websites.


Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here:


The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Former Rep. Liz Cheney’s “dire” warning against reelecting Trump

Cheney believes blocking Trump and preventing a Republican House majority in the next election is “the cause of our time”



Former Republican Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney tells CBS News' John Dickerson that voters have become increasingly numb to politicians warning of looming dangers to democracy. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS Sunday Morning)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Former Republican Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney says that voters have become increasingly numb to politicians warning of looming dangers to democracy, so in her new book, “Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning,” she lays out the case for the threats to the Constitution posed by Donald Trump should he regain the White House.

Cheney talks with CBS News’ John Dickerson about how the leading GOP candidate’s own words reveal his plans for a second term, and why she believes blocking Trump and preventing a Republican House majority in the next election is “the cause of our time.”


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