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Pence swears in gay appointee Ric Grenell as ambassador to Germany

Grenell took the Oath of Office on his family Bible, held by his partner

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Vice President Mike Pence (right) swears in as U.S. ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell (left) with his partner Matt Lashey looking on.

The swearing in on Thursday of U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Trump administration, by Vice President Mike Pence, who has a long anti-LGBT record, was a sight to behold.

As is customary for the vice president, Pence officiated the ceremony and administered the Oath of Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Grenell took the Oath of Office on his family Bible, which was held by his partner of more than 15 years, Matt Lashey.

In his remarks, Pence referenced Lashey and echoed President Trump’s comment last week that Grenell is an “outstanding man” who will do well as U.S. envoy to the world’s fourth largest national economy.

“I share that confidence and conviction,” Pence said.

Looking to the tasks ahead, Pence said Grenell would help strengthen U.S.-German relations by balancing the trade relationship, strengthening military cooperation and encouraging NATO allies to pay their fair share on defense.

“With Ambassador Grenell leading our diplomatic mission to Germany, we’re going to confront shared challenges, seek our shared opportunities and build a shared future with our allies and friends in Germany,” Pence said.

Pence praised the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Trump administration from the shadow of his notoriously anti-LGBT record during his years as a public official.

Pence as a U.S. House member supported a U.S. constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, predicting marriage equality would lead to “societal collapse” and opposed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. As Indiana governor, Pence signed into law a “religious freedom” bill enabling individuals and businesses to refuse services to LGBT people before being forced to sign a “fix” limiting the scope of the measure.

Pence is also credited with supporting “ex-gay” conversion therapy based on a vaguely worded 2000 campaign statement regarding HIV/AIDS funds, but a spokesperson has denied the vice president has ever supported the widely discredited practice.

First nominated by Trump in September, Grenell waited nearly eight months for confirmation in the Senate. Grenell faced opposition over mean tweets about the appearance of women, including Hillary Clinton, Rachel Maddow and Callista Gingrich, and tweets downplaying the impact of Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the White House broke the logjam. Grenell was confirmed on a party-line 56-42 vote one day before her visit.

Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, said Grenell’s tweets about women make him unworthy of the position of ambassador.

“Being gay doesn’t give you a pass,” Stern said. “Someone with a history of making sexist remarks has no place representing US foreign interests as ambassador to Germany, a country led by a woman no less. Some will argue we should celebrate this appointment because he’s openly gay, but if this is what progress looks like, we need to raise the bar higher.”

Grenell made light of the lengthy time it took for him to win confirmation at the start of his remarks, saying “nothing about this process has been short, so I’m going to keep this very short.”

“This administration is totally focused on the American people,” Grenell said. “I saw the president in action last Friday in debating and talking and negotiating with Chancellor Merkel.  And if every American could see President Trump negotiate, they would be wildly supportive of having him as their representative in the White House.”

A foreign policy expert, Grenell has served in various roles as a public communications adviser and a Fox News commentator. Under the George W. Bush administration, Grenell became the longest serving U.S. spokesperson at the United Nations, working under four U.S. ambassadors.

Grenell, who has described himself as a gay conservative Christian, has a same-sex partner of 15 years, Matt Lashey. Lashey himself is a conservative Christian who graduated from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.

For a period of less than two weeks, Grenell served during the 2012 presidential campaign as a foreign policy spokesperson for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but resigned amid pressure from social conservatives over his sexual orientation. Grenell never had the opportunity to speak publicly in the role.

At the close of Grenell’s remarks, Pence and Grenell shook hands. After concluding the event, Pence shook hands with attendees in the first row of the room.

Among those present in the room for the swearing-in ceremony was Ivanka Trump, who rose from her seat to embrace Lashey and hold an inaudible conversation with Grenell.

Axel Hochrein, who serves on the national board for the Gay & Lesbian Federation in Germany, commended Grenell on his appointment and said his organization “welcomes him as new Ambassador of  the United States in Germany.”

“The former ambassadors Philip D. Murphy and John B. Emerson have been great supports of the German LGBTI+ community, and shared of our conviction, that LGBTI+ rights are human rights,” Hochrein said. “So we hope and would appreciate, if Ambassador Grenell follows the footsteps of his predecessors who [worked] together with other ambassadors [in] the Berlin Pride, gave receptions for the LGBTI* Community and delivered speeches at our annual meetings.”

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this report.

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Ventura County

Newsom appoints Vianey Lopez to Ventura County Board

Lopez has a lengthy track record in progressive issues including her outspoken support of Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights

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Vianey Lopez (center) with the late Chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Carmen Ramirez (L) (Photo Credit: Vianey Lopez/Facebook)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday that he has appointed City of Oxnard Councilmember Vianey Lopez to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to the seat left vacant by the sudden death of the beloved chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Carmen Ramirez, killed in an August traffic accident.

Lopez, 35, a resident of Oxnard, has been a city councilmember for District Six since 2018 and also serves as a District Director for California State Senator Monique Limón since 2020.

According to her campaign for reelection to city council biography, Lopez immigrated to the U.S. at the young age of 4. As one of the youngest of 11 children, there were opportunities she was afforded that her siblings did not have. Raised locally, Vianey attended kindergarten through middle school in the Hueneme Elementary School District before graduating from Hueneme High School in 2005.

Councilmember, now Supervisor Lopez has a lengthy track record in progressive issues including her outspoken support of Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights as well as other key issues including LGBTQ+ equality, immigrant rights, and has worked for several California political leaders including a stint as District Scheduler for former U.S. Representative Lois Capps from 2013 to 2016, a member of the House from 1998 to 2017 representing California’s 24th congressional district.

Lopez was a Program Coordinator for the Oxnard Downtown Management District from 2012 to 2013 and an Administrative Assistant and Concierge at the Oxnard Convention and Visitors Bureau from 2009 to 2010. She is a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens and Future Leaders of America.

Lopez earned a Master of Public Policy degree in International Relations and State and Local Policy from Pepperdine University.

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Southern California

Triple A: SoCal gas prices race up by double digits in one week

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.52, which is eight cents higher than last week

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Photo Credit: Auto Club of Southern California

LOS ANGELES – Reports of additional Southern California refinery issues, along with continued low inventories, have created the biggest one-week price jump at the pump since early June, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. 

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.52, which is eight cents higher than last week. The average national price is $3.68, which is two cents lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.59 per gallon, which is 17 cents higher than last week, 25 cents higher than last month, and $1.19 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.53, which is 15 cents higher than last week, 24 cents higher than last month, and $1.18 higher than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.53, which is eight cents higher than last week, seven cents higher than last month and $1.18 higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.44, which is 14 cents higher than last week, 23 cents higher than last month and $1.12 higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.46 average price is eight cents higher than last Thursday, three cents higher than last month and $1.10 higher than a year ago today.

“Oil Price Information Service reports that several local refineries are undergoing unplanned maintenance as fuel inventories are at their lowest levels in a decade, which caused Los Angeles wholesale gas prices to rise sharply this week,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. 

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Sept. 22, averages are:

Sept 22 22
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California

Newsom signs legislation to support California Native communities

Advances equity, inclusion and highlights the unique history, culture and government of tribes in the Golden State

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Governor Gavin Newsom signed several bills to support California Native communities (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Today on Native American Day, Governor Gavin Newsom signed several bills to support California Native communities and build on the Administration’s work to promote equity, inclusion and accountability throughout the state.

AB 1314 establishes a statewide emergency alert system for missing Native people 

In a ceremony joined by leaders of Native American tribes from across California, the Governor signed AB 1314 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) to help address the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Native people from communities across the country.

Under AB 1314, local law enforcement will be able to request that the California Highway Patrol activate an emergency Feather Alert, similar to an Amber or Silver alert, to assist in search efforts for a Native person who has been reported missing under suspicious circumstances.

“As we lift up the rich history and contributions of California’s diverse tribal communities today, the state recommits to building on the strides we have made to redress historical wrongs and help empower Native communities,” said Governor Newsom. “Today’s measures continue to move these efforts forward, including a new emergency alert system that will provide us with additional critical tools needed to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. I thank all the legislators and tribal partners whose leadership and advocacy help light the path forward in our work to build a better, stronger and more just state together.”

Governor signs AB 1314 alongside Assemblymember Ramos, Tribal Affairs Secretary Christina Snider and leaders of Native American tribes from across the state (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

“AB 1314 will help us get the word out sooner when an individual is missing or endangered, enlisting the help of the public for tips and leads as soon as possible when quick action is critical,” said Assemblymember Ramos. “I thank the Governor for signing this vital measure – creating an alert system was a top recommendation from tribal leaders for addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.”

The state budget this year invests $12 million over three years to fund tribally-led programs to help address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People on tribal lands. This investment built on last year’s investment of $5 million to fund training and guidance for law enforcement agencies and tribal governments to improve public safety on tribal lands and study challenges related to the reporting and identification of missing and murdered Native peoples, particularly women and girls.

AB 1936 re-designates UC Hastings College of the Law and advances restorative justice efforts for Native peoples who suffered mass killings orchestrated by the college’s founder

Governor Newsom also signed AB 1936 by Assemblymember Ramos, which re-designates the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law as the College of the Law, San Francisco and advances restorative justice efforts for Round Valley Indian Tribes and Yuki people whose ancestors suffered mass killings and other atrocities funded and supported by college founder Serranus Hastings in the mid-19th century. 

AB 1936 also outlines several restorative justice initiatives that the College intends to pursue, such as renaming the law library with a Native language name, annually reading a statement of the atrocities Hastings committed against the Yuki people and providing collaborative opportunities for Round Valley tribal students to gain debate and writing experience, among other efforts.  

AB 2022 will remove the racist and sexist slur squaw from all geographic features and place names in California

Under AB 2022 by Assemblymember Ramos, the racist and sexist term “squaw” will be removed from all geographic features and place names in the state, and a process to review petitions to change offensive or derogatory place names will be created. This comes on the heels of federal action this month to complete the removal of this slur from nearly 650 geographic features across the country, including several name changes advanced by California based on extensive tribal engagement. The Newsom Administration has launched a series of ongoing actions to identify and redress discriminatory names of features attached to the State Parks and transportation systems.   

Governor Newsom also signed AB 1703 by Assemblymember Ramos, the California Indian Education Act. The measure encourages local educational agencies and charter schools to form California Indian Education Task Forces in partnership with local tribes to develop curricular materials that highlight the unique history, culture and government of tribes in their region.

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