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In first, trans candidate wins major party nomination for governor’s race

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Christine Hallquist has become the first transgender candidate to win a major party nomination to run for statewide office.

In a historic moment, Christine Hallquist won the Democratic nomination Tuesday to run to become the next Vermont governor, making her the first transgender candidate ever to obtain a major party nomination in a gubernatorial race.

The Associated Press declared Hallquist, former CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, won the Democratic Party in Vermont at 9:14 pm shortly after polls closed at 7 pm. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Hallquist obtained 48 percent of the vote, compared to 22 percent for environmental activist James Ehlers, 21 percent for progressive activist Brenda Siege and 8 percent high school student Ethan Sonneborn. (Vermont has no age requirement for candidates.)

Should Hallquist succeed in the general election in November, she’d be the first openly transgender people elected as governor in the United States.

In a statement to the Washington Blade in May, Hallquist said her win in November would be a “positive signal for all LGBTQ people” because she would be the first transgender governor and represent a rural state.

“Typically, rural communities have been viewed as less affirming,” Hallquist said. “Marginalized communities have historically had problems with winning executive positions. For too long leadership has been associated with masculinity and the dominant culture. Vermonters choosing me, a trans-woman, as their governor, would expand the realm of possibility for generations to come. My success would mark a new milestone in acceptance.”

Hallquist was endorsed by LGBT rights groups, including the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund.

Annise Parker, CEO of the Victory Fund, said in a statement Hallquist’s victory is “a defining moment in the movement for trans equality” at a time when few transgender officials are in government.

“Many thought it unthinkable a viable trans gubernatorial candidate like Christine would emerge so soon,” Parker said. “Yet Vermont voters chose Christine not because of her gender identity, but because she is an open and authentic candidate with a long history of service to the state, and who speaks to the issues most important to voters.”

According to the Victory Fund, 13 openly trans people are serving in elected office in the United States. The Victory Fund has endorsed seven transgender candidates this election cycle.

Another transgender candidate seeking statewide office this year was Kim Coco Iwamoto in Hawaii. A former member of the Hawaii Board of Education, Iwamoto sought the Democratic nomination to run for lieutenant governor, but came up short in the primary on Saturday.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund, said in Hallquist’s victory “cannot be overstated.”

“Our mission as an organization is deeply rooted in bringing transgender people into the center of society, and Christine’s nomination is a massive step forward in that fight,” Keisling said.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez also commended Hallquist in a statement, calling her win an “inspiration to LGBTQ people everywhere.”

“We are excited to stand behind her and the entire slate of fantastic Democratic nominees in Vermont,” Hallquist said. “There’s no doubt that Christine and her fellow nominees will join a strong ticket this November that will fight for our values and serve as dedicated advocates for Vermont’s working families. Vermont voters know that Democrats have their backs and share their values, and they’re ready to organize to turn more seats blue this November.”

Hallquist’s Republican opponent in the general election will be incumbent Gov. Phil Scott. A moderate who signed into law gun control legislation, Scott faced a challenge from conservative candidate, but came out on top in the primary.

Political observers say Hallquist faces an uphill battle in the general election against the incumbent Republican. The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections Nathan L. Gonzales and have each rated the race either solid or safe Republican.

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, called Hallquist’s win “a historic breakthrough” and predicted she’ll be the focus of tremendous media attention, but said the road ahead is difficult.

“On the one hand, Vermont is clearly liberal, except on guns,” Sabato said. “On the other, it’s going to be very tough to beat Gov. Phil Scott, who is one of three moderate GOP governors leading in blue states this year (Massachusetts and Maryland are the other two). For Hallquist to win, Scott will have to make some big mistakes, or there would have to be the ‘blue’ wave tsunami that Democrats hope is coming.”

Despite the challenge Hallquist faces in the general election, it should be noted she obtained more voters in the Vermont primary than her Republican opponent. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Hallquist obtained 27,381 votes compared to the 23,857 votes Scott won.

Hallquist is one of four LGBT candidates who’ve obtained the Democratic nomination to run for governor in Election 2018. The other three are Rep. Jared Polis in Colorado and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in Texas, who could be the first openly gay people elected governor in the United States, as well as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who’s bisexual and seeking re-election.

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Disney to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees

We are requiring that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. working at any of our sites be fully vaccinated

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Graphic courtesy of The Walt Disney Company

BURBANK – The Walt Disney Company sent a company-wide message to employees based in the United States that they must soon be fully vaccinated to come into the workplace. With Friday’s announcement Disney joined a growing number of American companies requiring a COVID-19 vaccination.

Disney said it will give all salaried and non-union hourly employees both vaccinated and unvaccinated who are on-site 60 days to provide verification of vaccination.

The company is having conversations around this topic with the unions representing their employees under collective bargaining agreements.

According to a company spokesperson, “This decision was based on the recommendations of scientists, health officials and medical professionals that vaccinations provide the best protection again COVID-19.”

“At The Walt Disney Co., the safety and well-being of our employees during the pandemic has been and continues to be a top priority,” according to a statement from Disney. “Toward that end, and based on the latest recommendations of scientists, health officials and our own medical professionals that the COVID-19 vaccine provides the best protection against severe infection, we are requiring that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. working at any of our sites be fully vaccinated.

“Employees who aren’t already vaccinated and are working on-site will have 60 days from today (Friday) to complete their protocols and any employees still working from home will need to provide verification of vaccination prior to their return, with certain limited exceptions.”

The company also said all new hires would be required to be fully vaccinated before their employment begins.

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12 Republican Governors tell Supreme Court: Overturn Roe v. Wade

“The arguments made by the Mississippi Attorney General are chilling & pose a direct threat to the many members of the LGBTQ community […]”

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United States Supreme Court Building Washington D.C. (Blade File photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – In a brief filed Thursday by 12 Republican Governors, joined by 228 Republican members of the U.S. House in a separate brief, all are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, which protects women’s reproductive rights to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

This most recent push by Republicans comes as the high court is set to hear Mississippi’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, based on the Mississippi law that bars most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. There are no provisions for rape or incest either. 

The Governors from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas and South Carolina signed the brief.

The Court’s decisions in Roe […] are prime examples of invading an area that has not been committed to the Federal Government and remains reserved to the States,” the brief stated. In the brief submitted by House Republicans they argued that the high court should revisit the viability line established in its legal precedent set, because it “binds the States in a one-sided constitutional tug-of-war in which they are subject to intense factual scrutiny on the abortion advocates’ issues but unable to establish the factual basis for their own vital interests.”

SCOTUS Blog noted that oral arguments along with the briefs as submitted will center on whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.

The arguments made by the Mississippi Attorney General are chilling and pose a direct threat to the many members of the LGBTQ community who have a vital interest in reproductive freedom and choice.  Substantial research has documented that lesbian youth, in particular, are at high risk of unwanted pregnancy due to sexual coercion and attempts to hide their sexual orientation,” Shannon Minter, the Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), told the Blade Friday.

“And more broadly, the same groups and officials who are attempting to turn back the clock on women’s freedom are also seeking to roll back equality for our communities. Every LGBTQ person in this country has a stake in this case and in the ongoing battle for the fundamental right to make personal decisions free of government intrusion and control,” he added. 

A U.S. District Court blocked the law after the Jackson’s Women Health Center, the only remaining clinic in the state, brought the challenge arguing the law was a direct violation of the High Court’s precedent.

The primarily conservative leaning United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December of 2019; “In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability. States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not ban abortions.”

The appellate court upheld the lower court and concluded that “the law at issue is a ban.” The 5th Circuit blocked enforcement of the law, finding it in conflict with Roe v. Wade and subsequent abortion decisions.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, abortion would remain legal in 21 states and would likely be prohibited in 24 states and three territories if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Axios reported. In 2018, an Axios-SurveyMonkey survey showed that the vast majority of Americans want to leave Roe v. Wade in place.

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President Biden announces new COVID rules for federal workers

Biden also urged private companies, manufacturers, and other corporations to get their employees vaccinated.

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President Biden delivers remarks on the next steps in his administration's effort to get more Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 and combat the spread of the Delta variant (Screenshot via NBC News YouTube)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden announced in a press briefing in the East Room of the White House Thursday, he has ordered that millions of federal workers across the country will be required to verify they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus or else face mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing and other new requirements.

The president also plead with “those Americans who are unvaccinated- please go get vaccinated.”

Biden also urged private companies, manufacturers, and other corporations to get their employees vaccinated. Speaking about mask requirements that are going to be reinstated as well, the president cited the revised guidance issued by the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday.

The President said that he directed the Pentagon to look into adding the COVID-19 shot to its list of required vaccinations for members of the military. He then added that his administration will take steps to apply similar requirements to all federal contractors.

Biden citing the need to utilize funding from the American Rescue Plan, said that the various state and local governments should use those funds to incentivize vaccinations by offering $100 to individuals who get the shots. He also announced a federal program to fund reimbursements for small- and medium-sized businesses if they offer employees time off to get family members vaccinated.

Biden Delivers Remarks On Covid Vaccinations | NBC News WATCH:

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