Feinstein talks about abortion, privacy rights, gun control at Kavanaugh hearing
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the United States Supreme Court, opened with a cacophony of chaos Tuesday, Sept. 4, as demonstrators screamed “We dissent!” in protest and Democratic committee members, lead by California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, angrily moved to adjourn in order to vet thousands of pages of documents released Monday night.
“We cannot possibly move forward, Mr. Chairman, with this hearing,” Harris said, interrupting Committee chair, Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Democrats also strenuously complained about the White House withholding at least 100,000 more documents under executive privilege when Kavanaugh worked as an associate White House counsel. During that time, President George W. Bush considered rules governing terrorism suspects and same sex marriage, among other highly controversial subjects.
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal called the hearing “a charade and a mockery” and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy asked: “What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?”
Feinstein was Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee when investigated the Bush administration’s torture program after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Democrats have noted a contradiction between Kavanugh’s 2006 testimony when he told that committee he was “not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants” and a White House email, found in the trove of documents released before the conformation hearing, in which Kavanaugh offered to help prepare testimony from a senior administration official on the government’s surveillance of otherwise privileged conversations between specific terrorism suspects and their lawyers.
Feinstein is also a renowned proponent of gun restrictions—an issue that became intensely personal when she discovered the bullet-riddled body of her assassinated gay colleague, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk more than 40 years ago. She became mayor, replacing George Moscone, who had also been assassinated. Feinstein is expected to challenge Kavanaugh on his dissent in a 2009 DC case in an appeals court where he argued that a ban on semiautomatic rifles should be unconstitutional since they “have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens for self-defense in the home, hunting and other lawful uses.”
But perhaps the biggest issue Feinstein is expected to take up is whether Kavanaugh believes Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark abortion rights case, was correctly decided. For instance, last year Kavanaugh opposed allowing an undocumented teenage girl in federal detention from obtaining an abortion, an opinion “based on a constitutional principle as novel as it is wrong: a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand.”
Feinstein seemed to keep her cool as contentious protests and arguments disrupted the confirmation hearing. But she was both personal and precise, noting in her opening statement that Trump had promised a Supreme Court nominee who would be “anti-choice and pro-gun.” And, she added, “We believe what he said.”
But Feinstein also noted that Roe v Wade was bigger than abortion rights—setting up a fundamental right to privacy. “Roe is one in a series of cases that upheld an individual’s right to decide who to marry—it’s not the government’s right; where to send your children to school—the government can’t get involved; what kind of medical care at the end of life; as well as whether and when to have a family,” she said.
Here are Sen. Feinstein’s opening remarks Tuesday, Sept. 4, as prepared for delivery:
“I think it’s really important that people—as well as the judge, the nominee—understand how strongly we feel and why we feel that way.
I want to talk a little bit about one of the big decisions that we have the belief that although you told Senator Collins that you believe it was ‘settled law,’ the question is really do you believe that it’s correct law, and that’s Roe v. Wade.
I was, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, active first as a student at Stanford, I saw what happened to young women who became pregnant. And then subsequently I sat as an appointee of Governor Brown’s on the term setting and paroling authority for women in California who had committed felonies.
And so I sentenced women who had committed abortions to state prison and granted them paroles, and so came to see both sides—the terrible side and the human and vulnerable side.
And when you look at the statistics during those days, those statistics that the Guttmacher Institute has put out, are really horrendous.
For you, the president that nominated you has said ‘I will nominate someone who is anti-choice and pro-gun.’ And we believe what he said—we cannot find the documents that absolve from that conclusion.
So what women have won through Roe and a host of privacy cases to be able to control their own reproductive system, to have basic privacy rights, really extraordinarily important to this side of the aisle, and I hope the other side of the aisle as well.
Last year, you drafted a dissent in Garza v. Hargan, and that’s a case where a young woman in Texas, I believe, was seeking an abortion. In that dissent you argued that even though the young woman had complied with the Texas parental notification law and secured an approval from a judge, she should nonetheless be barred.
In making your argument, you ignored—and I believe mischaracterized—the Supreme Court precedent. You reasoned that Jane Doe should be unable to exercise her right to choose because she did not have family and friends to make her decision.
The argument rewrites Supreme Court precedent, and if adopted, we believe would require courts to determine whether a young woman had a sufficient support network when making her decision, even in cases where she has gone to court.
This reason, we believe—I believe—demonstrates that you are willing to disregard precedent. And if that’s the case, because just saying something is settled law, it really is, is it correct law?
The impact of overturning Roe is much broader than a women’s right to choose. It’s about protecting the most personal decisions we all make from government intrusion.
Roe is one in a series of cases that upheld an individual’s right to decide who to marry—it’s not the government’s right; where to send your children to school—the government can’t get involved; what kind of medical care at the end of life; as well as whether and when to have a family.
And I deeply believe that all these cases serve as the bulwark of privacy rights that protect all Americans from the over-involvement of the government in their lives. And to me that’s extraordinarily important.
Next, I’d like to address the president’s promise to appoint a nominee blessed by the NRA.
In reviewing your judicial opinions and documents, it’s pretty clear that your views go well beyond simply being “pro-gun.” And I’d like to straighten that out.
It’s my understanding that during a lecture at Notre Dame Law School, you said that you would be ‘the first to acknowledge that most other lower-court judges have disagreed’ with your views on the Second Amendment.
For example, in District of Columbia v. Heller, you wrote that unless guns were regulated either at the time the Constitution was written or traditionally throughout history, they cannot be regulated now.
In your own words, gun laws are unconstitutional unless they are ‘traditional or common in the United States.’ You concluded that banning assault weapons is unconstitutional because they have not historically been banned. This logic means that even as weapons become more advanced and more dangerous, they cannot be regulated.
Judge Easterbrook, as you know a conservative judge from the Seventh Circuit, concluded that that reasoning was “absurd.” And he pointed out that “a law’s existence can’t be the source of its own constitutional validity.”
In fact, I’m left with the fact that your reasoning is far outside the mainstream of legal thought and that it surpasses the views of Justice Scalia, who was clearly a pro-gun justice.
Even Scalia understood that weapons that are like M-16 rifles, or weapons that are most useful in military service, can in fact be regulated.
And there’s no question that assault weapons like the AR-15 were specifically designed to be like the M-16.
The United States makes up 4 percent of the worldwide population but we own 42 percent of the world’s guns.
Since 2012, when 20 first graders and six school employees were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, there have been 273 school shootings. This is an average of five shootings every month, and a total of 462 children, teenagers, teachers and staff shot, and 152 killed.
I care a lot about this. I authored the assault weapons legislation that become law for 10 years and I’ve seen the destruction.
If the Supreme Court were to adopt your reasoning, I fear the number of victims would continue to grow and citizens would be rendered powerless in enacting sensible gun laws. So this is a big part of my very honest concern.
You’re being nominated for a pivotal seat. It would likely be the deciding vote on fundamental issues.
During your time in the White House, when you were staff secretary—some people regard it as kind of a monitor, monitoring things going in and going out. But I think it’s much more. And you yourself have said that that’s the period of my greatest growth. And so we try to look at it. And the only way we can look at it is to understand the documents and it’s very, very difficult.
I don’t want to take too much time, but we’ve heard a lot of noise. Behind the noise is really a very sincere belief that it’s so important to keep in this country, which is multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-economic—a court that really serves the people and serves this great democracy. And that’s my worry. That’s my worry.”
Trans kids driving teen suicides says Republican hopeful Haley
“There is zero evidence that this is remotely true in any sense and it’s horrific that Nikki Haley is espousing this view”
DES MOINES – Veteran CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper moderated a wide ranging live CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley on Sunday in Iowa’s capital city.
Tapper had asked about her feelings on “woke” when the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations suddenly pivoted to an attack on transgender teens. “How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms?” Haley asked. “And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year.”
“I want everybody to live the way they want to live,” she continued. “But stop pushing your views on everybody else, that’s the problem.”
Conflating the two separate issues according to Washington, D.C. based Rotimi Adeoye, a spokesperson for the ACLU is wrong. “There is zero evidence that this is remotely true in any sense and it’s horrific that Nikki Haley is espousing this view. This furthers dangerous anti-trans ideologies that could hurt people.”
There is zero evidence that this is remotely true in any sense and it’s horrific that Nikki Haley is espousing this view. This furthers dangerous anti-trans ideologies that could hurt people. https://t.co/4X0qo0Ymi1— Rotimi Adeoye (@_rotimia) June 5, 2023
In a recent study released on April 28, 2023 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one third of female students in 2021 reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months before the survey. Researchers also found that in addition, prevalence was significantly higher among LGBQ+ female students, lesbian or gay; 2.60 bisexual; 1.80 questioning; 2.40 trans or other) compared with heterosexual students
However there was zero correlation or facts to substantiate Haley’s claims.
The Republican hopeful was one of the declared presidential candidates to make appearances over the weekend with the exception of former President Donald Trump.
Migrants dumped at Calif. church after charted jet flight from Texas
Immigrants were carrying documentation purported to be from the State of Florida according to the Attorney General’s office
SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Governor Gavin Newsom expressed outrage after a group of 16 migrants were transported by a private chartered jet from Texas via New Mexico and were left at the doorstep of the offices of the Sacramento Catholic Diocese on Friday.
“Today Attorney General Rob Bonta and I met with over a dozen migrants in Sacramento, Governor Newsom said in a news release. “These individuals were transported from Texas to New Mexico before being flown by private chartered jet to Sacramento and dumped on the doorstep of a local church without any advance warning.”
“We are working closely with the Mayor’s office, along with local and nonprofit partners to ensure the people who have arrived are treated with respect and dignity, and get to their intended destination as they pursue their immigration cases. My Administration is also working with the California Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances around who paid for the group’s travel and whether the individuals orchestrating this trip misled anyone with false promises or have violated any criminal laws, including kidnapping,” the Governor said.
The Attorney General said in a separate statement:
“Today I met with over a dozen migrants who were brought to Sacramento by private plane, with no prior arrangement or care in place,” said Bonta. “We are investigating the circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California. We are also evaluating potential criminal or civil action against those who transported or arranged for the transport of these vulnerable immigrants. While this is still under investigation, we can confirm these individuals were in possession of documentation purporting to be from the government of the State of Florida.
“While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting. We are a nation built by immigrants and we must condemn the cruelty and hateful rhetoric of those, whether they are state leaders or private parties, who refuse to recognize humanity and who turn their backs on extending dignity and care to fellow human beings. California and the Sacramento community will welcome these individuals with open arms and provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they will need after such a harrowing experience,” Bonta added.
Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento noted: “Within each of the 16 migrants transported to Sacramento on Friday we recognize the humble presence of Jesus, and we hear His call to stand by them. The urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of good will. We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned.”
According to Diocese officials, the migrants arrived with everything they own stuffed in their backpacks. Migrant rights advocates say that the sixteen Venezuelan and Colombian nationals were lied to and intentionally deceived.
Eddie Carmona, campaign director at PICO California, a faith-based community organizing group that has been assisting the migrants told the Associated Press that the migrants had already been processed by U.S. immigration officials and given court dates for their asylum cases when “individuals representing a private contractor” approached them outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas, Carmona said. They offered to help the migrants get jobs and get them to their final destination, he said.
“They were lied to and intentionally deceived,” Carmona said, adding that the migrants had no idea where they were after being dropped off in Sacramento.
Late Sunday the Los Angeles Times reported the documents appear to show that the flights were arranged through the Florida Division of Emergency Management and that it was part of the state’s migrant transportation program, according to a spokesperson with the attorney general’s office who did not want to be identified.
Elon Musk to lobby for criminalizing healthcare for trans youth
Musk’s 18-year-old trans daughter had filed papers in court to legally change her first and last name and request a new birth certificate
SAN FRANCISCO – Elon Musk started Pride Month with a series of transphobic tweets that constitute his most extreme attacks agains the community to-date and included a pledge on Thursday that he will be “actively lobbying to criminalize” healthcare interventions for transgender youth.
Also on Thursday, Musk responded “Totally agree” to a tweet from a trans-exclusionary LGB account that said, “LGB don’t even want Pride month anymore. We just want to be separated from the TQ+.”
And then on Friday, the Twitter owner intervened on behalf of anti-trans pundit Matt Walsh when the platform took steps to limit the reach of his “documentary” attacking the community, and then he re-tweeted Walsh’s video.
The New Republic named Walsh “Transphobe of the Year” in 2022, noting that he stood out in a crowded field of hate purveyors, having “raised his profile by spreading grotesque conspiracy theories about grooming” and pedophilia in the LGBTQ community.”
Responding to Musk’s promise to fight for the criminalization of gender affirming care, anti-trans conservative media commentator and University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson tweeted, “Prison. Long term. Without Parole. No Mercy. And maybe for the compliant ‘therapists’ and the butchers they enable.” Musk replied, “Absolutely.”
Medical societies that develop and publish clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minor patients do not generally recommend genital surgeries before the age of 18.
Access to the interventions proscribed in these guidelines, which are supported by every mainstream scientific and medical body, have been shown to dramatically reduce rates of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicides among trans youth. Studies show rates of post-treatment regret are exceedingly rare.
Musk has long been known as an online provocateur, often taking aim at institutions like Hollywood, big businesses, and the mainstream news media that he believes promote a left-leaning agenda without providing room for dissenting voices.
However, the tech billionaire has increasingly aligned himself with more extreme right-wing politics and conservative political figures like Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who launched his 2024 presidential campaign last week with a Twitter Spaces discussion hosted by Musk just days after signing some of the most extreme anti-trans laws of any state in the country.
Likewise with his public statements concerning the transgender community. A few years ago, Musk courted controversy for mocking and complaining about the practice of calling trans and nonbinary people by their preferred pronouns. This week’s anti-trans tirade was markedly more extreme.
Last year, Insider noted Musk’s comments about gender pronouns in its coverage of a Reuters report that the South African born entrepreneur’s 18-year-old transgender daughter had filed papers in a California court to legally change her first and last name and request a new birth certificate.
Per Reuters, the teen said that she no longer wished to be “related to my biological father in any way, shape or form.”
A month later, the elder Musk publicly declared his support for the Republican Party. In an interview with the Financial Times, he said the reason for his estrangement from his daughter was “full on communism” in elite colleges and universities.
Biden sends Sean Patrick Maloney nomination to the Senate
New York’s first openly gay member of Congress, he finished his fifth term as chair of the DCCC before narrowly losing his bid for reelection
WASHINGTON – The White House on Thursday officially announced the nomination of former Democratic congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York to serve as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s U.S. representative with the rank of ambassador.
Since February 2022, former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has represented U.S. before the OECD, an intergovernmental body with 38 member countries founded to promote economic progress and stimulate world trade.
Along with Maloney’s nomination to replace him, Markell’s nomination last month to serve as ambassador to Italy is now pending before the Senate.
New York’s first openly gay member of Congress, Maloney finished his fifth term as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Party’s sixth highest-ranking position in the House, before narrowly losing his bid for reelection in 2022.
Maloney was credited with helping to secure the Democrats’ better-than-expected performance in the midterm elections but lost his own race by just 1,800 votes after New York’s 17th Congressional District was redrawn
Senate signs off on debt ceiling deal, bill heads to the president
The deal leaves neither side happy with the outcome. With today’s action the volatile debt ceiling issue has been pushed back until 2025
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate passed the debt ceiling and budget cuts package negotiated between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a late night session Thursday. After four months of contentious debate between Republicans and the White House, a large bipartisan majority of the Senate voted 63-36 to approve the bill, which passed the House on Wednesday night.
The deal leaves neither Republicans nor Democrats happy with the outcome. With today’s action and once the president signs the measure, the volatile debt ceiling issue that risked imploding the U.S. and global economy, has been pushed back until 2025 – after the next U.S. presidential election. Had the American nation defaulted it would have triggered a global recession and the loss of millions of jobs.
In a speech on the Senate floor after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the chamber, “By passing this bill we will avoid default tonight. America can breathe a sigh of relief. “From the start, avoiding default has been our north star. The consequences of default would be catastrophic,” he said. “For all the ups and downs and twists and turns it took to get here, it is so good for this country that both parties have come together at last to avoid default,” Schumer added.
The Hill reported that four Democrats voted against the measure: Sens. John Fetterman (Pa.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), along with Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Joining a total of 31 Republicans who also voted against the measure.
The Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) labeled the deal package a major win for Republicans.
“I think Speaker McCarthy should be congratulated on capturing a number of priorities,” McConnell said, pointing out that Congress enacted approximately $2.7 trillion in new spending on party-line votes when Democrats were in full control in 2021 and 2022.
“So, we’ve gone from one party spending $2.7 trillion in two years to a discussion about actually reducing government spending. So, I think the American people’s decision to change House has already yielded benefits for our country,” he said.
“All Americans should be offended by the manufactured crisis and hostage taking by Republicans threatening our nation’s economy, but the consequences of defaulting on our debt are too severe and would disproportionately fall on working class and low-income families. We cannot allow our country to default on its debt,” said U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.)
“While not ideal, this agreement protects our nation’s historic economic recovery and the progress we’ve secured over the past two years through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, the PACT Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. Democrats prevented Republican-proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare programs that the American people have worked for, paid for, and rely on to survive,” the senator noted.
“And while I am pleased that the deal expands nutrition assistance to veterans, people experiencing homelessness, and former foster youth, I’m disappointed that Republicans continue to target programs that have kept families in need from going hungry—all under the pretext of insufficient work requirements. Republicans were more than willing to allow a catastrophic default that would have put millions of Americans out of work and decimated retirement savings. With today’s vote, the Senate thankfully helped avoid disaster, but it should have never come to this point,” Padilla added.
Rep. Cicilline on future of LGBTQ rights & life after Congress
Looking beyond Congress, Cicilline said he is eager to continue advancing “equality and justice for our community”
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Speaking with the Washington Blade by phone on Tuesday from Rhode Island, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) was optimistic about the outcome of the debt ceiling negotiations that have roiled Capitol Hill, the White House, and Wall Street for weeks.
“My sense of it is there are enough Democratic and Republican votes to get it to the president’s desk,” said the congressman, who would fly back to Washington in the evening with the expectation that a vote would be held the following day.
Even amid the chaos and back-and-forth travel this week, Cicilline was ready to look back on the landmark legislative accomplishments of his distinguished career in politics, which have included groundbreaking advancements for LGBTQ rights.
And despite the ascendancy of anti-LGBTQ attacks from the right, including from much of the Republican caucus, he told the Blade there is ample reason to be optimistic that the chamber’s pro-equality work will continue in his absence.
As announced back in February and effective on Thursday, Cicilline will retire from Congress to lead his state’s largest philanthropic organization, the Rhode Island Foundation, having represented its 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House since 2011.
A former attorney, Cicilline was tapped to lead the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism.
Particularly in recent years, the congressman became one of the most powerful House Democrats, elected to leadership in 2017 as a co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and picked in 2021 by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to serve as one of the nine members tasked with managing the House’s second impeachment of former President Donald Trump.
Among other legislative achievements, Cicilline is widely credited with leading the House’s passage, twice, of the biggest civil rights bill since the 1964 Civil Rights Act – the Equality Act, which would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in areas from education and housing to employment and public accommodations.
While the Senate failed to pass the Equality Act, Cicilline said, “I’m handing that work off to [U.S. Rep.] Mark Takano [D-Calif.], who I know will take it over the finish line” once Democrats win control of the House again.
The congressman told the Blade that he hopes his leadership on this bill will be remembered as a key part of his legacy – and was adamant that its passage through both chambers is now a question of “when” rather than “if.”
“The majority of Americans support the Equality Act, and a majority of voters in every single state support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people,” so “this is about the Republican conference in Congress catching up with the American people,” Cicilline said.
Congress is beginning to look more like America in at least one respect, though. After his first election to the House, Cicilline was one of only three openly LGBTQ members serving in Congress (having already made history in 2003 as the first openly gay mayor of a state capital, Providence, R.I.).
Today, “I’m leaving with 10 colleagues in the House and two in the Senate,” he said, “so that’s great progress.”
“The calvary has arrived” with “young new members who are going to lead the next wave of this fight” such as openly LGBTQ U.S. Reps. Robert Garcia (Calif.), Becca Balint (Vt.), Eric Sorensen (Ill.), and Ritchie Torres (N.Y.), Cicilline said.
Echoing comments from his final speech on the House floor last week, the congressman also expressed his faith and confidence in party leaders with whom he has worked closely, including Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)
Tonight, I addressed the House of Representatives for the final time as a Member of Congress.— Congressman David N. Cicilline (@RepCicilline) May 24, 2023
As a lifelong Rhode Islander, it is only fitting that my final message is one of HOPE — hope for our democracy and our Congress.
Hopes and expectations for the current Democratic conference’s ability to deliver on behalf of LGBTQ Americans were buttressed late last year by passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation co-led by Cicilline that codified fundamental rights for same-sex couples that might otherwise be erased if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or weakens its constitutional protections for marriage equality.
How to combat the rightwing crusade against LGBTQ and especially trans Americans
However prepared Cicilline believes his colleagues are to meet the moment, the congressman is also up to speed on the unprecedented challenges presented by the current political climate with respect to LGBTQ rights.
This year, state legislatures have introduced hundreds of bills targeting trans Americans, which endeavor to restrict their access to everything from lifesaving healthcare to public bathrooms. At the same time, anti-trans rhetoric has escalated to such an extent that a rightwing pundit speaking at CPAC said “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely,” which some interpreted as a call for genocide against the community.
Legislatively, Cicilline said it is all part of a cynical political strategy adopted by Republicans. Having concluded that their crusade against same-sex marriage was no longer winnable, the party sought another way to fight against LGBTQ rights, eventually polling anti-trans positions and messaging that successfully motivates “the most extreme parts of their political base,” he said.
“Our Republican colleagues have weaponized the trans community in such a way that they think it’s politically advantageous to attack even trans kids,” which is “really horrific” especially considering the potential for tragic real-world consequences, including targeted violence against the trans community, Cicilline said.
“I hope people who are seeking public office will be conscious of that and will be responsible, but unfortunately, I think there are some who are so driven by their desire for power, that they’re prepared to do almost anything to get there,” the congressman added.
Some conservatives hope their polarization of and fear mongering about trans issues will drive a wedge, providing sufficient incentive or a permission structure for LGB Americans to turn their backs on the trans community, Cicilline said, but “That’s not gonna happen.”
“We are standing in lockstep with our trans brothers and sisters, and we’re just not going to allow them to be attacked in this way,” he said.
Broadly speaking, Cicilline said elected Democrats must “stand up for the queer community, speak out, condemn this kind of [anti-LGBTQ/anti-trans] legislation, and let the American people see the contrast” between the Democratic Party, which “stands for inclusion and has fought for LGBTQ+ equality” and the GOP, which is pushing “these very toxic and dangerous and un-American attacks on the LGBTQ community.”
The congressman noted that working against the interests of LGBTQ Americans is nothing new for congressional Republicans. “With just a couple of exceptions,” he said, the House GOP caucus voted against the Equality Act’s nondiscrimination protections, which stem directly from America’s most basic foundational values of fairness and equality.
“So that means I have colleagues in the Congress of the United States on the Republican side who fundamentally rejected the legislation that would grant me and others in my community full equality as citizens of this country, [colleagues who would] allow discrimination to continue against our community,” Cicilline said.
When it comes to navigating interpersonal working relationships with anti-LGBTQ Republicans in the chamber, though, “I frankly don’t really care how they feel about us,” the congressman said. “That’s irrelevant to me.”
Cicilline to continue advocating for LGBTQ Americans after Congress
In addition to the Equality Act, Cicilline said that if Democrats recapture control of the House, he expects to see renewed momentum for a bill that he authored, the Global Respect Act, and another for which he was an original cosponsor, the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act. Both were passed by the House but not by the Senate and therefore remain “unfinished business,” he said.
The Global Respect Act, Cicilline said, “will allow the U.S. to impose visa sanctions on anyone who commits gross human rights violations against the LGBTQ community,” while the latter bill would mandate that federal surveys must include data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Other legislative efforts that Cicilline has led, in areas from antitrust to foreign policy to gun violence, also include some “unfinished business” – bills that might see movement in the next Congress that carry the potential, in many cases, to measurably impact the lives of all Americans.
For instance, Cicilline, who has been at the vanguard of Congress’s work modernizing and strengthening antitrust law, remains hopeful about the eventual passage of six bills that he introduced in 2021, all designed to increase competition in digital markets.
These would curb the monopolistic power of dominant tech platform companies whose business models center engagement as the primary mechanism to drive advertising revenue – even though, as these firms are aware, content that tends to earn more engagement tends to be that which is incendiary, offensive, hateful, false, or misleading, violent or otherwise outrageous.
Looking beyond Congress, Cicilline said he is eager to continue advancing “equality and justice for our community” at the Rhode Island Foundation, building upon the organization’s existing work “supporting the organizations that are doing really important work to support the LGBTQ community.”
Cicilline acknowledged that leading an “explicitly non-partisan organization” will be a departure from his work in Washington – though perhaps not to the extent one might imagine.
“You know, our community remains, in this country, a marginalized community,” the congressman said. “In fact, it’s the only community, still, in America, that it’s legal to discriminate against.”
At this point, rather than pivoting back to discussing the need for passage of the Equality Act, Cicilline instead explained that because of the lack of national nondiscrimination protections, he is even more eager to include the LGBTQ community in the foundation’s work advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Liberal PAC poll shows Floridians oppose DeSantis policies
Respondents were asked their opinion of recent laws being signed by Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis that targets LGBTQ+ Floridians
SACRAMENTO -A recent Cedar Key Progress poll of 400 Floridians, conducted May 18-22, 2023 by Civiqs, found that Floridians oppose LGBTQ+ book bans and Ron DeSantis’s attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.
In a series of questions, respondents were asked their opinion of recent laws being signed by Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis that targets LGBTQ+ Floridians, especially LGBTQ+ youth and educational instruction.
Do you support or oppose laws removing books mentioning gay and transgender people and history from public school libraries?
Neither support nor oppose 7%
Do you support or oppose laws banning diversity, equity, and inclusion programs from colleges and universities?
Neither support nor oppose 7%
The Cedar Key Progress group is also sponsoring six billboards during June’s LGBTQ+ Pride month 2023 to be positioned along six major throughfares across the state including:
Titusville, Brevard County
East side, Northbound U.S. 1, north of Golden Knights Blvd
Tallahassee, Leon County
West side, Lake Bradford Road north of Hutchinson St
Yulee, Nassau County
US 17 south of Harts Road
Pensacola, Escambia County
South side of I-10 west of Alt US 90
Summerfield, Marion County
US 27 south of SE 132nd St
Winter Haven, Polk County
Cypress Gardens Blvd south of Old Helena Rd
Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point partners with registered sex offender
Bergstrand served time for attempted “coercion and enticement” after trying to persuade “a minor female” to “engage in sexual activity”
NASHVILLE – Far-right extremist radio chat show host and Turning Point USA CEO Charles J. Kirk, in statements he made this past week at the TPUSA’s second-annual Pastors Summit, told attendees that conservatives and others needed to boycott Target for “their support for grooming kids.”
Kirk also attacked Target, telling a packed audience of religious leaders: “If you love God, you must hate evil.”
One of the TPUSA summit’s corporate sponsors was Shawn Bergstrand, currently CEO of Bismarck-based Rightside Up Apparel, who is also a registered sex offender in North Dakota Rolling Stone magazine reported.
Bergstrand, served time in federal prison for attempted “coercion and enticement” after trying to persuade “a minor female” to “engage in sexual activity.”
In a statement to Rolling Stone, TPUSA spokesman Andrew Kolvet said that TPUSA Faith “was not aware of this incident” but emphasized that, as an “exhibit sponsor,” Bergstrand was not a speaker, organizer, or “professing doctrine from the stage.”
Charlie Kirk decried the sexualization of children at his Pastors Summit this week.— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) May 27, 2023
One of the event’s corporate sponsors is run by a man convicted of "coercion and enticement" of a minor.https://t.co/abUPkTCiWl
Kirk, who decried the sexualization of children at his pastors summit, responded on Twitter saying: “What a joke. Let’s set the record straight. First, I’ve never met this person. He was one of many exhibitors at our event. He’s not a “corporate sponsor” but rather a small business trying to market his company.
I’m told from the team that coordinates exhibitors that he’s a nice person who did something wrong over a decade ago, and unlike Target, he repented and the experience led him to his faith. Good for him. That’s the Gospel.
Lastly, he doesn’t hide what happened. He tells his story on his own website, and the jerks at Rollingstone [sic] took that public testimony and called it “exclusive,” just to unfairly smear him and play gotcha with me and TPUSA Faith. Rollingstone [sic] should be ashamed. Trash outlet that publishes trash hit pieces about an event they didn’t witness and know nothing about.
Rolling Stone also noted: Kirk responded to Rolling Stone’s coverage of his group’s new crusade. “First of all, it’s not my Turning Point,” Kirk insisted of his organization. “It’s the Lord’s Turning Point.” He added: “I am both a Christian and a nationalist, but most importantly, I’m a Christian.”
Bergstrand did not respond to requests for comment from the magazine, but his address on North Dakota’s sex offender registry matches the registration address for Bergstrand and Rightside Up in a corporate registry maintained by North Dakota’s secretary of state. Bergtrand’s photo on the offender registry also matches video of the apparel CEO from RightsideUp’s website.
Kirk has launched attacks on progressive politicians in a similar vein as his attacks on Target. Last November, in a lengthy tirade on Twitter, Kirk, while loosely channeling an InfoWars host Alex Jones style-attack, went after California State Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF District 11) implying that the veteran lawmaker endorses and supports child molestation.
Kirk’s attack on the senator commenced with: “Thousands of pedophiles in California are going free after just a few months in jail, thanks to the state’s radically reduced penalties for child molestation. One reason so many of these predators are going free so early is California lawmaker Scott Wiener.”
Editor’s Note: It needs to be made clear, California has NOT reduced penalties for child molestation.
Senator Wiener responded to Kirk’s attacks saying on Twitter:
Charlie Kirk — one of the biggest attention-seeking liars around — is spreading bald-faced lies about me. These statements are absolutely false & defamatory. These are the lies bigots have always spread about LGBTQ people — lies that lead to violence against our community.
LA Times poll: Trump’s big lead over DeSantis with California GOP
“The former president’s rise shows his ability to use the media to galvanize the voters most likely to back his third White House bid”
BERKELEY, Calif. – Former President Trump has vaulted back to a big lead in California over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, as the party’s voters brush aside his legal travails, a new poll finds.
The latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll finds that Trump now leads DeSantis 44% to 26%, a reversal of where they stood in February. A dozen other Republicans were included in the poll, but none got more than 4%. Almost 9 in 10 California Republicans say investigations into Trump are more about politics than law and justice.
Read the entire story here: (Los Angeles Times)
Queer, Armenian, global health leader; now political candidate
“I have seen the power of how an issue can advance when an LGBTQ+ person is in the room. That is what we need. That is how we make change”
BURBANK, Calif. – Dr. Jirair Ratevosian, announced Thursday that he has entered the race to replace Rep. Adam Schiff as a member of the U.S. House representing California’s 30th Congressional District.
Ratevosian, 42, was born in Hollywood, CA, to a Lebanese mother and an Armenian father. He grew up in Sun Valley. Awarded a Johns Hopkins University post-graduate doctoral degree with concentration in public health policy, the Democratic candidate has devoted his life to his two passions: politics and physical science.
In 2018, Ratevosian was selected as a “40 under 40 Health Leader” for his achievements in tackling health disparities in the United States and was one of 50 LGBTQIA+ experts in U.S. national security and foreign policy recognized by “Out in National Security” in 2021.
During the 2020 presidential election he served as a national security advisor on COVID-19 and other health security matters to the Biden-Harris campaign and then after the election worked on the Biden Administration transition team.
When asked by the Blade to list some of his proudest achievements he highlighted the following:
- Led coalition to repeal the US HIV immigration ban policy in 2008
- Worked with Congressional staff to reauthorize PEPFAR in 2013
- Worked to expand focus and funding for PEPFAR’s work targeting men who have sex with men
- He penned an op-ed with Ambassador Dr. John N. Nkengasong, who leads, manages, and oversees the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for the U.S. Department, about the ways anti-LGBTQ laws impact HIV: Legal and Policy Barriers for an Effective HIV/AIDS Response – The Lancet
- Worked on legislation to decriminalize HIV transmission for Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA.)
- Fought against the anti-homosexuality law in Uganda (2009 and 2023)
- Worked as the first U.S. State Dept. Health Equity Policy Advisor
Until recently, Ratevosian served as a Senior Advisor for Health Equity Policy at the U.S. Department of State and worked for the Office of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy.
Ratevosian is proud of his heritage, attributing a part of his success to his early education through the Armenian school system in Los Angeles. If elected to Congress, he tells the Blade that he will continue to be an advocate for and amplifier of Armenian voices.
“I stand here to tell you that I am running for Congress because I am a product of what I have learned thanks to the success of that education system and the family support around me. I have a strong desire to make an impact on the Armenian community. We are facing a war. We are facing all the same challenges as other communities here in the district are as well, he said.
“I know that nobody pushes more for Armenian issues than Armenian people. We have relied on the generosity of Adam Schiff and others who have carried Armenian issues, but it is time for an Armenian voice to lead on Armenian issues. I am excited about the opportunity to be the person that our community needs to be able to take those issues to Congress on day one and focus on them. I would love to be able to start an Armenian congressional caucus and to inspire more meeting Americas to run for public office,” he continued.
Ratevosian told the Blade that he is also motivated by the ideal “American dream” that his grandfather had when he immigrated here to start a new life for himself and his family, free from Soviet rule.
“I’m running because my grandfather’s American dream is far from reach for many people,” Ratevosian told The Blade.
🚨Big personal news: I'm proud to announce I'm running for Congress because my grandfather's American dream is far from reach for many. Follow @JirairForCA and RT our video. 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽https://t.co/VjU6OJtnfb #RepresentationMatters #PeopleFirst #JirairforCA #CA30— Dr. Jirair Ratevosian (@JRatevosian) May 25, 2023
“Like many immigrant families, mine came to America for a second chance. My mom’s side was from Lebanon. My dad’s side was from Armenia. I was the first to be born here. My parents took whatever jobs they could to provide for us and put us through school. As soon as I was legally able to work, I did at the age of 15 as an ice cream scooper at Baskin and Robbins. Now my parents have watched their kid going from an ice cream scooper to the U.S. State Department as a senior political appointee.”
But, he explained, the streets he grew up on “are not the same streets anymore.” With housing prices and inflation surging, many in the county find it harder and harder to make ends meet.
“That shot my grandparents had is no longer available to a lot of people,” he lamented.
“I am in this race because there is so much work to be done to ensure that everybody has a fair shot to choose their own dreams. My grandfather was a shoe cobbler. They were able to afford healthcare. My parents were able to put us through school. They lived a happy and normal life. I think if my grandfather were alive now, he would be disappointed in the way healthcare costs are going up, and the way we treat our planet, the way we treat people experiencing homelessness, the way housing costs have gone up. I don’t even know if they could afford that same Kingsley Street apartment that they had in Hollywood for 25 years before they passed away. These are the things that I think are making families struggle.
“Of course, child care and student loans are also out of control. I still have $20,000 worth of student loans from my master’s degree 15 years ago. Even though I had a job in corporate America and was making good money and paying off my loans, I still have $20,000 in student debt. If we don’t fight to reverse and address these issues straight on, we won’t be able to bring that dream back to people.
I am also really looking forward to bringing the support that businesses need to get back on their feet post Covid and really flourish again. I want to work to be able to revitalize our city.”
Openly gay candidate
Ratevosian is making it a point to run as an openly LGBTQ+ candidate – a choice that some of his advisors have cautioned against, fearing that the Armenian community might not accept his sexual orientation.
He has decided to forgo this advice, choosing instead to put his faith in the acceptance of the Armenian people.
“I am confident people will see me for the work that I have done and the values that I have had. They will see me for the focus areas of my entire life, the focus on the most vulnerable and disenfranchised people all around the world in all corners of Africa and Asia. They will see me for my decency, for the way I treat people with honor and respect. I know the Armenian people will embrace me and that we can change hearts and minds along the way.”
Ratevosian is additionally confident that he can change hearts and minds thanks to his own coming out journey, wherein his mother had tremendous trouble accepting him, at first.
“It was one of those radio silent moments when you can hear your own heart beating,” Ratevosian said, recalling the moment he told his parents he was gay.
After coming out, his mother would not speak to him for the longest period of time since he was born.
“Before that, if I didn’t speak to my mother every day, she was worried the worst had happened to me. Then, not speaking to her for a few weeks felt like years.”
Finally, his mother did find it in her heart to accept her son, and Ratevosian was proud to report that she stood hand in hand with his fiancé at Ratevosian’s graduate school commencement ceremonies.
“I teared up,” said Ratevosian, recalling the moment that signified so much change in his mother and also the change he hopes to impart to others who might be like-minded in the district.
“I think together we can advance our culture’s beliefs. If people like me don’t come out, then how are we ever going to make change?
“I want to fight for these issues that are very much still alive in Southern California and across the United States. There are a record number of Anti-LGBTQ bills passed by Republicans across the country. I don’t know why but for some reason, republicans are more concerned with banning drag shows that fighting climate change or reducing poverty. But even in our district, we know hate and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment are still alive and well. This is why I am fighting, and this is why representation matters.”
From 2011-2014, Jirair served as Legislative Director in the House of Representatives, overseeing budget, appropriations, foreign policy, and health portfolios for U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).
As co-chair and co-founder of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, Rep. Lee leads the effort to advance legislation that addresses the HIV/AIDS pandemic while educating Members of Congress about the virus, its impact, and affected populations.
“I have always had an interest in HIV in all my jobs,” Ratevosian told the Blade. “When I came to Washington, I wanted to get more involved in HIV policy. She (Lee) was the champion for HIV policy.
“I watched her in action. She was the best teacher anyone could have in terms of fighting for progressive values in fighting for healthcare and fighting poverty.”
Jirair’s extensive work in HIV legislation took a personal turn when he met the love of his life and now fiancé, Michael Lghodaro, who is a person living with HIV.
“HIV work is who I am,” Ratevosian told The Blade, “literally because of the work it has done to shape the way I live my life and the way I love the people I love.”
“The reason why I am healthy, and I am staying HIV negative, and we have a wonderful relationship is because he is able to access his HIV medication.”
This personal association with the disease fueled Ratevosian to fight in favor of the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act bill with Lee.
“The bill provided federal incentives for states to repeal their archaic laws that criminalize HIV transmission,” said Ratevosian.
He is also a backer of the U=U campaign, an informational campaign about how effective HIV medications are in preventing sexual transmission of HIV.
U=U he explained means “Undetectable = Untransmittable,” indicating that if a person with HIV is on HIV meds (antiretroviral therapy, or ART) with a consistently undetectable HIV viral load, the virus cannot be transmitted to a sex partner.
His contributions to the Biden-Harris administration led to the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the signing of landmark foreign aid legislation to support Haiti, and the establishment of the bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.
“The job to fight HIV is far from over,” said Ratevosian. “I will be fighting to get more Ryan White money for our cities. We have amazing new technologies for HIV prevention that I want all communities to benefit from, including minority communities.”
Editor’s Note: The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, administered by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, provides grants to cities, states, counties, and community-based groups. The grants help provide care, medication, and essential support services to people with HIV, HIV-related health outcomes, and reduce HIV transmission.
He also regularly rides in the AIDS/LIFECYCLE ride, a 7 day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, co-produced by and benefiting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
Ratevosian shared an important message of positivity to fellow ethnic LGBTQ+ aspiring leaders:
“Your time is now. I am inspired that there are a record number of LGBTQ+ leaders in office, but those numbers are far from the true representation of diversity in our community and the diversity of our country. If anyone is reading this story and is inspired, then they should do the same. Pursue a place in office, whether it is federally or locally, or somewhere in between. I have seen the power of how an issue can advance when an LGBTQ+ person is in the room. That is what we need. That is how we make change.”
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