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Cicilline touts Equality Act as House’s new senior gay member

Cicilline talks Equality Act in new role as senior LGBT House member

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Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) will become the most senior openly gay member of the U.S. House as Democrats take the majority this week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) will become the most senior openly gay member of the U.S. House as Democrats take the majority this week, but he’s more excited about the growing ranks of openly LGB people who will serve in Congress alongside him and finally being able to move long-awaited legislation to ban anti-LGBT discrimination.

Asked by the Blade during an interview in his office Dec. 20 about his new distinction as the most senior out gay member of the House with outgoing Rep. Jared Polis leaving to become governor of Colorado, Cicilline said he’s “very proud” the chamber will have a net gain of two out LGB members in the 116th Congress and talked about the Equality Act.

“It’s a great privilege to be a part of that group,” Cicilline said. “I think this year will be an opportunity for us to finally move forward on the Equality Act, which I think is the single most important piece of legislation to our community in terms of, once and for all, prohibiting discrimination against members of the LGBT community as a matter of federal law. And so, I’m honored to be the senior most member and really excited about the new colleagues that are joining this caucus.”

(Although Cicilline is now the most senior openly gay person in the House, he’s not the most senior openly gay person in Congress. That distinction belongs to Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin who was first elected to the House in 1998, but moved to the Senate and won re-election last year.)

The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit.

The bill also seeks to update federal law to include sex in the list of protected classes in public accommodation in addition to expanding the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, transportation services and health care services. Further, the Equality Act would establish that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a 1994 law aimed at protecting religious liberty — can’t be used to enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

Although the ongoing government shutdown will likely be the first priority for the Democratic majority, Nancy Pelosi said advancing the Equality Act would be a personal goal and the legislation will receive a bill number between 2 and 10.

And the lawmaker who’ll spearhead that legislation is Cicilline, who introduced the comprehensive non-discrimination measure in the previous two Congresses with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). For the first time, Democrats will introduce the Equality Act while controlling at least one chamber of Congress, which presents an opportunity for a floor vote on the legislation.

Cicilline said the timing for introduction for the Equality Act in the 116th Congress is yet to be determined, although it’ll definitely coincide with Merkley’s introduction of the legislation in the Senate. The Rhode Island Democrat said conversations with Democratic leadership on the timing for the legislation haven’t yet taken place “other than knowing we’re moving forward on it.”

“I know that the incoming speaker had made public statements about our intention to make the Equality Act a priority, which I’m delighted to hear,” Cicilline said.

Cicilline said he expects committees with jurisdiction over the Equality Act — such as the Judiciary Committee and the Education & the Workforce Committee — to hold hearings on the legislation before moving forward in accordance with regular order before the floor vote.

The next iteration of the Equality Act will have “pretty much” the same language as its previous iterations, Cicilline said. He added every time he reintroduces a piece of legislation “it’s another occasion to kind of look at the bill and see if there’s anything to change.”

“So we’ll go through that process, but it’ll be essentially the same bill,” Cicilline added.

Asked whether he had anything in mind that would make the Equality Act not the same in the 116th Congress, Cicilline replied, “No.”

In the previous Congress, all members of the Democratic caucus were co-sponsors of the legislation, except for two lawmakers: Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), whom LGBT groups sought (unsuccessfully) to oust during the Democratic primary last year for not backing LGBT rights, and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio).

Cicilline said he expects the same level of support in the Democratic caucus as it takes the majority in the 116th Congress.

“I’ve talked to a number of my new colleagues about the Equality Act, a number of them have already contacted me about wanting to be co-sponsor, so I expect will have the same kind of overwhelming Democratic support,” Cicilline said. “Hopefully, every Democrat will be a co-sponsor.”

Republicans however, are a different story. Only two Republicans co-sponsored the Equality Act in the last Congress. One of them is Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), known for being the most pro-LGBT House Republican, who retired after 24 years in Congress. The other Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), was voted out of office in the Democratic “blue” wave.

Cicilline said he’s had conversations on the Republican side of the aisle about the Equality Act and is “going to continue those because I want to do everything I had to make it bipartisan.

“I think it’ll be really important to have some of our Republican colleagues, but I don’t have any yet that are committed to it,” Cicilline added.

Asked whether there were any Republican possibilities he could name, Cicilline demurred.

“If I name them, they become less possible,” Cicilline said. “I’m going to explore with as many Republican colleagues as I can and get them on board.”

But the Equality Act also faces concerns among civil rights supporters. Many civil rights groups, including the Leadership Council on Civil & Human Rights, have said they support the goals of the Equality Act, but have stopped short of a full endorsement of the bill.

Fudge, who was considering a leadership challenge to Pelosi after Democrats won their majority, has expressed concerns about opening the Civil Rights Act to amendments on the House floor, where the landmark legislation could be watered down.

“What I opposed was including the Equality Act in the current Civil Rights Act,” Fudge said in a statement. “The Civil Rights Act is over 50 years old and isn’t even adequate to protect the people currently in it. I want us to do a new and modern civil rights bill that protects the LGBTQ community and updates protections for this era. I do not believe it is appropriate to open and relitigate the current Civil Rights Act.”

Cicilline said the Leadership Council on Civil & Human Rights made “a very strong statement of support of equality for our community” in regards to the Equality Act. As for Fudge’s concerns, Cicilline said he understands them, but doesn’t share them.

“I understand the argument advanced by Congresswoman Fudge,” Cicilline said. “I disagree with it. I think that we can’t have full equality by having a separate but equal civil rights bill.”

Cicilline said barring discrimination against LGBT people by amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has significant benefits that a different bill couldn’t accomplish. Among these benefits is applying more than 50 years of jurisprudence of the landmark law to anti-LGBT discrimination.

“Really the only way to do it is to include it in the existing civil rights architecture, so you have the benefit of all that jurisprudence whenever exemptions exist, whenever other kinds of tests need to be applied,” Cicilline said. “There’s significant jurisprudence on it, and so it saves kind of litigating all these things again. So, I think there’s real value legally and real value in terms of making a strong statement that we need for equality.”

Cicilline pointed out that every other member of the Congressional Black Caucus was a co-sponsor of the Equality Act, including civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), whom Cicilline said was “one of the early champions of the bill, and he’s a respected leader in that community.”

After the Equality Act passes the House, the game changes. Instead of a new Democratic majority, the U.S. Senate under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has an expanded Republican majority. Moreover, President Trump would need to sign any legislation for it to become law.

But Cicilline denied passage of the Equality Act in the House is the end of the story. In fact, he called it the “beginning of the story” because the campaign to pressure Republicans to support LGBT rights will begin.

“We will work hard to get it passed in the Senate,” Cicilline said. “I think this is one where it’s very critical for outside groups to play a role in identifying who are the key senators who are at least willing to consider supporting the Equality Act and that they hear from constituents in their districts from the LGBT community and allies about the importance of this, and we begin a real campaign to persuade them to do it.”

Referencing polls showing the American public opposes discrimination against LGBT people, Cicilline said the issue “is one where the American people are way ahead of us overwhelmingly.”

“I think part of our challenge is to catch up to where the American people are,” Cicilline said. “They understand fundamentally that discrimination is wrong. It’s antithetical to the fabric that is this country. And when you give them the examples of the kind of discrimination we’re talking about they’re opposed to it. So I think this is about kind of Congress basically catching up to where the rest of the country is and making certain that qualified people cannot be fired from their jobs, cannot be kicked out of housing.”

Cicilline also wouldn’t rule out Trump supporting the Equality Act, recalling an interview Trump gave in 2000 to The Advocate in which he said he likes the idea of adding sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Trump hasn’t said whether he still holds that position.

“It’s hard to know that he’ll continue to maintain that position, especially when you think of the ways the administration has behaved, but if we bill pass the bill soon, that’s our next effort,” Cicilline said.

The third branch of the U.S. government may also have a chance to weigh in on anti-LGBT discrimination. Two petitions are pending before the Supreme Court calling on justices to affirm anti-gay discrimination amounts to sex discrimination under current law, and another petition seeks clarification on whether anti-trans discrimination is sex discrimination.

For decades, courts have more or less consistently found anti-trans discrimination is sex discrimination. Court rulings finding anti-gay discrimination is sex discrimination are a relatively new development, but a growing number of them are reaching that conclusion.

In the event the Supreme Court decides to take up these cases, Cicilline said either way justices would come down, it wouldn’t change the need for the Equality Act.

“It’s one tiny piece of this bill,” Cicilline said. “So it would answer that question, but if it was answered and said it is covered that would be great because we have some partial coverage, partial protection against discrimination for one part of the community but it doesn’t solve the problem and it would still, I think, wouldn’t in any way undermine the necessity of passing and enacting the Equality Act. If they rule against it, then it just affirms the emergency of passing the Equality Act. So, I don’t know that it has a big impact.”

The Equality Act isn’t the only LGBT issue Cicilline has spearheaded. Last year, when the nation was horrified over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that separated asylum-seekers from their children, Cicilline pointed out the LGBTQ youth in immigration detention facilities have no legal protections.

Cicilline said “there may, in fact, be some implications of the Equality Act” in the context of immigration detention in terms of if there were educational facilities or it was considered a public accommodation.

“They did not have in place any protocols or systems,” Cicilline said. “They acknowledged that when issues arise related to the sexual orientation or gender identity of youth they deal with it on a case-by-case basis, whatever that means. But it was clear there aren’t established protocols that protect this vulnerable population. This is one of many, many shortcoming in the current immigration detention proceedings.”

The treatment of LGBT youth in immigration detention facilities, Cicilline said, will be the subject of congressional oversight with the House under Democratic control.

“I think you’ll see a lot of oversight hearings on this when we take the majority in January,” Cicilline said.

That isn’t the only LGBT issue facing expected congressional oversight for Cicilline, who identified other areas he predicts will come under scrutiny.

“The same things that exist in the immigration system context exist in the criminal justice system, so protections are in place for the people in our community who are incarcerated,” Cicilline said. “There’s lots of work that needs to be done in terms of protecting students, particularly with Betsy DeVos’ rollback of some key protections.”

One LGBT issue that has reemerged is reports of anti-gay human rights abuses, including the extrajudicial killing of gay people in concentration camps, in the Russian semi-autonomous Republic of Chechnya. Last month, the State Department promoted a report from the Organization for Security for Cooperation in Europe corroborating those reports and finding Russia “appears to support the perpetrators rather than the victims.”

Cicilline said the report “confirmed what we suspected from the beginning” and found an earlier Russian investigation that found no abuse “was not legitimate.”

“We have attempted in a variety of different ways to raise that issue both by introducing and passing a resolution in Congress condemning that action as well as leading a letter to the president and secretary of state urging him to raise this issue with — abuse of LGBT people in Chechnya — with the Russian officials,” Cicilline said. “So this confirms what we have attempted to do and sadly is just another example of people from our community suffering violence and discrimination and brutality and really unforgiveable circumstances.”

The Trump administration has sanctioned Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov under the Magnitsky Act and supported the OSCE report, but Trump himself has said nothing about the abuses, unlike other world leaders such as Justin Trudeau, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.

Asked what the Trump administration or new House majority should do, Cicilline said “we just have to continue to press for human rights,” raising the possibility of legislation and sanctions.

“I think there’s some legislative stuff we can do,” Cicilline said. “I think we should continue to bring attention to these issues, continue to express condemnation when appropriate with sanctions, etc. So I think there’s a whole range of options available to us, but raising our voices and making sure that America continues to be a country that speaks out against violence against the LGBT community is really important.”

Asked what would need to happen to trigger sanctions, Cicilline said “we have current mechanisms,” but other proposals are in the works through the legislative process.

With a Democratic majority taking control of the House, Cicilline said the distinction between Democrats and Republicans on LGBT rights will exemplify the new tone in Washington.

“I think the contrast is really stark and, I think people have a right to expect that the Democrats who take the House back that LGBT equality and protecting the LGBT community from discrimination will be an important priority for us and, I think, the community should be excited about having at least one chamber that fundamentally respects who we are and is committed to fighting for our equality,” Cicilline said.

Although the House is just one chamber of Congress and Trump still occupies the White House, Cicilline said the distinction between Democrats and Republicans on LGBT rights will shine a light for the American public in time for the 2020 election.

“So this is a big change and we’re either going to get the Equality Act passed in the Senate after it passes the House and have equality, or we’re not,” Cicilline said. “And we’re going to be able to demonstrate who stopped our fight for equality, and those people will be on the ballot in two years.”

Cicilline added, “Our community will work to elect people who do support equality, so this is an important one, but the work isn’t done, so we got a lot of work ahead of us. Fights for equality are never easy, even though they seem obvious to us.”

Colorado

USN’s Club Q hero who helped tackle gunman issues statement

“I simply wanted to save the family I found- If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world”

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U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy Public Affairs)

COLORADO SPRINGS – One of the three persons who charged and then disarmed the suspect in the LGBTQ+ nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs last weekend issued a statement Sunday.

“I simply wanted to save the family I found,” James said. “If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world, but I am only one person.”

“To the youth, I say be brave. Your family is out there. You are loved and valued. So when you come out of the closet, come out swinging,” U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James said through a Centura Penrose Hospital spokesman Sunday.

This the first public comments by James since he, U.S. Army veteran, Major Richard Fierro, and another Club Q patron, a trans woman, all joined in the courageous takedown, disarming the 22-year-old suspect and holding him until the arrival by responding Colorado Springs police.

James is recovering from unspecified injuries at Centura Penrose, where a number of the Club Q shooting victims were sent. The hospital spokesman releasing the statement added that James is now in stable condition.

In a statement released this past Tuesday, the U.S. Navy confirmed that James was in hospital but added that “is currently in stable condition and we remain hopeful he will make a full recovery.”

CBS Colorado reported Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers had called out and identified James as one of the heroes whom had charged and helped subdue the shooter. Details as to each person’s role in subduing the shooter are still under investigation.

Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said that James was one of two people who helped to stop the suspected shooter who walked into Club Q late on Nov. 19 with multiple firearms and is accused of killing five people. At least 17 others were injured.

James reportedly pushed a rifle out of the suspect’s reach while Fierro repeatedly struck the shooter with a handgun they brought into the bar, officials have said.

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New York

New bills to prevent hate crimes in New York signed by Gov. Hochul

“New York belongs to the good, not those with hate in their hearts – we’re taking bold action to reclaim our city and state from the haters”

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) (Screenshot/YouTube)

NEW YORK – On the same day that a 34-year-old man was arrested for allegedly throwing bricks at the window of a gay nightclub in Hell’s Kitchen, New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced new measures to stop hate crimes in the Empire State.

Speaking to reporters last Tuesday at an emotional press conference, the governor called on New Yorkers to reclaim the state from “bigots who have butchered communities’ sense of security.”

“New York belongs to the good, not those with hate in their hearts – we’re taking bold action to reclaim our city and state from the haters, bigots and white supremacists,” Hochul said.

The governor’s actions comes after comes after the NYPD arrested two men for allegedly plotting to shoot synagogues and wreak havoc on the Jewish community, targeted attacks on the Asian community, and the recent mass-shooting at an LGBTQ nite club in Colorado Springs.

NYPD detectives arrested Sean Kuilan Tuesday afternoon and charged him with criminal possession of a weapon, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment for allegedly throwing bricks and a rock at the window of a gay nightclub in Hell’s Kitchen three times last week in what a NYPD spokesperson characterized as a potential hate crime.

Hochul, who led the state through the racist Buffalo massacre last spring, said that a horrifying mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado and a sinister anti-Semitic plot foiled in New York over the weekend offered “painful reminders that there is a rising tide of hate in our country,” the New York Daily News reported.

“This is our defining moment, New Yorkers,” the governor declared.

“Every one of us has a role to play,” Hochul said. “From this day forward, ask yourself: Did I do something to help spread the love that should be part of who we are as New Yorkers?”

After delivering her remarks, Hochul then signed two bills, Senate/Assembly Bill (S.6570/A.1202) to “Require individuals convicted of hate crimes to undergo mandatory training in hate crime prevention and education.”

Legislation (S.6570/A.1202) amends the penal law to establish that in addition to other penalties, individuals convicted of hate crimes shall undergo mandatory training in hate crime prevention and education as part of their sentence. The programs, training sessions, or counseling sessions must be authorized by the court or local agencies in cooperation with organizations serving the affected community.

The second measure, (S.123A/A.5913A) establishes a statewide campaign, developed and run by the New York State Division of Human Rights to promote the acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, and understanding of the diversity of the people of New York.

Legislation (S.123A/A.5913A) amends the executive law to establish and implement a statewide campaign for the acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, and understanding of diversity. The campaign, which will be developed and implemented by the Division of Human Rights, will coordinate and cooperate with public and private organizations, including, but not limited to, local governments, community groups, school districts, places of worship, charitable organizations, and foundations and will develop educational materials to be published on the internet, social media, and other platforms to reach the public.

“Our hearts are broken after a weekend during which LGBTQ Americans were massacred and Jewish New Yorkers were targeted in horrific acts of hateful violence,” Hochul said. “New York belongs to the good, not those with hate in their hearts – we’re taking bold action to reclaim our city and state from the haters, bigots and white supremacists. Domestic-based violent extremism is the greatest threat to our homeland security, and that is why we continue to remain laser-focused on combatting hate and keeping New Yorkers safe.”

Governor Hochul Announces Actions to Prevent Hate Crimes and Protect New Yorkers:

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Texas

ACLU asks investigation of Texas school districts anti-trans policies

Frisco ISD’s new bathroom policy & Keller ISD’s ban on books referencing gender violate federal rules prohibiting sex-based discrimination

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The ACLU of Texas is calling for federal civil rights investigations into the Keller and Frisco school districts for policies they say discriminate against transgender students. (Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber for The Texas Tribune)

By Brian Lopez | DALLAS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is calling for civil rights investigations into two North Texas school districts over recently implemented anti-transgender policies.

The ACLU, which filed the complaints last week, wants the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate the Frisco Independent School District for passing a policy on Nov. 14 requiring students to use bathrooms that align with their gender assigned at birth. The district said it would make accommodations for students who ask to use a private restroom.

The ACLU said Frisco’s policy would allow the district to “challenge or second-guess students’ official birth certificates.”

“It is deeply invasive and unlawful for school administrators to interrogate students’ private medical information in this way,” the ACLU said in a letter to the Department of Education. “School districts have no right to question students’ sexual characteristics such as genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy, or chromosomes.”

The ACLU also wants an investigation into the Keller Independent School District, which earlier this month passed a ban on all books that depict or reference transgender and nonbinary people.

“The policy attempts to erase the existence of transgender and non-binary individuals,” the ACLU’s letter said.

Keller ISD’s anti-transgender policy came about six months after three conservative school board members were elected onto the seven-member board. The new members, all of whom received large donations from a Christian political action committee, campaigned on issues like banning books about LGBTQ experiences from school libraries and banning critical race theory, a college-level field of study that explores the idea that racism is embedded in institutions and legal systems.

Public education advocates and Texas teachers have largely said the discipline is not part of the curriculum in Texas public schools but it has become a shorthand for conservative groups to criticize how history and current events are taught with regard to race.

The ACLU claims that Frisco and Keller’s policies violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school that receives federal funding.

Frisco and Keller are the latest North Texas school districts to have civil rights complaints lodged against them. Earlier this year, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a similar civil rights complaint against the Carroll Independent School District, based in Southlake, for failing to protect students from discrimination based on their race, sex or gender identity.

Southlake, located between Dallas and Fort Worth, came into the spotlight three years ago after a viral video of white high school students chanting a racist slur prompted community members to share stories of harassment, NBC News reported.

Neither Keller ISD nor Frisco ISD immediately responded to a request for comment.

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Brian Lopez’s staff photo

Brian Lopez is the Public Education Reporter for The Texas Tribune. He joined the Tribune in August 2021 after a covering local government at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a little over a year. The Star-Telegram was his first gig after graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington in May 2020 where he worked for the student-run newspaper The Shorthorn. When not on the job, he’s either watching or playing soccer.

The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

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Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn’t cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue across the country are declining, The Texas Tribune remains committed to sustaining our mission: creating a more engaged and informed Texas with every story we cover, every event we convene and every newsletter we send. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on members to help keep our stories free and our events open to the public. Do you value our journalism? Show us with your support.

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News Analysis

The political smear campaign to stop same-sex marriage bill

Liberty Counsel’s CEO amplified the lie that same-sex marriage would lead to “grooming” and child sexual exploitation

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Supporters of same-sex marriage gather at the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments for Obergefell v. Hodges 2015 (Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – A procedural vote on the Respect for Marriage Act legislation (H.R. 8404/S. 4556) in the Senate, which requires 60 votes to succeed, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Eastern on Nov. 28. Ahead of the Monday vote the major anti-LGBTQ+ hate organizations are executing a full court press to get Republicans Senators to derail the bill.

Listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ‘Hatewatch‘ for lies, propaganda, and smearing of LGBTQ+ people, the Family Research Council, (FRC) based in Washington D.C., Liberty Counsel based in Orlando, Florida, The Alliance Defending Freedom, (ADF) based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the National Organization for Marriage, (NOM) also based in Washington D.C., have escalated a publicity campaign smearing the intent of the law and labeling it ‘perversion and child sexual abuse.’

The president and CEO of Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, sent out several email blasts to supporters urging them to contact GOP Senators to stop the bill. In a tweet Stavers said; “It doesn’t matter what courts, legislatures or voters say. They do not define marriage, God does.”

In one email Stavers wrote: “On MONDAY, senators are scheduled to vote on a sickening bill that will normalize child-bride, same-sex and pedophiliac “marriages” in every state. Several amendments will be debated, and then the Senate will need another 60 votes to proceed. We can stop HR 8404 if we let the Senate hear from us NOW!”

Stavers then amplified the lie that same-sex marriage would lead to “grooming” and child sexual exploitation: “Children have always been under demonic attack because they represent a new generation. But this evil attack is being unmasked now under the “Respect for Marriage” bill like never before. It will put a target on children in at-risk families to be groomed for abuse and makes this molestation legal—if done within the confines of “marriage.”

“This level of debauchery has always been the goal. Our nation is on the cusp of making sexual abuse against children legal,” Stavers said.

The ADF and FRC are raising alarm over the bill saying that the legislation poses a threat to religious liberty. A conservative right-wing religious journal, the official news media of the Missouri Baptist Convention, cautioned that both ADF and FRC, labeling those groups as faith-based policy experts, stated the bill “shows great disrespect for marriage, and intolerance for those who hold a traditional or biblical worldview.” The bill “is an intentional attack on the religious freedom of millions of Americans with sincerely held beliefs about marriage, based on dictates of faith in God and His revealed Truth.”

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins released the following statement after the “Respect for Marriage” Act passed the first step in a full Senate vote for passage or defeat:

“The U.S. Senate is making a mockery of marriage as it tramples on a foundational right — religious freedom of the individual. Whether by the Court or by the Congress, truth cannot be altered. Regardless of the action of Congress, there are millions of Americans who will remain steadfast in their love for their fellow human being, by remaining committed to these truths: that marriage is ordained by God and men and women are created in His image.”

Stavers in his email and public statements noted: “Alfred Kinsey’s [See note below] work is being used to destroy marriage, replacing that honorable estate with perversion and child sexual abuse … just as Kinsey intended. This is their end goal—to legalize this perversion and to silence the opposition.

HR 8404 is built on the foundation of Kinsey. This bill that will expand child-bride, same-sex and pedophiliac “marriages” in every state—is scheduled for debate and more votes on MONDAY!”

The amplification of the hate-filled rhetoric comes as the LGBTQ+ community is coming to terms with another horrific act of violence, this time in Colorado Springs, resulting in the death of five people at the LGBTQ+ nightclub Club Q.

Incoming HRC President Kelley Robinson, in an interview with the Blade’s White House correspondent Chris Kane, cautioned:

“What we saw this past year is that our opposition gets intersectionality,” Robinson said. “They are coming for us, for all of us,” she said, citing as examples the Supreme Court’s decision revoking Americans’ constitutional right to abortion, the hateful rhetoric of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and recent spate of statewide anti-LGBTQ bills.

“They are launching an intersectional attack against us and trying to divide our power,” she said. “And we are going to fight back together, because ultimately we are stronger together.”

One organization that had long opposed same-sex marriage had an abrupt reversal of its decades long held views. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints battled any effort to legalize same-sex marriage as a threat to society, one that ultimately could destroy families.

This week, however, the Utah-based faith issued a stunning statement, supporting a proposed federal law that would codify same-sex marriage, the Tribune reported.

In its news release, the church reiterated its doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman but embraced the Respect for Marriage Act, which includes “appropriate religious freedom protections while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.”

Editor’s Note: Alfred Charles Kinsey was an American sexologist, biologist, and professor of entomology and zoology who, in 1947, founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.

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West Hollywood

WeHo Arts unveils new holiday street pole banner by Sophie Morro

The city has also installed annual holiday lights on street poles and around trees lining Santa Monica Boulevard to make the city festive

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Photo courtesy of the City of West Hollywood - Photo by Jon Viscott

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The annual holiday street pole banners went up this week throughout the city of West Hollywood. The City’s WeHo Arsts unveiled the new holiday artwork by artist Sophie Morro along Santa Monica Boulevard, San Vicente Boulevard, and Melrose Avenue.

A total of 29 of the new banners were produced this year and will become part of the annual collection of holiday street pole banners on display in WeHo to celebrate the holidays. Banners include past holiday artwork by Shag (Josh Agle) and Mosa Tanksley.

The city has also installed annual holiday lights on street poles and around trees lining Santa Monica Boulevard to make the city festive around the holiday and New Year’s celebrations.

Sophie Morro is an artist based in Los Angeles. Her oil paintings are largely informed by an autobiographical narrative with nods to spirituality, dreams and the otherworldly. Visit sophiemorro.com to learn more about the artist.

In April, 2022, the City of West Hollywood Arts Division made a call seeking a visual artist to provide artwork for the city’s annual winter / holiday card and street pole banner display. The deadline to submit their work to WeHo’s Performing Arts and Cultural Affairs Subcommittee was May, 2022.

Photo courtesy of the City of West Hollywood – Photo by Jon Viscott

The new artwork will also be used on the City’s annual end of year Winter / Holiday card, social media promotions along with the printed street pole banners. Artists were invited to submit existing work samples to demonstrate their style and technique.

The Request for Qualifications was open to artists who live in California. Artists who live in
West Hollywood and artists of color, women, artists with disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ artists
were highly encouraged to apply. The artists who applied will remain eligible to be selected as semi-finalists for 3 calendar years without needing to reapply.

Photo courtesy of the City of West Hollywood – Photo by Jon Viscott

The City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division and Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission believe
that all people in the City of West Hollywood have the right to celebrate and engage in meaningful and relevant arts and cultural experiences.

Each member of the community should have access to the arts which reflect and nurture individual identities, affirm personal value, and foster belonging in the community. The right to participate freely in the cultural life of the community is recognized as a basic human right.

The Division and Commission’s definition of diversity includes all ways in which people
differ, including but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status,
education, age, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability,
geography, citizenship status, religion, language, physical appearance, and the
intersection of these various identities.

*******************************

Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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Los Angeles County

LA Mayor Garcetti volunteers at Project Angel Food’s Thanksgiving

For many of the celebrities joining Project Angel Food’s Thanksgiving Day volunteers the day was about sharing the experience with family

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(L-R) Ava Maybee, Trisha Cardoso and Mayor Eric Garcetti attend Lisa Rinna Joins Celebs Volunteering In Project Angel Food Kitchen on Thanksgiving at Project Angel Food on November 24, 2022 (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)"

LOS ANGELES – In the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day, Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Project Angel Food CEO Richard Ayoub, celebrity supporters and 225 volunteers and staff to prepare and deliver 7,400 meals on Thanksgiving Day to seriously ill and housing insecure people throughout 4,700 square miles of L.A. County.

“Mayor Eric Garcetti epitomizes what it is to be part of a community and lift one another through compassion and service. As he rolled up his sleeves and helped plate meals, he brought attention that while this is a day most of us are surrounded by people we love, we need to remember that some people don’t have that,” Project Angel Food CEO Richard Ayoub said. “He reminded us that no Angeleno should be alone and with a warm smile, a conversation and a meal, our volunteers can change the entire day for our clients, become angels in the City of Angels,” Ayoub added.

For many of the celebrities joining Project Angel Food’s Thanksgiving Day volunteer pool, the day was about sharing the experience with family. Volunteers included Lisa Rinna and husband Harry Hamlin; “Weird Al” Yankovic with his wife Suzanne and daughter Nina.

Also volunteering was Out actor and singer Cheyenne Jackson and husband Jason Landau with their twins Willow and Ethan. Jackson said the couple brought the children because, “I want to teach my kids to be grateful and thankful for everything that we have, and when you have the capability to give to other people, do it.”

He also talked about the death of friend Leslie Jordan, a Project Angel Food supporter who died exactly one month earlier. “He was one of my best friends and it hit me really, really hard like so many people,” he said.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 24: (L-R) Cheyenne Jackson, Jason Landau and family attend Lisa Rinna Joins Celebs Volunteering In Project Angel Food Kitchen on Thanksgiving at Project Angel Food on November 24, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

American Idol favorite Ava Maybee with her mother, and Melissa Rivers with son Cooper Endicott, continuing her mother Joan Rivers’ legacy of volunteering on Thanksgiving.

Avatar: The Way of Water star Trinity Bliss brought her parents just weeks before the December 16 release of the highly anticipated film. “I’m so honored to work alongside so many people to bring a warm, delicious, tasty meal to people in need.”

Of her much-anticipated film, Avatar: Way of Water, Trinity added, “Avatar was amazing, but I think Avatar: The Way of Water is going to be just so much more dramatic and be an experience people are going to need to experience in theaters.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 24: Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna attend Lisa Rinna Joins Celebs Volunteering In Project Angel Food Kitchen on Thanksgiving at Project Angel Food on November 24, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

Lisa Rinna reflected on the fact that Project Angel Food is the primary source of food for most of its clients. “It’s so important because that is going to be their only meal of the day.” her husband Hamlin added, “to have the opportunity to give back is amazing.”

Other celebrities included Eileen Davidson (RHOBH, Days of Our Lives), Peter Porte (Days of Our Lives), Juan Pablo Di Pace (DWTS, Fuller House), Olympian Tai Babilonia, Tim Bagley (Gracie & Frankie, Will & Grace), Michael Hitchcock (The Resort, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Lawrence Zarian (The Kelly Clarkson Show), Marc Malkin (Variety), James Wallington and Will Jardell (Amazing Race Season 32 winners), Romeo Escobar (Survivor 42 runner-up), and parenting author Donna Tetreault.

The 7,400 meals being delivered on Thanksgiving included 1,600 traditional turkey dinners to critically ill men, women, children and their caregivers, 5,600 Medically Tailored Meals and breakfasts regularly scheduled for Thursday delivery, and another 200 meals were provided to Project Angel Food community partner PATH for residents for two of PATH’s Interim Housing and Permanent Supportive Housing sites. 

Volunteers provided contactless “drive-by” pick-up of the meals which were then delivered to Project Angel Food clients. Traditional Thanksgiving dinners consisted of roasted turkey, root vegetables, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. Vegetarian meals were also provided.

The meal was sponsored by the Stanley and Joyce Black Family foundation with Glamazon (Amazon’s affinity group for the LGBT+ community) sponsoring the volunteer event.

Project Angel Food CEO Richard Ayoub noted that Project Angel Food strives to end food insecurity and improve health outcomes of critically ill men, women and children in Los Angeles with Medically Tailored Meals, delivered with care and compassion.

Over 2,500 clients are fed daily. Project Angel Food delivers 1.3 million meals each year.

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