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Pelosi vows to pass Equality Act as new House speaker

Newly returned speaker invokes memory of George H.W. Bush

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed to pass the Equality Act in her gavel acceptance speech. (Photo public domain)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), returning to her position Thursday as presiding officer of the U.S. House with a new Democratic majority, identified the Equality Act as bipartisan she’d seek to pass in the upcoming Congress.

Pelosi referenced the Equality Act, comprehensive legislation that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination under federal law, when identifying other measures with bipartisan support she’d seek to pass, including gun background check legislation and the DREAM Act.

“We will make America fairer by passing the Equality Act to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community,” Pelosi said.

Although the Equality Act had a modicum of bipartisan support in the previous Congress, the two Republicans in the House who co-sponsored the bill — former Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Scott Tayler of Virginia — are no longer serving in the chamber.

Asked by the Blade what Pelosi meant by bipartisan support for the Equality Act in the current 116th Congress, Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesperson, said, “The bill has and will continue to have bipartisan support.”

Although the Equality Act now has a good chance of passing the House with Democrats in control of the chamber, the legislation faces significant roadblocks with an expanded Republican majority in the Senate and President Trump in the White House.

But as evidence that divided government can accomplish big legislative achievements, Pelosi invoked the memory of the late former President George H.W. Bush, who signed into law the Americans With Disabilities Act after it was approved by a Democratic Congress.

“I close by remembering a cherished former member of this body, who rose to become a beloved President of the United States, and who, last month, returned to the Capitol once more to lie in state,” Pelosi said. “That week, we honored President George Herbert Walker Bush with eulogies, tributes and tears. Today, I single out one of his great achievements: working with both Democrats and Republicans to write the Americans With Disabilities Act into the laws of our land.”

Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign, praised Pelosi in a statement for vowing the pass the Equality Act in the upcoming Congress.

“Now is the time to move equality forward by advancing the Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans are able to go to go to work, raise their families, and live their lives free from discrimination,” Griffin said. “Far too many LGBTQ people face unfair and unjust discrimination each and every day with only a patchwork of protections across the country. We are thankful for Speaker Pelosi reaffirming her commitment to advance this critically important legislation and seize this historic moment to make full federal LGBTQ equality a reality.”

Pelosi made the remarks after formally winning on the House floor the vote to become speakers in the 116th Congress. The San Francisco Democrat won 220 votes, easily beating out House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). However, 15 Democrats declined to vote for Pelosi on the House floor.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of the LGBT media watchdog group GLAAD, also hailed the incoming Democratic majority.

“It is a welcome relief that fair-minded, pro-equality lawmakers have returned to the majority in the U.S. House, and now it’s time for them to roll up their sleeves and get to work for all marginalized communities, including LGBTQ Americans,” Ellis said. “As the Trump administration continues to rollback equality in an effort to erase LGBTQ Americans from the nation, we need allies like Speaker Pelosi fighting for us in Congress.”

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Southern California

Triple A: Gas price averages drop below $5 & may move lower

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.90, which is 21 cents lower than last week

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Screenshot/YouTube ABC 10 News Sacramento

LOS ANGELES – Most areas of Southern California now have average gas prices of less than $5 a gallon after additional hefty price declines in the last week, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.90, which is 21 cents lower than last week. The average national price is $3.47, which is 12 cents lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $4.97 per gallon, which is 21 cents lower than last week, 63 cents lower than last month, and 26 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $4.94, which is 21 cents lower than last week, 63 cents lower than last month, and 28 cents higher than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $4.95, which is 20 cents lower than last week, 62 cents lower than last month, and 31 cents higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $4.84, which is 20 cents lower than last week, 60 cents lower than last month, and 21 cents higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.28 average price is 11 cents lower than last week, 50 cents lower than last month, and 63 cents higher than a year ago today.

“Despite a record number of Southern California travelers hitting the road for Thanksgiving, average pump prices have dropped below $5 a gallon for the first time since early March,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. “Oil Price Information Service reports a substantial drop in demand statewide and high unleaded gas inventories. This week Los Angeles wholesale gasoline prices reached their lowest level of 2022, and if that trend holds, we should see additional pump price reductions. The least expensive gas station prices today are about $4.10 a gallon, so it’s possible we will see stations charging less than $4 a gallon soon.”

The Auto Club reminds drivers of the following tips to save money on gas:

  • If you use premium unleaded fuel, make sure it is required for your vehicle, not just recommended. The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center found that vehicles with recommended premium fuel performed safely with regular unleaded gasoline.
  • Make sure your tires are properly maintained and inflated to the correct level.
  • Maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regular service will ensure optimum fuel economy.
  • Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard accelerations. These actions greatly increase fuel consumption.
  • Slow down and drive the speed limit. Fuel economy peaks around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speed increases. Reducing freeway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%.
  • Use cruise control on the highway to help maintain a constant speed and save fuel. However, never use cruise control on slippery roads because you could lose control of the vehicle.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning.
  • Avoid extended idling to warm up the engine, even in colder temperatures. It’s unnecessary and wastes fuel.
  • Remove unnecessary and heavy items from your car.
  • Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use.
  • Download the AAA App to find the cheapest gas prices near you. 

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Dec. 1, averages are:

120122 chart
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State Department

Blinken: PEPFAR shows ‘what American diplomacy can do’

Secretary of state spoke at World AIDS Day event in D.C. on Friday

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a World AIDS Day event at the Hay-Adams Hotel in D.C. on Dec. 2, 2022. (Screen capture via U.S. Department of State YouTube)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday noted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has saved more than 25 million lives since its launch in 2003.

Blinken, who spoke at the Business Council for International Understanding’s World AIDS Day event at the Hay-Adams Hotel in D.C., said the more than $100 billion the U.S. has earmarked for PEPFAR over the last two decades has funded 70,000 new community health clinics, 3,000 new laboratories and the hiring of 340,000 health care workers.

“Entire public health systems formed, with over a dozen countries which have either reached their HIV-treatment goals or managed control of the virus altogether,” said Blinken.

Then-President George W. Bush in 2003 signed legislation that created PEPFAR. California Democrat Barbara Lee, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief White House medical advisor who is retiring at the end of this month, are among those who played a key role in PEPFAR’s creation.

“PEPFAR has benefitted from bipartisan support, as we’ve heard, across four presidencies, across ten Congresses,” said Blinken. “It’s resulted in an investment of more than $100 billion to the global HIV/AIDS response. This is the largest commitment by one country ever to address a single disease.”

Lee and Fauci were among those who attended the event alongside U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator John Nkengasong; Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine; Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House Coronavirus Response Director, and HIV and Hepatitis Policy Institute Executive Director Carl Schmid.

Blinken in his speech noted “the systems put in place by PEPFAR have become an integral part of the health security architecture of countries around the world.”

Blinken also said PEPFAR has bolstered responses to COVID-19, Ebola and the avian flu.

“We are continuing to build on PEPFAR’s many successes to create a stronger global health security architecture to prevent, to detect, to respond to future health emergencies. Doctor Fauci, you once said that PEPFAR ‘shows what the goodwill of a nation can do,’ and you were right,” said Blinken. “PEPFAR also shows us what American diplomacy can do: Bring together governments, bring together the public and private sectors, communities to tackle challenges that none of us can actually effectively deal with alone and that creates and has created a healthier, safer and ultimately more secure world.” 

Five-year PEPFAR strategy to target LGBTQ+ people

Blinken acknowledged there is still “very serious work still required for us to end the global HIV health epidemic by 2030,” noting HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ and intersex people and other marginalized groups.

“Too many countries still have fragile and insufficiently resourced public health systems, which makes it difficult to offer services beyond HIV/AIDS treatments, and that undercuts our capacity to respond to emerging threats,” he said.

Blinken noted the U.S. on Thursday announced a new PEPFAR strategy that will help “fill those gaps” over the next five years. It includes the following:

• Targeted programming to help reduce inequalities among LGBTQ+ and intersex people, women and girls and other marginalized groups

• Partnerships with local organizations to help reach “hard-to-reach” communities.

• Economic development and increased access to financial markets to allow countries to manufacture their own antiretroviral drugs, tests and personal protective gear to give them “the capacity to meet their own challenges so that they’re not dependent on anyone else.”

“This latest PEPFAR strategy will keep making advancements like that possible so that millions more people can live healthy lives and live lives to their full potential,” said Blinken. 

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Transphobic Fox host: Trans people are “Deeply Anti-Human”

Fox news host Laura Ingraham launched into a transphobic rant claiming the political left are cheering on what she termed anti-humanism

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Screenshot/YouTube Fox News

By Media Matters Staff | NEW YORK – On her show last night, Fox news host Laura Ingraham launched into a transphobic rant claiming among other things that those on the political left are cheering on what she termed anti-humanism.

Then she pivoted to the transgender community:

“Crusaders for climate change, abortion, euthanasia, gender fluidity, they all lead — eventually, their thinking — to the devaluing of human life.

“At its core, being anti-human means being anti- truth because it involves the questioning or denying of objective facts, including those at the very heart of our existence. 

“The cult of gender deviancy collapses into meaningless slogans and blather. None of it makes any sense, but it’s deeply anti-human.” 

Watch the Media Matters for America video clip:

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Minnesota

Minneapolis felon charged in Gay Bar brandishing incident

According to U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger, Conell Walter Harris, 29 has been charged with felony illegal possession of a firearm

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Booking Photo: Conell Walter Harris/Hennepin County Jail

MINNEAPOLIS – A Minneapolis resident is facing federal charges for illegal possession of a firearm during a criminal brandishing, uttering threats and homophobic slurs at a popular LGBTQ+ bar in the downtown area of the city.

According to U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger, Conell Walter Harris, 29 has been charged with felony illegal possession of a firearm.

In court documents filed in Hennepin County, on November 28, 2022, Minneapolis Police officers responded to a call that a person at 19 Bar, located near downtown Minneapolis, had pulled out a gun after being asked to leave.

When officers arrived, several people pointed at a man, who was later identified as Conell Walter Harris, 29.  Harris resisted arrest and tried to reach into the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. Officers recovered a stolen .45 caliber Glock model 30 pistol from Harris’ pocket. Officers spoke to bar employees and customers and learned that Harris had become upset after an employee asked to see his identification, which Harris refused to show.

The employee then asked Harris to leave the bar. Harris became combative and pulled out a pistol. An employee attempted to deescalate the situation but Harris became more aggressive and made multiple threatening statements. Harris then left for a short time but returned to the bar before law enforcement arrived.

Screenshot/YouTube KARE 11

Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE 11 reported:

The complaint and affidavit outline the events that allegedly took place at Minneapolis’ 19 Bar the night of Nov. 28, claiming officers first responded to the bar around 11 p.m. on reports of a person with a gun.

When officers arrived, prosecutors say, bar patrons identified Harris. The complaint says Harris “resisted arrest and kept reaching into his hoodie pocket,” leading police to recover a .45-caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun.

Court documents allege that based on eyewitness accounts, police were informed that Harris was “acting strangely” when he entered the bar and became upset when an employee asked to see his ID. A 19 Bar bartender then asked Harris to leave, according to the complaint, and Harris refused, telling the bartender, “I ain’t going nowhere,” while pulling out the firearm.

Prosecutors say Harris then began yelling profanities and slurs at the bartender before leaving for a short time and then returning.

When Harris later reentered the bar, court documents allege he began playing pool until officers arrived.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Harris is charged in a criminal complaint with felon in possession of a firearm. He made his initial appearance today in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung. Harris was ordered to remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing scheduled for December 5, 2022. 

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Minneapolis Police Department.

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Politics

Obama rallies for Warnock as Walker goes transphobic in latest ad

“Tomorrow is the last day for early voting and then we need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday, which means we still got work to do”

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Former President Barack Obama with Sen. Raphael Warnock (Pool photo via CNN)

ATLANTA – Former President Barack Obama held a rally with Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) tonight in Atlanta as the Georgia election runoff for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Warnock enters its final week.

Speaking to the enthusiastic crowd in the historic Pullman Yard, Obama urged supporters to continue pressing to secure Warnock’s chances as early voting ends Friday ahead of next Tuesday’s election.

“Now I know a lot of folks have been voting early over the last few days, that is a good thing. That is an encouraging thing. But — you knew there was a but —plenty of folks haven’t voted yet. Tomorrow is the last day for early voting and then we need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday, which means we still got work to do,” Obama said.

A spokesperson for the the Georgia secretary of state’s office told the Blade that more than 1.1 million votes have been cast so far.

Warnock’s Republican challenger meanwhile focused on his opposition to transgender rights. In a recent campaign ad, Herschel Walker is featured alongside cisgender former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who tied with University of Pennsylvania trans female swimmer Lia Thomas.

In the ad Gaines says she “worked so hard” at competitive swimming but she was “forced to compete against a biological male.”  The ad also goes on to attack Warnock in the Chyron onscreen stating: “Raphael Warnock voted to allow biological men to compete in women’s sports.” That particular charge by Walker’s campaign is factually incorrect as the U.S. Senate has not held any votes on the subject of transgender women in sports.

Politico’s National political reporter Natalie Allison tweeted:

During the rally in Atlanta this evening Politico reported Warnock received roaring applause when he poked fun at Walker, something Obama also did, referencing a series of outlandish comments the retired football star has made over the course of his candidacy.

“We all know some folks in our lives who, we don’t wish them ill will, they say crazy stuff … but you don’t give them serious responsibility,” Obama said.

“He was an amazing running back,” Warnock said of Walker. “And come next Tuesday, we’re going to send him running back to Texas.”

Walker, who was raised in the Peach State and was a star player at the University of Georgia, lived the majority of his adult life in Texas before returning to run for Senate in 2021.

Politico also noted that Warnock, the pastor of the Atlanta church that Martin Luther King Jr. attended, tied the election to the long struggle of African Americans for equal rights, noting the crowd had gathered on the 67th anniversary of Rosa Parks refusing to get up from a bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama. Walker is also African American.

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Congress

Hakeem Jeffries makes history as new leader of House Democrats

Reps. Katherine Clark & Rep. Pete Aguilar become the new House Democratic Whip & House Democratic Caucus Chair

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New Democratic leadership team, Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-Ny.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) (Photo Credit: Office of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries)

WASHINGTON – With his election on Wednesday to take over as House Democratic minority leader next year, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Ny.) became the first ever Black lawmaker from either party who will serve in that role in either of the two chambers of Congress.

House Democrats also chose, for the second and third-highest ranking positions, Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Caif.). All ran unopposed and rather than by formal ballots were elected by voice vote for unanimous consent.

The moves signaled broad consensus among House Democrats in their decision to send the new slate of lawmakers, young and diverse with some progressive bona fides, to serve in the party’s senior leadership positions.

The three lawmakers are all members of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and longtime allies of the community. Jeffries, as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, introduced the Respect for Marriage Act in the House this summer.

The Caucus declined to comment on the House Democratic leadership elections.

When Aguilar succeeds Jeffries in that role next year, it will be the highest-ranking position in House leadership ever held by a Latino member. Clark, meanwhile, will become the second woman to serve as Democratic House Whip after Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the current House Speaker.

Pelosi announced on Nov. 18 her plans to step down from House Democratic leadership after the next Congress is seated. She made history in 2001 as the first woman elected to the second highest-ranking position in the chamber, and then again in 2007 when she took the top slot, becoming the first woman Speaker of the House.

Following her announcement, Pelosi was celebrated for her many legislative accomplishments at the top of her party’s caucus, where she served for two decades under four presidents. A Washington Post column called Pelosi the “best speaker in US. history.”

Considering that Pelosi also presided over some of the biggest legislative milestones in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, such as the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Jeffries has a high bar to clear when he’s handed the torch in January.

Jeffries is distinguished for his vocal support of the LGBTQ community

In addition to his leadership on the Respect for Marriage Act, Jeffries has been a major advocate in Congress for other pro-LGBTQ pieces of legislation like the Equality Act and, in 2014, the Hate Crime Reporting Act.

Jeffries has been a vocal champion of measures to make the U.S. Capitol more welcoming for transgender and gender nonconforming people – such as by calling for single-occupancy gender-neutral restrooms on the Hill and rules that would adopt gender-neutral language in the House.

He has also spoken out forcefully against anti-LGBTQ hate from some members of the House Republican caucus, such as the dangerous rhetoric from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who has repeatedly tried to link queer people to child sexual abuse.

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