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West Hollywood City Council delays vote on Mayor John Duran’s tenure

An intersection of outrage takes the council by storm

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Lauren Meister requested City Attorney take a look at the situation and provide the Council with options at a special meeting in April. (Screengrab)

About 50 members of the #MeToo Movement/LA joined with protesters from Black Lives Matter and Justice4Gemmel to demand the resignation of Mayor John Duran At a rally on Feb. 19 in front of the West Hollywood City Council Chamber.

The rally occurred before the council meeting that drew intense media attention after 3 councilmembers used social media to call for the mayor to step down.

Duran recently drew the ire of many community activists after it was revealed that a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles had accused him of making an unwelcome physical contact by touching the waistband of his underwear. And though a third party investigator found there was no evidence of wrongdoing and the matter was dropped, it served to revive memories of prior instances where the mayor’s behavior had drawn similar scrutiny and unleashed reports of new ones.

Duran finds himself at the intersection of many community flashpoints beyond the allegations of inappropriate behavior.

To shouts of “Duran must go,” the protestors linked Duran to Ed Buck, who is currently being investigated by police surrounding the deaths in his WeHo apartment of two gay African-American men — Gemmel Moore in 2017 and Timothy Dean in 2019. Moore died of an apparent accidental overdose; the County Coroner has not yet released the cause of Dean’s death.

“Duran must resign unequivocally” said protester Rosalind Jones. Council candidate and local lawyer Sepi Shyne agreed, telling the Los Angeles Blade that Duran “absolutely” must resign.

At the council meeting, Duran’s fellow Councilmembers voted unanimously to end his previously-extended term as mayor early, in May instead of September, thus returning the term limit to the standard one year.

Incumbent Councilmembers Lauren Meister, Lindsey Horvath, and John D’Amico were joined by Councilmember John Heilman in calling for Duran to resign his position as mayor. Duran was in Cedars Sinai hospital as doctors monitored blood clots.

“Given John’s current health situation, as well as the controversy, I think it is important for us to move forward with somebody else in charge,” Heilman said to applause from the crowd.

Meister asked City Attorney Mike Jenkins to look at the situation and provide the Council with options at a special meeting in April. The council can vote to strip Duran of his largely ceremonial mayoral position, which ends in two months, but they do not have authority cannot remove him from council.

WeHoTimes.com founder Marco Colantonio read a statement by Duran at the meeting in which he apologized for a comment about the Asian American man who accused him of wrongdoing in the Los Angeles Times. But he did not bow to the intense pressure to resign.

“I flirt. I crack dirty jokes. I often say things that make some cringe. But I do not threaten or physically assault anyone. Not ever. It is not in my DNA. I will own my human flaws for being and saying inappropriate things. But I will never admit conduct that never occurred. That would be dishonest and done for expediency rather than truth,” Duran said in his statement. “Unfortunately, people are now piling on a false narrative that is untrue, misunderstood, and driven by the current mood of the country rather than the rule of law and due process.

Erin Roberts, a member of the “Orange County MeToo Movement,” was among a dozen people who spoke before the council. “A lot of the LGBT community of Orange County comes to West Hollywood to find a safe haven and a welcoming community,” she said. “In order to continue to make it a safe haven it needs to not have people who make the community unsafe, like Ed Buck. One dead black man is a tragedy, two is a pattern.”

She drew a parallel between Duran and Buck. “How many men need to speak up in order for this not to be a rush to judgment? How many complaints need to be filed in order for you to take this seriously?”she asked.

In 2011, Duran provided legal counsel to Buck, a longtime member of Stonewall Democratic Club, but says he “never represented [Buck] in a case.”

Dennis Gleason addresses the City Council. (Photo by Troy Masters)

Others who addressed the council included Dennis Gleason, a policy director for LA Councilman Joe Busciano, who alleged that he was subject to unsolicited messages from Duran on Grindr.

Robert Oliver, who resigned from the WeHo Public Safety Commission in protest against the councilmembers’ unwillingness to speak out about Duran, also called for the mayor’s immediate resignation.

“Any doubt that I have had about the seriousness of this situation has been alleviated by the individuals who have since come to share their interactions with Mayor Duran,” declared Oliver. “What he cannot understand or is unwilling to admit is the fact that many feel like they can’t say ‘No’ to the mayor or to the chair of the board,” adding “or to a pillar in the recovery community.”

“The time for excuses is over,” said former councilmember Steve Martin.

City Council candidate Tom DeMille countered the trend, decrying the “rush to judgment to ruin a man. You don’t ruin men, you don’t ruin women,” he said. “No one is perfect.”

During Councilmember comments, Horvath doubled down on her call for Duran to resign. The Council “cannot focus on the work of the people when we have to address new and numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, including whether our mayor used his title to solicit sexual favors,” she said.

She also linked Duran to Buck, saying the harassment allegations were a “diversion from the gravely serious homicide investigations that are ongoing in our city.”

The LA County Coroner ruled Moore’s death to be an accidental overdose and has not yet announced what caused Dean’s death. The Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau told the Los Angeles Blade that both cases are ongoing “death investigations.” Lt. William Moulde told the council there is no update on the status of the investigations.

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Head of Anti-LGBTQ group worked with Trump to overturn election

Eastman and the former president had a secret scheme to try to get former Vice-President Mike Pence to overturn election

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NOM Head John Eastman with Rudy Giuliani on January 6, 2021 (Screenshot via YouTube)

By David Badash | PROVINCETOWN, Ma. – The head of a once well-known anti-LGBTQ organization that spent countless millions in dark money to try to block the advancement of same-sex marriage worked with then-President Donald Trump and his legal team on a secret scheme to try to get Vice President Mike Pence to subvert the U.S. Constitution and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

John Eastman, who until January 13 was a tenured professor of law and dean at the Chapman University School of Law in California, advanced a six-point plan detailing the steps he wanted Pence to take on January 6.

Eastman, who is the chairman of NOM, the National Organization For Marriage, “tried to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence that he could overturn the election results on January 6 when Congress counted the Electoral College votes by throwing out electors from seven states, according to the new book ‘Peril’ from Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa,” CNN reports.

“You really need to listen to John. He’s a respected constitutional scholar. Hear him out,” Trump told Pence during a January 4 meeting with Eastman in the Oval Office, according to “Peril.”

In addition to directing that Pence would falsely claim that the seven states had competing electors, Eastman suggested Pence make all these moves without warning.

“The main thing here is that Pence should do this without asking for permission — either from a vote of the joint session or from the Court,” Eastman wrote. “The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter. We should take all of our actions with that in mind.”

Pence disagreed with Eastman’s legal claims and did not enact the secret scheme.

Eastman spoke at the January 6 “Save America” rally that many claim Trump used to incite the insurrection.

One week later he “abruptly” resigned from Chapman University “amid criticism of his role in stoking the violent attack,” and “calls for his firing,” Law.com reported at the time.

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David Badash (@davidbadash) is the founder and editor of The New Civil Rights Movement, an award-winning news & opinion site.

The preceding article was first published by The New Civil Rights Movement and is republished by permission.

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Politics

The White House marks the 10th anniversary of the repeal of DADT

“A great injustice was remedied & a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of American service members”

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President Obama signs the certification stating the statutory requirements for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" have been met 9-20-2011 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON – President Biden recognized in a statement on Monday the tenth anniversary of the end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that once discharged service members from the military for being openly gay or bisexual.

“Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members,” Biden said. “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all.”

Biden recognized high-profile openly gay appointees in his administrations who are also veterans, naming Air Force Under Secretary Gina Ortiz Jones and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Biden also names Shawn Skelly, assistant secretary of defense for readiness, who would have been discharged from the military under President Trump’s transgender military ban.

“On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation,” Biden said. “We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.”

Technically speaking, the anniversary of Obama signing repeal legislation was in December. Today is the anniversary of defense officials certifying the military is ready, which put an end to the policy.

Statement by President Joe Biden on the Tenth Anniversary of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all. It was the right thing to do. And, it showed once again that America is at its best when we lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.
 
Despite serving with extraordinary honor and courage throughout our history, more than 100,000 American service members have been discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—including some 14,000 under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Many of these veterans received what are known as “other than honorable” discharges, excluding them and their families from the vitally important services and benefits they had sacrificed so much to earn.
 
As a U.S. Senator, I supported allowing service members to serve openly, and as Vice President, I was proud to champion the repeal of this policy and to stand beside President Obama as he signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act into law. As President, I am honored to be Commander-in-Chief of the strongest and most inclusive military in our nation’s history. Today, our military doesn’t just welcome LGBTQ+ service members—it is led at the highest levels by brave LGBTQ+ veterans, including Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly, who served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I was gratified to appoint the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and Afghanistan veteran who joined the military under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. And during my first week in office, I proudly delivered on my pledge to repeal the discriminatory ban on open service by patriotic transgender service members.
 
On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation. We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.

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California Politics

NBC News exit survey: 83% of LGBTQ Californian voters said no to recall

As Governor, Newsom has signed a litany of pro-LGBTQ legislation expanding the civil/equality rights of the Golden State’s LGBTQ+ community

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Graphic courtesy of NBC News

NEW YORK – In an exit poll conducted by NBC News on Tuesday, voters who identified as LGBTQ+ by a majority of 83 percent voted “no’ in the gubernatorial recall, versus 17 percent who voted “yes.”

Newsom has had a long track record as an LGBTQ+ ally, while mayor of the City of San Francisco in 2004 he sparked a political firestorm when he defied state law and issued approximately 4,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Many people in the California Democratic Party were certain Newsom had effectively ended any chance to advance his political career with his actions, ironically though he instead garnered wide-spread support, especially from a statewide LGBTQ+ constituency which landed him in the Lieutenant Governor’s chair.

In 2015, then Lt. Governor Newsom saw vindication as the U. S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, ruling that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Since taking office in 2019 as Governor of California, Newsom has signed a litany of pro-LGBTQ legislation which has expanded the civil and equality rights of the Golden State’s LGBTQ+ community.

In a statement emailed Thursday morning, California’s Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, reflecting on the results of the NBC News poll, told the Blade; “It’s no secret that Governor Newsom has been an ally to the LGBTQ community for decades. From signing countless bills enacting new protections, to his leadership through the COVID crisis that centered the needs of the most vulnerable, he has shown up for California’s LGBTQ community.”

Had Newsom been removed as governor, 77 percent of LGBTQ recall voters said they would be concerned or scared, compared to 57 percent of all recall voters. Twenty-one percent of LGBTQ voters said they would be excited or optimistic if he were removed, compared to 38 percent of all recall voters, according to NBC News’ Exit Poll.

“The numbers are clear on just how overwhelmingly opposed the LGBTQ+ community was to this Republican power grab,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), who serves as Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus in an email to the Blade. “Governor Gavin Newsom has been a steadfast ally of ours for decades, and I’m proud to see our community make its voice clearly heard as we build on the progress California has made regarding equality and inclusion.”

Rick Zbur, the Executive Director of Equality California noted: “We stood with Governor Newsom because he has always stood with us — no matter the personal or political consequences. He has signed groundbreaking legislation to support the health and well-being of transgender Californians; expanded access to life-saving HIV prevention medications; enacted new gun safety measures and police reforms; created more housing for people experiencing homelessness than any governor in history — and put a stop to California’s racist, anti-LGBTQ+ death penalty. He is working every day against difficult odds to keep our families safe, protect families from eviction and provide billions of dollars in relief to working families and small businesses.”

NBC News’ Exit Poll revealed that a significant percentage of LGBTQ recall voters think getting the coronavirus vaccine is a public health responsibility, at 82 percent, compared to 65 percent of all recall voters. Of LGBTQ voters, 17 percent believe getting the vaccine is a personal choice, compared to 32 percent of all recall voters.

The poll also found that 48 percent of LGBTQ voters, (roughly half) think the policies Newsom put in place to deal with the pandemic have been about right, 35 percent don’t think they’ve been strict enough, and 17 percent think they’ve been too strict. On the governor’s statewide in-person school masking mandate, 86 percent, are in support while 13 percent oppose it.

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