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Pelosi, Takano, Hill, other Californians on Equality Act

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Fifty years after the Stonewall Riots kicked off the fight for LGBT liberation – and on the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia – the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act Friday, a bill that would officially lift LGBT Americans out of second-class citizenship. Adding an exclamation point to the LGBT historical moment: it was openly gay New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney who presided over the chamber, gaveling the final vote of 236-173.

“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 Washington Blade reports.  “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.”

A number of Californians played leadership roles in helping chief sponsor out Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline bring the Equality Act to the House floor. HR5 was fifth on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top 10 list of priorities.

“Fifty years after the LBGTQ Americans took to the streets outside of New York’s Stonewall Inn to fight against harassment and hate, we take pride in the progress we have forged together,” said Pelosi, a longtime San Francisco-based ally. “Our Founders, in their great wisdom, wrote in our beautiful preamble – wrote of the blessings of liberty, which were to be the birthright of all Americans. To bring our nation closer to the founding promise of liberty and justice for all, we, today, pass the Equality Act and finally, fully end discrimination against LGBTQ

Pelosi drove the point home on Twitter:

Rep. Mark Takano, co-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, the first gay man of color in Congress, who represents Riverside, helped lead the fight in the House. After passage, he released this statement:

 “The House has taken a historic vote to extend federal protections from discrimination to LGBTQ Americans. Our nation was founded on the principle of liberty and justice for all, but for far too long, LGBTQ people have not enjoyed the same civil rights as their fellow Americans.

 

In 2019, most states have not established protections from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation – civil rights and protections for LGBTQ people should not depend on the zip code where they live. The passage of this landmark legislation will help us right this wrong and ensure that every LGBTQ person in America, in every state, can live free from discrimination in key areas of their life.

 

Who you are and who you love should not be an impediment to freedom, equality, and justice. The vast majority of Americans support equal rights for the LGBTQ community, now we must demand that the Senate take up this legislation and for the President to sign it into law. Equality is within reach, let’s make it the law of the land.”

Eight Republicans voted for the Equality Act: Reps. Susan Brooks (Ind.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Will Hurd (Texas), John Katko (N.Y.), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Greg Walden (Ore.).

But opposition on the floor was led by longtime anti-LGBT Rep. Tom McClintock of California’s 4th Congressional District—Elk Grove, parts of Fresno, and Alpine County (where once gays hippies dreamed of creating a sanctuary). He is so Trumpian, he has taken up full-throated lying to convey his right-wing ideological message, as fact-checked by PolitiFact. McClintock’s statements on the House Floor were shocking. The far right congressmember, who may survive a Democratic challenge in 2020, said in part:

 There are some fundamental principles we should all be able to agree on.

 

Don’t hurt other people; respect the right of doctors to do no harm; respect the right of parents to protect their children….

 

This bill harms people in so many ways, destroying safe spaces for women, undermining women-owned businesses, intimidating the free exercise of conscience, but let me focus on just one aspect: destroying women’s sports.  Wherever these laws are imposed, biological males have begun to dominate women’s competitions…..

 

Listen to 16-year old Selina Soule of Connecticut.  She tells the story of qualifying for the prestigious Middletown Invite.  “Eight of us lined up at the starting line … but when six of us were only about three quarters into the race, two girls were already across the finish line…What just happened?  Two boys identifying as girls happened.  Fair is no longer the norm. The chance to advance, the chance to win has been all over for us … I missed the chance to compete in the New England championship this past season because of this.”  She goes on to say, “The CAAC won’t listen to my voice, but I hope Congress will…HR 5…will endanger women and girls of all ages, by opening up every sports team in the country to any male who self-identifies as female.  This policy will take away our medals, records, scholarships and dreams.”….This is the brave new world that House Democrats propose under the name “equality.”

Rep. Katie Hill, the first bisexual woman in Congress, representing the Antelope, Simi and Santa Clarita Valleys, had a drop-the-mic moment defending trans people against the GOP motion to amend HR5 in the name of protecting women in sports. Hill said, in part:

“I can’t believe that we’re standing here and having a man tell me what kind of protections I need in sports. (Loud cheers). This is fear-mongering about trans women playing in sports. Are you kidding me? I don’t know if my colleagues on the other side of the aisle realize that they’ve met trans people. But they have. They definitely have. And I’ve met many. And this motion reflects nothing more than the prejudice of my colleagues. My staff has put together a lot of talking points for you today. But it’s much simpler than that.

 

The Equality Act ensures that LGBT women and girls who are lesbian, bisexual or transgender will all have the same opportunities as their peers, in sports, in housing, in jobs. The discrimination that trans individuals face just trying to live their lives every single day is something beyond what most of us could ever imagine….We are ready to move forward and tell all of our constituents, all of our communities, all of Americans, that they matter equally.”

 

Numerous members of Congress, and civil rights organizations weighed in, including Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. Executive Director Rick Zbur said:

“Today’s passage of the Equality Act in the U.S. House sends a loud and clear message that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, no matter who you are, who you love or where you live. The vote today isn’t just a major milestone, but also a testament to the strength of LGBTQ people and our movement, as we advance this critical civil rights legislation in the face of such a fiercely anti-LGBTQ Administration — and we aren’t done yet.

 

Earlier this week, President Trump announced his opposition  to the Equality Act, but LGBTQ Americans can rest assured that the pro-equality House majority — led by California’s own Speaker Nancy Pelosi — has our backs. Equality California remains committed to fighting for full federal equality in our nation’s Capitol, in the courts and in the streets.”

Zbur also notes that the Equality Act is co-sponsored by every Democratic member of California’s Congressional delegation.

For Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who has been leading the national LGBT movement charge for the Equality Act, passage is a monumental victory, as well, capping off his HRC stewardship before returning home to Los Angeles.

“Today’s historic vote is a major milestone for equality and sends a powerful and profound message to LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ youth, that the U.S. House has their backs.

 

No one’s rights should depend on which side of a state or city line they live on, and today we took a giant step forward in our journey toward full equality. This historic victory would not have been possible without the millions of LGBTQ people and our allies who organized, mobilized and turned out to elect a pro-equality majority in 2018.

 

Now, we will take our fight to the U.S. Senate and turn up the pressure on Leader McConnell to allow a vote on this crucial legislation. And we won’t slow down in working to turn out the 10 million eligible LGBTQ voters and our millions more allies to elect a pro-equality president in 2020 who will sign the Equality Act into law.”

HRC also noted in a press release that:

“HRC polling has found that nearly two-thirds of self-identified LGBTQ Americans report experiencing discrimination. Currently, 50 percent of LGBTQ Americans live in the 30 states that still lack statewide legal non-discrimination protections, leaving their residents and visitors at risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service because of who they are or whom they love. The Equality Act would finally guarantee existing civil rights laws apply to LGBTQ people by providing clear, consistent non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity across key areas of life, while expanding and enhancing protections for people of color, women and religious minorities….

 

The Equality Act was re-introduced in the new U.S. House in March with growing, unprecedented support. More than 200 major corporations have joined HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act. Recent polling finds that a growing majority of Americans— including Republicans, Democrats and Independents — support LGBTQ non-discrimination protections and LGBTQ equality. In a historic move, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers announced their support for the Equality Act. A recent survey by PRRI found that nearly seven in 10 Americans support laws like the Equality Act. More than 500 statewide and national organizations have endorsed the legislation, including social justice, religious, medical and child welfare organizations.”

Despite the unprecedented and growing support 50 years after Stonewall, it is widely expected that Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will stonewall any effort to bring it to the Senate Floor for a vote,

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California Politics

Karen Bass & her LGBTQ staff discuss commitment to equity & justice

“Diversity is something you have to do consciously,” Bass said. “I always look at my staff and [ask myself] ‘who’s missing?’

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Karen Bass with campaign staff, supporters, and former California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (Photo by LeRoy Hamilton)

LOS ANGELES – U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), a leading candidate to become the next mayor of the city Los Angeles, has hired LGBTQ+ folks with diverse backgrounds to leadership positions on her Congressional staff and in her mayoral campaign because of “their dedication to fighting for social and economic justice,” Bass told the Los Angeles Blade over the phone Thursday morning. 

“Diversity is something you have to do consciously,” she said. “I always look at my staff and [ask myself] ‘who’s missing?’ to make sure we have representation. I think it’s really important to approach it that way.” 

Meanwhile three senior members of Bass’s staff, all of whom identify as LGBTQ+ – Senior Advisor and Policy Director Joey Freeman, Campaign Manager Jenny Delwood, and Chief of Staff Darryn Harris — spoke to The Blade about their personal relationships with the Congresswoman. 

They also highlighted what they described as a throughline in Bass’s adherence to principles of equity and justice, beginning with her early career as a nurse and physicians’ assistant through to her candidacy for mayor of Los Angeles. 

Bass is slated to square off against billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso in the November 8 election to replace term-limited incumbent Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The two candidates advanced from the June 7 primary elections, having each received less than 50% of the vote. 

A longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community, Bass kicked off her “LGBTQ+ for Bass affinity group” Wednesday night at the historic Black Cat restaurant in Silver Lake.

Bass has been a mentor to the next generation of LGBTQ+ leaders on her staff.

When it comes to her staff, Bass said, “I see my role as helping to develop their leadership and helping to support them however I can.” 

“I was able to be my full self here; fully black, fully gay,” said Harris, Bass’s chief of staff, who has known the Congresswoman for his entire adult life and served in multiple positions before being appointed to lead her congressional office. 

“When you have a boss who’s that supportive of you, it helps in so many different ways,” he said. “Not only with the work we do, but also it was one of the things that helped deepen our friendship and deepen our mutual trust, because I was able to bring my whole self to work.”

Delwood, Bass’s campaign manager, has also known the Congresswoman for more than a decade and served in multiple positions before her appointment to lead her mayoral campaign. As a human being, as a professional, and as a lesbian, Delwood said Bass has embraced every part of who she is. 

“The Congresswoman has been not only a boss, but also a mentor,” Delwood said. “I started working for her as a fellow/intern in 2007 in the California Assembly, and she and I have built a very strong relationship over the years. She is part of my extended family, now.”

Jenny Delwood, pictured right, with Bass (center) officiating her wedding to wife Christine
(Photo courtesy of Jenny Delwood)

Beginning with her early career in healthcare, Bass has been an ally of the LGBTQ+ community

“When I went to school to be a physicians’ assistant in the early 1980s,” Bass said, the virus that would become known as HIV/AIDS began to emerge, disproportionately impacting gay men. “It was unbelievable, in the first few years of the epidemic, how [badly] these patients were treated,” she said. 

In her work treating patients, and as a full-time clinical instructor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, Bass pushed for better treatment of HIV/AIDS patients, practicing what she preached. 

“From that time on, she’s been standing for and with the community,” said Freeman, Bass’s senior advisor and policy director, who identifies as gay. 

“She was on the ground floor of the HIV AIDS epidemic,” Delwood said, “providing medical care for people with HIV/AIDS when folks were steering clear of and being discriminatory [against those who were positive].” From those early days of her career, Delwood said, “Congresswoman Bass has been in deep solidatiry with the LGBTQ community.”

“It wasn’t just gay men with HIV,” said Zach Seidl, Bass’s communications advisor, “but trans folks, too.”  In the best of cases, doctors would greet HIV/AIDS patients in hazmat suits; in the worst, refusing treatment, Seidl said. Bass, meanwhile, insisted she needed to help them, he added.   

Bass believes in consulting people who will be directly impacted by policy

Policymakers often speak with subject matter experts without consulting those who will be directly impacted, Bass said. It’s an oversight the Congresswoman has been careful to avoid. 

For example, Bass told the Blade she visited a federal prison yesterday morning to hand out copies of draft legislation that concerns women in the criminal justice system, inviting incarcerated women to read and share comments or input by email. 

This will extend to her work as mayor, Freeman said. If elected, Bass will be charged with selecting staff, commission members, and general manager appointments, roles where she will ensure LGBTQ+ people are well represented, because this is how she prefers to govern – by consulting with people who are directly affected by policy. 

Working so closely with Congresswoman Bass, “I have the opportunity to see that every single day,” Harris said, “Ordinary people influencing public policy at state, federal, and – soon – the citywide level” under her leadership. 

Bass believes the most effective way to create lasting change is to work with community members and to bring forward solutions that are community driven, Delwood agreed. “In order to actually solve homelessness or address crime in LA or deal with our lack of affordable housing, it’s imperative” to work with a variety of stakeholders from the community as well as in the county, state, and federal government, she said. 

Bass and her staff have big plans to address problems afflicting Los Angelinos 

“I could have stayed in Congress to fight for a leadership spot,” said Bass, who was reported as a front runner for President Joe Biden’s vice president during his 2020 electoral campaign. But there are crises in Los Angeles, she said, pointing to the latest figures on the city’s unhoused population as an example. 

Bass Policy Director Joey Freeman (Middle) and Campaign Manager Jenny Delwood (far right)
(Photo by LeRoy Hamilton)

It was the second time in her career that Bass was faced with such a decision, she said. “I was a full-time faculty member of the medical school” when Los Angeles began to experience a crack-cocaine epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

“I was mortified at how the city was responding to crack cocaine and gang issues,” Bass said. “These were health, social, and economic issues, but the response of policymakers was to criminalize everything and everyone in South LA.”

Leaving USC, Bass formed the Community Coalition and began her work as a community organizer. “I worked to prevent the city from locking everyone up, and to steer people away from gangs,” the Congresswoman said. “And then I looked for how we organize people to fight for drug treatment instead of incarceration for those who were addicted.” 

Likewise, Bass said, the current moment calls for coalition building and working across the government to improve the lives of Angelenos and effectuate just policymaking for, especially, vulnerable communities.

Members of Bass’s staff pointed to how the Congresswoman could be particularly effective as mayor on issues of homelessness, LGBTQ+ rights, child welfare reform, foster care reform, housing affordability, and violence against Black trans people. 

“Forty percent of young people on the streets are LGBTQ+,” said Delwood. “Being able to address that is a top priority of the congresswoman as well as our entire team.” Many children land in the foster care system because of discrimination over their sexual orientation or gender identities, she said, and while LGBTQ+ adoptive or foster parents are greeted with “open arms” in LA, such is not the case in many other parts of the country. 

As Mayor, in coordination with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Bass will be able to champion foster youth, reform the child welfare system, and prove to the rest of the country how successful LGBTQ adoptive and foster parents can be, Delwood said. 

Freeman agreed. There is a lot of overlap, he said, with issues concerning the foster care system, with high rates of homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth, with the housing crisis. “What we need to do to address homelessness and prevent future homelessness is to tackle the root cause,” Freeman said. “Are LGBTQ  youth receiving the support they need?”  

Congresswoman Bass “has deep relationships with folks here, in DC, and in Sacramento, so when you’re dealing with challenges in LA, she knows how to go in there and how to pool the resources in order to solve them,” Harris said. 

Harris highlighted Bass’s community organizing and coalition building roots, arguing she is the best candidate to represent all of Los Angeles as the city’s mayor.

One issue Harris said he is eager to see Bass’s leadership in addressing is the high rates of murder and violent crime against members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly Black trans people. “I’m excited to see how she would be able to ensure that they are safe, tracking some of those federal dollars to ensure that they have protections against domestic and sexual violence,” he said.

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California Politics

Rep. Karen Bass greets LGBTQ+ affinity group at the historic Black Cat

Bass has been a longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community. In her remarks she listed some of her achievements in the battles for LGBTQ+ equality

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Screenshot via video by Troy Masters for the Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Surrounded by well-wishers, supporters, and former California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez at her side, U.S. Representative Karen Bass launched the official “LGBTQ+ for Bass affinity group” Wednesday evening at the Black Cat, an LGBTQ+ historic site located in the Silver Lake neighborhood of the City.

Pérez, an openly Out gay man served as the 68th Speaker of the California State Assembly, succeeding Bass as Speaker in 2010. Bass made several warm references to their mutual past political history. She also spoke on subjects that are critical to furthering LGBTQ+ equality and equity in her six-minute chat.

U.S. Representative Karen Bass & former California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez
(Photo by Troy Masters)

The congresswoman is locked in a close race with billionaire real estate tycoon Rick Caruso to succeed current Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti in the Fall elections on November 8. Both candidates advanced from the June 7 primary election since neither received 50% of the vote. Incumbent Mayor Garcetti is unable to stand for re-election due to term limits.

Bass has been a longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community. In her remarks Wednesday at the Black Cat she listed some of her achievements in the battles for LGBTQ+ equality, first in the California Assembly, then in Congress.

The venue where the Congresswoman launched the LGBTQ+ political affinity group is famed as an LGBTQ+ historic site. The Black Cat was the site of one of the first demonstrations in the United States protesting police brutality against LGBT people, preceding the Stonewall riots by over two years.

From the One Archives at USC: A New Year’s 1967 raid by the Los Angeles Police turned brutal as LAPD undercover officers began beating several of the patrons and ultimately arrested fourteen patrons for “assault and public lewdness.” As reported by the local gay newspaper Tangents, two bartenders were beaten unconscious. The paper also noted that patrons fled to another gay bar, New Faces, but they were followed by police and arrested. The officers mistook the manager, a woman named Lee Roy, for a man (named “Leroy”) wearing a dress, and beat her severely.

Photo by Troy Masters

The historical account continued: Contrary to popular myth, there was no “riot” at the Black Cat, but a civil demonstration of 200 attendees to protest the raids was held on February 11, 1967. The demonstration was organized by a group called PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education) – founded by Steve Ginsberg – and the SCCRH (Southern California Council on Religion and Homophile). The protest was met by squadrons of armed policemen. Demonstrators carefully adhered to all laws and ordinances so that the police had no legitimate reasons to make arrests.

Two of the noteworthy events that arose from the Black Cat arrests and later protests was the establishment of The Advocate, which began as a newspaper for the group PRIDE and has continued publishing to this day and formation of the Metropolitan Community Church led by Los Angeles LGBTQ+ pioneer, the Reverend Troy Perry.

Karen Bass speaks at LA’s iconic Black Cat:

Editor’s Note: The Los Angeles Blade has endorsed Rep. Bass in her election campaign to become the next mayor of the city of Los Angeles.

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Politics

Gay man wins Democratic congressional primary in Ill.

Eric Sorensen running for retiring U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos’ seat

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Eric Sorensen (Photo courtesy of Eric Sorensen)

MOLINE, Ill. — Illinois Democrats are hoping to send a gay person to Congress for the first time in the state’s history.

Voters in the 17th Congressional District in northwest Illinois on Tuesday voted to have Eric Sorensen, a former meteorologist, become the Democratic nominee for the district’s U.S. House of Representatives seat currently held by retiring Democratic Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.

“THANK YOU to everyone who was a part of this movement,” Sorensen wrote on Twitter following his primary victory. “From day one this campaign has been built on three pillars: Trust, science, and communication. I’m honored to be your #IL17 Democratic nominee for Congress.”

Sorensen, who bested his closest primary opponent by more than 13,000 votes, has centered much of his campaign messaging around the issue of mitigating the effects of climate change.

Sorensen’s candidacy and potential to become the state’s first openly gay member of Congress has been met with celebration from those advocating for more of such representation on Capitol Hill. After Sorensen claimed victory on Tuesday, advocacy groups and political organizations like Equality PAC and the LGBTQ Victory Fund were quick to offer their support.

“It has never been more important to defend our pro-choice, pro-equality majority in Congress,” Victory Fund President Annise Parker said in a statement. “As a meteorologist, Eric spent the last two decades keeping his local community safe by telling the truth and promoting a pro-science agenda. His success tonight is a testament to his continued leadership and grassroots support, as well as a highly effective ground game focused on candid conversations about how to make government work for all Americans.”

Hoping to keep the district from flipping to Republican control in a midterm year that is expected to be an uphill battle for Democratic congressional majorities, Sorensen has also gained the backing of the district’s current congresswoman. Bustos took to Twitter following Sorensen’s victory to announce her support.

“Illinoisans deserve a representative who will fight for working families, help build our local economy and continue to lift up Midwestern voices,” Bustos wrote. “Eric will do that.”

Sorensen’s ultimate ascension to Illinois’ 17th Congressional District seat, however, is not assured. Though the district leans Democratic, it is widely labeled as a competitive race following nationwide redistricting of congressional maps ahead of this year’s midterms.

Such a competitive landscape is coupled with a competitive rival battling Sorensen for the seat.

His Republican opponent, lawyer and Army Reserve Capt. Esther Joy King, previously ran for the seat in 2020, losing to Bustos by just four percent of the overall vote.

Having already secured a number of high-profile Republican endorsements including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, King has already begun her November messaging campaign after besting her primary opponent by more than 30 percentage points.

“It doesn’t have to be a choice if we elect leaders who will put their constituents first rather than far-left, out-of-touch policies and that’s exactly what I’m running to do,” King said in a statement Tuesday night. “Let’s come together to win this in November.”

Groups like the Victory Fund, however, are remain optimistic that Sorensen’s potential to make history will be within reach when voters enter the polls on Nov. 8.

“Voters are clearly enthusiastic about Eric’s vision for a more equitable future,” Parker said. “We trust Eric will be a vital voice in Congress come November. The stakes have never been higher.”

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