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Biden, Warren, Harris, Buttigieg in Iowa and HRC/CNN LGBT forums

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Two days before the third Democratic presidential debate on Thursday, Sept. 12 at Texas Southern University, an historically black university, California Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy posted a tweet thanking President Trump “for once again leading us to victory” in two North Carolina congressional races. Trump took credit for the wins and tweeted out a “Trump 2024” campaign sign, again suggesting he should get a third term.

Stonewall Democratic Club has joined with other local Democratic organizations to host debate-watch parties Thursday night to see who among the 10 candidates might be the best to challenge the White House reality TV star.

The dangerous absurdity of the Trump presidency will no doubt be one of the questions asked at the Sept. 20 Democratic presidential forum on LGBTQ issues sponsored by The Advocate, GLAAD, One Iowa, and The Gazette at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Coe is a private liberal arts college, historically affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, ranked by Forbes “as one of the best schools in the country” in 2019.

While Iowa voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, it was also the state that gave wings to Sen. Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008; was the third state to recognize marriage equality in 2009; and in 2011, gave America college student Zach Wahls, whose speech before the Judiciary Committee about his lesbian mothers in opposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage went viral. Wahls is now a member of the state legislature and an honorary sponsor of the forum.

C-Span hasn’t (yet?) scheduled coverage of the 90-minute event, but Zach Stafford, The Advocate‘s editor-in-chief and a moderator with Gazette columnist Lyz Lenz, and One Iowa Policy Director Keenan Crow, tells the Los Angeles Blade that details about live-streaming will be announced soon. “It should be accessible to all folks who have access to the internet around the world,” he says.

The lineup is impressive since most of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump’s re-election in 2020 have not been seriously asked about LGBTQ issues on the campaign trail, though some have referenced the Equality Act, homophobia and the epidemic of murders of black trans women.

Since the forum was first announced in August, Stafford says the lineup currently features out South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, and self-improvement spiritual leader Marianne Williamson.

“The style will be one candidate with one moderator at a time,” says Stafford. They are “not being pitted against each other. It’s a time for them to speak to the community.”

Some already have. Buttigieg spoke with the Washington Blade before announcing his candidacy and has since addressed the Human Rights Campaign and the Victory Fund, later receiving their endorsement, as well as low-dollar community fundraisers targeting the LGBTQ community at The Abbey in West Hollywood, and elsewhere. BidenBooker, and Harris have been featured at HRC events, including in Los Angeles, and Harris rode in the San Francisco Pride parade and has spoken with the Los Angeles Blade.

Williamson, well known in LA for co-founding Project Angel Food, has spoken with both the Washington and the LA Blades.

Warren took her presidential campaign outreach to another level, sending a video and setting up a booth at Ru Paul’s Drag Con in New York City recently, apparently the only candidate who accepted an invitation to participate.

The Iowa LGBT forum, Stafford says, “will be an opportunity for us to dig deep into specific topics through an LGBTQ lens that aren’t being discussed in the other debates. We are interested in knowing more about how these folks are thinking about our community when they are creating health care bills or immigration legislation.”

Less than one month later, the candidates will have an opportunity to clarify, expand, or revise their pitches to LGBTQ voters and allies at the Oct. 10 forum sponsored by HRC and broadcast live by forum partner CNN at The Novo at LA Live. According to HRC, LGBTQ voters were 6 percent of the electorate in 2018 and cast more than 7 million ballots.

The HRC/CNN town hall may have an additional element of drama, considering Trump’s Twitter hatred of CNN and out anchor Don Lemon.

Unlike the Iowa forum, the event, entitled Power of Our Pride, will abide by CNN standards and practices and Democratic National Committee rules for candidates to qualify for their debates.  So far, six of the 10 candidates who met those qualifications for the Sept. 12 debate have confirmed their participation: Biden, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Klobuchar and Warren.

“This town hall comes at a critical time in our fight to achieve equality for (LGBTQ) people in this nation,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Today, in 30 states, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who we are. Thirty-five states have yet to ban the dangerous and debunked practice of ‘conversion therapy,’ which is harming our young people. Hate crimes are rising, and more than 100 transgender people — most of whom are transgender women of color — have been killed in the United States in the last five years. Although the federal government should be protecting all residents, the Trump-Pence Administration is directly attacking our community by banning transgender troops from serving our country openly, undermining health care services for people living with HIV, and seeking to erase LGBTQ people from protections under law.”

Who’s got a plan for that?

Cardboard image of Sen. Elizabeth Warren at Ru Paul’s DragCon (Photo via Xorje Olivares on Twitter)

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Virginia

Virginia Tech Co. burns LGBTQ poster at company party- then apologizes

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC

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Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC

ASHBURN, Va. – The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

A customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds, made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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The White House

New virus variant stokes global alarms, flights banned from South Africa

The variant is classified as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the Delta variant

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:President Joe Biden (Blade file photo)

NANTUCKETT, Ma. – The World Health Organization declared a new variant of the mutated coronavirus it named Omicron as a variant of concern Friday. The variant is classified as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the Delta variant, the world’s most prevalent.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the WHO said in a statement Friday afternoon.

“Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, [has shown] this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage,” the WHO noted.

The Omicron variant has already caused countries across Europe and Asia to implement travel restrictions.

President Joe Biden, spending the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend with his family on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts off Cape Cod, on Friday issued a directive ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries. These new restrictions will take effect on November 29.

Bloomberg reported that one of Biden’s top medical advisers said earlier Friday that officials would act after reviewing scientific data with counterparts in South Africa.

American health officials spoke with their South African counterparts midday New York time on Friday to gather medical and scientific data about the newly discovered variant.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of Biden’s top health advisers, said they’d use that data in deciding whether to join the European Union, the U.K. and others in restricting travel.

The White House issued the President’s statement Friday afternoon:

“This morning I was briefed by my chief medical advisor, Dr. Tony Fauci, and the members of our COVID response team, about the Omicron variant, which is spreading through Southern Africa. As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries. These new restrictions will take effect on November 29. As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises. 

For now, I have two important messages for the American people, and one for the world community.

First, for those Americans who are fully vaccinated against severe COVID illness – fortunately, for the vast majority of our adults — the best way to strengthen your protection is to get a booster shot, as soon as you are eligible.  Boosters are approved for all adults over 18, six months past their vaccination and are available at 80,000 locations coast-to-coast.  They are safe, free, and convenient.  Get your booster shot now, so you can have this additional protection during the holiday season.

Second, for those not yet fully vaccinated: get vaccinated today.  This includes both children and adults.  America is leading the world in vaccinating children ages 5-11, and has been vaccinating teens for many months now – but we need more Americans in all age groups to get this life-saving protection. If you have not gotten vaccinated, or have not taken your children to get vaccinated, now is the time.

Finally, for the world community: the news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations. The United States has already donated more vaccines to other countries than every other country combined. It is time for other countries to match America’s speed and generosity.   

In addition, I call on the nations gathering next week for the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting to meet the U.S. challenge to waive intellectual property protections for COVID vaccines, so these vaccines can be manufactured globally.  I endorsed this position in April; this news today reiterates the importance of moving on this quickly.”

Dr. Fauci Warns Americans To Take New Omicron Variant Seriously

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Georgia

Justice served for Ahmaud Arbery- reactions to the guilty verdicts

“Ahmaud Arbery was a son, brother, friend- his life had meaning. We honor him best by continuing the fight for justice”

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Ahmaud Arbery (Family photo)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The jury in the Ahmaud Arbery trial reached a verdict in the trial of Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan finding them guilty on multiple counts of felony murder, false imprisonment, and other felonies in the 2020 killing of Ahmaud Arbery in south Georgia, which led to a wave of racial justice protest and a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the nation.

Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, & William “Roddie” Bryan
(Screenshot NBC News)

LGBTQ+ non-profit Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, better known as Lambda Legal issued a statement regarding the jury’s decision;

While we are relieved that justice was served today for Ahmaud Arbery and his family, no verdict can erase the pain and agony his family has endured. Our hope is that they can find the strength to carry forward in the wake of their unspeakable loss.”

‘It’s Been A Long Fight’: Ahmaud Arbery’s Parents React To Guilty Verdict

Ahmaud Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery speak out at a press conference following a jury finding the three men involved in their son’s murder guilty.

President Joe Biden, who along with his family are spending Thanksgiving on Massachusetts’s Nantucket Island, issued a statement released by the White House regarding the outcome of the trial of the three men now convicted of murdering Arbry.

Ahmaud Arbery’s killing – witnessed by the world on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country. Mr. Arbery should be here today, celebrating the holidays with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and his father, Marcus Arbery. Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.

While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin. My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans.”

Vice-President Kamala Harris also issued a statement saying;

Today, the jury rendered its verdicts and the three defendants were found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Still, we feel the weight of grief. Ahmaud Arbery should be alive, and nothing can take away the pain that his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, his father Marcus Arbery, and the entire Arbery family and community feel today. I share in that pain.
 
These verdicts send an important message, but the fact remains that we still have work to do. The defense counsel chose to set a tone that cast the attendance of ministers at the trial as intimidation and dehumanized a young Black man with racist tropes. The jury arrived at its verdicts despite these tactics. 
 
Ahmaud Arbery was a son. He was a brother. He was a friend. His life had meaning. We will not forget him. We honor him best by continuing the fight for justice.”

Jury Finds All Three Defendants ​Guilty In The Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

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