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Buttigieg scores historic LGBTQ moment during third Democratic debate (Video)

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The third Democratic presidential debate in Houston Thursday night was considered make-or-break for candidates not named Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. That tension resulted in some jaw-dropping moments, as well as some enlightening personal revelations.

But for the LGBTQ community, so anxious to hear anything about LGBTQ rights, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s coming out story was historic.

Never before has a top tier presidential candidate spoken on a debate stage before millions of viewers about the deeply personal process of coming out as LGBTQ – and why it matters.

The question asked of the ten candidates at the end of the three-hour debate televised live by ABC and Univision was to describe a professional set back and the resilience that enabled the candidate to survive and now run for president. Buttigieg took a beat, then, in a shorthand that denotes the progress the LGBTQ community has made, calmly shared one of the most profound inner decisions the gay mayor had to make returning home from his deployment to Afghanistan.

Buttigieg said:

“You know, as a military officer serving under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and as an elected official in the state of Indiana when Mike Pence was governor, at a certain point when it came to professional setbacks, I had to wonder whether just acknowledging who I was was gonna be the ultimate career-ending professional setback.

 

I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life and I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer. So, I just came out. I had no idea what kind of professional setback it would be, especially because, inconveniently, it was an election year in my socially conservative community.

 

What happened was that when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and reelected me with 80 percent of the vote.

 

And what I learned was that trust can be reciprocated, and that part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what’s worth more to you than winning. And I think that’s what we need in the presidency right now. We have to know what we are about, and this election is not about any of us up here. It is not about this president, even though it’s hard to talk of anything else some days.

 

It’s about the people who trust us with their lives — a kid wondering if we’re actually going to make their schools safe when they’ve learned active shooter drills before they’ve learned to read; a generation wondering whether we will actually get the job done on climate change. And if we hold to that, then it doesn’t matter what happens to each of us professionally. Together we will win a better era for our country.”

One of the Oxford Rhodes Scholar millennial’s key campaign themes is the need for a new generation of leadership, akin to young President John F. Kennedy noting the passing of the torch in 1960. But in his closing, Buttigieg also shared a more subliminal message about his electability: he trusted voters to re-elect him based on merit, what he had done to revitalize South Bend, and on his service-to-others-based values.

Buttigieg said that part of his local success is due to immigration, something Californians and even Republican President George W. Bush recognized in trying to create work visas.

“You know, the only reason that South Bend is growing right now, after years of shrinking, is immigration. It’s one of the reasons we acted, not waiting for Washington, to create city-issued municipal IDs so that people regardless of immigration status in our city had the opportunity to have the benefits of identification,” Buttigieg said.

“We have an opportunity to actually get something done, but we cannot allow this to continue to be the same debate with the same arguments and the same clever lines often among the same people since the last real reform happened in the 1980s,” said Buttigieg, who also touted his Douglas Plan to fight systemic, institutionalized racism.

Buttigieg also demonstrated his focus on unity, as opposed to harmful infighting. The polite and disciplined mayor interrupted and admonished former HUD Sec. Julian Castro during one Castro’s attacks on Biden.

“This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable,” Buttigieg said. “This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington.”

A puffed-up Castro shot back. “Yeah, that’s called the Democratic primary election,” he said. “That’s called an election.”

The dustup was part of a very long debate over the particulars of Medicare-for-all and its derivations. Castro almost leaned over his podium at the end of the stage to better see Biden.

“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro, 44, asked Biden, 76. Repeating, “Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?”

There was an audible gasp in the auditorium as Castro questioned Biden’s age-related mental acuity. Asked about it later in the spin room, Castro doubled down on what many thought was a cheap shot, telling ABC News, “I wasn’t taking a shot at his age.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who came across as the “happy warrior” with a lived experience of systemic racism, backed him up later, saying such questions need to be asked to make sure Biden, if he becomes the nominee, can carry the ball over the goal line to defeat Trump.

On stage, Castro dug in even deeper, telling Biden:  “I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you’re not.” Biden looked stunned for a moment and shot back: “That would be a surprise to him.”

Biden essentially held his own despite the expected incoming attacks aimed at the frontrunner. And there were a few Biden-esque fumbles. Years ago, Biden commented about reparations for slavery saying, “I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.” Asked about it at the debate, Biden seemed to space out, talking about playing the radio to help kids expand their vocabulary and to “make sure you have the record player on at night.”

Ironically, vinyl records and record players are back in—but it is unlikely Biden would know that.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders held his own as well, basically repeating his well-known pitches for Medicare for all. But one point he made, in particular, needs more debate and scrutiny. This country is moving to an oligarchy, he said.

Aside from the Castro implosion, the other major shocker of the night may have thrilled the Democratic base but left some politicos shaking their heads in disbelief at what they worry might be handing Trump an easy campaign ad.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke was sincerely praised by his opponents for the way he responded to the mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso that killed 22 people at a Walmart on August 3.  Another mass shooting occurred less than a month later when a gunman killed seven people near Odessa and Midland.

“Beto, God love you for standing so courageously in the midst of that tragedy,” said California Sen. Kamala Harris.

O’Rourke has become so passionate about gun violence, he’s started swearing, which prompted ABC to issue a warning about their standards and practices for a live broadcast.

ABC moderator David Muir asked O’Rourke if it was true that he would mandate that Americans sell their guns.  “You know, the critics call this confiscation,” said Muir. “Are you proposing taking away their guns, and how would this work?”

“I am. If it’s a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield—if the high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body, because it was designed to do that so you would bleed to death on a battlefield. Not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers,” O’Rourke said.

“When we see that being used against children,” he said, his passion growing in intensity. “And in Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15. And that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour, because so many other people were shot by an AR-15 in Odessa and Midland, there weren’t enough ambulances to get to them in time. Hell yes. We’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.”

The audience erupted in cheers. Texas State Rep. Briscoe Cain tweeted, using Beto’s given first name: “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis.”

To which O’Rourke tweeted: “This is a death threat, Representative. Clearly, you shouldn’t own an AR-15—and neither should anyone else.”

Though none of the candidates mentioned the word of the day—impeachment—Harris did the next best thing, speaking directly to Trump in her opening remarks.

“You have used hate, intimidation, fear and over 12,000 lies as a way to distract from your failed policies,” Harris said. “What you don’t get is that the American people are so much better than this.”

She closed on a no doubt scripted note that brought roars of laughter. “Now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News,” Harris said.

Harris had another line that seemed to sum up how many felt after the El Paso shooting, that Trump “didn’t pull the trigger, but he’s certainly been tweeting out the ammunition.”

One of Harris’ best lines revealed her humor and a very human reaction when she screwed up. Trump, Harris said glibly, “reminds me of that guy in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ When you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude.” As the audience cracked up, ABC moderator George Stephanopoulos, who stands at 5’5” tall, said he wasn’t going to take the bait. “Oh, George. It wasn’t about you!” Harris exclaimed in laughter, catching the unintended insult.

Harris also defended her record as a prosecutor, which she said has been misconstrued. As San Francisco’s district attorney, she “took on the position that allowed me, without asking permission, to create one of the first-in-the-nation initiatives that was a model and became a national model around people who were arrested for drugs and getting them jobs.”

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar had some good one-liners, such as Trump “is treating our farmers and our workers like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos.” And her personal story of growing up with an alcoholic father was very moving but it did not give her break out recognition.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who has developed a growing young following on social media, announced that he would give 10 families a “freedom dividend” of $1,000 a month for a year selected from those who apply to his website. While clever, it may not be legal, let alone appearing that he is trying to buy votes.

Perhaps the candidate who best succeeded in surviving the night was Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is consistently in the top three in national polls. She was good with the quick comebacks. For instance, in an exchange with Biden over his incremental approach to fixing and expanding Obamacare to allow people to keep their private insurance versus her “big, structural change” version of “Medicare for all,” Warren quipped: “Let’s be clear “I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company,” they like their individual doctors or providers.

Warren also came off as very approachable, especially in telling her personal story of always wanting to be a teacher.

“I believe Elizabeth Warren is able to speak to the political and economic elite in a way that they are able to easily understand,” local LA activist Michael Masters told the Los Angeles Blade.

Harris was the choice for Charity Chandler-Cole, President of the Black Los Angeles Young Democrats.

“I wasn’t a champion of Kamala at first, but after seeing her performance at the last few debates, I think she deserves a chance to prove to the criminal justice reform community that she can do right by us,” she told the Los Angeles Blade.

Chandler-Cole and Masters were part of a Democratic debate watch party in South LA  that included Stonewall Democratic Club.

“The Stonewall Democratic Club is so pleased to be collaborating with multiple local Democratic groups and advocacy organizations as we approach the 2020 presidential election, including tonight at our Democratic Debate watch party where a hundred local activists and concerned citizens joined us at Bandito’s to hear the proposals and ideas put forth by the top 10 candidates in the race,” Alex Mohajer, Public and Media Relations Director of the Stonewall Democratic Club, told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Our members have diverse opinions about who they prefer to see take on Donald Trump next November,” he continued. “But we are energized about rallying around whomever the Democratic Party nominates to remove him from the White House. Even where we sharply disagree, there is a consensus that these conversations about health care, the environment, and corruption in government are good for the country and for the process, and that Donald Trump poses an existential threat to our democracy and must go.”

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White House announces 17 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients

The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom will be presented to those named at the White House on July 7, 2022

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Megan Rapinoe, an Out Olympic gold medalist is among those named ((Screenshot/YouTube via U.S. Soccer )

WASHINGTON – The White House today released President Joe Biden’s selection of recipients for bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor,  the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7, 2022.

Included among the seventeen honorees are Megan Rapinoe, the Out Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Also selected by the president for a posthumous recognition was Richard Trumka, the powerful labor leader and longtime Democratic ally of the LGBTQ+ community who passed away last August. Trumka had led the AFL-CIO since 2009 and who throughout his career, was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ Americans, social and economic justice.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.

Presidential Medal of Freedom (The White House)

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Simone Biles
Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Biles is also a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell is a member of the Sisters of Social Service and former Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is also a prominent advocate for economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare policy.

Julieta García
Dr. Julieta García is the former president of The University of Texas at Brownsville, where she was named one of Time magazine’s best college presidents. Dr. García was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dedicated her career to serving students from the Southwest Border region.

Gabrielle Giffords
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, serving first in the Arizona legislature and later in the U.S. Congress. A survivor of gun violence, she co-founded Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention.

Fred Gray
Fred Gray was one of the first black members of the Alabama State legislature since Reconstruction. As an attorney, he represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, who called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.”

Steve Jobs (posthumous)
Steve Jobs (d. 2011) was the co-founder, chief executive, and chair of Apple, Inc., CEO of Pixar and held a leading role at the Walt Disney Company. His vision, imagination and creativity led to inventions that have, and continue to, change the way the world communicates, as well as transforming the computer, music, film and wireless industries.

Father Alexander Karloutsos
Father Alexander Karloutsos is the former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. After over 50 years as a priest, providing counsel to several U.S. presidents, he was named by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Khizr Khan
Khizr Khan is a Gold Star father and founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center. He is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom and served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden.

Sandra Lindsay
Sandra Lindsay is a New York critical care nurse who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. She was the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and is a prominent advocate for vaccines and mental health for health care workers.

John McCain (posthumous)
John McCain (d. 2018) was a public servant who was awarded a Purple Heart with one gold star for his service in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. He also served the people of Arizona for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Diane Nash
Diane Nash is a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century. Nash worked closely with Martin Luther King, who described her as the “driving spirit in the nonviolent assault on segregation at lunch counters.”

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Alan Simpson
Alan Simpson served as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming for 18 years. During his public service, he has been a prominent advocate on issues including campaign finance reform, responsible governance, and marriage equality.

Richard Trumka (posthumous)
Richard Trumka (d. 2021) was president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade, president of the United Mine Workers, and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Throughout his career, he was an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.

Wilma Vaught
Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military, repeatedly breaking gender barriers as she rose through the ranks. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.

Raúl Yzaguirre
Raúl Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate who served as CEO and president of National Council of La Raza for thirty years. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama.

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Florida

Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law goes into effect, negative impact already felt

LGBTQ youth, already at higher risk of depression, anxiety, & suicide than their peers, report their mental health being negatively impacted

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Jack Petocz (with bullhorn) leads Flagler Palm Coast High School protest against Florida's DSG bill (Photo by Alysa Vidal)

TALLAHASSEE – Florida’s HB 1557, known as the Don’t Say LGBTQ law, took effect today. The law, which bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and restricts that instruction in grades 4-12, will immediately begin impacting efforts to make Florida classrooms more inclusive.

But its impacts have already been felt for months. Educators and school staff have shared the chilling effects they are experiencing across the state. Books with LGBTQ characters are being pulled from shelves. Rainbow “safe space” stickers are being peeled from classroom windows. LGBTQ educators are being asked to avoid speaking about their families. As the law officially goes into effect, these impacts will escalate. 

“Since the inception of this hateful policy, lawmakers have assured the public that it would not lead to censorship or erasure of LGBTQ people,” said Joe Saunders, Equality Florida Senior Political Director. “But our community has always known the truth. The Don’t Say LGBTQ law has always been fueled by anti-LGBTQ animus and designed to further stigmatize the LGBTQ community, ban books about us, erase us from classrooms, and force us back into the closet. It is a bigoted and dangerous law that is making Florida less safe for students and families, and we will work tirelessly to see it repealed.”

Throughout the legislative process, lawmakers scoffed at the suggestion that HB 1557 would have negative impacts on the LGBTQ community, even as they refused to clarify its dangerously vague language and prevent the eventual law from doing harm.

A bipartisan contingent of lawmakers offered up dozens of amendments to the bill, attempting to narrow its overly-broad scope and clarify the most vague components. These amendments came after assertions from their colleagues that the bill’s intent was narrow. However, those reasonable amendments were rejected by bill sponsors Representative Joe Harding, Senator Dennis Baxley, and their allies, leaving its language broad and discriminatory.

As a result, the chilling effects were swift and sweeping. Across the state, censorship of LGBTQ lives began in earnest and has continued until today. In Palm Beach County, School Superintendent Mike Burke began by circumventing the district’s material review process to remove multiple books featuring LGBTQ characters, citing concern about the implications of the Don’t Say LGBTQ law. He followed the move in recent weeks by issuing guidance to educators across the district for them to remove books currently being challenged and place them “in a classroom closet” and scour their shelves for other titles that may include LGBTQ characters or mention topics like racism or oppression.

Districts statewide have taken drastic steps in response to the Don’t Say Gay law. Graduation speeches have been scrubbed of references to LGBTQ advocacy. Yearbook pages have had images of Don’t Say LGBTQ walkouts blacked out. Conservative religious activists have successfully initiated challenges to dozens of books in multiple school districts. Rainbow-colored COEXIST banners and Pride flags have been stripped from school walls.

In total, LGBTQ+ equality rights advocacy group Equality Florida has received over 50 complaints of censorship aimed at the LGBTQ community since the bill was signed into law in March.

Most recently, Orange County Public Schools garnered national attention after reports emerged that during seminars designed to discuss the potential implementation of the Don’t Say LGBTQ law, school administrators were advised to begin removing rainbow “safe space” stickers from classroom windows, ask LGBTQ educators to remove family photos from their desks, and avoid talking about their loved ones at work for fear of running afoul of the new law. While exactly what advocates for equality had warned of, the revelation shocked educators across the district, who took to the next board meeting to express their deep concerns and demand written clarification.

All of these chilling effects come as LGBTQ youth, those already at higher risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation than their peers, report their mental health being negatively impacted by anti-LGBTQ policies and the debates that surround them. And they come amidst a surge in online harassment against LGBTQ people nationwide and threats of violence against LGBTQ spaces and Pride celebrations fueled by the dehumanizing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric launched by the DeSantis Administration in defense of the Don’t Say LGBTQ bill.

In March, the governor’s spokeswoman Christina Pushaw took to Twitter to traffic in age-old, anti-LGBTQ tropes to rescue the mired legislation, tropes that have since been parroted by Fox News hosts, right-wing influencers, and have exploded into the digital harassment and threats of violence running rampant across the country.

Equality Florida hosted a virtual press conference with lawmakers and those directly impacted on Friday morning. Those who have been impacted by the Don’t Say LGBTQ law can share their stories at freetosaygay.org.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Law took effect Friday:

Today, some of Florida’s most vulnerable students and families are more fearful and less free. As the state’s shameful “Don’t Say Gay” law takes effect, state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves. Already, there have been reports that “Safe Space” stickers are being taken down from classrooms. Teachers are being instructed not to wear rainbow clothing. LGBTQI+ teachers are being told to take down family photos of their husbands and wives—cherished family photos like the ones on my own desk.
 
This is not an issue of “parents’ rights.” This is discrimination, plain and simple. It’s part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points. It encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being. It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students. And it must stop.
 
President Biden has been very clear that every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom. The Department of Education will be monitoring this law, and any student or parent who believes they are experiencing discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Our Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family—in Florida and around the country.

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Indiana

South Bend Indiana Rainbow Story Hour disrupted by Proud Boys

Seven men — all Proud Boys — entered the library and began arguing with staff and patrons. Several displayed white supremacist symbols

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Proud Boys via Screenshot/Twitter

SOUTH BEND, In. – A Pride Month children’s Rainbow Story Hour event at the St. Joseph County Public Library’s Virginia M. Tutt Branch on Monday was disrupted after the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ group, the Proud Boys, walked in and began loudly arguing with staff and library patrons.

 At one point during the confrontation, one of the group unfurled a flag reading “Michiana Proud Boys,” appearing to identify the men as a local chapter of the white nationalist hate group.

This latest incident follows Proud Boys targeting LGBTQ+ Pride month events- especially Drag Queen Story Hour events- in Sparks Nevada, Wilmington North Carolina, Alameda California, Boise Idaho, many promulgated by highly influential far-right social media stars like Chaya Raichik, the Brooklyn real estate agent behind @LibsOfTikTok who has highlighted these events she calls out as inappropriate and sexualizing children to her more than 1.3 million followers on Twitter.

South Bend’s NPR outlet WVPE reported that the event was a partnership between the library and TREES, a Michiana organization that provides resources for the local transgender community and operates the Tree House Gender Resource center in downtown South Bend.

But before the event was set to start, seven men — all Proud Boys — entered the library and began arguing with staff and patrons. Several displayed white supremacist symbols, according to photos posted on social media.

Police were called — and the group left after about 40 minutes — but they caused so much disruption that the event had to be canceled.

“This definitely came as a shock,” library system communications manager Marissa Gebhard told WVPE. “We were not anticipating any problems.”

The library plans to reschedule the event in a few months, and Gebhard said the system wants everyone to feel safe and welcome at its branches.

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