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Who can defeat Trump? Preview of HRC/CNN town hall

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Vice President Joe Biden with Jewel Thais-Williams at a Pride event at the White House. (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal)

To paraphrase Oda Mae Brown in “Ghost,” democracy, you in danger, girl.

This profound and dreadful moment in American history is worse than Watergate and far worse than the House impeachment of President Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinski because President Donald Trump has undermined public confidence in the very institutions of American democracy in his unquenchable thirst for unrestricted and unquestioned power.

But a Democratically controlled House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s behavior and fitness for office does not mean the Republican controlled Senate will convict and vote to remove him from office. Trump has admitted to stopping congressionally authorized money to Ukraine to purchase weapons in their desperate war against Russia, which has already militarily annexed Crimea. That was before Trump called the president of the Ukraine and asked him, as a favor, to re-investigate his chief 2020 election rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. An earlier investigation into the Bidens found no illegality, nothing untoward.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr also appear to have been caught up in this presidential abuse of power, as well as apparently trying to find evidence to support a right-wing conspiracy theory exonerating Russia from interfering in the 2016 elections.

Twice on Oct. 2 Trump publicly ranted about his critics, insisting the impeachment inquiry is a “hoax” and a Democratic “coup” and dangerously targeting Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, saying Schiff should be arrested for treason. Schiff and other favorite Trump targets such as Rep. Maxine Waters have reported receiving death threats since 2017.

Former CIA Director John Brennan has slammed Trump for not caring about protecting the security of the nation’s elections. On Oct. 2, Brennan tweeted: “Press conference with Finnish President shows @realDonaldTrump is a national disgrace who deserves impeachment, conviction, & ouster from office. Republicans in Congress must abandon him now if they care about our country & have any hope of salvaging a political future for GOP.”

In an interview with MSNBC while attending a March For Our Lives/Giffords Democratic presidential candidates forum on gun safety in Las Vegas, out South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg addressed Trump’s latest rants.

“The simple fact is that these rantings are not the words of the leader of a democracy. When you are being criticized, let alone when you are being called out for wrongdoing, responding by describing somebody who is calling you out or disagreeing as being ‘disloyal’ to the country because they’re being critical of you – this is the stuff of tinpot dictatorships, not the presidency,” Buttigieg said. “And it’s sad, not just for the president but for the presidency itself, for the country. Remember, this is the president of the United States – your life and mine depend of the wisdom and judgement of the president of the United States. And these rants are a bad sign for all of us.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had intended to participate in that gun violence forum but after an Oct. 1 event in Las Vegas the night before, he was hospitalized for treatment of chest pains that proved to be a blockage in one artery. Though the campaign said he was “feeling good” the next day, all appearances were cancelled “until further notice,” raising questions about whether he could or should attend the LGBTQ HRC/CNN Democratic presidential town hall on Oct 10.

The “2020 Gun Safety Forum” was held the day after the second anniversary of America’s deadliest mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival that left nearly 60 people dead. It is another in a series of “issue-themed” forums and town halls sponsored by activists and hosted by media outlets dealing with race, climate change and pay equity.

The LGBTQ town hall will be held on the eve of a significant LGBTQ historic milestone—the 31st anniversary of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 That day was selected to commemorate the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

“This town hall comes at a critical time in our fight to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in this nation,” said HRC President Alphonso David said in a press release. “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.”

Despite House passage of the LGBTQ civil rights bill, the Equality Act, a top priority for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to take it up. Meanwhile despite empty promises to protect LGBTQ Americans that earned Trump a re-election endorsement from Log Cabin Republicans, the Trump administration continues to roll back much of the progress on equality made under the Obama administration.

“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,” said HRC’s David.

The press release announcing the partnership between HRC and CNN included some polling data to help frame the forum.

“A Gallup poll conducted in May showed that 53% of Americans believe new laws are needed to protect the LGBTQ community’s civil rights, while 46% do not. Those numbers have stayed steady since the Gallup last asked the question in 2017,” the press release said. “The latest poll showed that 63% of Americans support legal same-sex marriage; that has risen substantially since 1999, when only 35% of Americans backed it.”

Polls showing public support or lack thereof are often taken into consideration when elected officials and politicians make policy decisions. Public opinion also impacts reaction to Supreme Court decisions. Strong religious conservatives, for instance, still think Roe v Wade, which gave individual women autonomy over their own bodies and reproductive health instead of the government or their husbands, was wrongly decided or decided too soon for the public to accept. Brown v Board of Education decided in 1954 that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, but institutional racism still flourishes.

Though the Supreme Court ruled positively in granting marriage equality to same-sex couples, actually being equal is a different thing. Two days before the HRC/CNN forum, on Oct. 8, the high court will hear three cases about LGBTQ employment discrimination that “will determine if federal law protects LGBTQ people,” writes Freedom For All Americans Chief Counsel Jon Davidson. “These are the most important cases in LGBTQ history since we won marriage equality. But, even if we win them, we still will need Congress to finish the job by passing the Equality Act, which would ensure express and enduring nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.”

It will be no surprise that the CNN moderators and invited guest questioners will ask Biden, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Buttigieg and businessman Tom Steyer if they support and will sign the Equality Act. Nor will it be a surprise to hear them say they will end AIDS in our lifetime, reinstate trans military service, and stand up for the rights of LGBTQ people.

But the donkey in the room is whether or not any of the candidates—including gay Mayor Pete—fully grasp that LGBTQ people are officially second-class citizens, officially subhuman—including white rich privileged gay men who think discrimination doesn’t affect them, until they are beaten up by some white supremacist who doesn’t care about their privilege. It’s worse, of course, for LGBTQ folks who are also a racial minority or an immigrant or disabled.

Will CNN and the candidates treat LGBTQ people as if we are just another “issue” like climate change and gun violence?

Here’s an illustration, substituting “Black” for “LGBTQ” in the paragraph about polls. “A Gallup poll conducted in May showed that 53% of Americans believe new laws are needed to protect the BLACK community’s civil rights, while 46% do not. Those numbers have stayed steady since the Gallup last asked the question in 2017.”

Should LGBTQ civil rights be left up to how the majority feels about “the other,” the minority? That’s not far-fetched, as LGBTQ Californians know. On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality after a four-year series of legal battles.

That November, the anti-gay marriage Prop 8 initiative passed and suddenly what the state high court deemed was a “fundamental constitutional right” was stripped away from same-sex couples by the majority of California voters, though marriages between June and November were not voided and domestic partnerships remained, thus creating another discriminatory and painful two-tier status.

When challenged, the California Supreme Court subsequently said the will of the people through the state’s initiative process superseded the rights of individual gays and lesbians who are not officially protected under federal law.

So — when scrutinizing the Democratic candidates to see how they respond to specific questions — some expected to be crafted specifically for them such as Harris and Warren on the rights of transgender prisoners to have medical coverage for transition and other health, wellness and safety needs—consider also whether that candidate would not only stand up to Trump but stand up against a backlash when taking an unpopular position in the polls but one that is morally and constitutionally pro-LGBTQ equality.

Additionally, also consider if, as an LGBTQ voter, there is a certain responsibility to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. For instance, National Coming Out Day was conceived during the 1987 March on Washington when activists and regular people around the world came to the nation’s capitol to plead for help for people dying of AIDS. Many in the march that day were in wheelchairs or using the buddy system to hold on for one more day.

Now the community crisis is visibly hitting the trans community, especially trans women of color who are still seeking their voices and rights without being killed. And the LGBTQ issue of identity will only get more intense. According to a new survey by The Trevor Project, more than 1 in 5 LGBTQ youth in the United States identify as a sexual orientation other than gay, lesbian or bisexual.

How would the candidates protect non-binary individuals who refuse to be categorized by the government according to some pre-ordained, easy to count square box on a form?

Who decides what is culturally competent in each of the administration’s departments?

More than likely, the Democratic candidates showing up for the HRC/CNN town hall are there for more than chits at the LGBTQ ATM in SoCal. Looking at how Cory Booker affectionately hugged and lifted The Advocate’s Zach Stafford at the LGBTQ Iowa forum, for instance, one can tell he feels very much at ease with LGBTQ people. Same with Kamala Harris and of course, Pete Buttigieg. Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke’s youth and Elizabeth Warren’s teacher’s core suggest they, too, are comfortable with LGBTQ people without having to think about it.

But for Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Tom Styer, there’s a sense they very consciously evolved. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But with even the hint of “otherness” in the back of the brain as an “issue” and not thinking of LGBTQ people as flesh and blood human beings, LGBTQ people can be invisible, ignored, left out of a conversation, policy decision, left behind – even with a “we’ll come get you, we promise.” Trans folk and people of color have heard that one before ,even within the LGBTQ community.

But, with assumed promises made to be included in policies, the most significant question LGBTQ voters must ask themselves is: who can defeat Donald Trump? Or even who can defeat Mike Pence, if Trump is impeached and Pence survives?

Which candidates, if any, will use Trump’s hypocrisy and Pence’s religious cruelty toward LGBTQ people as part of their campaign to win the presidency? And how will they do it?

“I look at the field of candidates and I can’t imagine a more qualified, electable, decent candidate than Joe Biden,” Michael Lombardo tells the Los Angeles Blade. “I’m sure there are others there but in terms of my experience, I have utmost faith in him and I hope he gets the nomination. And I hope he wins.”

Lombardo’s experience is having Biden meet his children with Sonny Ward, Johnny and Josie Ward-Lombardo, in 2012, where then-HRC President Chad Griffin asked Biden about his personal views on same-sex marriage and Biden “went over his skis,” to the surprise of the Obama administration.

That same year, 2012, gay Republican political consultant and activist Fred Karger became the first LGBTQ person to seriously throw money, time and talent into running for president, hoping to square off against Mitt Romney in a debate. Now he’s backing Pete Buttigieg.

Pete Buttigieg at The Abbey in West Hollywood (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“It was a tremendous honor to endorse Pete Buttigieg for president after meeting with him in Brooklyn in February of this year. He is so smart, thoughtful, reasoned and has the innate ability to get along with people on both sides of the aisle,” Karger tells the Los Angeles Blade.

“Pete’s candidacy shows just how far this country has come that an openly gay married man can raise the most money of all the Democratic candidates and be embraced by millions and millions of Americans. He has more centrist positions on many issues making him an ideal candidate to take on Donald Trump and win. While I am still a member of the Republican Party (barely), l see Pete’s election as our 46th president as the absolute best way to bring our divided nation back together.”

But if Trump succeeds in ensnaring Biden in the muck and mire of the Ukraine scandal and if click-bait seeking pollsters ask if the public really wants to elect a gay man as president, could they defeat Trump?

And if not the front runner and the smartest, then who?

LGBTQ voters have an opportunity and a responsibility to seriously consider all the ramifications because, as Buttigieg said: “Remember, this is the president of the United States – your life and mine depend of the wisdom and judgement of the president of the United States. And these rants are a bad sign for all of us.”

 

 

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Florida

Black & LGBTQ+ inclusive wall mural cited for multiple code violations

The idea was to make a mural that addressed pending legislation in Tallahassee that would affect the rights of minorities & the LGBTQ+ people

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Photograph courtesy of United Teachers of Dade

MIAMI SPRINGS, Fl. – A colourful wall mural in Dade County has attracted the ire of municipal authorities who say the mural, which includes a child of color reading a book, a verse from a Maya Angelo poem, and an LGBTQ Pride rainbow symbol, violates building codes.

The United Teachers of Dade union has been cited by Miami Springs for code violations after it unveiled the mural on its office building the Miami Herald reported this past week.

“If you do not see the word mural on an ordinance this does not mean it’s allowed, means you should make an inquiry with the Building & Zoning department first and present your mural,” Miami Springs Councilwoman Jacky Bravo said in an email to the Herald. “We are not talking about a small stamp on the wall. Seems like they took a blind eye on this one, and unfortunately has caused an issue to be dealt with.”

The Herald reported that was it unveiled last March, and was titled ‘Rise’ to send a message to lawmakers in Florida’s capitol in Tallahassee as a series of laws were being introduced that negatively impacted the minority and LGBTQ+ communities in the state.

Luis Valle, a Miami-based artist who was commissioned by the United Teachers of Dade union to paint the mural told the paper, “The idea was to make a mural that addressed pending legislation in Tallahassee, at the time, that would affect public schools, as well as the rights of minorities and those in the LGBTQ+ community. It is about inclusivity for all people and all cultures.”

Although the UTD Union had submitted and paid for a permit, the Miami Springs City Code Compliance Department, which requires permits be obtained before work commences, had already issued a “notice of violation” on March 25 to the union site’s property owner, UTD Building Corp., for violations that included:

–improper size of wall sign

–improper placement and/or width of wall sign

–improper construction of sign

–failure to comply with applicable color palette

“Failure to correct the violations by the time due shall cause this case to be set for hearing before the code compliance board and may result in fines, costs and/or a lien levied against you and the property,” the notice said. “Fines imposed shall not exceed $250 per day for a first-time violation.”

The city gave UTD until April 24 to correct the violations, according to the notice. Potential fines, as of Oct. 13, could run as high as $43,000 the Herald noted.

Currently discussions are ongoing. “UTD reviewed all the codes before contracting our mural artist in order to perform our due diligence,” United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats said in an emailed statement to the Herald on Oct. 11. “Additionally, we spoke to a former council member to double check our findings and that individual also concluded that the Miami Springs City Codes did not address this topic.”

“The art piece is not a sign for the building or our organization; it has no logo or company name on it because it is an artistic expression in the form of a mural with no other intent,” Hernandez-Mats’ added.

Attempts by the Miami Herald to reach Miami Springs Mayor Maria Mitchell, and City Council members had been unsuccessful by this past Thursday afternoon, however the next Miami Springs City Council meeting is at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 25.

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Vermont

Vermont high school homecoming halftime show turns into a ‘drag show’

“The crowd was decked out in LGBTQ+ affirming clothing- the stands were completely packed. It was just so heartwarming to see”

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Burlington High School, Burlington Vermont homecoming game October 2021 (Screenshot via YouTube)

BURLINGTON, Vt. – A quintessential annual Fall time-honored tradition held across America’s on high school football fields are homecoming games. This year a mix of students and faculty members Burlington High School, along with some participants from South Burlington High School, added a touch of ‘drag’ to the halftime show.

“Things went amazing,” Ezra Totten, student leader of the Gender Sexuality Alliance at Burlington High School, told the Associated Press, speaking about Friday night’s event. “The stands were completely packed. It was just so heartwarming to see.”

The school’s principal, its Athletic Director, and other staff were fully supportive with Andrew LeValley, an English teacher and GSA adviser, the faculty member who created the idea along with a boost from Burlington High Athletic Director Quaron Pinckney suggested that the show be held at the homecoming game’s halftime.

Pinckney, who is Black, told the AP that the school gave him the space to “uplift my voice” and that he was able to reciprocate and “uplift the voices of another marginalized group and share a space in the athletics realm that doesn’t normally get shared.”

The crowd was decked out in LGBTQ+ affirming clothing, costumes and waving Pride flags raucously cheering as the ‘drag ball’s’ performers paraded and danced to show support for LGBTQ+ students and the larger LGBTQ+ community. They commenced the halftime show with a runway-style event while they lip-synced to singer Todrick Hall’s “Rainbow Reign.”

Burlington High School’s halftime drag show

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Utah

LGBTQ+ Non-profit will build 8 homes for LGBTQ youth in Western states

Encircle is a non-profit organization with the mission to bring the family and community together to enable LGBTQ+ youth to thrive

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LGBTQ Youth, Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Dwayne Wade & other donors (Photo: Tim Cook Twitter)

SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah-based non-profit announced Wednesday that the organization has raised more than $8 million dollars to build eight new homes in four Western states to provide services for LGBTQ youth.

Encircle, which provides mental health services for LGBTQ youth, will build the new homes with locations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. The new homes are dedicated for providing safe spaces, resources and preventing teen suicide. The organization currently has locations in Salt Lake City, Provo and St. George, Utah, and recently construction has begun on locations in Heber, Logan and Ogden, as well as in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The fundraising efforts had kicked off this past February with donations from NBA Basketball’s Utah Jazz team owners Ryan and Ashley Smith and Apple CEO Tim Cook, the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 firm. The lead singer of Imagine Dragons Dan Reynolds and his wife, recording artist Aja Volkman, and retired NBA superstar and Jazz part-owner Dwayne Wade, whose 14-year-old daughter Zaya is Trans, all partnered together to give a total of $4 million.

In a press conference Wednesday, “Encircle’s mission is very personal to me because I see myself in so many of these young people,” Apple CEO Cook told reporters. “It’s not easy when you’re made to feel different or less than because of who you are or who you love. It’s a feeling that so many LGBTQ people know far too well.”

Encircle executives and the group of celebrities were joined by Utah Republican Governor Spencer Cox who praised Encircle’s efforts.

“What Encircle has done is provided that piece of acceptance, even if — especially if — there is no acceptance anywhere else,” the governor said. “There is a place where they can go where they can feel loved.”

Wade, reflecting on being the parent of a Trans child, “I stand here as a proud parent of a beautiful daughter that’s a part of the LGBT-plus community,” he said. “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know everything, but I’m willing to listen.”

Encircle is a non-profit organization with the mission to bring the family and community together to enable LGBTQ+ youth to thrive.

On its website the non-profit lists its current support services including its new café which is open “Monday through Friday between 3-8 PM folks ages 12-25 are welcome to just drop-in, hang out and enjoy our safe space. Friendship Circles, its weekly groups [which] allow you to tell your story and connect with peers in a safer space facilitated by our community, and LGBTQ affirming therapy.”

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