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Katie Hill admits to ‘inappropriate’ relationship with campaign staffer

House Ethics Committee conducting investigation into separate affair

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Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), the only out bisexual in the U.S. House, is in the middle of increasingly growing scandal in which she has now admitted she had an “inappropriate” relationship with her campaign staffer before she took office.

Hill issued the statement to media outlets late Wednesday, asserting she “became involved in a relationship” with someone on her campaign as her “abusive marriage” was coming to an end.

“I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment,” Hill said. “For that I apologize. I wish nothing but the best for her and hope everyone respects her privacy in this difficult time.”

The conservative outlet RedState initially reported Hill was involved in a “throuple” relationship with her husband and the unnamed female campaign staffer over the course of the 2018 congressional election. The media outlet published a redacted nude photo of Hill combing the staffer’s hair.

“I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me,” Hill said after the photo was published. “I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain.” 

“Revenge porn” is illegal in California. Hill has said she’s notified Capitol Hill police about the publication by “Republican operatives” of the compromising photos.

But there’s another allegation of an improper relationship, also first reported by RedState, that is causing Hill trouble. Texts reportedly between Hill’s husband and a friend reveal he was aware Hill was involved in an affair with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, as the two were proceeding to divorce.

The House Ethics Committee announced Wednesday it was reviewing whether Hill has been engaged in a relationship with Kelly. A sexual relationship between a House member and a member of their legislative staff would violate House rules. Hill has denied that relationship.

Hill in her statement emphasized she’s the victim of an abusive marriage and many women can relate to that experience.

“This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and the people close to me is despicable and will not succeed,” Hill said. “I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid.” 

Things have gone from bad to worse for Hill as the week progressed. The Daily Mail, a conservative U.K.-based outlet, published another redacted nude photo of Hill smoking a bong. (UPDATE: Attorneys for Hill have threatened legal action against the Daily Mail over publication of the photos, according to Politico.)

Hill has been outspoken on LGBT rights over the course of her campaign and as a member of Congress. She has championed legislation barring use of Medicaid funds for conversion therapy and co-sponsored a resolution condemning Housing & Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson as transphobic.

When the Equality Act came to a vote on the House floor in May, Hill led the Democratic opposition to a motion to recommit that would have undermined the bill. The California Democrat declared to her Republican colleagues, despite their opposition to trans rights, they have met transgender people before.

Robyn Ochs, a bisexual activist, told Blade she doesn’t “know what are the actual facts,” but fears the situation will lead to reporting about bisexuality and polyamory in a negative way when it should be “a story about a legislator who had an inappropriate relationship with a campaign staffer.”

“It is a dynamic of oppression that any action committed by any member of a stigmatized group that conforms to stereotypes of that group will be seen as reflective of the entire group,” Ochs said.

Hill also has a prominent place as vice chair of the House Oversight Committee. Critics have charged Hill’s membership of this committee, which is currently conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, could leave her open to blackmail.

The Los Angeles Blade has placed a request in with the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorses LGBT candidates and endorsed Hill in 2018, to seek comment on whether the organization will endorse her again.

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Blinken says Biden raised Russia’s LGBTQ rights record with Putin

Geneva summit between two presidents took place on June 16

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (YouTube screenshot)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said President Biden raised the Kremlin’s LGBTQ rights record with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their recent summit.

“The president pushed human rights — including LGBTQI rights — with President Putin,” Blinken told Washington Post columnist, “PBS NewsHour” contributor and host of MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show” Jonathan Capehart during a virtual Pride month discussion the Atlantic Council hosted.

Biden met with Putin on June 16 in Geneva. Blinken was among those who participated in the summit.

The White House did not say whether Biden specifically raised Russia’s LGBTQ rights record with Putin. Biden told reporters after the summit that he stressed to Putin “that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view.”

“What he told President Putin is that as an American president — where for all of our challenges, many of which are manifest in recent months and recent years — this is something that is basically stamped in to our DNA and he would be abdicating his responsibility as president, as an American president, not to raise these issues,” Blinken told Capehart.

Capehart specifically asked Blinken about the case of two Chechen brothers who were arrested in Russia in February and returned to their homeland, even though they had fled Chechnya’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown.

“We didn’t get into specific cases in that meeting, but he made very clear to President Putin that this is fundamentally who we and who he is and what we’ll do and will continue to do going forward,” said Blinken.

Blinken also did not say how Putin specifically responded to Biden’s decision to raise his country’s LGBTQ rights record with him. Blinken, however, did say “there was at least an acknowledgment” the U.S. will raise human rights in such meetings.

“This is what an American president should do,” said Blinken. “This is who we are and this is what we represent to the world.”

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Politics

The Stonewall Inn bans Anheuser-Busch during NYC Pride weekend

“We urge Anheuser-Busch and other companies doing this to publicly commit to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ politicians”

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NYC Pride 2019 passes in front of the Stonewall Inn (Photo by Andrew Nasonov)

NEW YORK – In response to news that the Anheuser-Busch InBev company had made political contributions to lawmakers behind bills targeting transgender youth, the owners of the Stonewall Inn announced its ban of AB InBev products during New York City’s Pride weekend.

The historic West Village pub, widely regarded as the location of one of the seminal defining events in the history of the LGBTQ rights movement, is sponsoring a public ‘pour-out’ of Bud Light, Michelob ULTRA, and Stella Artois in front of the bar on Wednesday, June 23, to demand that the Leuven, Belgium based AB InBev stop donating to anti-LGBTQ legislators and commit to using its lobbying efforts to advance the Equality Act.

Should the Equality Act be passed, it would afford LGBTQ people with equal nondiscrimination protections under federal law.

“You can’t turn your logo rainbow on social media, call yourself an ally, and then turn around and make donations that fuel hate. There are really no excuses, and companies like Anheuser-Busch need to own up to what they’ve done,” said Stonewall Inn co-owner Stacy Lentz. “As a business owner, it’s never easy to stop selling a product that affects your bottom line — especially during the busiest weekend of the year. But I’m an activist above all else and we at The Stonewall Inn know we bear a unique responsibility to call out hypocrisy when we see it. Anheuser-Busch and other companies must do better.”

According to data from the Keep Your Pride campaign, since 2015, Anheuser-Busch has made 48 donations totaling $35,350 to 29 anti-LGBTQ legislators behind recent bills attacking trans youth. 

Through its nonprofit arm, The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, Stonewall recently launched the Safe Spaces program, which identifies and certifies entertainment venues, food and beverage locations, stores, businesses, and other public venues as Safe Spaces for LGBTQ people. Under its criteria for certification, businesses that donate to anti-LGBTQ lawmakers would not qualify for designation as a Safe Space.

“As one of our best-selling products, Bud Light has been a longtime staple here at The Stonewall Inn. It’s deeply disappointing to learn that Anheuser-Busch has given money to lawmakers who are attacking trans kids, some of the most vulnerable people in the LGBTQ community,” said Stonewall Inn co-owner Kurt Kelly.

“We’re horrified to see so-called allies supporting lawmakers who would make life harder for anyone in our community. We urge Anheuser-Busch and other companies doing this to publicly commit to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ politicians and use their lobbying power to support the Equality Act,” Kelly added.

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National

Vigil held after Wilton Manors Pride parade accident

Fort Lauderdale mayor expressed ‘regret’ over initial terrorism claim

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A vigil in the wake of the accident at the Stonewall Pride Parade took place at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — More than 100 people on Sunday attended a prayer vigil in the wake of an accident at a Wilton Manors Pride parade that left one person dead and another injured.

The vigil took place at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

Clergy joined activists and local officials at a vigil at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

A 77-year-old man who was driving a pickup truck struck two men near the Stonewall Pride Parade’s staging area shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday. One of the victims died a short time later at a Fort Lauderdale hospital.

The pickup truck narrowly missed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was in a convertible participating in the parade, and Florida Congressman Ted Deutch.

The driver of the pickup truck and the two men he hit are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sunday described the incident as a “fatal traffic crash” and not a terrorism incident as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis initially claimed.

“As we were about to begin the parade, this pickup truck, this jacked up white pickup truck, dashed across, breaking through the line, hitting people, all of us that were there could not believe our eyes,” said Trantalis as he spoke at the vigil.

Trantalis noted the pickup truck nearly hit Wasserman Schultz. He also referenced the arrest of a 20-year-old supporter of former President Trump earlier in the week after he allegedly vandalized a Pride flag mural that had been painted in an intersection in Delray Beach, which is roughly 30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale.

“I immediately knew that something terrible was happening,” said Trantalis, referring to the Stonewall Pride Parade accident. “My visceral reaction was that we were being attacked. Why not? Why not feel that way?”

“I guess I should watch to make sure there are no reporters standing by when I have those feelings, but that was my first reaction and I regret the fact that I said it was a terrorist attack because we found out that it was not, but I don’t regret my feelings,” he added. “But I don’t regret that I felt terrorized by someone who plowed through the crowd inches away from the congresswoman and the congressman, myself and others.”

Trantalis also told vigil attendees that “I guess we forgive” the pickup truck driver.

“But I regret that his consequences resulted in the death of an individual who was innocent and who was there to have a good time, like the rest of us, and I regret there is a man who is in serious condition … fighting for his life and there,” added Trantalis.

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