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Criticized for being too gay and not gay enough, Buttigieg has unique burden

Out candidate endures criticism from all sides

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Pete Buttigieg, gay news, Washington Blade

Pete Buttigieg faces a unique burden over his sexual orientation as a gay candidate. (Photo courtesy of Pete for America)

Faced on one side with complaints from conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh about being too gay and LGBTQ activists on the other side who say he’s not gay enough, Pete Buttigieg faces a unique burden as an out presidential candidate despite the history he made with success in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The anti-LGBTQ and pro-LGBTQ criticism, of course, aren’t comparable in terms of where they originate. But in the face of this dichotomy — which would seem to leave Buttigieg no option for winning — other openly gay public figures who have won public office have a singular piece of advice for the candidate: Keep calm and carry on.

Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the first openly lesbian mayor of Houston, said her advice is “to keep doing exactly what he’s doing, to focus on the issues of the campaign.”

“He should just keep doing what he’s always done, which is focus razor-sharp on the issues, acknowledge when there’s differences of opinion or there are venues that he might not be a expert on, and that’s what we want in a presidential candidate,” Parker said.

On the anti-LGBTQ side, trouble for Buttigieg came to the fore last week when Limbaugh — who has a long history of homophobic comments — complained on his radio show about Buttigieg kissing his spouse, Chasten Buttigieg.

“So I saw a political ad, where Mayor Pete, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, going on and on and on and on and on, about how parents in America are struggling to explain President Trump to their children,” Limbaugh said.

Then Limbaugh held up a photo of Buttigieg kissing his husband, which was visible to subscribers watching his video feed.

“You think — natural conclusion — so he says Trump causes problems for parents, what about that?” Limbaugh said. “If you’re not watching on the ditto cam, what it is, a picture of Mayor Pete kissing his husband, which he does frequently.”

Limbaugh had more to say: “America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president.”

(The radio show host has just announced he was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and received from President Trump the Presidential Medal of Freedom live during the State of the Union address, which apparently did nothing to change his hostility to LGBTQ people.)

Even Trump, at least at first, wouldn’t defend that. In an interview days later with Geraldo Rivera on Fox News, Trump was asked if American voters could one day elect a gay candidate to the White House.

Putting distance between himself and his ally Limbaugh, Trump replied, “I think so.”

“I think there would be some that wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t be among that group to be honest with you,” Trump added.

Limbaugh, however, wouldn’t let up. On his radio show on Monday, the radio show host asserted Trump had called him and told him to “never apologize” for his remarks.

“Hell, the president even called me about this!” said Limbaugh on his radio talk show, according to the International Business Times. “He said, ‘Rush, I just got to tell you something. Never apologize. Don’t ever apologize.’

“I had no idea this thing had even bubbled up,” Limbaugh reportedly added. “You know, I’m up doing the medical thing that I have to do here, and I wasn’t even aware of this.”

The White House didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on whether Limbaugh’s claim Trump had called him was accurate.

Buttigieg, in the aftermath of Limbaugh’s comments and Trump’s response, delivered a cutting response at a CNN town hall when asked if he believes Trump is telling the truth when says he could support a gay candidate.

“Well, not if he’s sending out his supporters to talk in this way,” Buttigieg said. “And look, I mean, the idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values? I mean, I’m sorry, but one thing about my marriage is, it’s never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse with him or her. So, they want to debate family values? Let’s debate family values. I’m ready.”

Christine Quinn, a lesbian and former speaker of the New York City Council, said Buttigieg had the right approach when speaking with the Blade on Wednesday.

“My advice to him would be to continue doing what he’s been doing, which is facing homophobes head on and responding to them in a very thoughtful, authentic way,” Quinn said. “He needs to keep doing that.”

Slamming Limbaugh’s anti-gay comments, Quinn also urged Buttigieg to “not spend too much time responding to homophobes because they don’t deserve it, they don’t warrant it.”

“He has made it very clear from before day one of his presidential campaign that he is a very out and proud gay man who is wildly in love with his husband and who has a lovely family,” Quinn said. “That’s the reality of who he is. He’s shared that with Americans. If some Americans don’t like it because they are full of hate, that’s really not Mayor Pete’s problem.”

Parker said she isn’t surprised by Limbaugh’s homophobic comments because he made them in past and the latest remarks are just par for the course.

“He has made a lot of money by demonizing and attacking various groups, so it’s surprising, I’m shocked,” Parker said. “Why would anybody be shocked that Rush Limbaugh would say something like that?”

Referencing Trump saying he’d vote for a gay president, then apparently calling Limbaugh to defend the radio show host’s anti-gay comments, Parker added Trump is “probably lying” one way or the other.

“I cannot imagine any LGBT person in America legitimately saying that Donald Trump is good for the LGBTQ community,” Parker said. “Certainly no one who is trans can say he’s good for the transgender community.”

‘Queers Against Pete’ collects 4,000 signatures against Buttigieg

But Buttigieg is also facing criticism based on his sexual orientation from within the LGBTQ community from those who say he’s not gay enough, which is often a metaphor for criticism saying he’s not progressive enough.

One visible LGBTQ group against Buttigieg is Queers Against Pete, which touts gathering a list of nearly 4,000 signatures from LGBTQ people across all 50 states and D.C. for a petition criticizing Buttigieg.

Among its complaints is Buttigieg’s opposition to universal free public college and cancelling student loan debt, having no plan to restore voting rights to felons and incarcerated people or an end to cash bail; support for an increase in defense spending and Medicare for All Who Want It Plan than that falls short of the Medicare for All and universal childcare plans proposed by other candidates.

As Buttigieg struggles with support among black voters, Queers Against Pete also criticizes the candidate for his handling as South Bend mayor of a white police officer shooting a black resident, the firing a black police chief investigating racism in the police force and a housing plan that demolished low-income homes, including in minority communities.

“Some have touted former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s openly gay identity as proof of progress in our politics,” the letter says. “However, being gay is not enough to earn the support of LGBTQIA communities. We cannot in good conscience allow Mayor Pete to become the nominee without demanding that he address the needs and concerns of the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual communities.”

LGBTQ public figures who spoke the Blade about the criticism were indignant over the idea the group make gay identity grounds to criticize Buttigieg, saying it validates the idea that a gay person should conform to certain stereotypes or ideals.

Parker called the “Queers Against Pete” faction a “tiny group of fringe voices.” Although she acknowledged “there are important issues being raised,” she questioned why they’d focus on the gay candidate as an LGBTQ group and not others.

“I’m intrigued by the idea there’s ‘Gays Against Pete,” but not ‘Gays Against Bloomberg’ or ‘Gays Against Klobuchar’ or ‘Gays Against Sanders,’ which makes me question the motivation of the group,” Parker said.

In response to the list of the nearly 4,000 LGBTQ signatures “Queers Against Pete” compiled against Buttigieg, Parker said out of 7 million LGBTQ voters in the United States “that’s something like .0005 percent of LGBTQ voters.”

Queers Against Pete, however, repudiates the idea their criticism is about Buttigieg not being gay enough. A Queers Against Pete spokesperson referred the Blade in response to a request to comment to the organization’s website, which states the organization has “never stated or implied Buttigieg isn’t gay enough” but has said “being gay isn’t enough to warrant our support.”

“We are uniquely positioned as LGBTQIA+ people to state our opposition to Pete,” the website says. “We’ve seen Black people name the harm he’s caused them and they’re called homophobic. We stand in unity with all marginalized communities and some of us belong to more than one oppressed group.”

Gregory Cendana, a D.C.-based consultant and organizer with Queers Against Pete, also criticized questioning of motivation behind the LGBTQ group.

“Our collective believes in racial justice — from being in community with Black Lives Matter — South Bend to asking how candidates will center Black Trans Women and Transgender Women of Color in their policies, campaigns and governing,” Cendana said. “By questioning the motives of gender non-confirming people and queer people of color, these leaders and the organizations they represent, are using the levers of white supremacy to divide and conquer. This is bigger than this election or any of us as individuals.”

But Queers Against Pete isn’t the only LGBTQ entity against Buttigieg. A look at social media accounts from LGBTQ progressives would reveals their discontent over the fact the LGBTQ community is being represented in the presidential primary by a white man who hasn’t endured the experience of a racial minority and who has no background in LGBTQ activism leading to his candidacy.

Parker said the idea of criticizing Buttigieg for not being gay enough is “absolutely an absurd statement” because the LGBTQ community had long fought against those constraints.

“We are different, but are differences part of who are and we’re asking for you to asking to accept that, and then to turn around and attack someone fit some standards of gayness that only they know exist upsets me,” Parker said.

Up in arms over the idea Buttigieg should be criticized for not being gay enough was Quinn, who she said she doesn’t even understand the concept.

“What the hell does that mean?” Quinn said. “What the hell does not gay enough mean? That’s ridiculous. The man is gay. Period. He is a out gay public official, elected official, former mayor who has never once done anything anti-LGBT. If he was gay and against the community, then you can attack him and should attack him, but that is not the case as it relates to Mayor Pete.”

Other criticisms about Buttigieg’s “aesthetics” as a gay candidate, Quinn added, are “ridiculous.”

“It just feeds into the stereotyping of the LGBT community,” Quinn said. “He needs to be himself, to be Pete Buttgieg, to be himself, to be a veteran, a former mayor, a husband, on and on. That’s who he needs to be, to be a gay veteran, a gay former elected official, a gay candidate for president, a husband. That’s what he needs to be because that’s what he is.”

At the end of the day, Parker said attacks about Buttigieg based on the ground of his gay identity — whether it’s from Limbaugh, Queers Against Pete or any other critic — won’t hamper the candidate’s chances in either the primary or general election.

“There’s no candidate whom everyone is going to agree with,” Parker said. “What a candidate does is get out and put forward plans, policies, express where they stand on issues and voters make choices. Voters need to make choices on who they’re preferred presidential candidate is without creating divisive and frivolous attacks based on things not related to policies and programs a candidate has put forward.”

A Buttigieg campaign spokesperson referred the Blade to Buttigieg’s response during the CNN town hall when asked about challenges he faces as a gay candidate from pro-LGBTQ and anti-LGBTQ critics.

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World

Gay Guatemala congressman ‘scared’ for his life

Aldo Dávila a vocal critic of country’s president, corruption

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Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila participates in a protest in Guatemala City in 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

GUATEMALA CITY — A gay Guatemalan congressman who is a vocal critic of his country’s president and corruption says he is afraid for his life.

“I am scared of what may happen with so much persecution against me,” Aldo Dávila told the Washington Blade on Sept. 10 during an interview at a Guatemala City hotel. “I am scared for my life, for my partner, for my family and for my team.”

Dávila — a member of the Winaq movement, a leftist party founded by Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner — in 2019 became the first openly gay man elected to Guatemala’s congress. Dávila, who also lives with HIV, had previously been the executive director of Asociación Gente Positiva, a Guatemala City-based HIV/AIDS service organization.

Three men on April 19 approached his vehicle while it was stopped at a traffic light near Guatemala’s National Library and tried to rob him.

One of Dávila’s bodyguards who was driving shot one of the men. The other two men fled the scene before passersby and police officers arrived.

Dávila was not injured, but he later said in a Facebook post that he is “thankful for life.” Dávila told the Blade that Guatemalan authorities have not thoroughly investigated the attack.

“I requested an armored car after the attack, but I have not received it yet,” said Dávila, who arrived at the hotel with two female police officers who sat in the lobby while he spoke with the Blade. “This has not been resolved, even though it was in April. It is very complicated.”

Dávila said Culture Minister Felipe Aguilar, Congress President Allan Rodríguez and other supporters of President Alejandro Giammattei have lodged nine formal complaints against him after he publicly criticized the government over a variety of issues that include its response to the pandemic.

“It has been a systematic attack against me,” said Dávila.

Dávila told the Blade that he and his partner installed cameras in their apartment after someone killed their dog. Dávila also said he continues to receive death threats online and at his home.

“We are going to kill you, we are going to shut you up,” said Dávila, referring to the type of threats he says he receives.

“They send me little messages, I am clearly making those who are corrupt very uncomfortable,” added Dávila.

Prominent transgender activist murdered in June

Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace in Guatemala.

Dávila told the Blade that 21 LGBTQ people have been reported killed in Guatemala so far in 2021, including one person who was stoned to death.

Andrea González, executive director of Organización Trans Reinas de la Noche, a trans advocacy group, was shot to death in Guatemala City on June 11, days after Vice President Kamala Harris visited the country. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power both condemned González’s murder, but Dávila told the Blade there has been “no investigation.”

“It’s one more case about which to forget, unfortunately,” said Dávila.

Dávila also noted he has met with officials who include representatives of the National Civil Police, the Public Ministry and the National Institute for Forensic Sciences “to ask what they are doing” to combat anti-LGBTQ violence in the country.

“This is serious,” he said.

Organización Trans Reinas de la Noche Executive Director Andrea González in D.C. when she participated in the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program. She was killed in Guatemala City on June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

‘People don’t migrate because they want to’

Menchú, Visibles Executive Director Daniel Villatoro and Ingrid Gamboa of the Association of Garifuna Women Living with HIV/AIDS are among the 18 members of Guatemalan civil society who participated in the roundtable with Harris while she was in the country. The U.S. vice president met with Giammattei before the event.

Harris has previously acknowledged that violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity is among the “root causes” of migration from Guatemala and other Central American countries. Harris and other Biden administration officials have also told migrants not to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“People migrate because states don’t have the capacity to respond to the most basic needs,” said Dávila. “People don’t migrate because they want to. People don’t migrate because (they say) today I am going to go to the United States because I have nothing to do. They don’t go on vacation. They go in search of health, work, security and economic resources to be able to sustain themselves.”

“Guatemala has not had the capacity to retain Guatemalans because it doesn’t offer them the minimum to be able to live,” he added.

Dávila described Harris’ visit to Guatemala as “important.”

He said Guatemalans are “eternally grateful for the” COVID-19 vaccines the U.S. has donated to the country. Dávila added he would like Washington to “take a look at the human rights violations that are happening in” the country and further sanction those who are responsible for them.

Giammattei earlier this year named his chief of staff to Guatemala’s Constitutional Court.

The U.S. has granted asylum to former Attorney General Thelma Aldana, who the Constitutional Court refused to allow to run for president in 2019 after prosecutors alleged she embezzled money from a building purchase. The Biden administration in July stopped working with current Attorney General Consuelo Porras’ office after it fired Juan Francisco Sandoval, a leading anti-corruption prosecutor who subsequently fled the country.

The U.S. has imposed travel bans on a number of Guatemalan officials, but Dávila said these sanctions are not effective.

“We want clearer, more drastic sanctions,” he said. “The U.S. has been a historical ally for Guatemala, not just since yesterday, not from five years ago … it has been economically and financially supporting this country for a long time. The United States can impose more drastic sanctions against the government so the government stops being corrupt, so the government does not fight against migration.”

A monument to migrants in Salcajá, Guatemala, on March 9, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Dávila told the Blade he has not decided whether he will run for a second term in 2023.

Dávila said he has had “some problems” with the Winaq movement over funding for hospitals during the pandemic, but he remains a member. Dávila told the Blade he has received invitations to join other political parties.

“I am thinking about it and evaluating all the scenarios,” he said.

Dávila added he remains “very proud to be part of the opposition in the history of this country.”

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California Politics

Caitlyn Jenner: A one percenter gets one percent (actually 1.1%)

“If he doesn’t get recalled, I pity the people of California- It’s a shame, honestly you kind of get the government you deserve.”

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Screenshot via CBS Bay Area

LOS ANGELES – It was not the measured tones of a seasoned politician who had experienced the successes and failures inherent with any campaign for public office. Instead, in a speech given to a small gathering of supporters once it became clear that the recall effort against Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom had failed, reality television celebrity Caitlyn Jenner took to the microphone and groused.

Sounding bitter Jenner said; “He didn’t campaign on not one of his successes, because he doesn’t have any,” she said. “I can’t believe that this many people actually voted to keep him in office. It’s a shame, honestly, it’s a shame. You kind of get the government you deserve.”

Jenner’s ‘it’s a shame’ echoed remarks she had made earlier during the day Tuesday when she told right-wing media outlet Newsmax; “For me, it’s just so up in the air [with] what is going to happen,” she said. “Number one, we gotta get Gavin Newsom outta there. I think it’s going to be difficult doing that, but I’m hoping for the best […] If he doesn’t get recalled, I pity the people of California.”

In the accumulated vote count tabulations listed Wednesday evening, Jenner had placed 12th in the field of candidates after fellow Republican frontrunner, conservative right-wing radio-talk show host Larry Elder, who had garnered 2,386,710 votes and 46.92% to Jenner’s 56,016 votes and 1.1%. (72.65 % Precincts Reporting | 74% expected vote as of Sep. 15, 2021 8:48 pm)

The Newsmax host also asked if she would consider running in 2022 in the regular gubernatorial race or a potential congressional race, Jenner indicated she “would keep her options open.”

“One thing I can say is I have thoroughly enjoyed this process,” she said. “It has been uplifting, rewarding. I’m a compassionate person. I love the people. The process has been great. Once this is over with, we’re gonna evaluate, see where we’re at.”

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Caribbean

Draft of new Cuba family code has marriage equality provision

National Assembly expected to vote on proposal in December

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

HAVANA — Cuba’s Justice Ministry on Wednesday released a draft of a proposed new family code that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the country.

Tremenda Nota, the Los Angeles Blade’s media partner in Cuba, reported the proposed Article 61 of the new family code defines “marriage as a union of two people with legal aptitude who voluntarily agreed to enter into it in order to build a life together based on affection and love.”

The Justice Ministry, according to Tremenda Nota, released the draft a week after a commission that has been charged with writing the new family code met with President Miguel Díaz-Canel and other officials.

Tremenda Nota reported the National Assembly is expected to vote on the new family code in December. The Associated Press noted a referendum on it would then take place.

“It protects all expressions of family diversity and the right of each person to establish a family in coherence with the constitutional principles of plurality, inclusion and human dignity,” National Union of Jurists of Cuba Vice President Yamila González Ferrer told the Associated Press.

The draft’s release comes nearly three years after the government removed an amendment from a draft of Cuba’s new constitution that would have extended marriage rights for same-sex couples after evangelical groups on the Communist island publicly criticized it. Cuban voters in February 2019 overwhelmingly approved the new constitution without marriage equality.

Cuba would join Costa Rica, Colombia and a handful of other Latin American countries with marriage equality if the new family code draft becomes law.

Former President Fidel Castro in the years after the 1959 revolution that brought him to power sent gay men and others to work camps known by the Spanish acronym UMAP. His niece, Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro who spearheads LGBTQ-specific issues as director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), and Díaz-Canel both publicly support marriage equality.

Tremenda Nota Director Maykel González Vivero is among the hundreds of people who Cuban police arrested on July 11 during anti-government protests that took place in Havana and across the country. Luis Ángel Adán Roble, a gay man who was once a member of the National Assembly, is among those who have been banned from leaving the country.

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