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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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Russia

Russian Interior Ministry launches probe into Netflix’s ‘LGBTQ’ content

Part of the political pressure to further restrict LGBTQ+ equality stems from anti-LGBTQ+ remarks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin

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Photo by Strekoza.nyc

MOSCOW – Olga Baranets- the “public commissioner for the protection of the family” accused the American streaming giant Netflix of violating the 2013 Russian law regarding what the Russian government deems “gay propaganda.”

In a formal complaint filed with the Russian Interior Ministry, Baranets, a resident of the Russian capital, alleged that Netflix was violating the law’s provisions that prohibit “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations among Russians under the age of 18” when Netflix broadcast LGBTQ+ themed series with a 16+ label.

A source for the Russian Interior Ministry told the Blade on Sunday that it is investigating the matter. The law requires that there is a 30-day deadline for responding to such inquiries, Baranets sent her complaint to the Ministry of Internal Affairs on November 10.

A person familiar with the Russian government probe and Baranets’ complaint but not authorized to speak to the media at Netflix’s European headquarters in Amsterdam said that it was doubtful the company violated the tenets of the so-called “gay propaganda” law. The source added that company had found no series and films about the lives of LGBTQs with a 16+ label when it checked earlier this month that would have been available in the Russian Federation.

Netflix’s “colorful collection of films and TV series tells about the lives of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people,” Baranets told Vedomosti, a Russian-language business daily newspaper, which first reported the story.

Vedomosti noted that should Netflix be found guilty of violating the law it could face a fine of up to $1 million rubles, ($11,844.48 Euros)-($13,400 USD) or a temporary suspension of its service for 90 days.

The Moscow Times reported that earlier this month, a Moscow court fined Russia’s Muz-TV music video channel 1 million rubles ($14,000) after its awards show featured gender-flipping stars and what viewers said resembled a same-sex wedding.

The Russian internet watchdog agency Roskomnadzor, the state media and communications regulator, has stepped up its efforts to implement sweeping bans of so-called “perverted” television shows and movies on all streaming platforms in addition to the complaints about Netflix.

Officials are also working with Vitaly Milanov, deputy chairman of the Committee on Family Affairs, Women, and Children, in the Russian State Duma, (Parliament) to sponsor legislation that would make changes to three laws that regulate media, regulate the protection of children from harmful content and banning displays of “gay propaganda” toward Russians under the age of 18.

Interviewed by RIA Novosti, the state-controlled news agency last week, Milanov told the news outlet that “Russian citizens don’t want such content to be broadcast widely.” He then added that “the legal solution to this situation is just around the corner. Whoever wants can have special access to such videos as well as with pornography.”

The English language Moscow Times reported that Russian film distributors in recent years have edited LGBTQ sex scenes and characters from movies before they were shown in theaters. Roskomnadzor’s proposed rules would for the first time affect online streaming and could lead to movies like “50 Shades of Grey” and shows like “Billions” being blocked by Russian internet providers.

Milanov has long been a vocal fierce opponent of the LGBTQ+ community. Legislation authored by him while as an elected official in St. Petersburg was later the boiler-plate model for the national 2013 ” gay propaganda ” law. This past August he stated that LGBTQ+ people are the “lowest stage of development of the animal world” and should be “sterilized” as stray cats are.

Part of the political pressure to further restrict LGBTQ+ equality stems from anti-LGBTQ+ remarks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech he made in October in Sochi.

The Russian president  accused “monstrous” Western countries of forcing “transgenderism” onto children.

We’re surprised to see things happening in countries that see themselves as flagships of progress… The struggle for equality and against discrimination turns into aggressive dogmatism verging on absurdity.”

People who dare to say that men and women still exist as a biological fact are almost ostracized… Not to mention the simply monstrous fact that children today are taught from a young age that a boy can easily become a girl and vice versa.

Let’s call a spade a spade: This simply verges on crimes against humanity under the banner of progress.”

Roskomnadzor head Andrei Lipov reportedly cited Putin’s Sochi speech as justification for the proposed streaming bans.

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California

California expands broadband infrastructure & internet access across state

The initial project locations based on unserved/underserved areas that don’t reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

SACRAMENTO – Advancing California’s commitment to bridge the digital divide, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state has identified 18 projects to begin work on an open-access middle-mile network that will provide missing infrastructure paths to bring broadband to all communities.

As part of the historic $6 billion broadband investment advanced in partnership with legislative leaders earlier this year, the initial project locations are based on known unserved and underserved areas across the state. The projects will connect to the core of the global internet and interconnect to last-mile infrastructure, which is the final leg that provides internet service to a customer.

“California is committed to taking on the challenges laid bare by the pandemic, including the digital divide holding back too many communities across the state,” said Newsom. “These projects are the first step to delivering on our historic investment that will ensure all Californians have access to high-quality broadband internet, while also creating new jobs to support our nation-leading economic recovery.”

The initial 18 projects represent a range of geographic locations and technical approaches. Projects are being initiated in the following tribal communities, counties and cities: Alpine County; Amador County; Calaveras County; Central Coast; Coachella Valley; Colusa Area; Inyo County; Kern County; Kern/San Luis Obispo Area; Lake County Area; Los Angeles and South Los Angeles; Oakland; Orange County; Plumas Area; Riverside/San Diego Area; San Bernardino County; Siskiyou Area; and West Fresno.

Evaluation of project areas included consideration of public comments, prioritization of unserved or underserved areas of the state, and inclusion of tribal communities, cities and counties. An unserved or underserved area has households that do not reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and upload of at least 3 Mbps.

“Core to our success will be the deep partnerships we’ve built with a diverse set of community organizations and last mile providers. Through many years of engagement with metropolitan planning organizations, CPUC-supported broadband consortia, Tribal organizations, community-based broadband advocacy groups, and organizations like the Rural County Representatives of California, the NAACP, and the California Emerging Technology Fund, we are now ready to take this historic step towards broadband equity for California,” said Louis Fox, Founder and Chair of GoldenStateNet, the state’s third-party administrator.

State partners implementing the middle-mile initiative include the California Department of Technology, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Caltrans. GoldenStateNet was selected as the Third-Party Administrator (TPA) to manage the development, acquisition, construction, maintenance and operation of the statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network. As the TPA, GoldenStateNet will partner with key stakeholder groups across the state to investigate the best technical, financial and operational models to meet the needs of the project sites.  

A map and additional information on the initial projects can be found here.

“A reliable broadband connection makes the difference between having access to full-service health care, education and employment or sometimes going without,” said State Chief Information Officer Amy Tong. “Through a historic partnership between our Governor, the Legislature, state agencies and a third-party administrator, we are taking immediate action to improve connectivity for Californians in the northern, central and southern parts of the state.”

“These initial routes have been identified to accelerate projects in areas of the state that are unserved because of the lack of open middle mile infrastructure to serve them. We are accelerating the selection of a diverse set of routes — those that are ready to build and those that are not ready to build.  This allows the state to partner with locals on these diverse projects and learn by doing, as we concurrently work to finalize all the needed routes in the State. There are many more communities like those in Phase I that will be included in the final map,” said Martha Guzman Aceves, Commissioner at the CPUC.

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Michigan

Michigan teacher walks off job & resigns after told to remove Pride flag

“To me, the flag represents love and inclusion for everybody, not just whoever is of the LGBTQIA+ community”

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Three Rivers Community Schools administrative offices (Photo Credit: TRCS Facebook)

THREE RIVERS, Mi. – A middle school health teacher walked off the job Nov. 22, then resigned after the school district’s administration ordered LGBTQ+ Pride flags removed from classrooms.

Russell Ball, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, told local media outlets that “The rumors kind of floating around is that one or two parents that complained about the flags being in the classroom.” 

“To me, the flag represents love and inclusion for everybody, not just whoever is of the LGBTQIA+ community,” Ball said during an interview last week with NBC News affiliate WOOD TV 8 on Grand Rapids. “I felt very disheartened and saddened. The students losing that representation throughout the classrooms really hurt, losing my own representation in the classroom really hurt. It was just something I was not prepared to do.”

He told NBC 8 that, combined with burnout, caused him to resign from his position as a health teacher.

“It all comes down to having some open communication and building understanding that we’re not out to vilify anybody, but we are here and we do exist,” he said.

In a statement posted on its website, the school district’s Interim Superintendent Nikki Nash said officials were notified by what he referred to as an “an external party,” Nov. 18. According to Nash, the person questioned information shared within the school day, which also included an inquiry of the Gay Straight Alliance after-school club and pride flags within Three Rivers Middle School classrooms.

“We continue to work with the district’s legal firm and board of education to ensure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students,” the statement continued. “There is a board meeting on December 6th.”

Attorneys representing the district did not reply Tuesday to multiple requests for comment.

Comments on the school district’s Facebook page reflected anger over its decision, with one person writing; “It is disappointing Three Rivers Community Schools has decided to kick protections and support for LGBTQ+ students to the curb for some undisclosed reason. The district claims protection for all students but somehow figured LGBTQ+ students don’t fit in that category for all students and are now willing to show the students and their support network of teachers to the door.”

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