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Who will Biden pick for VP? 9 choices and their LGBTQ backgrounds

A snapshot of possible candidates and their records

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As the 2020 presidential campaign continues to heat up, Joseph Biden is expected to soon name his choice for a vice presidential running mate on the Democratic ticket. Biden has committed to naming a woman and is looking strongly at women of color amid a national awakening on racial justice after the killing of George Floyd.

Here’s a roundup of possible choices and a snapshot of their backgrounds on LGBTQ issues:

Susan Rice

Susan Rice (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Notable offices held: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, 2009-2013; National Security Adviser, 2013-2017

LGBTQ record: Rice promoted LGBTQ human rights issues as a component of U.S. foreign policy as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, then national security adviser under President Obama. When Uganda was debating a “Kill the Gays” bill, Rice called leadership to get them to abandon the initiative and denounced the anti-gay comments from the president of Gambia. Rice also spoke out in an interview with the Washington Blade after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, which led to the deaths of 49 patrons in the establishment.

Notable quote: “This is a jolt. What we are seeing sadly more recently is an infusion of hate-filled rhetoric into public discourse and a greater degree of attention being paid to it and then in some people’s mind it becomes more acceptable.” — Rice to the Blade in 2016 on the Pulse shooting

Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Notable offices held: Wisconsin state Assembly member, 1993-1999; U.S. House member, 1999-2013; U.S. senator, 2013-present

LGBTQ record: What hasn’t she done? In 1998, Baldwin became the first out lesbian elected to Congress, then became the first openly gay person elected to the Senate in 2012. Baldwin has been a consistent leader on LGBTQ rights, pushing for a transgender inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the federal protections against anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. After her election to the Senate, Baldwin became a leader on the Equality Act, which would comprehensively ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination under civil rights law. Baldwin has also taken the lead on lower-profile issues, such as ending the ban on gay blood donations.

Notable quote: “We don’t want to just live in a country where our rights our respected under the law, we want to live in a country where we are respected for who we are, where we enjoy the freedom and opportunity not because the Supreme Court gave us permission, but because we’re Americans, and that’s all there is to it.” — Baldwin at DOJ Pride celebration in 2013

Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Notable offices held: Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, 2006-2009; U.S. House member 2013-2017; U.S. senator, 2017-present

LGBTQ record: Tammy Baldwin isn’t the only Tammy said to be under consideration for the VP slot. Elected to the House in 2012 and the Senate in 2016, Duckworth is a combat veteran of the Iraq war, the first Thai American woman elected to Congress, the first female double amputee in the Senate, and the first senator to give birth while in office. A favorite among progressive veterans, Duckworth has spoken out against President Trump’s ban on transgender service members and recommended the nomination of lesbian U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland. She is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Notable quote: “When I found myself sitting in that field, where we landed a couple hundred yards from where the bad guys were jumping in pickup trucks and headed toward us, and I was bleeding out in that aircraft, I didn’t care if the guys risking their lives to save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white, male or female. All that mattered was they had an American flag on their shoulder and they did not leave me behind.” — Duckworth at DOD Pride event in 2019

Karen Bass

Notable offices held: California Assembly member, 2004-2010; U.S. House member, 2011-present

LGBTQ record: The current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Bass has a long history of activism going back to her work as a community organizer in Los Angeles during the 1980s, which included a firsthand experience with the devastation of HIV/AIDS at the peak of the epidemic. In her time in the California Assembly, Bass joined with leaders in the legislature to pass marriage equality legislation before it was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bass has embraced the Black Lives Matter movement, has supported the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination and is considered the likely successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Notable quotable: “I went through the AIDS crisis from its very beginning. I watched all of Santa Monica Boulevard get wiped out near Vermont (Ave.). That whole area there. I watched everybody die within a matter of two years.” — Bass to the Los Angeles Blade in March

Val Demings

Notable offices held: Chief of the Orlando Police Department, 2007-2011; U.S. House member, 2017-present

LGBTQ record: Demings is relatively new to the national stage as a two-term member of the House, but has spoken out on LGBTQ issues. A former chief of police in Orlando, Fla., Demings drew on that experience to condemn anti-trans violence in an op-ed for The Hill newspaper, saying “an epidemic of anti-transgender violent crime is going unaddressed.” Demings also supports the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Notable quote: “Political attacks and hate crimes against LGBTQ people are increasing right along with the divisive and hateful rhetoric. No place feels this more deeply than Orlando, where in 2016, 49 people were killed at the Pulse Nightclub. The shooting was the deadliest attack against the LGBTQ community in modern American history and remains one of the worst our country has ever experienced.” — Demings in a 2018 op-ed for The Hill

Kamala Harris

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Notable offices held: California attorney general, 2011-2017; U.S. senator, 2017-present

LGBTQ record: Since becoming a U.S. senator, Harris has resisted efforts to keep U.S. citizens from identifying themselves as LGBTQ in the 2020 Census; urged investigations into the death of transgender immigrant Roxsana Hernández, who died after being held in ICE detention; and called on the Justice Department to stop excluding transgender people from its enforcement of Title VII. But Harris also championed LGBTQ issues as California attorney general, declining to defend Prop 8 and marrying the first same-sex couple in California after courts struck it down. Critics, however, have taken issue with her defending California in refusing transgender surgery for prison inmates.

Notable quote: “I grew up in a community and a culture where everyone was accepted for who they were, so there wasn’t a moment where it was like, ‘OK, now let’s let this person in.’ Everyone was a part of everything. It was about community. It was about coalition building. It was about equality, inclusion. I mean, I had an uncle who was gay. [But] there was no epiphany” about gay people. — Harris to the Los Angeles Blade in 2018

Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Notable offices held: Special adviser for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2010-2011; U.S. senator, 2013-present

LGBTQ record: Warren sought to advance LGBTQ rights even before she took office as a U.S. senator, telling the Washington Blade she wanted to see former President Barack Obama support same-sex marriage, as his then-stated evolution continued. (Obama would come out for marriage equality months later.) In the Senate, Warren has introduced the Refund Equality Act, which would give gay couples a refund on back taxes they would have owed if not for DOMA. As a 2020 candidate, Warren said she’d read aloud as president the names of transgender people killed each year in the White House Rose Garden.

Notable quotable: “I want to see the president evolve because I believe that is right; marriage equality is morally right.” — Warren in Washington Blade interview in 2012

Keisha Lance Bottoms

Notable offices held: Atlanta City Council, 2010-2018; Atlanta mayor, 2018-present

LGBTQ record: As mayor of Atlanta, Bottoms passed a resolution in 2019 calling on the state of Georgia to ban widely discredited conversion therapy. Earlier this year, Bottoms issued the city’s first Biennial Report of LGBTQ Affairs, which highlights pro-LGBTQ policies, programs and initiatives under her administration of the city. Among the achievements cited in the report are the appointment of the first-ever city official on LGBTQ Affairs; the establishment of a diverse Mayoral LGBTQ Advisory Board; expanding access to PrEP; and bolstering financial support of local grassroots organizations to provide needed social services for LGBTQ people, such as housing for transgender people.

Notable quote: “Atlanta’s LGBTQ community has long been an active contributor to the vibrancy of our city, and as mayor, I will ensure the city continues to balance the scale and take a more active role in contributing to the wellness of our LGBTQ residents and neighbors.” — Bottoms in statement on first-ever LGBTQ report

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Notable offices held: Secretary of Health of New Mexico, 2004-2007; U.S. House member, 2013-2019; New Mexico governor, 2019-present

LGBTQ record: As New Mexico governor, Grisham signed a measure codifying into law same-sex marriage, which the state had as a result of a judicial decision in 2013, as well as legislation designating single-occupancy restrooms as gender neutral. Grisham has repeatedly expressed a commitment to LGBTQ rights and co-sponsored the Equality Act before she left Congress. Grisham faced a complaint from a former transgender intern who spoke out during the “Me Too” movement to allege discrimination in the congresswoman’s office, although a spokesperson vehemently denied discrimination.

Notable quote: “I was an early advocate for the Hate Crimes Act and spearheaded efforts to recognize same-sex partners as legally qualified to make medical and healthcare decisions for their partners. New Mexico was the first state to include the provision in state law.” — Lujan-Grisham in 2012, according to her House campaign website.

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California

Calif. mother claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

SPRECKELS, Ca. – A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

On 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade- is it the last? Biden & others weigh in

The whole country is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on one of the most serious challenges to abortion rights since the Roe v. Wade

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Abortion opponents gathered Friday for the annual March for Life March and Rally (Screenshot via WUSA CBS9)

WASHINGTON – As thousands gathered on the National Mall in D.C. Friday for the annual anti-abortion ‘March for Life March and Rally 2022,’ there were signs among the speakers and the participants gathered of a renewed sense of optimism that with a pending Supreme Court case, this year maybe the last annual gathering as the court looks poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“We are hoping and praying that this year, 2022, will bring a historic change for life,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said at the event, The Associated Press reported.

A large portion of the crowd during the March for Life rally on Friday was made up of young people, with some holding signs saying they were the “pro-life generation.”

The whole country is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on one of the most serious challenges to abortion protections that the institution heard since the Roe v. Wade decision 49 years ago, which gave women the constitutional right to abortion.

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this past December, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case involving a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, passed in 2018 but has been blocked by two lower federal courts, allows abortion after 15 weeks “only in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality” and has no exception for rape or incest. If doctors perform abortions outside the parameters of the law, they will have their medical licenses suspended or revoked and may be subject to additional penalties and fines.

The lack of access is felt most heavily by marginalized people, says Kari White, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin and researcher with the Mississippi Reproductive Health Access Project. She was the lead author of a study published last month in the journal Contraception that found that Mississippians were more likely to wait longer for an abortion if they were low-income or Black, NPR reported.

In an analysis published by SCOTUS blogAmy Howe noted;

If the justices overturn Roe and Casey, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that 26 states (including Mississippi) will implement complete bans on abortion. Although the stakes in the case are thus obviously high, Mississippi takes pains to assure the justices that overruling Roe and Casey would not have ripple effects beyond abortion rights. It distinguishes abortion from other constitutionalized privacy interests, such as interracial marriage and same-sex marriage, saying that those interests – unlike abortion – do not involve the “purposeful termination of a potential life.”

In a statement to the Los Angeles Blade after the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last December had concluded, Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) warned;

“[Today’s] arguments should be a wakeup call for LGBTQ people. We must face the reality of a Supreme Court packed by one of the most reactionary presidents of our time, and we must get serious about passing a federal law that protects basic rights and liberties for our community. If you care about LGBTQ equality, it is essential as never before to do everything within your power to elect fair-minded local, state, and federal officials and to engage in real dialogue with those who do not yet fully understand or support LGBTQ people. We do not have the luxury of disengagement or passivity. If you are not actively involved in supporting a federal civil rights law for LGBTQ people, you are part of the problem.”

Minter further cautioned;

“While restrictions on abortion primarily harm women, they also compound the challenges that trans men and nonbinary people already face in accessing gynecological and reproductive health care. Being a trans man or a nonbinary individual who needs an abortion is often a nightmare even in jurisdictions that support reproductive freedom. In places like Texas, which are making abortions inaccessible to anyone, it is terrifying,”

“My heart goes out to the trans and nonbinary people who are living in fear, praying they never need this care, and that if they do, they can find a way out of the state. And for those who know they can’t afford to travel or pay for out-of-state care, there is no hope,” he added.

Graphic via NBC News

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris released a joint statement Saturday commemorating the 49th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade;

The constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago today is under assault as never before. It is a right we believe should be codified into law, and we pledge to defend it with every tool we possess. We are deeply committed to protecting access to health care, including reproductive health care—and to ensuring that this country is not pushed backwards on women’s equality.

In recent years, we have seen efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care increase at an alarming rate. In Texas, Mississippi, and many other states around the country, access to reproductive health care is under attack. These state restrictions constrain the freedom of all women. And they are particularly devastating for those who have fewer options and fewer resources, such as those in underserved communities, including communities of color and many in rural areas.

The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports efforts to codify Roe, and we will continue to work with Congress on the Women’s Health Protection Act. All people deserve access to reproductive health care regardless of their gender, income, race, zip code, health insurance status, immigration status, disability, or sexual orientation. And the continued defense of this constitutional right is essential to our health, safety, and progress as a nation.

We must ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have the same fundamental rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought for and won on this day, 49 years ago—including leaders like the late Sarah Weddington, whose successful arguments before the Supreme Court led to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

At this pivotal moment, we recommit to strengthening access to critical reproductive health care, defending the constitutional right established by Roe, and protecting the freedom of all people to build their own future.

A recent poll conducted by CNN found that a large majority of Americans — almost 70 percent — said that they oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. Thirty percent of respondents said that they supported the move. 

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Los Angeles County

250,000 COVID cases over past 7 days, unvaccinated at extreme risk

“While the small decreases in daily cases numbers, hospitalizations and test positivity are hopeful signs- we will need to remain cautious”

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released the latest data on COVID-19 Saturday that noted the County continues seeing high rates of transmission with more than 250,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 7 days, down from the 291,000 cases reported for the previous 7 days.

“While the small decreases in our daily cases numbers, hospitalizations and test positivity are hopeful signs that the spread of Omicron is declining, we will need to remain cautious these next few weeks while transmission remains at the highest levels we have ever seen,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health. “With an average of 35,000 new cases identified each day, it is very easy for any one of us to encounter an infected person during the week. Avoiding crowds, keeping distance, wearing a high-quality mask, and washing our hands add layers of protection that can help each of us stay safe while also shielding essential workers during the surge.” 

The latest data on COVID-19:

  • 39,117 new COVID-19 cases (2,467,797 cases to date)
  • 72 new deaths due to COVID-19 (28,417 deaths to date)
  • 4,698 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19
  • More than 10,848,000 individuals tested; 21% of people tested positive to date

Faces of the COVID19 pandemic

KTLA reported on a West Hollywood resident Friday, Christian Cabrera, a 40-year-old father who was rushed to the emergency room last week, when he began struggling to breathe. Cabrera, who is not vaccinated and his condition has only gotten worse with pneumonia in both lungs “He keeps saying, ‘please keep take care of my son,’” his brother, Jino Cabrera told KTLA. “He knows he might not make it. He might die in there.”

According to KTLA, Cabrera’s lungs are now weak, making it difficult for him to speak. But he was able to send his brother a text message from his hospital bed in Sherman Oaks late Thursday.

“I can’t breathe again,” the message read. “I really regret not getting my vaccine, if I can do it all over again I would do it in a heartbeat to save my life. I’m fighting for my life here and I wish I have gotten vaccinated.”

Angelenos who were both vaccinated and boosted are 25 times less likely to end up in the ICU than unvaccinated people, according to the county health department.

“If you are fighting an enemy that is relentless, I think it’s vitally important to give your body every chance possible to get better because that’s what getting yourself vaccinated and boosted will do,” Dr. Thomas Yadegar, medical director of the ICU at Providence Cedars Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, told KTLA.

On Thursday, the County Department of Public Health confirmed 102 new COVID-19 deaths — the highest number reported in a single day since March 2021.

About 90% of those deaths were among residents who became ill with COVID-19 after Dec. 24, officials said.

Countywide, COVID-19 patients account for about 30% of those in the county’s intensive care units.

“Let’s not fool ourselves by not recognizing the danger presented by the Omicron variant which is capable of spreading with lightning speed and causing serious illness among our most vulnerable residents,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Tuesday.

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