SANTA MONICA – For decades, Sheila Kuehl’s house in Santa Monica has served as a hub for political networking, fundraising, and advocating for progressive issues, candidates, and campaigns with her close friend and senior advisor Torie Osborn. Renown in California for her historic work fighting for gender and LGBTQ equality, Kuehl’s legislative career has long included representing renters in Santa Monica and West Hollywood. “Strongly” endorsing Prop 21, the Rental Affordability Act, is a matter of good governance.
Prop 21 is the statewide ballot measure that puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases, reins in corporate landlord greed, and prevents homelessness. Top experts at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley agree that sensible rent limits are key for stabilizing California’s housing affordability crisis. That’s why Reps. Maxine Waters, Karen Bass and Barbara Lee, the California Democratic Party, the ACLU, the California Nurses Association, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Black Lives Matter, the Los Angeles Times, and a slew of LGBTQ organizations and individuals — including LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin and LA Unified School Board member Jackie Goldberg — have thrown their full support behind Prop 21.
Kuehl’s endorsement derives naturally from her long history of trying to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice. A popular teenage actress who played Zelda Gilroy on the 1959/early 1960s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, she suffered anti-gay discrimination that cost her a spinoff show and subsequent blacklisting. Nonetheless, she prevailed. She attended UCLA, then Harvard Law School where she became the second woman to win the prestigious Ames Moot Court Competition. Afterwards, panel judge Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall told her, “Lady, I like your style.”
Kuehl’s historic election to the California State Assembly in 1994 as the first openly gay person in the state legislature (see the documentary “Political Animals” for more) was hailed as one of the only bright spots in the dark gloom that year as Newt Gingrich profoundly changed the Republican Party from moderate/conservative to unscrupulous extreme right-wing Bible-thumpers. But she kept focused on passing legislation that would expand human rights under law. And while much attention was paid to new Democratic Gov. Gray Davis signing the then-Assembly Judiciary Committee chair’s historic LGBT student bill, AB 537, on Oct. 2, 1999, before an historic ANGLE gala with President Bill Clinton, he also signed Kuehl’s Assembly Bill 1670 that expanded the Fair Employment and Housing Act to include: “Prohibiting a housing owner from harassing a tenant or prospective tenant on any basis protected under FEHA, such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or disability.”
“If California is to serve as a model for America’s new and diverse society, every person must feel secure that their civil rights will be protected,” Kuehl told the LA Times, “especially where they live and where they work. Discrimination has no place in a just society.”
“I was in the legislature in the early nineties with [Assemblymembers] Jim Costa and Phil Hawkins brought a bill to deny local government the ability to enact rent control ordinances. Before that, only eight local governments in the whole state had enacted serious rent control ordinances in modern times,” Kuehl says. “People forget that in World War Two, there were very serious rent control ordinances in California, especially in Southern California, because people were needed to work in the aircraft plants. And everybody was trying to make a bazillion dollars off the fact that everybody was moving to Southern California. So rent control was enacted. But under Costa-Hawkins, you could not enact a rent control ordinance in your local city, even if everybody was for it, even if the city council wanted it — in some cities for any housing that had been built after 1978 and in every other city, anything built after 1995.”
Well, says Kuehl, “that is everything built in the last 25 years may not have rent control applied to it! So, what’s happened to us is we have a crushing homelessness problem. And though everyone said at the beginning, ‘Oh, these are sick people. These are mentally ill people.’ That is not what the data shows now. What the data shows now is that because of Costa-Hawkins and the fact that we cannot enact any rent stabilization ordinances that mean anything and that cover all of our housing — people are being priced out of their housing every day, hundreds every day. So that even though we house now over 10,000 people a year who are homeless and buying shelter for 20,000 more, so many people fall into homelessness. It overtakes that number and it grows every year.”
“So, I am strongly for Prop 21, because all it does is to say that local cities and counties in the unincorporated areas can enact rent control ordinances if their governing bodies want to do that,” says Kuehl, who was elected to the LA County Board of Supervisors in 2014, representing nearly two million people in the 3rd District.
Kuehl doesn’t let her some of her former Democratic colleagues go unscathed.
“In 1994, there was a Republican majority elected in the Assembly that lasted for two years. But in 1996, when the Democrats took the Assembly back, it was still like it is in Congress where taking a Republican seat into the Democratic category does not mean that you get a progressive Democrat. What you get is the somewhat fearful Democrat who essentially is concerned about the challenge that will come in the next year, because like Congress, they run every two years,” Kuehl says. “So we got quite a few moderate Democrats and they were afraid because the realtors were putting in a lot of money against them and renters are not organized to help people win elections. And so even if you’re for them, you’re at risk because no one supports you. So there were enough votes even after we took it back in 96 to enact Costa Hawkins.”
Kuehl suggests that’s what happened with Prop 10, a previous attempt to repeal Costa-Hawkins.
“We saw in the last election where this measure was brought — it’s so easy for realtors and others with lots of money to put in lots of money saying this is a bad thing for renters, which is just the opposite of the truth. I think if you see a lot of ads for something you should always vote the other way. It’s only entities with an interest, with a lot of money that are trying to convince you by telling you a lot of lies that something is bad,” Kuehl says. “Prop 21 is good. It is good for renters — and it is not bad for people who own rental housing, unless they want to price down because it allows for a reasonable return. It gives you the ability to pass through emergency repairs that you have to make. It simply helps to stabilize housing and help us get a handle on this huge homelessness crisis, which has made much worse by COVID.”
LGBTQ renters, in particular, need Prop 21. Not only to avoid the risk of eviction during the COVID pandemic, but also because violent hate crimes in LA County are on the rise.
“I think LGBTQ people have suffered greatly in the pandemic because we always were more vulnerable as a group, in terms of our revenue income, our ability to thrive,” Kuehl says. “I think we should be very concerned about each other as a community and making certain that people can stay in their housing in these very difficult and dangerous times.”
Senate acquits Trump 57- 43 in 2nd impeachment trial
The vote was cast after lawmakers scrapped plans to depose witnesses
WASHINGTON – The United States Senate in a vote of 57 to 43 Saturday acquitted former President Donald Trump, who was charged in the one Article of Impeachment by the U. S. House for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021. The Constitution requires a two-thirds majority to convict or 67 votes.
The House Impeachment Managers spoke to reporters after the Senate vote to acquit the ex-president telling reporters, “We have shown Trump is a disgrace to our country.”
Trump issued a statement thanking his defense team and supporters that read in part;
“[…] My deepest thanks as well to all of the United States Senators and Members of Congress who stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country.
This has been yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country. No president has ever gone through anything like it, and it continues because our opponents cannot forget the almost 75 million people, the highest number ever for a sitting president, who voted for us just a few short months ago.
Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun. In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together […]”
One Capitol Hill source reflecting on Trump’s statement told the Blade, “Not one word of remorse in that mess. [statement on the acquittal.] He doesn’t even acknowledge what a tragedy and travesty Jan. 6 was- he doesn’t care.”
A leading progressive coalition of more than 220 national organizations which promote and protect the civil rights of Americans, the Washington D.C. based ‘The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ issued a statement from its interim president and CEO Wade Henderson after the Senate acquitted Trump;
“Despite the unmistakably clear evidence, only a handful of Republican senators found the moral fortitude to put partisan politics aside and hold Donald Trump accountable for the deadly insurrection. There is no question to fair-minded Americans that Trump weaponized blatant lies and incited a white supremacist, anti-Semitic mob to try to stop the peaceful transition of power.
The white supremacy that undergirded Trump’s deadly rhetoric and fueled the insurrection is not new. The failure to convict Trump only highlights the actions we must take as a part of our country’s long overdue reckoning with white supremacy and white nationalism.”
One of the House Impeachment Managers, California Congressman Ted Lieu, (D-Santa Monica/Long Beach) tweeted after the vote;
“57 United States Senators concluded President Trump was guilty of inciting an insurrection. The highest bipartisan vote to convict in US history. That’s a damning vote.”
President Joe Biden, who is spending the weekend at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland, issued a statement late Saturday evening regarding the verdict;
“It was nearly two weeks ago that Jill and I paid our respects to Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who laid in honor in the Rotunda after losing his life protecting the Capitol from a riotous, violent mob on January 6, 2021.
Today, 57 Senators – including a record 7 Republicans – voted to find former President Trump guilty for inciting that deadly insurrection on our very democracy. The Senate vote followed the bipartisan vote to impeach him by the House of Representatives. While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute. Even those opposed to the conviction, like Senate Minority Leader McConnell, believe Donald Trump was guilty of a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the violence unleashed on the Capitol.
Tonight, I am thinking about those who bravely stood guard that January day. I’m thinking about all those who lost their lives, all those whose lives were threatened, and all those who are still today living with terror they lived through that day. And I’m thinking of those who demonstrated the courage to protect the integrity of our democracy – Democrats and Republicans, election officials and judges, elected representatives and poll workers – before and after the election.
This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile. That it must always be defended. That we must be ever vigilant. That violence and extremism has no place in America. And that each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.
That is how we end this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation. That is the task ahead. And it’s a task we must undertake together. As the United States of America.”
LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD’s President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, in a media statement wrote; “the Trump administration will forever be defined by misinformation and violence, tactics the former president weaponized against LGBTQ people and other vulnerable communities before turning them loose on our government on January 6th.”
Ellis continued noting;
“The verdict does not reflect the truth understood by a majority of Americans, that Donald Trump recklessly and maliciously directed his supporters to attack the Capitol and our democracy. The Trump administration will forever be defined by misinformation and violence, tactics the former president weaponized against LGBTQ people and other vulnerable communities before turning them loose on our government on January 6th.
Senators voting to acquit are now and for all of history recorded for their cowardice in failing to hold the former president accountable for his lawless, destructive behavior. Let this be a turning point for our country, where we demand a return to shared core values of truth, safety and integrity to protect the least among us, especially from those chosen to lead us.”
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), offered up a withering criticism of Trump’s behavior. McConnell said Trump was “practically and morally” responsible for the Jan. 6 attack and suggested that he could face criminal charges. McConnell had been one of the 43 GOP Senators who voted to acquit.
McConnell said he would have “carefully considered” convicting Trump if he still held office, but ultimately determined that he, as a former president, was not “constitutionally eligible” for a conviction.
One of the ex-president’s supporters blamed the Democrats; “This impeachment trial did nothing to bring the domestic terrorists who committed this heinous attack to justice,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “It merely satisfied Democrats’ desire to once again vent their hatred of Donald Trump and their contempt for the tens of millions of Americans who voted for him.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) angrily chastised the 43 Republican Senators over their votes in the acquittal saying in a statement:
“Senate Republicans who voted not to convict chose to abandon the Constitution, the Country and the American people with this vote.”
The Speaker also noted that “the Congress and Country can take great pride in the House Impeachment Managers, who defended our Constitution & Democracy with a moving presentation demonstrating love of country and loyalty to our oath and the facts.”
In a letter to his supporters, House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-Burbank) remarked;
“[…] When I served as lead manager of the first impeachment, we warned the Senators that if they failed to convict Donald Trump after he betrayed our national security, he would do so again, that he had compromised our elections and he would do so again. We warned that they would not change or constrain him. That truth mattered little to him, what’s right mattered even less, and decency not at all.
[…] As long as I live, I will never understand how the Republican Senators who voted to acquit can reconcile themselves with the consequences of that vote, or where this will place them in history. Why run for the Senate at all, if you will be missing in action when the country really needs you? Is the job that important to leave your country defenseless to a demagogue who brought violence down on our heads? How can they fail to see that by doing so, they have enabled him to bring this same hell upon us again, and that next time it could be even worse?
Rep. Jamie Raskin, (D-Md.), the lead House Impeachment Manager, warned senators that their conviction vote would define their legacies.
“This is almost certainly how you will be remembered by history,” he said. “It really might not be fair, but none of us can escape the demands of history and destiny right now.”
LGBTQ groups condemn Capitol siege, back Trump removal from office
We must honor the rule of law. It is what has made our democracy a model
WASHINGTON – LGBTQ rights groups on Wednesday and Thursday were quick to condemn the siege of the U.S. Capitol.
“Today’s violence is revolting and nothing short of insurrection, a coup instigated by Donald Trump and abetted by cowardly Republicans who have put party over conscience,” tweeted Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “We must honor the rule of law. It is what has made our democracy a model and one that is worth upholding.”
Today’s violence is revolting and nothing short of insurrection, a coup instigated by Donald Trump and abetted by cowardly Republicans who have put party over conscience. We must honor the rule of law. It is what has made our democracy a model and one that is worth upholding.
— Alphonso David (@AlphonsoDavid) January 6, 2021
PFLAG Executive Director Brian K. Bond in an email to his organization’s supporters wrote “today’s violence” was “undertaken not to build up, but to tear down. And we cannot ignore glaring differences between the treatment of Black Lives Matter protestors seeking justice and the treatment of the violent insurrectionists who today stormed the U.S. Capitol to undermine our democracy.”
“The people attacking the Capitol building are not protestors, and the disparities in how they were received are glaringly clear,” added Bond.
Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez echoed Bond.
“The peaceful transition of power is the hallmark of our American democracy that both Republican and Democratic presidents have honored throughout history,” said Martinez in an email to Equality Texas supporters. “The subversive nature of today’s insurrection, which led to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, is not only un-American; it is domestic terrorism. Moreover, the lack of preparedness to ensure public safety was negligent — especially compared to the extraordinary measures taken during the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in the summer.”
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a statement to the Washington Blade said President Trump “has attacked marginalized people, including transgender Americans” since he began his campaign.
“Yesterday’s angry mob of armed white militants attacked the people of this country and the foundations of our democracy,” added Heng-Lehtinen. “Trump and those who aid and abet him have a clear pattern of inciting violence, of targeting political opponents, of attacking people of color — all while excusing the violent actions of their supporters.”
The siege began as members of Congress were certifying the Electoral College results that confirmed the election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. Trump supporters marched to the Capitol after the outgoing president spoke at the “Save America Rally” on the Ellipse.
Democrats on Tuesday regained control of the U.S. Senate after Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) respectively in Georgia.
Equality Florida on Wednesday acknowledged the Georgia election results before condemning the Capitol siege.
“Congratulations to Senator-elect Rev. Raphael Warnock and Senator-elect Jon Ossoff on their historic elections to the United States Senate,” said Equality Florida in a tweet. “We are thankful for our volunteers, members, staff and board for being a part of the coalition that supported Georgia Equality (an LGBTQ rights group in Georgia) in their efforts to elect pro-equality senators.”
“This historic mobilization of voters is a testament to our incredible democratic process, and contrasts the treasonous actions taken by supporters of President Trump at the U.S. Capitol today,” added Equality Florida.
— Equality Florida (@equalityfl) January 6, 2021
This historic mobilization of voters is a testament to our incredible democratic process, and contrasts the treasonous actions taken by supporters of President Trump at the U.S. Capitol today.
— Equality Florida (@equalityfl) January 6, 2021
Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith and National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey are among those who have called for Trump’s removal from office. Smith has also called for an investigation into the U.S. Capitol Police’s response to the siege.
“We condemn the violence in Washington, D.C., and in communities across the country that has been incited by today’s attack on the Capitol building,” said Carey in a statement. “We are better than this. To move forward we must begin by making the strongest statement possible and remove Trump from office using the power of the 25th Amendment.”
Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings in his statement also cited the 25th Amendment.
“Today’s unprecedented events are a betrayal of that fundamental American commitment, and any pretense to ‘patriotism’ on the part of those who committed today’s acts of desecration of the temple of democracy that is our Capitol building are blasphemous,” he said. “Our democratic processes must be defended, and we call upon our leaders to utilize any and all processes available to them, including the 25th Amendment, to ensure an orderly transition of power in accordance with the will of the American people as expressed freely at the ballot box in November.”
“The president, but also the those who have remained silent in the face of his lies, are responsible for this attack on our democracy, and they should be held accountable for their actions,” added Heng-Lehtinen. “Their desperate attempt to hold onto power at any cost will cement their legacy of failure.”
GLAAD, 18 LGBTQ rights groups demand Trump’s removal
GLAAD late on Thursday released a statement signed by 18 LGBTQ rights organizations that calls for Trump’s removal from office.
“As LGBTQ organizations and movement leaders, we call for the immediate and unequivocal removal of Donald Trump as president of the United States via the invoking of the 25th Amendment or by impeachment if necessary,” reads the statement. “Our nation’s security and the personal security of every American is in grave danger, and we cannot afford to sustain even another day with this destructive and seditious man in the White House.”
Athlete Ally, the Equality Federation, Family Equality, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, GLSEN, Lambda Legal, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, NMAC, PFLAG, Pride in Running, Puerto Rico Para [email protected], SAGE, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Transgender Law Center and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund signed GLAAD’s letter.
HRC has also called for Trump’s removal from office.
“The Human Rights Campaign urgently calls for the immediate removal of President Donald Trump from office,” said David in a press release his organization released on Thursday. “President Trump bears responsibility for Wednesday’s insurrection at the United States Capitol and the attempted coup of our government in which four people died.”
Electoral College Vote is certified by Congress
Congress certified the Electoral College Vote at 3:41 AM Eastern Time, January 7, 2021
WASHINGTON – Congress certified the Electoral College Vote at 3:41 AM Eastern Time, January 7, 2021. Joe Biden was officially named as the 46th duly-elected President of the United States and Kamala D. Harris has been named as the 49th Vice-President of the United States.
It was a day of extreme drama that resulted in rioters temporarily taking over the United States Capitol building after being incited by a speech given by President Donald Trump earlier on Wednesday in which he falsely claimed that there was massive election fraud.
During the Capitol siege four civilians died including a 35 year-old female military veteran, Ashli Babbitt. She had served 14 years in the Air Force, her husband told KUSI-TV in San Diego. The couple had resided in Ocean Beach, California.
Babbitt was shot by Capitol Police officers in a hallway just off the House Chambers at the entrance to the Speaker’s Lobby and died after being transported to a Washington hospital.
According to Stars & Stripes Babbitt was apparently a staunch Trump supporter, and her social media accounts were filled with posts supporting the president. She tweeted on Tuesday, “Nothing will stop us…. they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours….dark to light.”
Washington’s Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee had told reporters in a press briefing Wednesday evening that three other persons had died during the rioting in the Capitol building but offered no further details citing ongoing investigations.
Objections by Republicans to accepting the results from Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia were defeated after debate at times that was contentious and in the case of the House debate over the objection to accepting the Pennsylvania results resulted in a fist fight between a couple of House members which was rapidly broken up by other representatives.
At the end of the process, outgoing Vice President Mike Pence announced that Joe Biden defeated President Trump, officially ending the 2020 presidential race that Trump has refused to concede and after the violent day at the Capitol.
Biden speaks in a primetime address on the electoral college vote giving him the presidency
We the People voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact.
WILMINGTON, Delaware – President-elect Joe Biden spoke to a national primetime audience as he acknowledged the Electoral College vote that officially gave him the presidency Monday.
The president-elect walked to the podium without fanfare and began to speak at 7:30 pm ending his remarks at at 7:43 pm. He praised the work of elections and state officials across the country whom he described as faithful to the duties of their respective offices.
Taking aim at the onslaught of efforts by President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the election results, Biden noted that Trump had been given every opportunity through numerous recounts and failed court cases to undo the will of the American people.
“It is my sincere hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election. It’s simply unconscionable. We owe these public servants a debt of gratitude. Our democracy survived because of them.”
If anyone didn’t know it before, we know it now. What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy.
The right to be heard. To have your vote counted. To choose the leaders of this nation. To govern ourselves. In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant it to them.
The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing — not even a pandemic —or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame, Biden told the national audience and the press in the room.
The president-elect also reaffirmed his commitment to work with Republicans in the Congress then said,
In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed.
We the People voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact.
And so, now it is time to turn the page. To unite. To heal.
As I said through this campaign, I will be a president for all Americans. I will work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me, as I will for those who did.
There is urgent work in front of all of us. Getting the pandemic under control to getting the nation vaccinated against this virus. Delivering immediate economic help so badly needed by so many Americans who are hurting today — and then building our economy back better than ever.
NBC News White House correspondent Geoff Bennett tweeted that as Biden concluded his remarks, Peter Doocy of Fox shouted out to the president-elect to ask: “When did you find out your son was being investigated?” Biden who had started to walk off stage turned back and with a dose of sarcasm replied: “Thanks for the congratulations. I appreciate it.”
Full text of remarks as prepared for delivery by President-elect Joe Biden on the Electoral College Vote Certification:
Good evening, my fellow Americans.
Over the past few weeks, officials in each state, commonwealth, and district, without regard to party or political preference have certified their winning candidate.
Today, the members of the Electoral College representing the certified winner, cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States in an act just as old as our nation itself.
And once again in America, the rule of law, our Constitution, and the will of the people have prevailed.
Our democracy — pushed, tested, threatened — proved to be resilient, true, and strong.
The Electoral College votes which occurred today reflect the fact that even in the face of a public health crisis unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes, the people voted.
They voted in record numbers. More Americans voted this year than have ever voted in the history of the United States of America. Over 155 million Americans were determined to have their voices heard and their votes counted.
At the start of the pandemic crisis, many were wondering how many Americans would vote at all. But those fears proved to be unfounded.
We saw something very few predicted or even thought possible — the biggest voter turnout ever in the history of the United States of America.
Numbers so big that this election now ranks as the clearest demonstration of the true will of the American people — one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country.
It should be celebrated, not attacked.
More than 81 million of those votes were cast for me and Vice President-elect Harris.
This too is a record number. More votes than any ticket has received in the history of America.
It represented a winning margin of more than 7 million votes over the number of votes cast for President Trump and Vice President Pence.
Altogether, Vice President-elect Harris and I earned 306 electoral votes — well exceeding the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory.
306 electoral votes is the same number of electoral votes Donald Trump and Mike Pence received in 2016.
At that time, President Trump called his Electoral College tally a landslide.
By his own standards, these numbers represented a clear victory then.
And I respectfully suggest they do so now.
If anyone didn’t know it before, they know it now.
What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy.
The right to be heard.
To have your vote counted.
To choose the leaders of this nation.
To govern ourselves.
In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them.
The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.
And as the people kept it aflame, so, too did courageous state and local officials and election workers.
American democracy works because Americans make it work at the local level.
One of the extraordinary things we saw this year was these everyday Americans — our friends and neighbors, often volunteers, Democrats and Republicans and Independents — demonstrating absolute courage. They showed a deep and unwavering faith in and a commitment to the law.
They did their duty in the face of a pandemic.
And then they could not and would not give credence to what they knew was not true.
They knew the elections they oversaw were honest and free and fair.
They saw it with their own eyes.
And they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different.
It was truly remarkable because so many of these patriotic Americans were subjected to so much: enormous political pressure, verbal abuse, and even threats of physical violence.
While we all wish that our fellow Americans in these positions will always show such courage and commitment to free and fair elections, I hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election.
It is unconscionable.
We owe these public servants a debt of gratitude. They didn’t seek the spotlight, and our democracy survived because of them.
Which is proof once more that it’s the everyday American — infused with honor and character and decency — that is the heart of this nation.
And in this election, their integrity was matched by the strength, independence, and the integrity of our judicial system.
In America, when questions are raised about the legitimacy of any election, those questions are resolved through a legal process.
And that is precisely what happened here.
The Trump campaign brought dozens and dozens and dozens of legal challenges to test the results.
They were heard. And they were found to be without merit.
Time and again, President Trump’s lawyers presented their arguments to state officials, state legislatures, state and federal courts, and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court, twice.
They were heard by more than 80 judges across the country.
And in every case, no cause or evidence was found to reverse or question or dispute the results.
A few states went to recounts. All of the counts were confirmed.
The results in Georgia were counted three times. It did not change the outcome.
The recount conducted in Wisconsin actually saw our margin grow.
The margin we had in Michigan was fourteen times the margin President Trump won the state by four years ago.
Our margin in Pennsylvania was nearly twice the size of President Trump’s margin four years ago.
And yet none of this has stopped baseless claims about the legitimacy of the results.
Even more stunning, 17 Republican Attorneys General and 126 Republican Members of Congress actually signed on to a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas. It asked the United States Supreme Court to reject the certified vote counts in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
This legal maneuver was an effort by elected officials in one group of states to try to get the Supreme Court to wipe out the votes of more than twenty million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.
It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution.
Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort.
The Court sent a clear signal to President Trump and his allies that they would be no part of this unprecedented assault on our democracy.
Every avenue was made available to President Trump to contest the results.
He took full advantage of each and every one of these avenues.
President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take.
He took his case to Republican Governors and Republican Secretaries of State. To Republican state legislatures. To Republican-appointed judges at every level.
And in a case decided after the Supreme Court’s latest rejection, a judge appointed by President Trump wrote: “This court has allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case, and he has lost on the merits.”
Even President Trump’s own cybersecurity chief overseeing our elections said it was the most secure in American history.
Let me say it again, his own cybersecurity chief overseeing this election said it was the most secure in American history.
Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy — even when we find those results hard to accept.
But that is the obligation of those who have taken a sworn duty to uphold our Constitution.
Four years ago, as the sitting Vice President of the United States, it was my responsibility to announce the tally of the Electoral College votes that elected Donald Trump.
I did my job.
And I am pleased — but not surprised — that a number of my former Republican colleagues in the Senate have acknowledged the results of the Electoral College.
I thank them. I am convinced we can work together for the good of the nation.
That is the duty owed to the people, to our Constitution, and to history.
In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed.
We the People voted.
Faith in our institutions held.
The integrity of our elections remains intact.
Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.
To unite. To heal.
As I said through this campaign, I will be a president for all Americans.
I will work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me, as I will for those who did.
There is urgent work in front of us all.
Getting the pandemic under control and getting the nation vaccinated against this virus.
Delivering immediate economic help so badly needed by so many Americans who are hurting today — and then building our economy back better than ever.
In doing so, we need to work together, give each other a chance, and lower the temperature.
And most of all, we need to stand in solidarity as fellow Americans. To see each other, our pains, our struggles, our hopes, our dreams.
We are a great nation.
We are a good people.
We may come from different places and hold different beliefs, but we share a love for this country. A belief in its limitless possibilities.
For we, the United States of America, have always set the example for the world for the peaceful transition of power.
We will do so again.
I know the task before us will not be easy.
It’s tempered by the pain so many of us are feeling.
Today, our nation passed a grim milestone, 300,000 deaths due to this virus.
My heart goes out to all of you in this dark winter of the pandemic about to spend the holidays and the new year with a black hole in your hearts and without the ones you love by your side.
My heart goes out to all of you who have fallen on hard times through no fault of your own, unable to sleep at night, weighed down with the worry of what tomorrow will bring for you and for your family.
But we have faced difficult times before in our history.
And I know we will get through this one, together.
And so, as we start the hard work to be done, may this moment give us the strength to rebuild this house of ours upon a rock that can never be washed away.
And as in the Prayer of St. Francis, for where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith, where there is darkness, light.
This is who we are as a nation.
This is the America we love.
And that is the America we will be.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops and all those who stand watch over our democracy.
San Diego’s new Mayor makes LGBTQ history
If we dream big, work together and believe in San Diego, we can accomplish anything
SAN DIEGO – In a pandemic zoom-style virtual inauguration ceremony presided over by the President pro Tempore of the California State Senate, Toni Gayle Atkins, former Democratic State Assemblyman Todd Gloria was sworn in as the 37th mayor of the City of San Diego on Thursday, December 10 before the San Diego City Council.
San Diego’s new mayor made history across a spectrum of significant firsts as in addition to being the first openly gay person to lead the city, Gloria, “the son of a hotel maid and a gardener” is also the first person of color in the Mayor’s chair. Gloria is a third-generation San Diegan of Filipino, Native American, Puerto Rican, and Dutch descent.
In a March 2019 interview with journalist Karen Ocamb, Gloria told the Blade that he officially came out to his parents at 18, though he jokingly says he was never “in” the closet since he and apparently everyone at school knew he was gay. But he survived those difficult times to go on and graduate summa cum laude from the University of San Diego, having majored in history and political science.
In his inauguration address after he took the oath of office, Gloria thanked his parents, Linda and Phil, and his brother and his family. Gloria also thanked his partner, Adam. He paid tribute to his political mentors and then the people who helped get him elected. He then addressed his city as the duly-elected Mayor for the first time;
“My fellow San Diegans, it is with pride that I stand before you today as the 37th mayor of our city. I’m humbled by your support; I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve; I’m hopeful about the future of our city,” Gloria said. “Today is the day that we start building a San Diego that is truly for all of us.”
“As a kid who grew up in Clairemont, I didn’t see people who looked like me leading practically anything — let alone the 8th largest city in the United States,” Gloria said at his inauguration Thursday. “But today, I stand before you as the first person of color and LGBTQ person to ascend to our city’s highest office.”
“This is a testament to what we all know: San Diego is a unique place, with incredible people, where anything is possible,” he continued. “It is the birthplace of California and a bridge between two nations. It’s the home of artistic creativity, groundbreaking innovation and research that changes the world. It is the place where the son of a hotel maid and a gardener, a Native American, Puerto Rican, Dutch gay guy has just become your mayor.”
As Gloria outlined his plans for his first 100 days in office, he stressed that his greatest priority is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We will be rolling out an aggressive strategy to address the worsening public health crisis in COVID-19,” he said. “The economic crisis that is impacting San Diego’s families, small businesses, and our city budget. The housing and homelessness crisis that has become even more dire.”
“My team and I are moving swiftly and decisively to protect our most vulnerable. And we’ll do it with a long-term goal of building a more resilient city in the process,” Gloria added. “It’s not enough to get things back to normal. Normal wasn’t and won’t be good enough.”
The Mayor then promised San Diegans that he and his team would build a coalition effort to work across all sectors of the city to accomplish the goals he was outlining.
“If we dream big, work together and believe in San Diego, we can accomplish anything. We will change the narrative — not just for the privileged few, but for everyone — especially those who have traditionally felt unheard,” he said.
“It’s the dawn of a new era. We will recover and build back better and stronger from COVID-19,” the mayor continued. “We will stand up for workers and create good-paying, local jobs that bring neighborhood improvement to all corners of our city.”
Gloria addressed the issues of racial equality and the Black Lives Matters movement.
“We will center racial justice and equity not just in public safety but in everything we do recognizing that Black Lives Matter,” he said.
He then vowed to “fully and faithfully” implement San Diego’s climate action plan “to ensure that the city that we love is here for generations to come.”
“I believe in us, San Diego,” the mayor said. “I know who we are and who we can be. I am so proud to be the mayor of this great city but I’m even more excited about what we can accomplish together. Because together, I know we will build a San Diego for all of us.”
“If we dream big, work together and believe in San Diego, we can accomplish anything.”
In the March 2019 interview, addressing the LGBTQ community in his city, Gloria told the Blade, “We had a recent report where there’s 40,000 San Diego young people in their late teens and early 20s who are completely disconnected from the worlds of education and the world of work. Those are young people who are going un-utilized in our economy and that’s a missed potential towards the vision I have of a great city.”
Gloria says he wants to “keep that ladder of opportunity in place. I want to rebuild it where it may have been broken. I believe it because I’ve experienced it and I want others to have that same experience. And right now I think there’s good reason to doubt that that ladder exists. But my goal, my ambition, my vision is to rebuild it – not just for queer kids of color like me but really for every person who is going to work hard in San Diego.”
It’s a power of compassion, strength and responsibility that Gloria told the Blade that he hopes to bring home to San Diego. “I often talk on the campaign trail about this being a mayoral campaign and a hopeful administration that is focused on real people and on real problems,” Gloria says, adding that he carries the voices of LGBT history with him. “Hopefully, I can make our community proud.”
As one commentator reflected, now that he’s mayor, he has that chance.
Additional reporting by Karen Ocamb
Biden names Black lesbian as Deputy White House Press Secretary
All-female incoming White House Communications Team selected
WILMINGTON, Delaware – President-elect Joe Biden has named seven women to his incoming White House Communications Team Sunday, including Karine Jean-Pierre, a partnered Black lesbian. Jean-Pierre will serve as Deputy White House press secretary under newly named White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Both women are Washington veterans having served during the administration of President Barack Obama. During the first Obama term, Jean-Pierre, 43, served as the regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs, while Psaki, 41, served as Obama’s White House Communications Director having served a stint previously as a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.
Speaking with the Advocate magazine in June of 2011 Jean-Pierre reflected on her tenure working for the Obama Administration as an openly LGBT staffer.
“What’s been wonderful is that I was not the only; I was one of many. President Obama didn’t hire LGBT staffers, he hired experienced individuals who happen to be LGBT,” she says. “Serving and working for President Obama where you can be openly gay has been an amazing honor. It felt incredible to be a part of an administration that prioritizes LGBT issues.”
Jean-Pierre and Psaki will work under Kate Bedingfield, the president-elect’s choice for the post of White House Communications Director.
Kate Bedingfield served as Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director for the Biden-Harris Campaign. She served as Communications Director for then Vice President Biden and as Associate Communications Director, Deputy Director of Media Affairs, and the Director of Response in the Obama-Biden White House.
“Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House. I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better,” President-elect Biden said in the Transition Team’s statement.
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, in an emailed media statement to the Blade, reflected on Biden’s choices for the new communication team;
“Today’s appointees are respected communicators with a breadth of experience and a strong commitment to serving the American people. President-elect Biden has a history of advocating on behalf of women in the U.S and around the world and today’s announcement is a continuation of that work, elevating this dynamic team of leaders to senior White House positions.”
“They embody Joe Biden’s commitment to a diverse administration where the voices of all Americans are represented. Today’s appointees are respected communicators with a breadth of experience and a strong commitment to serving the American people,” Klain said adding;
“President-elect Biden has a history of advocating on behalf of women in the U.S and around the world and today’s announcement is a continuation of that work, elevating this dynamic team of leaders to senior White House positions. They embody Joe Biden’s commitment to a diverse administration where the voices of all Americans are represented,”
The daughter of immigrant parents from Haiti, Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique and later raised in Queens, a borough of New York City. A longtime activist and communications specialist, she has a Master’s in Public Affairs conferred on her by New York’s Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, where she has taught as an adjunct professor and lecturer in international and public affairs since 2014.
In 2016 after her White House stint, Jean-Pierre served as a Senior Advisor and National Spokesperson for Washington D.C. based MoveOn, a progressive non-profit public policy advocacy group and political action committee. Her primary portfolio at the non-profit was addressing President Trump’s rhetoric and platform of hate, violence, racism, immigrant-bashing, and women-bashing.
She also served as the deputy campaign manager for former Democratic Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s 2016 campaign run for the Oval Office.
Jean-Pierre received national recognition after a June 1, 2019 incident during the MoveOn Big Ideas Forum she was moderating in San Francisco, when 24 year-old Aidan Cook, a member of the animal right activist organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), rushed the stage grabbing the microphone out of then California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’s hand. The Senator was a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination at the time of the incident.
Jean-Pierre, who had jumped in between Cook and the Senator after he took the microphone kept the activist away from Harris until security arrived and removed him. At the time of the incident, Harris, like most other candidates in early stages of the primary process, didn’t have a U.S. Secret Service detail for protection.
Jean-Pierre joined the Biden-Harris campaign in May of 2020 and then accepted the position of Chief of Staff to Senator Harris in August. Speaking with NBC News journalist Tim Fitzsimons; “The sun was setting and the lights got much more prominent,” she said, referring to late June 2015, when she watched the White House lit in rainbow colors to mark the historic Supreme Court Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. “People had signs and people were crying, and there was just so much joy.”
“I remember thinking how proud I was of this administration, that I had worked for that,” Jean-Pierre, said. “It really brought together, in that one moment, how important LGBTQ rights were and how much that administration fought for our rights.”
She told NBC News, if elected, Biden and Harris would “continue the work that Joe Biden and Obama did” by supporting LGBTQ rights and “continuing to put forth policy that protects the community.”
Now she is in a crucial role for the incoming Biden administration to see those hopes realized. On twitter Sunday after the announcement of her being chosen she said;
“I am profoundly honored to be the Principal Deputy Press Secretary for @JoeBiden. I am especially thrilled to work alongside @jrpsaki whose leadership and stellar instincts will ensure we are positioned to effectively communicate the Biden-Harris agenda to all Americans.”
Jean-Pierre, her partner, CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, and their daughter will reside in Washington D.C.
Trans, non-binary candidates make history in state legislative races
I think more people are seeing that they don’t have to sit in the shadows. They can get involved.
WASHINGTON – Colorado state Rep. Brianna Titone said she never thought she would be able to mount a successful candidacy for public office. As a transgender woman, she assumed that would immediately disqualify her.
Then, in 2017, Titone watched Danica Roem run for and win a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
“Watching [Roem’s campaign] really showed me what was possible and that gave me the nudge,” Titone told the Blade. “I only needed to win by one vote.”
In 2018, she won by 439 votes in her race to represent Colorado’s 27th House District, a traditionally conservative area that includes the Denver suburb of Arvada, in the state’s House of Representatives. With her victory she became the first trans person elected to Colorado’s General Assembly and was reelected on Nov. 3, this time by an 1,800-vote margin.
Titone is part of a group of eight openly trans or gender non-conforming state legislators. Among this historic group of lawmakers is Delaware state Sen.-elect Sarah McBride—the first openly trans person to be elected to a state senate. And come January she will the highest-ranking out trans state legislator in the U.S.
“I think the results of my race and so many others across the country are so powerful because it shows the fair mindedness of voters,” McBride told the Blade. “Yes, voters are excited about creating a diverse government but they’re also ultimately looking at candidates based on their ideas and their experiences. Whatever message was sent by my campaign was not sent by me but was sent instead by the voters in my district.”
Other history-makers for this election are Mauree Turner from Oklahoma’s 88th House District, who is the first openly non-binary person elected to a state legislature, and Stephanie Byers from Kansas’ 86th House District, who is the first trans woman of color elected to any state legislature.
Since winning her seat in 2018, Titone said she has worked to ensure that people view her as a good representative for her district and not just a representative for the LGBTQ community.
“I have work to do for the people in my district,” she said. “And when you win by a small margin, like I did and you’re under that microscope, you have to do the work for the people.”
She said she’s focused on issues like health care access, water conservation and affordable housing.
Roem was not just an inspiration to Titone but to many of the other trans candidates who now find themselves working in their state legislatures.
Taylor Small, a 26-year-old LGBTQ activist, said it was Roem and Vermont state Rep. Diana Gonzalez who inspired her to run.
Small this year became the first openly trans person elected to Vermont’s House of Representatives after Gonzalez, the incumbent, decided to retire and asked her to run. Gonzalez was the state’s first openly queer person of color to serve in the Vermont House.
“There was so much history being made in such a short period of time through Rep. Gonzalez,” she said. “To see the progressive work she has been able to accomplish over the past six years and then to know that she sees the same potential in me was just the push I needed to step into that role.”
Small said she never imagined being able to work in state politics at such a young age as a trans woman. When Gonzalez approached her about running, she only had days to get her campaign together and file her paperwork to get on the ballot. This, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, led to an unconventional campaign, she said.
“It felt like we were building the plane while we were flying it,” Small said. “So what that meant is that it was a relatively equal playing field for both incumbents and challengers coming into this race, because nobody has campaigned during a pandemic and nobody knows what will work.”
The policy she is most looking forward to reforming, she said, is healthcare. Small said she will push the state to move towards a Medicare For All system.
“We have health insurance connected to employment, which should not be the case,” she said. “Healthcare is a human right, it is not a privilege, though, in its current setup in the United States, it is a privilege for folks who are able to afford it.”
Small also performs as a drag queen in her spare time as Nikki Champagne. She and Emoji Nightmare, her “partner in all things drag,” travel to libraries around the state and hold story hours where they read books and do crafts with children. Small said doing drag allowed her to get in touch with her femininity and embrace her authentic identity as a trans woman.
“Now knowing that this is a space where [LGBTQ kids and families] can come and read and get books and find community and also knowing that we were able to promote inclusivity and diversity through these story hours, it was just the best thing,” she said.
Two trans women in N.H. House reelected
New Hampshire currently has two trans state legislators: Lisa Bunker and Gerri Cannon. Both were initially elected in 2018 and they won reelection on Nov. 3.
Bunker said President Trump’s 2016 election initially motivated her to run, but she ran in 2018 after Roem’s victory the year earlier. After she decided to announce her candidacy to represent Rockingham County District 18, which includes the city of Exeter, Bunker said the race was “relatively easy.”
Because the New Hampshire House of Representatives has 400 members, each person has to represent relatively few constituents, which means it takes much less money and resources to start a campaign. When she came into office in 2019, Bunker said there was no open hostility towards her or Cannon.
“There’s a culture and an expectation of courtesy that’s strongly enforced. People are expected to treat each other with decorum and courtesy at all times,” she said. “But there are certainly folks serving in the state legislature who are demonstrably, evidently, deeply uncomfortable with me as a trans person. One comes to know the fixed stares or the refusal to meet my gaze in the hall and things like that.”
Cannon spent her years before public office as a carpenter and truck driver but she started to work with state politicians to pass protections for trans people after she came out at 45.
Her first effort died in 2009, the same year New Hampshire lawmakers approved a marriage equality bill. Cannon said this was the first time she was asked to run for office but declined because her own business was in peril during the economic crisis.
She left to become a truck driver for five years and she said that when she came back, no one had made any progress with trans protections so she decided to step into politics herself. In 2018 she won her race to represent Strafford County District 18, which includes most of the city of Somersworth.
Cannon said the most important aspect of having trans people in the New Hampshire General Court was to represent the experiences of a community which doesn’t frequently get a voice at the table.
“I think more people are seeing that they don’t have to sit in the shadows,” she said. “They don’t have to just put up with what the legislature is going to do. They can get involved, they can help set the agenda and set the direction. They can spread knowledge and information about trans people because we’re people too and it’s important for others to know that.”
When Joshua Query joined the New Hampshire House in 2018, they identified as a gay man but halfway through their first term started questioning their gender identity. They said the strict dress code for state representatives—men are expected to wear pants and suit jackets with ties—helped them realize how uncomfortable they were living in the gender binary.
“This helped me realize that I was being a little bit restricted and I didn’t feel comfortable expressing myself, or being tied to that certain gender performative nature that we’re required to,” Query said in an interview.
They came out to their colleagues in late 2019 as genderqueer and said most of them didn’t “bat an eye.”
“Some people on the other side of the aisle just say it’s identity politics playing and all that kind of stuff,” they said. “But I don’t really pay too much attention to that.”
Query ran for reelection in 2020 to continue representing Hillsborough County District 16 but the election has gone to a recount with Query up by only 36 votes. Query said they’re confident they will prevail over their Republican challenger, Robert Kliskey.
“I think it’s just the same as Election Day jitters but I’m confident in the way our poll workers handle our elections and from my research, Manchester has rarely seen a race be flipped on because of a recount, and in those few instances, they were all under 10 votes,” they said.
Along with Bunker and Cannon, Query said they have led the New Hampshire House’s LGBTQ caucus in pushing for reforms to make state laws more inclusive.
Cannon in 2017 pushed for legislation that would protect individuals from discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, housing and private or public employment. Cannon was a member of the Somersworth School Board when Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed the bill.
According to Bunker, she and other LGBTQ state representatives focused on extending this language to other areas of state law. Another area of focus, Query said, is eliminating the gay and trans panic defense.
“When the Black Lives Matter protests started to break out, I had a lot of people who were Black or indigenous reaching out to me because they were also queer, and they saw the gay panic defense as a way that someone could condone violence towards them just because they’re out protesting for their rights,” Query said.
The wave of new gender non-conforming lawmakers in state government comes at the same time President-elect Biden’s defeated Trump in the election. Biden in his victory speech called for unity and peace in the deeply divided country.
For Small, the term “unity” tends to be challenging.
“It is so much easier to say that we need to come together when you are coming from a place of power, because you know that it is not a risk for you to come together,” she said. “There are people who carry hate towards marginalized communities and you cannot unify with someone who is going to actively harm you. I would love for our communities to embrace one another and see each other holistically. Until we can hold that everyone deserves equitable rights in the United States, we truly cannot unify.”
Titone said she understands the hesitations to reach across the aisle and unify in a bipartisan way but also understands the importance of it.
“The bully picks on you and beats on you for years, and you finally get the upper hand, it’s hard to just take the high road and work with that person to try to make them into something better,” she said.
In her traditionally conservative district, she said she has had to work with people she doesn’t agree with and has had to hold space for those who don’t agree with her.
“I want to hear people’s opposing sides. I can’t make allies when I constantly push away those who disagree with me,” she said. “Joe Biden understands that when there’s such polarization that has happened, you have to try to bring those people back together somehow.”
Sarah McBride prepares for new role
McBride is part of the wave that nearly doubled the amount of trans and gender non-conforming candidates elected to state legislatures around the country.
WILMINGTON, Delaware – Sarah McBride said she didn’t run for the Delaware state Senate to make history or headlines, but her victory on Nov. 3 over Republican Steve Washington did just that.
She is the first openly transgender person to be elected to a state’s senate and come January, will be the highest-ranking out trans state legislator in the U.S.
“I’m looking forward to being able to roll up my sleeves and, and help to implement the kinds of policies and changes that we just spent the last year fighting for,” she said during an interview. “It’s an unbelievable privilege to be able to represent this community in the Delaware state Senate, a community that I was born and raised in, a community that’s helped support me and sustain me through some of the most difficult challenges in my own life, a community that that reflects the vibrant and beautiful diversity of Delaware in so many ways.”
McBride was expected to win handily in the heavily “blue” 1st Senate district which includes parts of Wilmington. The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which seeks to elect LGBTQ people to political office, declared the race for McBride shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m.—she ended up claiming more than 70 percent of the votes.
McBride previously worked as national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. When she addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2016, she became the first openly trans person to speak at the major party convention in the U.S.
McBride is part of the wave that nearly doubled the amount of trans and gender non-conforming candidates elected to state legislatures around the country. Eight of them were elected or re-elected on Nov. 3.
She said the increasing number of trans legislators proves voters are beginning to look past candidates’ identities that were previously considered handicaps in politics.
“Whatever message was sent by my campaign was not sent by me but was sent instead by the voters in my district,” said McBride. “Voters are looking for candidates who are authentic and will fight for what they believe in. I think that desire for authenticity and courage in elected officials transcends geography, political ideology, and party affiliation.”
While she wouldn’t describe it as pressure, McBride said she feels a responsibility to ensure that she isn’t the last LGBTQ person who can hold a position like hers.
“I certainly feel a responsibility to ensure that we grow not just the numbers, but the full diversity of LGBTQ people who have a seat at the table,” she said. “But I also know that the only way that I can fulfill that responsibility to the LGBTQ community is to be the best state senator possible for the residents of my district. Ultimately, that’s what I’m focused on.”
The coronavirus pandemic, which shut down businesses in Delaware for months, forced McBride’s campaign to “get creative” when reaching out to voters. She said they ramped up their phone banking efforts to have conversations with people safely. McBride’s campaign was already focused around reforming healthcare, the criminal justice system, and providing paid family and medical leave for families in her district. The pandemic, she said, only helped to drive home to her points.
“We recognize that no one should have to give up their income in the face of a global pandemic. But whether it’s COVID, or cancer, the more fundamental truth is that no one should have to give up their income in the face of any illness,” she said. “And so from the start of this campaign, I was focused on health care and paid family medical leaves and COVID-19 only reinforced the urgency of those issues.”
Delaware, as a state, voted resoundingly to put President-elect Joe Biden into the Oval Office. McBride has a close personal relationship with the Biden family, having worked for Beau Biden when he was Delaware’s attorney general. McBride said she has become much closer with the president-elect after Beau Biden died in 2015 and after her husband Andrew Cray died in 2014—both after battles with cancer.
“[Biden] is a decent, kind, compassionate, big hearted person and I’m thrilled that he will be leading our country in just a few short months,” McBride said. “I certainly felt like so many people across this country felt unbelievable relief that Donald Trump had lost the presidency and excitement that we will have in the White House, two leaders in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who listen to the data and the science and the experts, will approach issues with compassion, and who have a record of delivering meaningful results for so many people across this country.”
In Biden’s victory speech Saturday evening, he spoke of uniting the country and rebuilding the soul of a divided nation. McBride said that for her, running for local office was the “perfect antidote” for the toxicity of national politics.
“When you spend your days running for local and state office, you talk to dozens, if not hundreds of voters a day and in those conversations, you see just how much we do have in common,” she said. “The hopes and the fears and the challenges facing a single mom who votes for a Democrat are the same as the challenges that face a single mom who votes Republican. You see how hungry people are for politics that’s rooted in compassion and so I’m incredibly hopeful that we can begin to heal some of the divisions in our politics.”
Gay Asian-American defeats Alt-Right extremist in Hawai’i State House race
“There was a time when people like me could not win. I’m glad that I can bring that representation to the capital.”
HONOLULU- In a race for a seat in the Hawai’i House of Representatives 22nd district— which includes Waikiki, Ala Moana and Kakaako on the island of Oahu, a 28 year old gay Asian-American and first-time candidate defeated a leader of the Hawai’i chapter of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group.
Adrian Tam, a son of Chinese immigrants, took 63% of the vote against his opponent Republican Nicholas Ochs, whose campaign Facebook page was deleted by the social media giant for violating terms of its service and community standards, KITV-ABC4 Oahu reported in September.
Reacting to his victory, Tam told NBC News reporter Sakshi Venkatraman, “It feels really good to know that someone who is openly LGBT can win. There was a time when people like me could not win. I’m glad that I can bring that representation to the capital.”
The newly elected House member told NBC News that it was a tough election campaign, first trying to establish communications with his constituency during the coronavirus pandemic as he ran to defeat longtime incumbent Tom Brower in the August Democratic primary.
Then this was coupled with a never-ending diatribe of hatred, both over his sexual orientation and even in multi-ethnic/cultural Hawai’i, his background as the son of immigrant parents from Hong Kong and Taiwan. “It’s almost to a harassment level,” Tam told NBC News, noting that Ochs’ supporters bombarded his campaign’s social media to the point where the messages from his own voters were drowned out.
Ochs has a checkered history on Oahu with minority groups. He has been criticized in the past for offensive posts toward Black, Jewish and LGBTQ communities.
KITV-ABC4 Oahu reported that the Democratic Party of Hawaii also called out Ochs for a history of offensive posts on social media about the Black, Jewish, and LGBT communities, as well as a video showing Ochs urinating into active lava fissure at the Kilauea volcano.
“This isn’t a political issue, this is a moral issue, this is about what we as a community stand for and we as welcoming people of Hawaii believe in,” says Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, the chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party.
Ochs told NBC’s Venkatraman that “he also faced harassing messages from Tam’s supporters and that he was disappointed the two didn’t get a chance to debate. He said that he is not racist.”
“I hope the voters know that this does not represent Hawaii values and more importantly that they exercise their right to vote and reject this racism, bigotry, and hateful ideology,” Tam said to KITV then and in his interview with NBC said part of his job now is to serve even those who directed hate toward him and his allies.
“I wanted our community to come together,” he said. “I wanted to let everyone know that I’m a public servant that will work with everyone. My office door will always be open to them and their families.”
Tam was one of the 155 state legislative and local governmental candidates endorsed by the LGBT Victory Fund, the Washington D.C. based political action organization that assists in electing LGBTQ politicos across the United States. Former Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker, who is president of the Victory Fund told NBC News in a statement that when there are no LGBTQ elected officials in a state, “it has consequences, both in policy and how young LGBTQ people view themselves.”
“Adrian will ensure LGBTQ people are considered and prioritized in the state capitol and will inspire more LGBTQ people to run and serve,” Parker said.
Hawai’i’s 22nd district has tremendous issues with homeless residents, the state itself has the third highest rate of homelessness in the nation. Tam said that in addition to battling the coronavirus pandemic- he will focus on this issue. This marks a difference from his primary opponent, former five-term State Rep. Tom Brower, who literally waged war on the homeless in the district, most notably smashing and throwing out their belongings.
Activists around the world celebrate Biden-Harris victory
Election has ‘far-reaching implications’ for LGBTQ people
NEW YORK — Activists around the world are celebrating the election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern in a statement said “the outcome of this election has far-reaching implications for LGBTIQ people globally.”
ILGA World Executive Director André du Plessis was with his husband in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 7 when the Associated Press and television networks declared Biden and Harris had won the election. Du Plessis on Monday told the Los Angeles Blade that LGBTQ people around the world over the last four years “have been subject to increased hate that has been unleashed in copy-cat imitation of the poor presidential leadership in the United States” and “have experienced first-hand what happens when society is encouraged to bully, shame, mock, harm and belittle others who are different.”
“The citizens of the United States have this week voted—albeit closely—to reject this kind of leadership,” said du Plessis. “The planet is crying out for more compassionate, mature, visionary, unifying and empathetic leaders, and we now look to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to be an example.”
Hila Peer, chair of the Aguda, the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, also celebrated the election of Biden and Harris.
“We are celebrating with the U.S. LGBTQ+ community for one that seems to place human rights and in that LGBTQ+ rights as one of great importance,” Peer told the Blade from Tel Aviv. “I hope the winds of positive change will be obvious soon across the U.S. and from there will send ripples of progressives (sic) and true equality to the world-at-large and Israel.”
Tiziana Fisichella, coordinator of Milan Pride in Italy, agreed.
“We are so happy for America,” proclaimed Fisichella on Tuesday in a WhatsApp message to the Blade. “New President-elect Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be tasked with restoring social justice and democracy to the U.S.”
Leandro Rodríguez, an activist in Cuba who is a vocal critic of his country’s government, on Monday told the Blade that Biden’s public support of LGBTQ rights is a sign of “hope.” Danilo Manzano, director of Diálogo Diverso, a group that is based in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, said the election results mean the U.S. will become a “more just, less discriminatory and much more equal country.”
The promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad was a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy during President Obama’s second term.
Biden in 2016 described LGBTQ rights as the “civil rights issue of our time” when he spoke at a U.N. LGBTI Core Group event that took place on the sidelines of that year’s U.N. General Assembly. Caleb Orozco, an activist in Belize who successfully challenged his country’s colonial-era sodomy law, on Sunday recalled meeting Biden at the event.
“I got an unplanned, but welcomed hug as I was aware of his pain as a father who lost his son to cancer,” Orozco told the Blade in an email.
“During the meeting he waved his pencil at me and I was left shocked because I did not realize he was speaking to me,” he further recalled. “A man with so much loss in his life can become remarkable in leadership, shaped by personal pain.”
The White House in 2019 launched an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Trump named five openly gay ambassadors, but activists with whom the Blade has spoken after the election sharply criticized the outgoing administration over myriad other issues that include the repeal of legal protections for transgender Americans and its hardline immigration policy.
The U.S. in 2018 withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, on Monday during a telephone interview from his native Costa Rica noted to the Blade that the council gives him his mandate. Madrigal-Borloz also said he was “glad to congratulate all of you on the election of the 46th president and I very much look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration in the furtherance of U.S. support in relation to global furtherance of LGBT issues.”
“There’s a reason why explicit and unambiguous political statements are important and that is because they do have an impact all across the world,” he said when the Blade asked him about the impact the Biden-Harris administration will have on countries with anti-LGBTQ human rights records. “While that is true of any political leadership, it is especially true of the United States given that it is, of course, a global power around the world.”
African Women for Sexual Health and Gender Justice (AWOSHe) Managing Director Hazel Mokgathi, who is based in Botswana, on Monday told the Blade the Biden-Harris administration has pledged to lift the so-called global gag rule, which prevents the U.S. from funding international organizations that provide abortions. Mokgathi also noted Biden in his victory speech specifically mentioned trans people.
“That was very moving for me as a transgender leader, because that on its own has ripple effects to the rest of the world leaders—and including my very own president of Botswana—to protect and acknowledge underserved communities in their own countries,” she said.
Glenroy Murray, director of strategy and impact for J-FLAG, an LGBTQ advocacy group in Jamaica, on Monday said he “was pleasantly shocked that the Biden-Harris campaign won out.”
“The Jamaican in me is claiming this victory as a victory for us in the small way,” added Murray. “The USA has positioned themselves as a global leader for LGBT rights and in the last four years that status fell into doubt, particularly from the eyes of an LGBTQ person of color from the Global South.”
Transgender activist in India pays tribute to Harris
Harris’ father, Donald Harris, was born in Jamaica. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was born in India. Harris is the first woman, first Black person and first American of South Asian descent elected vice president.
Meera Parida is a member of India’s National Council for Transgender Persons. She is also the state secretary for the Biju Janata Dal, a socialist party that governs India’s Odisha state.
“Being an Indian, I feel proud myself to see a lady of Indian origin being elected,” Parida told the Blade.
Dédé Oetomo, founder of Gaya Nusantara, an Indonesian LGBTQ rights group, on Tuesday also noted Harris’ background when he discussed the election results.
“The reaction among Indonesian LGBTQ folks is one of hope and excitement, given Mr. Biden’s track record in advocating for LGBTQ human rights when he was vice president,” Oetomo told the Blade from the Indonesian city of Surabaya. “There has also been excitement about a half Asian vice president-elect.”
Biden ‘hardly revolutionary’
Elias Jahshan is the former editor of the Star Observer, an LGBTQ newspaper in Australia. Jahshan is also a gay man of Arab descent who now lives in London.
Jahshan on Monday told the Blade he “felt massive relief when Trump lost the election.”
“He is quite possibly the worst kind of leader, by Western democratic standards, for LGBTQ people—especially for the trans community and queer people of color,” he said. “He is absolutely toxic in so many ways. Good riddance that he won’t be around for another term.”
Jahshan described Biden as “a step in the right direction,” especially on LGBTQ rights, but he added his position is “hardly revolutionary.” Jahshan told the Blade that he is “not holding my breath in Biden doing anything to bring about genuine equality and freedoms for Palestinians who lives in the West Bank or Gaza.”
“Time after time we’ve seen both Democrat and Republican leaders use their imperialist powers to reward countries that pander to their exceptionalism, regardless whether they’re dictatorships or not,” he said. “Israel is an example of this—as are Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Palestinians are always thrown under the bus, and this includes LGBTQ Palestinians.”
OutRight Action International’s statement did not refer to the Israeli government’s policies towards the Palestinians, but it did include a list of policy changes the organization would like the Biden-Harris administration to make. These include the appointment of a special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad, which the Obama administration created, and the removal of religious exemptions from U.S. policies.
“OutRight looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to reestablish respect for LGBTIQ rights through U.S. foreign policy,” said Stern. “We will also hold the Biden-Harris administration accountable for an intersectional human rights agenda that values LGBTIQ people, people of color, immigrants, women and other vulnerable groups.”
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