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2020 Election

San Diego’s new Mayor makes LGBTQ history

If we dream big, work together and believe in San Diego, we can accomplish anything

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Todd Gloria takes the office of office, Thursday, December 10, 2020. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Office of the Mayor of the City of San Diego)

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.”

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria gives his inauguration address during a virtual ceremony.
(Courtesy of the Office of San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria)

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

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2020 Election

Senate acquits Trump 57- 43 in 2nd impeachment trial

The vote was cast after lawmakers scrapped plans to depose witnesses

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Screenshot via C-SPAN

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.”

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2020 Election

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

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her press conference on January 7 tells reporters that she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called upon Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment against President Donald Trump after the rioting in the Capitol. (Screenshot via NBC News)

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.

Congratulations to Senator-elect @ReverendWarnock and Senator-elect Jon @Ossoff on their historic elections to the United States Senate! https://t.co/jdX1OBCyfv

— 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.”

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2020 Election

Electoral College Vote is certified by Congress

Congress certified the Electoral College Vote at 3:41 AM Eastern Time, January 7, 2021

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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.

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2020 Election

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.

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President-elect Joe Biden speaks in a primetime address on the Electoral College Vote Certification, December 14, 2020
(Photo Credit: Screenshot via WJLA TV7 Washington)

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. 

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2020 Election

Biden names Black lesbian as Deputy White House Press Secretary

All-female incoming White House Communications Team selected

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Karine Jean-Pierre and the late civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, (D-GA) at an event in Dallas, Texas in October 2018. (Photograph Courtesy of Karine Jean-Pierre and MoveOn.)

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.

Animal rights activist Aidan Cook rushes the stage as Karine Jean-Pierre rushes to protect Senator Kamala Harris and retrieve the microphone Cook snatched from Harris’s hand. (Screenshot via YouTube)

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.

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2020 Election

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.

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Vermont state Rep.-elect Taylor Small. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Small)

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. 

Colorado state Rep. Brianna Titone (Photo courtesy of the Titone Campaign)

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. 

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem speaks to supporters following her re-election on Nov. 5, 2019. The Virginia Democrat has inspired other transgender people to run for seats in their respective state legislatures. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


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.” 


New Hampshire state Rep. Gerri Cannon. She is one of two openly transgender women in the New Hampshire General Court. (Photo courtesy of Gerri Cannon)

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.”

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