WASHINGTON – Despite an Out bisexual being among two Democrats responsible for thwarting President Biden’s call to advance voting rights, LGBTQ+ groups that supported Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) stopped short of criticizing her directly for impeding legislation at the top of progressives’ wish lists.
Although the change being sought was limited to voting rights legislation, the refusal from Sinema to change the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to move legislation to the Senate floor as opposed to a simple majority, effectively put a stake in the heart of the legislative agenda for Democrats, including any possibility of enacting LGBTQ+ civil rights legislation like the Equality Act.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading LGBTQ+ group, declined to identify Sinema by name in an organizational statement provided by a spokesperson via email in response to a Washington Blade inquiry on her refusal to change the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.
“The core of our democracy is the right to vote,” the statement says. “The United States Senate must act on legislation to protect that right now, including passage of federal voting rights and voting protection legislation. Without its essential safeguards guaranteeing that the voices of all voters — including LGBTQ+ Black, Brown and other minority voters — will be heard at the ballot box, we cannot ensure that any other right, even those currently enshrined in law, will be protected in the years to come.”
The closest the statement comes to criticizing Sinema, without actually doing so, is the final line: “As a result, we feel that it is necessary for the Senate to take whatever actions are required, including changes to Senate rules, to ensure a majority to pass this essential legislation.”
The Human Rights Campaign endorsed Sinema in the past as a candidate for U.S. Senate and hosted her as a special guest for fundraising and promotional events. It should be noted, JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president of policy and political affairs, once worked for Sinema as chief of staff.
Asked whether HRC’s position was informed by Winterhof’s past work, the spokesperson replied: “Many of our staff have experience working on the Hill. Regardless of who they have worked for, we continue to believe that it is necessary for the Senate to take whatever actions are required, including changes to the Senate rules, to pass federal voting reform.”
Moments before Sinema was set last Thursday to meet with Biden on the filibuster, she took to the Senate floor preemptively and declared she wouldn’t budge.
“There’s no need for me to restate my long-standing support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation,” Sinema said.
Added Sinema: “When one party need only negotiate with itself, policy will inextricably be pushed from the middle towards the extremes,” adding that she doesn’t support that outcome and “Arizonans do not either.”
Joining Sinema in refusing to budge on the filibuster is her fellow moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has proposed alternatives to the current state of Senate rules, but ultimately rejected the changes proposed by the caucus.
In contrast to the relatively muted response from LGBTQ+ groups, other civil rights organizations were quick to denounce Sinema and Manchin for supporting the filibuster, calling the Senate rules as they stand Jim Crow 2.0. Late Monday, Emily’s List announced it would no longer support Sinema for re-election over her position on voting rights.
Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, compared Manchin and Sinema to white moderates who half-heartedly supported his father’s work.
“History will not remember them kindly,” the younger King said, referring to Sinema and Manchin by name, according to PBS News Hour.
One exception to LGBTQ+ groups declining to criticize Sinema was the National LGBTQ Task Force, which said the senator should be coming up with alternatives to filibuster reform.
Kierra Johnson, executive director of the Task Force, said she’s been “asking questions because Sen. Sinema is known for being a supporter of so many pieces of progressive legislation and culture change related to queer people and women’s civil and human rights.”
“I want to see better and more, right?” Johnson said. “Yes, we should be working to build bridges across the aisle, across political ideology, but for me, the question is if you’re not going to support filibuster reform, then what are you supporting, and what is the pathway forward?”
Johnson added Sinema “owes it to the people who have supported her over the years to come up with these alternatives if she won’t support filibuster reform.”
Asked whether the Task Force has done any outreach to Sinema, Johnson said the organization is “in the process of trying to meet with her folks” and looking at ways to bring to her voices from LGBTQ+ movement community leaders.
Biden’s call to reform the filibuster — even though it was limited to voting rights legislation — may have been dead on arrival as Sinema and Manchin have consistently resisted efforts in the Senate to reform the filibuster. The efforts to change Senate rules, however, appeared to have new strength after Biden’s speech in Georgia last week making a plea for reform based on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the restrictive voting law passed in that state.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, asked Friday about Sinema and Manchin refusing to budge on the filibuster, said the administration would continue to push for voting rights legislation.
“I would say that the president’s view, as you heard him say yesterday, is that we’re going to continue to press to get this done moving forward,” Psaki said. “And that means continuing to engage with a range of officials who are supportive, some who have questions and some who are skeptical.”
Psaki pointed out Biden ended up having the meeting with Sinema despite her remarks on the floor, adding “that’s evidence of his continued commitment to keep engaging.”
The LGBTQ+ community, as with any issue, isn’t uniform in thinking Sinema should be obligated to have a certain view against the filibuster simply because she’s bisexual, or that LGBTQ+ groups should criticize her for being obstructionist.
One LGBTQ+ strategist, who agreed to talk on condition of anonymity, outright rejects calls for Sinema to support a change in rules because the filibuster “ensures that minority perspectives cannot be trampled by majoritarianism.”
“Portraying an LGBTQ+ woman as a gender and sexuality traitor shows a deep disrespect for our history,” the strategist added. “Sinema’s success in fighting for working families, vulnerable populations and LGBTQ+ rights is grounded in the belief that building large coalitions is how to best effect legal and social changes. Naturally, it follows she would be against a change in decades of Senate precedent that would prioritize hyper partisanship over persuasion.”
Biden’s speech in Georgia may have been more of an attempt to excite the progressive base as opposed to making a strategic push for filibuster reform. After all, his popularity is at an all-time low, which limits his influence. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll asking voters to grade Biden after his first year in office found 37 percent gave him an “F,” compared to the 31 who gave either “A” and “B,” which is a touch worse than Trump at this point in his presidency.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Sinema in the past, declined to make any declarations about withholding an endorsement when asked by the Washington Blade.
“Our Victory Fund Campaign Board – made up of more than 150 political leaders and advocates from across the country – votes to determine our endorsements,” said Elliot Imse, a Victory Fund spokesperson. “If Sen. Sinema runs for reelection, a review of her record as it relates to equality will of course be a primary consideration for whether she receives our endorsement. That board vote would take place, if she applies for endorsement, in late 2023 or 2024.”
Imse added as a U.S. Senator Sinema is not currently up for election because after being elected in 2018 she is set to hold her seat for another four years.
“Sen. Sinema is not currently endorsed by Victory Fund and is not on an active ballot,” Imse said. “We last endorsed her in 2018 when she was running against Martha McSally – a right-wing extremist candidate vociferously opposed to equality for LGBTQ+ people.”
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Behind the scenes: LGBTQ staff working on Biden’s re-election
“We who work in politics feel like this is a choice between, most likely, Donald Trump & President Biden and Vice President Harris”
(Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series profiling senior LGBTQ staff working on President Biden’s re-election campaign. Part one was published on Nov. 21 and part two was published on Nov. 29.)
WILMINGTON, Del. — Last month from campaign headquarters, the Washington Blade spoke with Sergio Gonzales, senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris and the Biden-Harris reelection campaign, along with senior campaign adviser Becca Siegel.
On the importance of LGBTQ representation in the presidential campaign, Gonzales said, “When it comes to policies that affect the lives of millions of people in our communities across the country, having people who have that experience and that background really does matter.”
Moving into next year, he said, the team is working “to ensure that we have people from across the spectrum of America who are able to both bring their own personal experiences and lives into these roles, but also bring a lot of relationships across the country and being able to engage with the community, talk to the community, persuade the community, turn out the community.”
Gonzales has worked for Harris since she was elected to represent California in the U.S. Senate, and he said her record supporting and defending the LGBTQ community throughout her career was one of the major factors leading to his decision to join the campaign.
“Especially when it comes to issues related to LGBTQ rights and freedoms, this is something [Harris] has such a long history on,” he said. “She has always — both in her office and externally — formed these strong relationships with people in the LGBTQ community and those relationships have always been very, I think, important in not only ensuring her office and the work that she has done reflects the various things that we as a community need, but also just in the way she supports people of color and LGBTQ folks who have worked for her.”
In an election where, as the vice president says, so much is at stake for our fundamental freedoms and rights,” Gonzales said, “that is especially true for LGBTQ Americans. If you look at the number of attacks by GOP leaders at the local, state, and federal level across the country, so much is on the line in this election.”
On the right, Gonzales said, “We have a lot of leaders and a party in this country who are doing their best to try to attack fundamental rights and freedoms of a lot of different folks, including people in the LGBTQ community — and, in some ways, who are trying to turn back the clock on a lot of the progress we’ve made.”
Voters are aware of the fact that, for instance, Republicans elected “a new Speaker of the House who has a very, very alarming and disturbing record of attacking people in our community, including trying to outlaw you know, being gay,” he said.
“Both as senior adviser and personally as a very openly and proud gay man,” Gonzales said, next year’s election “is one of the most important if not the most important election of our lifetime,” because “I see what sits on the other side; I see all of these different states who are trying to attack our rights, who are banning books, who are passing ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws, who are attacking trans people and trying to undo gay marriage, who are — both through policy and through rhetoric — making the country more dangerous for people like me and our community.”
“I’m glad and proud to work for a principal and work for a campaign that is about continuing the progress and ensuring we don’t turn back the clock and we don’t go back on these things,” he said.
Gonzales noted the Biden-Harris administration’s appointment of record-breaking numbers of LGBTQ folks in senior positions in the White House and across the federal government, but stressed that the commitment to equality runs deeper.
“This administration is an administration that has ensured that not only is there representation for the LGBTQ community, but also has actually driven multiple policy wins, both through the executive level and through Congress, that ensure and afford greater rights and freedoms for people in our community,” he said.
Helping voters see the contrast between this and what Republicans — like the party’s frontrunner, former President Donald Trump — would do if elected will be an important part of the campaign’s work moving into next year, Gonzales said. “As things become much more clear and what we are up against, and Donald Trump comes more into focus, I truly believe that we’re going to see a lot of different parts of the country start to engage in this election,” he said.
Voters will also remember “the specific things that [Trump] did in his last administration,” Gonzales said. “They tried to erase LGBTQ people from the census. They imposed a ban on transgender individuals in our military, which this administration undid. They undid protections for LGBTQ Americans, including transgender individuals, in the workplace, and more broadly,” so, “this is not just bluster.”
And the Biden-Harris administration “has so much to run on” with respect to LGBTQ matters, Gonzales said, “whether we’re talking about health care, whether we’re talking about the Respect for Marriage Act, whether we’re talking about, you know, some of the ways that we’ve addressed bullying in schools — these are very real policy wins for our community.”
Like Gonzales, Siegel has “worked on many presidential campaigns.”
“Your whole life is here when you’re working on a campaign,” she said. “This is your work, but also your social life and your friends,” so “if you are not bringing your whole self to this community, you’re not bringing it anywhere in your life.”
Our job is to persuade and engage with voters,” Siegel said, “and we have to have a campaign that reflects the voters we are trying to engage with.”
“Core to my approach to this work is respect and empathy for voters,” she said. “That’s what we should think about every day. I think we are much better prepared to do that when we have a staff that looks like those voters.”
Siegel added, “It’s not just so that you walk into the office and it looks like it is a diverse place to work. That’s important, too. But it’s actually about the work.”
With respect to her individual role within the campaign, she said, it comes down to “let’s take that strategy” of using data to find a pathway to victory “and then make sure we are executing a campaign that reflects it.” When it comes to “travel, comms, which radio stations we’re on, what our TV ads say, where we’re allocating our money, where we’re hiring staff — do those things align with the strategy to get us to 270 electoral votes?”
The importance of representation, LGBTQ and otherwise, may not seem self-evident in data-centric roles, but Siegel noted, for instance, the persistent challenge of combatting bias within datasets.
Like Gonzales, Siegel stressed the contrast between the Biden-Harris administration and campaign and those run by the Republican opposition. “LGBTQ rights feel more under attack now than they have in the past,” she said, “and so that rises to the top of concerns for voters — and our policy and position on this is really far away from the Republicans’.”
“That’s a clear contrast between us and the opposition,” she said, adding, “It’s at the top of people’s minds. It’s something they care about, and we have a pretty unimpeachable record on it compared to the opposition.”
It is not necessarily so simple, however.
“We who work in politics feel like, of course, this is a choice between, most likely, Donald Trump and President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Siegel said, “but voters, especially the voters who are most persuadable, don’t feel that way right now, necessarily.”
The choice voters will face will crystalize and the contrast between the campaigns will deepen moving into next year, she said.
On lots of LGBTQ issues, Americans are on our side. And when it becomes a choice between, ‘there’s this version of America and then there’s Trump’s version of America,’ — then, that is really clear,” Siegel said.
The campaign is working to reelect the president and vice president to represent the people, the voters, who “have day-to-day things that prevent them from, like, reading Politico,” she said. “They have kids, they have to pay their bills, they have to worry about all kinds of things.”
Siegel added, “I have a lot of faith in voters. They care about their families. They want a good life. They care about people who are different than them. I think most people care about other people.”
For those working on the campaign, she said, “it’s really on us” to make sure to “explain and show and demonstrate to them what you are getting from this administration, from these candidates.”
“We get to run on issues that help people and are popular,” Siegel said. “That’s a great place to start from.”
Johnson to headline gala whose leader defended Josh Duggar
The gala is hosted by the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a group led by former Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will deliver the keynote address Tuesday night for a gala hosted by the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a group led by former Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, a vocal defender of convicted sex offender Josh Duggar.
Johnson is slated to speak at 9 p.m. at the Museum of the Bible in D.C. His office did not immediately return a request seeking comment on his relationship with Rapert, who, like many far-right figures in the speaker’s orbit, proudly calls himself a Christian nationalist and has expressed extreme views, such as by comparing LGBTQ advocates to Nazis.
The National Association of Christian Lawmakers is funded by right-wing groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom, where Johnson worked as an attorney before running for public office. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the organization an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
Duggar, who starred with his family on the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” worked for another far-right, anti-LGBTQ outfit with close ties to Johnson, the Family Research Council, until 2015 when a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Duggar, while a teenager, had molested his younger sisters.
Along with Republican former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rapert, who had featured Duggar at campaign events and was photographed at the family’s home, was one of the first who “rushed to defend” him.
Duggar is now serving a prison sentence following a child pornography conviction in 2021.
Following his election as speaker in October, Johnson’s extreme anti-LGBTQ record drew renewed interest. Among other revelations were arguments he made in an op-ed that, “If we change marriage for the homosexual activists, we will have to do it for every deviant group. Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles and others will be next in line to claim equal protection.”
Missouri: 21 likely anti-LGBTQ+ bills on first day of pre-filing
Missouri has seen several new bills introduced that promises to be contentious around LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people
By Erin Reed | JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – On December 1st, Missouri’s legislature commenced a period known as pre-filing, where legislators can start submitting bills to be considered in the 2024 legislative cycle.
Often, the first day of pre-filing provides insight into the legislative priorities for the upcoming session, which begins on January 3rd, 2024. For LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies, the first day of pre-filing revealed that the Missouri Republicans’ assault on queer and trans people is nowhere near over.
Notably, at least 21 bills specifically targeting LGBTQ+ people, with a particular emphasis on transgender individuals, were filed on the very first day. These bills aim to ban bathroom access, books, medical care, public drag performances, classroom topics, and more.
Individuals proposing these bills are likely recognizable to those who followed Missouri’s 2023 legislative session, which targeted transgender people heavily. For instance, Senator Mike Moon (R-29SD) has filed several bills in the 2024 session focusing on transgender people. He gained notoriety as the primary sponsor of the state’s gender-affirming care ban, leading to many trans youth losing access to their medication.
Furthermore, Sen. Moon infamously defended child marriage in a video clip that captured national media attention. Representative Mazie Boyd, who last year proposed one of the most restrictive drag bans in the United States, is also involved.
In a hearing last year, she declined to confirm that a daughter painting her father’s fingernails would be acceptable when directly questioned about her bill.
This year, Missouri has seen several new bills introduced in a legislative session that promises to be equally contentious around LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people. One bill, HB1574, would defund libraries that refuse to ban books. Another, HB1405, would force teachers to use the wrong pronouns for trans students who are not out to their parents. HB1543 would charge teachers with a crime for the distribution of what the law defines as “sexually explicit material.”
We know from debates over book bans in 2023 that many LGBTQ+ books in red states often get judged as “sexually explicit.”
See this excerpt from HB1574, which would remove funding from libraries that refuse to ban books or ban drag reading hours:
Many more bills focus on LGBTQ+ topics in schools, including a SB1024, a “Don’t Say Gay Or Trans” bill. Currently, Missouri is not among the 16 states that impose restrictions on LGBTQ+ discussions in schools. These restrictions are frequently referred to as “Don’t Say Gay” bills and often extend to targeting transgender teachers, potentially leading to their firing for using different pronouns or honorifics in class. This push for anti-trans school policies by Republicans is significant, given their unpopularity in the 2023 school board elections, where over 70% of candidates supported by Moms For Liberty were defeated.
One particularly bad bill is HB1520, which modifies the state’s current gender affirming care ban for trans youth and incarcerated adults passed in 2023. The original bill allowed those who were already getting care to continue to get care, and also set a sunset date for the law to August 28, 2027, ostensibly to wait for “further research” on care to be released. House Bill 1520 removes both of those exceptions, meaning that the gender affirming care ban would become permanent, and those already receiving care due to being grandfathered in would be no longer allowed to continue receiving care.
See this excerpt from HB1520, where those provisions are crossed out:
Missouri has seen the introduction of new bills this year aimed at “online obscenity.” Although the full texts of several bills seeking to ban youth from accessing “obscene content” online are not yet available, there is a history of similar legislation being used to target LGBTQ+ individuals. For example, in Montana, a bill of this nature was almost amended to include “acts of transgenderism.”
On a national level, the Kids Online Safety Act, intended to regulate social media content accessible to minors, has encountered obstacles. A key stumbling block has been lead sponsor Republican Senator Blackburn’s statement that the bill would target transgender people. In Missouri, these proposed measures include HB1426, which seeks to prohibit “material harmful to minors” without age verification, and SB1084, an obscenity bill applicable to online websites.
Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.
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Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/
Former Rep. Liz Cheney’s “dire” warning against reelecting Trump
Cheney believes blocking Trump and preventing a Republican House majority in the next election is “the cause of our time”
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Former Republican Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney says that voters have become increasingly numb to politicians warning of looming dangers to democracy, so in her new book, “Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning,” she lays out the case for the threats to the Constitution posed by Donald Trump should he regain the White House.
Cheney talks with CBS News’ John Dickerson about how the leading GOP candidate’s own words reveal his plans for a second term, and why she believes blocking Trump and preventing a Republican House majority in the next election is “the cause of our time.”
House Republican member grills USCG admiral over drag shows
Gautier graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1987. This is the admiral’s 37th year in the Coast Guard
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard’s Deputy Commandant for Operations, Vice Admiral Peter W. Gautier, appeared in a hearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security on Thursday to answer congressional questions regarding U.S. Artic operations and planning strategies.
During the course of the hearing, Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ), a member of the House GOP’s far-right Freedom Caucus opened a line of inquires, not related to the hearing’s focused agenda, which included questioning the admiral’s length of service in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Crane aggressively questioned the admiral over retention and recruitment, which Gautier responded at one point that the ongoing long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic could possibly be factored into recruiting new personnel. “Why do you think you’re, across the military, having so many recruiting issues?” Crane asked and added, “You believe that COVID-19 the main reason the military is having its recruiting issues?”
Gautier responded saying “I’m an optimist sir so when you hear these things about eligibility because of weight and pharmaceuticals and stuff, is lower than average in the young population- that there isn’t this propensity to serve. I heartedly disagree. I think that there are a lot of great young Americans that just don’t know about the Coast Guard. That if they knew that we are law enforcement; we are military; that we clean up the environment; that we serve the American people I think you know that we will have a lot more folks coming in.”
After thanking him for his answer Crane then asked the admiral: “To follow up on that, Do you think it might have anything to do with what you regularly hear as being described as some of the “wokeness” within the military such as CRT [critical race theory] training, DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] training, drag shows on base, things like that. Do you think that has anything to do with it? Then he flatly stated: “You’re kind of a loss on the focus of what the military is supposed to be about.”
Clearly frustrated by Rep. Crane’s position and attitude, Gautier responded: “You know, I just don’t see that in the United States Coast Guard, what you’re referring to and um our work force is the best workforce that I have seen in my 36 year career. The people that are in the Coast Guard today are better than ever before. A lot of them have college educations, a lot of them have had professional careers that want to do something different and better and that come to us. So I don’t think so.”
Crane then challenged the admiral: “You haven’t seen any of that?” Gautier responded, “No.” The congressman then asked: “You haven’t seen a change in the culture of the military? How long have you been in admiral?” Gautier replied: “37 years.” Crane then flatly stated: “With all due respect I find that hard to believe sir.”
Crane, elected in 2022 after defeating incumbent Democrat Tom O’Halleran, is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and co-founded Bottle Breacher, a company that manufactures bottle openers made of 50-caliber shell casings. This past October, he was among the eight Republican members who voted to remove then House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
During a heated debate on the house floor last June regarding one of his proposed amendments to the annual defense budget and policy bill that would prohibit the Defense Department from requiring participation in training or support for “certain race-based concepts” in the hiring, promotion or retention of individuals, Crane angered Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) when he said:
“My amendment has nothing to do with whether or not colored people or Black people or anybody can serve, okay? It has nothing to do with color of your skin… any of that stuff.”
Beatty, a distinguished Black lawmaker, who had previously served as the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, immediately asked that Crane’s offensive words be stricken from the House record.
“I am asking for unanimous consent to take down the words of referring to me or any of my colleagues as ‘colored people,'” she said.
Crane at first tried to amend his remarks to “people of color” before Rep. Beatty interrupted and again said she wanted his words stricken. When no one in the chamber objected, the chair ordered it stricken by unanimous consent.
CBS News later reported that Crain said he “misspoke.” “In a heated floor debate on my amendment that would prohibit discrimination on the color of one’s skin in the Armed Forces, I misspoke. Every one of us is made in the image of God and created equal,” Crane said in a statement.
Beatty however wasn’t having it. First on Twitter posting:
“I am still in utter and disbelief that a Republican uttered the words ‘colored people’ in reference to African-American service members who sacrifice their lives for our freedom… I will not tolerate such racist and repugnant words in the House Chamber or anywhere in the Congress. That’s why I asked that those words be stricken from the record, which was done so by unanimous consent.”
Later in an interview with CBS News, the Ohio Democrat said she doesn’t accept Crane’s explanation that he “misspoke”.
“He didn’t misspeak,” Beatty said. “He said clearly what, in my opinion, he intended to.”
She said some lawmakers intend to hold a special order hour on Monday to address the issue through a series of speeches on the floor.
“It shows us directly why we need DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion),” Beatty explained. “DEI is not about just hiring a Black person or putting a person in the military or in college. It’s about having diversity of thought.”
“It’s very frustrating to have to fight the battles on the United States House floor,” she added.
Vice Admiral Peter W. Gautier assumed the duties of Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operations (DCO), in June 2022. Previously, he served as Deputy Commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area, and from 2018 to 2020, he served as Commander, Coast Guard Eleventh District in Alameda, California, where he directed all Coast Guard missions in California and the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Gautier graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy located in New London, Connecticut, as a member of the Class of 1987. This is the admiral’s 37th year in the Coast Guard.
Meet the LGBTQ staff working on Biden’s re-election campaign
Tolliver, Flores on importance of diversity in government
(Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series profiling senior LGBTQ staff working on President Biden’s re-election campaign. Part one was published last week and Part three will be published next week.)
WILMINGTON, Del. — From the team’s headquarters here, the Washington Blade spoke with the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s director of operations, Teresa Tolliver, and Rubi Flores, special assistant to Campaign Manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez.
Tolliver came to the campaign from the Democratic National Committee, having previously worked in the White House Presidential Personnel Office and then at the U.S. Air Force under Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones, who was nominated by President Joe Biden to become the first lesbian and first woman of color to serve in the role.
It was at PPO “where I learned more about Gina and then was like, ‘I want to work for that person,'” Tolliver said, adding that while she was always interested in national security, the chance to serve in the Pentagon with the Air Force’s new lesbian undersecretary was too good to pass up.
Among other responsibilities at PPO, Tolliver said her work included “helping to place high ranking LGBTQ folks in the administration as well as in special assistant roles; everything up and down within the admin,” which has made history with the number and seniority of LGBTQ appointees serving across the federal government.
“Whether we’re looking at people of color, or whether we’re looking at, you know, LGBTQ folks, this is an administration that is now going to be a campaign that we want to look like America,” Tolliver said. The approach influences not just hiring practices but also choices over who will be interviewed for which roles and how they will be supported to be as effective as possible.
“We used to joke in PPO that it was a very queer team,” she said, with “a lot of LGBTQ folks,” so it was “very special for me to work during that time because I actually came out to my family when I was working.”
In 2021 on National Coming Out Day, observed each year on Oct. 11, Vice President Kamala Harris arranged a photo with LGBTQ folks serving in the administration (as she has done in subsequent years). “I ended up being dead-center next to her,” Tolliver said, “and I was like, ‘I should probably tell my parents.'”
Tolliver came out as a lesbian to her family, friends, and colleagues just as she began dating her now-fiancée. She said she considers herself lucky, “being able to work in an environment where I just felt open and comfortable and able to be myself so much that I then decided that it was time to come out.”
She and her fiancée were engaged in January, during which time Tolliver was at the DNC, and the couple decided to get married in August of 2024. While it is guaranteed to be a busy time, Tolliver said they wanted to be wed with Biden in office and in New York City, where “we will have a validated marriage” even if same-sex marriage rights are repealed or undermined. “There’s always the possibility that we do not win an election,” Tolliver noted.
The fight is personal. “We all have these very deeply personal reasons to be here and working here,” she said, “whether you’re here because you’re fighting for LGBTQ rights, or because, you know, abortion is something that you care deeply about, or immigration, or whatever the case may be.”
Tolliver contrasted her experiences working for Team Biden — “I feel like half of our wedding is people who I worked with on 2020,” as “campaigns give you these lifelong friendships” — with the casual homophobia she encountered at a bridal shop where she worked while in college.
“I remember not being out and my boss saying, ‘Oh, never hire a lesbian,’ or, ‘I could never hire a gay person because [they’re] gonna see women changing and everything in their bridal gowns,’ and I just remember kind of sinking back into the closet after that,” Tolliver said.
Flores, likewise, has encountered prejudice in previous workplaces and found a supportive home on the Biden campaign, as well as a mentor in Chávez Rodríguez who, like Jones, had broken barriers as the “first Latina campaign manager for a major presidential campaign.”
At the same time, “I don’t talk about my trans identity,” Flores said, “because it’s just too hard,” and instead “the way that I cope, in my life, is to just be exceptional in every other way I can.”
“Being Brown and an immigrant and being a trans woman present so many challenges in my life,” said Flores, who moved to conservative South Texas from Mexico City at age 10. “I’ve struggled a lot, being who I am, and especially when you’re a kid, you know, it’s just impossible.”
In the current political environment, where conservatives have fear mongered about the trans community and passed laws restricting their rights, Flores said the challenges are deeper than, for example, ensuring that youth can maintain access to medically necessary gender affirming healthcare — “it’s having the space to even imagine oneself as that.”
“When a child has no opportunity to imagine themselves as who they really are,” Flores said, “that just breaks my heart and and it’s unacceptable.”
Like many trans women, Flores said she has encountered employment discrimination in the past. “One of the things that, you know, growing up and making the decision, if you can call it that, to transition, is the reality that trans women can’t get jobs,” she said, adding, “it’s something that’s just absolutely real.”
Flores was on the policy research team at FWD.us, an immigration advocacy organization, when she was approached by the Biden campaign. “I knew it would be a tremendously difficult job,” but the primary draw was that “I had the opportunity to contribute to those things getting better and most importantly, in the context that we are in, to not make them worse.”
“The kinds of laws and policies that are being implemented by Republican administrations at the state level and that could potentially come into place at the national level if our opponents win absolutely terrify me,” Flores said. “They could upend my life.”
She continued, “If I was living in some of the states where some of these policies passed, I would have trouble securing care for myself.”
The work, therefore, is “being part of an administration and trying to reelect a president that is fighting to protect those rights – it’s not only an honor, but it’s a responsibility.” In terms of her decision to join the campaign, Flores said, “It’s not even tangential or something that comes to mind, it’s central to why I chose to work here.”
In separate interviews, Flores’s colleagues agreed with her that the hours are “incredibly long,” but “there’s a great culture that we have here and just the fact that we’re all in it together is huge.”
Several also echoed Flores’s statement that “there’s power in the fact that other people can see LGBTQ folks in our presidential campaign” to reelect a candidate who is working to protect and defend the community’s rights.
However, while these spaces have often been restricted for LGBTQ people in general, trans folks have often been wholly excluded from them.
“I’m just generally apprehensive to sound like, ‘oh, everything’s gonna get better,’ when there’s just so much work left to be done, specifically in trans issues and trans representation,” Flores said.
“I just could have very easily not be here. Not have the job. Not be alive. That’s just a possibility for many of us,” she said.
Flores also noted the unprecedented level of hostility directed at the trans community recently. “As hard as it was for me to be who I am and look how I look, there wasn’t this — I mean, there’s always been transphobia, but there wasn’t this sort of pervasive thing that automatically categorize[s] a trans identity as everything that’s horrible with the world,” she said.
‘Full of Lies’ George Santos balloon on the Mall near U.S. Capitol
Activists called for the expulsion of the congressman following a U.S. House Ethics Committee report detailing fraud and misuse of funds
WASHINGTON – Activists from MoveOn Political Action inflated a 15-foot-tall balloon depicting U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) wearing a “full of lies” tie and displayed it on the Mall near the United States Capitol on Tuesday.
Activists called for the expulsion of the congressman following a U.S. House Ethics Committee report detailing fraud and misuse of funds.
Out Assemblymember Evan Low eyes South Bay House seat
Long considered a likely U.S. House candidate once a seat opened up, Low is widely expected to enter the 2024 race to succeed Rep. Anna Eshoo
By Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor | SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. – With the news Tuesday that Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) will retire from the South Bay House seat she has held since 1993, it provides an opportunity to see the first LGBTQ person from the Bay Area be elected to Capitol Hill.
Long considered a likely congressional candidate once a seat opened up, gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) is widely expected to enter the 2024 race to succeed Eshoo. Low, 41, told the Bay Area Reporter that he is interested in running for it but is not yet ready to make an official announcement.
“Any person who follows in her footsteps must commit themselves completely to upholding her incredible legacy. Today, I’m going to celebrate one of our valley’s greatest public servants and a personal mentor to me. There are a lot of people in the community I need to talk to before I make a formal decision,” Low, who has until early December to decide, wrote in a texted reply November 21.
Tuesday morning Eshoo released a video about her decision not to seek reelection next year in order to break the news to her constituents.
“As the first Democrat and first woman to ever represent this distinguished congressional district, no one could ever be prouder than me to carry our Democratic Party values,” Eshoo wrote in an email to her supporters.
Eshoo’s 16th Congressional District spans both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. She had first sought a House seat six years after winning election to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors but fell short in the general election of 1988 to Republican then-Stanford professor Tom Campbell.
When Campbell opted not to run for another term in 1992, and instead mounted an unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid, Eshoo ran again and won. She has long been a champion of LGBTQ issues in Congress and has enjoyed strong support from the LGBTQ community throughout her time in the House.
As the B.A.R.’s online Political Notes column reported last year, Eshoo ran her first TV ads since being elected to Congress for her 2022 candidacy. In it, she touted being an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act, the federal omnibus LGBTQ rights legislation adopted by the House in 2021. (It died when the U.S. Senate failed to vote on it.)
It is believed to be the first time a Bay Area congressmember highlighted their support of the Equality Act in a campaign commercial. In an interview Eshoo had told the B.A.R. she was proud to have that distinction.
“I have always believed there is one class of citizenship in our country and that is first class. So without the movement for equality and fullness of citizenship that can’t happen,” Eshoo had told the B.A.R. “I am very proud of that, so I wanted to highlight the Equality Act.”
Eshoo also had the honor of being the first woman to serve as chair of the Democratic Party in San Mateo County, as she noted in her email to constituents. She also served as a member of the Democratic National Committee.
“I’m so proud of all we’ve achieved together and that the strength of our party rests on a strong foundation of clubs, caucuses, and county committees with our allies in Labor and other valued advocates. Our party continues to be strengthened by our diversity, and I’m confident this will continue because it is who we are,” wrote Eshoo. “As the last year of my service in Congress lies ahead, be assured that I will continue to bring my tenaciousness and unswerving commitment to my work to strengthen our democracy, and our work together for a sweeping Democratic victory for the country we love so much.”
In a statement he released reacting to Eshoo’s news, Low called Eshoo “an icon” and a “personal hero” to him. He also praised her for being a “champion who leads this community with tremendous energy, grace, and grit.”
He added that he is looking forward “to the many ways” the community can honor Eshoo for “her extraordinary service” over the years.
“We are so blessed to have her as our leader, gracefully navigating the complex issues in this valley of high expectations,” stated Low. “Her public service has been noble and selfless, advancing quality healthcare access for all, immigration reform rooted in compassion and humanity, and stringent consumer protections unfettered by special interests.”
As the B.A.R. reported last year, Low moved into the redrawn 26th Assembly District that includes Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and parts of San Jose in order to avoid competing against his colleague Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) for reelection to the state Legislature. Berman had been drawn into Low’s former Assembly District.
Doing so required Low to vacate the 1,100 square foot condo in Campbell that he co-owns with his brother, a San Jose police officer. He moved into the Sunnyvale home of his father and stepmother.
Low grew up in San Jose, and his parents separated when he was 18. He graduated from San Jose State University and went on to win election to the Campbell City Council in 2006.
He was the first Asian American to serve on the governing body. Four years later he became the youngest openly LGBTQ+ mayor in the country at age 26.
He first won election to the state Assembly in 2014. He has strong ties to Silicon Valley’s tech industry, which could benefit him in a House race as a source of support and financial donations to his campaign.
Low would be the second out candidate running next year for an open House seat in the Bay Area. Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., a queer leader within the state’s Vietnamese American community, is seeking to succeed Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who is running for U.S. Senate rather than seek another House term.
Tran is the partner of Nenna Joiner, who owns several sex shops in the East Bay and a downtown Oakland nightlife venue. She is in a tough race to survive the March primary along with fellow Democrats BART board member Lateefah Simon and business owner Tim Sanchez, a U.S. Navy Reserves veteran who served in Afghanistan.
As the B.A.R. first reported in an online story November 17, there are now out House candidates in all three of the West Coast states. The 2024 election could thus see the California congressional delegation’s LGBTQ contingent expand from its current two gay members, while those in Oregon and Washington state could see their first out members.
The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.
Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.
Santos says he expects to be expelled from House
“If you want to expel me, I’ll wear it like a badge of honor,” Santos said. “I’ll be the sixth expelled member of Congress”
ATLANTA, Ga. – Embattled New York Representative George Santos told conservative Christian podcast and radio presenter Monica Matthews that he fully expects to be expelled from the U. S. House, during a live-stream interview on X-Spaces (formerly Twitter) last Friday.
Santos told her, “I know I’m going to get expelled when this expulsion resolution goes to the floor- I can do math.” But the New York Republican, who has publicly stated he will not seek reelection to his seat in 2024, was openly defiant and expressed particular antagonism towards House Ethics Committee Chair Rep. Michael Guest, (R-Miss) who had introduced a resolution to expel Santos prior to the Thanksgiving holiday break.
After telling Matthews he will fight the resolution, telling he’s “not giving up without a fight,” adding, “I will defend myself until the end of time.” Santos went after the Ethics Committee Chair saying, “I think he should be a man and stop being a pussy,” daring Guest to force a vote on the House floor.
Axios political journalist Alexander Solender reported Santos also bashed his fellow Republicans as “felons galore — people with all sorts of shysty backgrounds.”
Then, referring to himself as the “Mary Magdalene” of Congress, referring to the devoted follower of Jesus present at the crucifixion, Solender reported that the openly gay lawmaker characterizing the attitude of his colleagues said to Matthews, who herself is a self-identified committed Christian, “We’re all going to stone this mother fucker because it’s just politically expedient.”
“If you want to expel me, I’ll wear it like a badge of honor,” Santos said. “I’ll be the sixth expelled member of Congress.”
“I’m not leaving,” Santos emphasized. “These people need to understand, it’s done when I say it’s done.”
Solender also reported that if he is kicked out of the House, Santos said he wouldn’t “rule out another run for office.” Though he said it would not be in 2024 and it would not be in New York.
Santos is also dreaming of overseas posts.
“I’d love to be an ambassador one day,” Santos said. “I speak multiple languages, I’m well-traveled, I’m cultured.”
But he admitted getting confirmed by the Senate to become an ambassador would be more than difficult. “We all know there’s no chance in hell” that would happen, Santos conceded.
He said he can “still join the Army.”
Arkansas Governor puts Christian nationalist on state library board
The Arkansas State Library is both an information resource center for state government and a support system for local public libraries
LTTLE ROCK, Ark. – This past Monday Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders appointed Jason Rapert, a Christian nationalist, anti-LGBTQ+ activist and former state senator to the state library board.
The Arkansas State Library is both an information resource center for state government and a support system for local public libraries, according to its website. The state library board oversees the distribution of state and federal funds to public libraries.
Rapert, a former Arkansas state senator and the founder & president of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, has a lengthy record of anti-LGBTQ public statements including earlier this month when he posted a lengthy rant railing against Democrats and the LGBTQ community on X-Twitter:
“The Devil may have won a few political battles in #America on Tuesday, November 7, 2023, but evil will soon be overcome by righteousness when more #Pastors become accountable for leading the congregations they serve to remember faith without works is dead.
Across the country in elections yesterday, the Leftists in our nation through the #DemocratParty outworked the good people in America who work hard, run businesses, and keep America strong. I predict that the voter turnout among church people was abysmally low in areas where abortion butchery won on the ballot, recreational marijuana was passed, and a transgender candidate was elected to a state senate seat.
Pastors must do more to preach the truth of the Bible and urge their congregations to vote according to a Biblical worldview. The future of #America is on the line and Christians are the only block of voters left to #SaveTheNation from the current march to the bottom of the pit of hell being led by the Democrat Party in our nation.
The Democrat Party is behind the antisemitic riots we saw in Washington, D.C. recently. Democrat activists in Congress have openly supported #Hamas terrorists that slaughtered Jewish babies and families on October 7, 2023.
The Democrat Party is behind the radical homosexual movement in our nation that sought the dilution of marriage between one man and one woman. The Democrat Party is behind the radial LGBTQ insanity attacking our children through public libraries and activist teachers that are pushing homosexual pornography on minor children.
The Democrat Party LGBTQ activists are behind the efforts to takeover church denominations and tear them apart as they have done with the Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, and other mainline traditional churches that have been hijacked by homosexuals. They have turned many once faithful houses of worship into apostate churches.
The Democrat Party through Obama and his army of leftist revolutionaries are behind election rigging in urban areas. Many have reported voting irregularities and some have been verified with convictions though many election tampering incidents are covered up by local politicians, prosecutors and judges who are complicit in the fraud.
The Democrat Party is behind the rise in atheists and satanism in our country. Statistics prove this. You cannot be a sincere Bible believing Christian and vote for candidates who advocate the Democrat Party beliefs and policies. So who is responsible for telling Christians the truth? Who is responsible for the decline of our society? Who is best positioned to inspire Christians to take action and help #SaveTheNation?
I submit to all the Christians in America that pastors leading our churches are supposed to be the shepherds of their flock. The Bible teaches this. If you attend a church and your pastor fails to encourage you to fulfill your duty to vote, or fails to educate and inform you about the decline of faith in America, the sin of abortion, the sin of homosexuality, the reality of heaven and hell, the dangers of radical Islam, the sin of adultery, the danger of Marxist ideology which is joined at the hip with atheism, salvation through grace and faith in Jesus Christ, and the overall truth of the Bible – replace the pastor or get out!
We are at a crossroads in America. There is no more time to waste. We need a modern day #AppealToHeaven to save our once great nation. If we continue to slaughter babies, idolize the profane, promote sinful homosexual lifestyles, abandon our support for Israel, and reject God – America will fail and cease to exist as we have known it. “
Rapert served in the state Senate from 2011 to January of this year. He did not run for reelection in 2022 and instead unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor but was defeated in the primary.
Rapert credits his National Association of Christian Lawmakers for pushing an extremist measure that prohibits trans Arkansans from using a bathroom matching their gender identity in the state’s K-12 public school facilities. Governor Sanders signed the bill into law last March. After Sanders signed the measure Rapert said:
“We are fighting for the lives of little babies. We are fighting against the people that are putting the queer books into your school libraries and trying to groom these children into homosexuality. We’re standing up. We’re pursuing school board policies to save the nation. We are standing up and have our members running bills in the halls of the state legislatures to stand up against this woke ideology, to push back against the things of the devil in our country.”
KUAR, the NPR local affiliate in Little Rock, reported Rapert is joining the seven-member board while the state is being sued over a law that would alter Arkansas libraries’ processes for reconsidering material and create criminal liability for librarians who distribute content that some consider “obscene” or “harmful to minors.” A federal judge temporarily blocked portions of Act 372 of 2023 in July before it went into effect.
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