WASHINGTON – On the eve of the anniversary of his first year in office, President Joe Biden suffered a major set-back Wednesday as Senate Republicans joined by conservative West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin along with fellow Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, blocked efforts by their party to change filibuster rules in order to pass critical voting rights legislation.
The 52-48 vote defeating changing Senate rules was followed by sustained applause from the Republican side of the Senate chamber. The vote was preceded by an effort to break a GOP filibuster on voting legislation that combines key provisions of two bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
That effort failed by a vote of 49-51. New York Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed his vote to “no” before the vote was gaveled so that he can offer a motion to reconsider the vote.
In a show of support for voting rights and changing Senate rules, House members in the Congressional Black Caucus marched to the Senate, warning that no matter what happens, they won’t stop fighting to pass it, CNN reported.
“We want the Senate to act today in a favorable way, but if they don’t, we ain’t giving up. I am too young to give up,” Rep. Jim Clyburn, (D-SC) the No. 3 Democrat in the House, told CNN.
In separate statements released after the vote by the White House, President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris weighed in.
“At the core of our democracy is a basic principle: the right to vote, and to have that vote counted. That principle was assaulted one year ago, when a violent mob attempted a coup seeking to overturn the will of the people. And today, in state after state, Republican state legislatures are engaged in an unprecedented effort to suppress the sacred right to vote and subvert the American bedrock of free and fair elections,” Biden said.
“In the face of those threats, I am profoundly disappointed that the United States Senate has failed to stand up for our democracy. I am disappointed — but I am not deterred,” he added.
“My Administration will never stop fighting to ensure that the heart and soul of our democracy — the right to vote — is protected at all costs. We will continue to work with allies to advance necessary legislation to protect the right to vote. And to push for Senate procedural changes that will protect the fundamental right to vote.” the president stressed.
“As dangerous new Republican laws plainly designed to suppress and subvert voting rights proliferate in states across the country, we will explore every measure and use every tool at our disposal to stand up for democracy. The Vice President will continue to lead this effort, as she has for the past year,” the statement concluded.
In her statement, Vice President Kamala Harris speaking about the Senate Vote said;
“Every member of the United States Senate—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—takes an oath to preserve and protect our Constitution. It is their duty to safeguard our democracy and secure the freedom to vote. Yet today, Senators voted to preserve an arcane Senate procedure rather than secure that fundamental freedom. The American people will not forget this moment. Neither will history.
“Across our nation, anti-voter laws could make it more difficult for as many as 55 million Americans to vote, and will be felt by every American.
“Our Administration will continue to fight to pass federal legislation to secure the right to vote. We will not stop fighting against the anti-voter legislation that Republican legislatures continue to push at the state level—and to champion and support state and local elected officials who work to enact pro-voter legislation. We will work to ensure Americans everywhere can register to vote, cast their vote, and have their vote counted in a free and fair election.
Generations of Americans have fought to strengthen and expand the freedom to vote. While victory was never assured and almost always preceded by setback, ultimately, We the People have prevailed. We will again.”
Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen released a statement saying;
“This is a sad and tragic day for America. As a result of lock-step opposition to basic measures to safeguard our democracy and the refusal of Sens. Sinema and Manchin to agree to rules reform to win passage of legislation that they support, America now faces a frightening future.
“Republicans across the country are engaged in a concerted effort to make it harder for people of color to vote. Extreme partisan and racial gerrymandering is stripping voters of meaningful influence. And proto-fascist forces motivated by Trump’s Big Lie are actively organizing to subvert elections in 2022 and 2024 – aiming to override actual results with predetermined outcomes.
“Though the Senate’s failure to pass Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act makes the challenge of protecting our democracy exponentially greater, we cannot – and will not — accept this as our fate.”
Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, released the following statement on voting rights:
“The right of candidates to compete in fair and democratic election processes is fundamental to our mission to increase the number of LGBTQ elected officials and ensure they reflect the diversity of those they serve. Voter suppression efforts deny voters the equal opportunity to elect their representatives and are a direct challenge to Victory Fund’s efforts to advance equality through representation. These laws disproportionately impact LGBTQ people of color and voters in urban areas where LGBTQ people are concentrated. The increasingly strict voter ID laws create unnecessary and sometimes insurmountable obstacles for transgender and nonbinary people attempting to access the ballot box.
“Our Victory Fund Campaign Board – made up of more than 150 political leaders and advocates from across the country – votes to determine who Victory Fund endorses. Senator Kyrsten Sinema is not currently endorsed and if she runs for reelection, her record and actions on the advancement of legislation impacting the equality of LGBTQ people will be a primary consideration for whether she receives our endorsement. That board vote would take place in 2024.”
Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund said in a statement:
“The failure to enact the Freedom to Vote, John R. Lewis Act is a profound blow to our Democracy. The inability to ensure voting rights for Black and Brown people and other vulnerable groups like LGBTQ people lays at the feet of those who voted “nay.” These are the votes of political extremists, whose fear of losing power has become a justification for carving out LGBTQ+ folks, People of Color, women, poor people and other already marginalized groups from the political process.
Senators who voted for the right of all to participate in our Democratic process have our appreciation. To the rest – shame on you. Nineteen states have passed 34 laws that undermine voting rights, rights that are the threshold of our democratic values and civic responsibility – the very heartbeat of our Democracy. We pledge to do all in our power to Queer the Vote in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond, and we will continue to advocate to restore voting rights to all our nation’s people.”
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‘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.
Meet the LGBTQ staff working on Biden’s re-election campaign
This is the first in a three-part series profiling senior LGBTQ staff working on President Biden’s re-election campaign
Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series profiling senior LGBTQ staff working on President Biden’s re-election campaign. Part two will be published next week.
WILMINGTON, Del. -The Biden-Harris administration has made history with the number and seniority of its LGBTQ appointees — a fact that is perhaps almost as familiar as the faces of America’s first openly gay Cabinet-level official, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, or Karine Jean-Pierre, who is both the first Black woman and lesbian White House press secretary.
Queer people are also helping to lead the largely behind-the-scenes, grueling reelection effort, and last week the Washington Blade spoke with five of them at the campaign’s headquarters in Wilmington, Del., and another remotely over Zoom.
The campaign’s spokesperson Kevin Munoz and finance chair Rufus Gifford, both gay men, view next year’s election and its stakes for LGBTQ Americans, for all Americans, as existentially important.
So, too, do the staff who will be profiled in Parts 2 and 3 of this series: Sergio Gonzales, senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris; Rubi Flores, special assistant to campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez; Becca Siegel, senior adviser to the campaign; and Teresa Tolliver, director of operations for the campaign.
Each brings diversity with respect to both identity and experience to their roles.
“I entered politics as someone that had worked in advertising,” Munoz told the Blade.
Joining the Biden for President campaign in 2019 as the Nevada press secretary without much experience liaising with reporters or drafting press releases, Munoz said he promised to “work like the Dickens on the things that I [didn’t] know enough about.”
After joining team Biden in Las Vegas, he would go on to serve as an assistant White House press secretary, working on critically important matters, including the administration’s response to COVID and other public health crises, before joining the campaign last March.
Throughout, Munoz said, “There’s never been an environment in which I haven’t felt really comfortable to be myself and really able to use my background, as someone from Florida, as a Latino, as a gay man, to my advantage and to be able to speak about issues that uniquely impact me or people like me.”
“When I was at the White House,” he said, “I had the opportunity to work on LGBT issues as it relates to health care,” including with the emergence of mpox, which “was uniquely impacting” gay men.
Munoz remembers that as the National Security Council — which is responsible for handling outbreaks of disease at their early outset — held a briefing, “I said to some colleagues and the powers that be, this guy is going to be the guy that is able to talk candidly and be credible and trusted, and also talk about all the wonky public health things all at once.’”
He was referring to Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, who was director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before the White House named him deputy coordinator of the national mpox response in 2022 — a move that, Munoz said, demonstrated that the administration “understands the need to have LGBTQ people at the table and really leading the response on something like this.”
Munoz is also from Florida. In March, “We had to lead the response when ‘Don’t Say Gay’ was just becoming an issue,” he said, during which time the bill was signed into law by the state’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, now a presidential candidate.
“I remember being with Jen [Psaki], in the Press Secretary’s office, when this was coming out and we started talking about this early on, about how this is an issue of freedom,” he said. “They want to tell you who you can be.”
The controversial law prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in Florida’s public schools, potentially penalizing teachers who might, for example, display a photo of their same-sex spouse on their desk.
In the campaign, Munoz said his experience in advertising became an asset, too. With the challenges stemming from the fragmented media environment, where voters get their information from places like Snapchat and WhatsApp, Munoz said, “I’m very grateful to have come from a background where I was doing message testing and ad testing and ad recall.”
“We need to build a bench of different places that we can go and tap into, to talk about Joe Biden’s message” and “how he’s delivering,” he said, so there is a built-in advantage because “I’m not starting from ground zero.”
“When your life is on the line, you’re gonna fight like your life is on the line,” he said, noting how, leading into next year’s elections, “virtually every state attorney general in Republican states is attacking trans Americans.”
The importance of centering voices whom voters can trust and identify with extends to outreach to LGBTQ voters, too, Munoz said, noting that the community constitutes “a huge voting bloc in our battleground states.”
From the campaign’s perspective, this means continuous year-round outreach to Black communities, younger people, the LGBTQ community, and other stakeholders, he said, adding that “when we start to do more coalition specific work directly from the campaign as the general election is built out,” this will likely mean a revival of the 2020 Out for Biden campaign.
Likewise, speaking with the Blade by Zoom from his home in Boston, Gifford said that “a critically important part of the Biden Harris victory next year is engaging the LGBT community across the board.”
“Not only are we going to be an extremely important fundraising piece of this puzzle,” he said, “but look: These states, I mean, if you think about the margins in ’20 — 10,000 votes, 20,000 votes in some of these states — the LGBT community can flip a state.”
A large part of Gifford’s work, both now and in previous roles, involves dealing with people. “I’m very out and I’m very proud,” he said. “I will never lie about who I am,” he said.
Gifford said he has been out for 30 years, during which time he worked on a total of five presidential campaigns, beginning with John Kerry’s in 2004 and then Barack Obama’s in 2008 and 2012, and then Joe Biden’s in 2020 and, now, 2024.
From 2013 to 2017, he served as U.S. ambassador to Denmark, and then from 2022 to the start of his work on the campaign this year, he was chief of protocol of the U.S., an officer position with the rank of ambassador and assistant secretary of state.
“I worked for Barack Obama for 10 years,” Gifford said, but the Biden-Harris administration “is the most pro-LGBT administration in the history of the United States of America.”
“I think being gay is inherently political — I mean, it has to be,” he said. “You know, people have politicized our lives. People have politicized our love lives; they’ve politicized our sex lives; they’ve politicized everything about us.”
Gifford was a young man when the U.S. Senate rejected Jim Hormel’s nomination by President Clinton to be U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, before he went on to serve in that role as a recess appointment.
At the time, he said the ordeal foreclosed, in his mind, the possibility of following in Hormel’s footsteps.
After his unanimous Senate confirmation to serve as ambassador to Denmark, as “one of the first openly gay ambassadors appointed” to serve in “a very progressive country,” Gifford said, “I was shocked by how much people cared” about the significance of his being an out gay man.
“It was just a couple years before I showed up in Copenhagen, that the Bush administration was pushing a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality,” he said. “And there was the American ambassador getting married to his husband at the U.S. ambassador’s residence literally just a few years later.”
As chief of protocol with the State Department, Gifford said that in many cases, “I was the guy at the bottom of the staircase, greeting, at Andrews Air Force Base, the leader of a country that criminalized homosexuality.”
This was part of the job, he said, “whether I agree with them or not, or whether Joe Biden agrees with them or not — but I was doing it as an openly gay man,” a fact about which these foreign leaders, all of whom “well briefed and well-staffed” were certainly aware.
“Politics is about choices,” Gifford said. “And for our community, to look at the choices, it’s just so damn clear.”
The stakes, again, are very real. “Mike Johnson, the new Speaker of the House, introduced a federal ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” he noted. “You don’t think Donald Trump would sign that bill in a second if they could get that through the Senate and the House? This is what we’re up against. This is what we’re dealing with.”
Johnson’s ministry board doubt evolution, oppose LGBTQ rights
“He may try to pass himself off as unassuming, but the board of his nonprofit is off the deep-end on issues from abortion to evolution”
WASHINGTON — More evidence of House Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) close ties to the far-right fringes of evangelical conservatism has surfaced with a closer look at the board of directors of his ministry, Onward Christian Education Services.
Research compiled by Accountable.US and shared exclusively with the Washington Blade reveals that a judge and minister who have known Johnson for years and are serving as two of the four members of his organization’s board have espoused, endorsed, or been linked to extreme views about LGBTQ people, women, and the scientific consensus on evolution.
Additionally, the judge — Chris Victory of the Caddo Parish Court, which is the First Judicial District Court of Louisiana — has a controversial record on the bench with respect to cases involving use of force by law enforcement.
Spokespeople for Johnson did not immediately return a request for comment.
Accountable.US had provided the research that led to a report by Politico on Wednesday highlighting Johnson’s close ties to Ray Comfort, a minister who argued that mpox (formerly “monkeypox”) was God’s comeuppance for homosexuality. The speaker has served on the board of Comfort’s Christian publishing company for more than a decade.
The board treasurer of Johnson’s ministry, Victory’s candidacy for the judgeship was endorsed by Johnson in 2020, including with an Instagram post touting their four-year friendship.
As an attorney in 2016, Victory represented Johnson, who was then a state legislator, in a lawsuit against Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) over protections for LGBTQ government workers that the plaintiffs claimed were a “play” and overreach.
Last year, as reported by The Root, Victory acquitted four Louisiana police officers who were charged with negligent homicide over the death of Tommie McGlothen, a Black man in their custody who had a history of mental health issues.
The Department told his family that he had suffered a heart attack, but body cam footage revealed the officers had tased and beaten McGlothen, who “also had a broken nose, broken jaw, and the entire right side of his face was swollen.”
Two months later, prosecutors sought Victory’s recusal from another criminal case against a sheriff’s deputy, claiming he “is biased, prejudiced and/or personally interested in favor of law enforcement to such an extent that he would be unable to conduct a fair and impartial trial.”
Victory was then a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, which prosecutors said he had failed to disclose. The sheriff’s deputy was the 13th officer facing criminal charges who had opted for a bench trial with Victory over a jury trial.
Gevan Spinney, president of the board of Onward Christian Education Services, senior pastor of First Baptist Haughton, and former president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, appears to have had a close personal relationship with Johnson for at least eight years.
In 2016, the Louisiana Baptist Convention under Spinney’s leadership published a resolution “Against The Sexual Politics Of Transgenderism,” contained within its Annual Report that also argues, “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”
Two years later, Spinney published an Instagram post that appeared to reject or cast doubt upon the scientific consensus on evolution.
“He may try to pass himself off as unassuming, but the board of his nonprofit is off the deep-end on issues from abortion to evolution,” Accountable.US executive director Tony Carrk told the Blade. “It’s no surprise he feels at home leading the MAGA majority.”
Activists demand Congress ends anti-trans policies at Capitol rally
“Our trans siblings deserve freedom, dignity, and access to care,” a statement released by rally organizers says
WASHINGTON – About 60 people turned out Wednesday night, Nov. 15, on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol for a Trans Justice Rally in which participants demanded that Congress enact transgender supportive policies rather than propose, as some Republican lawmakers have, banning health care services for trans youth.
The event was organized by the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, the ACLU, and other supportive organizations and activists.
LaLa B. Zannell, a trans activist and an official with the ACLU of New York who served as moderator at the rally, said the health and safety of the transgender community was being threatened by proposed state and federal legislation restricting and, in some cases, imposing criminal penalties against doctors and other healthcare providers who provide gender-related medical services for both teenage and adult trans people.
Zannell called on those attending the rally to shout out several messages to lawmakers at the Capitol, including members of the U.S. Senate, which was in session at the time of the rally.
“What do we want?” she shouted. “Medical liberation!” rally participants shouted back repeatedly.
Among those speaking at the rally was Anne Merica, who identified herself as the proud mother of her teenage transgender son, Matteo, who stood next to his mother and said he is a senior at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. Merica said she was hopeful that lawmakers would end efforts to pass legislation hostile to trans people like her son and will instead provide support for the trans community.
“Congress needs to do its job to protect our kids,” she said.
Diego Sanchez, National Director of Advocacy, Policy & Partnerships for the national LGBTQ parents organization PFLAG, told the rally he too was hopeful that members of Congress will support rather than act against the health and well-being of transgender people. Sanchez was among the first transgender people to come out as trans while working as a congressional staff person. He worked for more than 10 years on the staff of gay former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Others who spoke at the rally included Pony Knowles, director of National Campaigns for the ACLU and Allen Morris, policy director at the National LGBTQ Task Force.
“Our trans siblings deserve freedom, dignity, and access to care,” a statement released by rally organizers says. “Over 90,000 trans people are losing health care many trans people need,” the statement says. “Others sneak bans on essential care into the federal budgets that our tax dollars pay for!” it says.
“We must come together to make sure that every member of Congress hears our voices,” the statement concludes. “We stand united to protect healthcare for trans people everywhere.”
Senate approves stopgap funding bill In 87-11 vote
House conservatives, led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the Freedom Caucus, did not get the steep spending cuts they wanted
WASHINGTON – In a late evening vote Wednesday, the U.S. Senate approved a House stopgap funding measure to prevent a Federal shutdown on Friday. The bipartisan vote was 87-11, with 10 Republicans and one Democrat — Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) — voting in opposition.
“Because of bipartisan cooperation, we are keeping the government open without any poison pills or harmful cuts to vital programs — a great outcome for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters before the vote.
The Hill reported Senate and House conservatives pledged they would do everything in their power to avoid having to consider another omnibus spending package right before Christmas and New Year’s, something that has become a Washington tradition.
House Speaker Mike Johnson’s two-step continuing resolution, which he unveiled last weekend, would do that by funding two tranches of government programs until Jan. 19 and Feb. 2.
As a result, lawmakers won’t face the usual end-of-year brinkmanship and the threat of a government shutdown right before the Christmas recess.
But House conservatives, led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the Freedom Caucus, did not get the steep spending cuts they wanted attached to the stopgap measure, which would freeze government funding at current levels for two more months.
The bill would extend funding at current levels for some agencies and programs until Jan. 19 and all others through Feb. 2. It would also extend the authorization of programs and authorities in the farm bill until Sept. 30.
The funding bill next heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his expected signature.
87–11: Senate approves House-passed stopgap funding measure.— CSPAN (@cspan) November 16, 2023
The bill now heads to President Biden for his signature ahead of the Friday midnight deadline to avert a government shutdown. https://t.co/QNIroKXvfY pic.twitter.com/uRs8gstQoV
‘Mpox is penalty for being gay’ Johnson associated publisher says
“The more we learn about Mike Johnson, the clearer his history of far-right fanaticism comes into view,” Accountable.US researcher points out
WASHINGTON – Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson (La.) serves on the board of a Christian publishing house that called mpox, formerly known as monkeypox, an “an inevitable and appropriate penalty” for being gay.
A spokesperson for the fundamentalist Christian congressman said does not agree with the statements, which were spoken by Living Waters Publications founder and CEO Ray Comfort during a podcast last year.
“Speaker Johnson joined the board of Living Waters years ago in support of its mission of spreading Christian gospel,” the spokesperson said, adding that the speaker had not seen and was not aware of the remarks about mpox.
Still, Johnson’s tenure on the board, for over a decade — first reported on Wednesday by Politico — comes amid intense scrutiny of his extreme, far-right, anti-LGBTQ views.
For example, shortly after he was elected speaker, CNN revealed Johnson had authored editorials in defense of criminalizing gay sex between consenting adults.
He has also maintained a close personal relationship with Comfort. “I am such a big fan of your ministry and of you, and I cannot overstate what a profound influence you’ve been in my life and my walk with Christ and so many other people that I know and I’m just really grateful for all that you do and the team at Living Waters,” Johnson told him during a recent interview.
Politico learned of the speaker’s affiliation with Living Waters through a progressive research firm called Accountable.US, whose executive director Tony Carrk told the Washington Blade, “The more we learn about Mike Johnson, the clearer his history of far-right fanaticism comes into view.”
In response to the news, Democratic National Committee National Press Secretary Sarafina Chitika shared a statement with the Blade:
“Birds of a feather flock together, and it’s no coincidence that MAGA extremist Mike Johnson, who just endorsed Donald Trump for president, sits on the board of an organization that called mpox ‘an inevitable and appropriate penalty’ for being gay.
“His attacks on the LGBTQ community, from saying gay marriage would lead to ‘sexual anarchy,’ including pedophilia and bestiality, to railing against ‘the homosexual agenda’ and calling the LGBTQ+ community ‘destructive’ and ‘dangerous’ are shameful and downright threatening.
“Johnson’s speakership shows once and for all that far-right extremism has taken over the GOP – Republicans up and down the ticket will be forced to answer for Johnson’s hateful rhetoric in 2024.”
Mondaire Jones, who is currently running to retake his seat representing New York’s 17th Congressional District in the House from Republican Mike Lawler, who is broadly considered among the most vulnerable GOP members, has highlighted his opponent’s vote for Johnson –arguing that his constituents are opposed to the speaker’s far-right fanaticism.
Mondaire Jones ready to fight anti-LGBTQ extremism
Next year, Jones is looking to reclaim the House seat that he held from 2021 to 2023 before “unusual redistricting events” cost him
SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. — “The state of the race here” for New York’s 17th congressional district “is good for those of us who want to safeguard democracy and protect LGBTQ+ rights,” Mondaire Jones told the Washington Blade by phone on Monday.
Next year, Jones is looking to reclaim the House seat that he held from 2021 to 2023 before “unusual redistricting events” cost him the Democratic nomination and “lifelong political hack” GOP U.S. Rep. Mike Lawler eked out a victory by just 1,820 votes.
Confident in the state of his campaign looking ahead to the elections, having just out-raised Lawler along with all of his Democratic opponents, combined, in Q3, Jones is focused on the stakes:
“If you believe, as many people do, that with Joe Manchin’s retirement we are likely to lose the Senate,” began Jones, referring to the dimmed chances of Democrats retaining control of the upper chamber following the West Virginia senator’s announcement of plans not to run in 2024.
“And if you believe most of the polling in the presidential race, which has shown Donald Trump well positioned to take back the White House,” he continued, “I am the only person standing in the way of Mike Lawler” and Republican allies “passing a national abortion ban, gutting Social Security and Medicare, rolling back LGBTQ+ rights, raising the price of prescription drugs, and exacerbating the uniquely American problem of mass shootings.”
“There are people in Congress and on television who say things like, ‘if Joe Biden doesn’t change his position on Israel, then the young people and people of color are not going to vote for him’ — rather than [talking] about how irrational that is” or highlighting the Biden-Harris administration’s work on behalf of young people, from student loan forgiveness to the child tax credit and the largest climate action ever undertaken via the Inflation Reduction Act, Jones said.
And if reelected, he noted, Trump has promised to reinstate the Muslim ban imposed during his administration. (In fact, the former president pledged to expand it to include barring resettlement of refugees from Gaza.)
Another example of the disservice done to voters: During a speech on Veterans Day, “Donald Trump just referred to his political opponents as vermin, which is an invocation of the sinister rhetoric used by people like Adolf Hitler to demonize an entire race of people,” Jones said.
“The fact that the New York Times treated like a mere divergence from the speeches Donald Trump typically gives as opposed to the more sinister harbinger of a fascist and an anti-Semite and a racist who has promised to weaponize government against groups of people who he does not like is really a failure of the New York Times to get this moment; to understand this moment in American history.”
Jones also bristles at how the media have sometimes characterized certain congressional Republicans as moderates, citing, for instance, the entire conference’s support for their new Speaker, U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (La.), despite his extreme views.
“I am concerned because the media have given a platform to the small handful of House Republicans who even purport to be moderate,” he said. “Their treatment of these people who masquerade as moderates despite voting like extreme MAGA Republicans will give the impression to people that they are not part of the problem in the way that Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene are,” Jones said, referring to the far-right firebrand GOP U.S. representatives from Florida and Georgia.
These Republican members include Lawler, who “did not have to vote with the extreme MAGA Republicans,” Jones said, but chose not to separate himself from the far-right faction of his caucus “on issue after issue,” which is “because he himself is an extremist.”
For instance, he said, Lawler has “trafficked in climate denialism” and “mocked women and our Orthodox communities here in the lower Hudson Valley” while voting “to overturn a gun regulation intended to keep us safe from mass shootings” and for an abortion ban “without exception for rape or incest.”
All to defend a seat in Congress in a district where Donald Trump was rejected by 10 points, Jones noted.
“People here in the 17th district want to protect a woman’s right to an abortion,” he said. “They want to protect LGBTQ+ rights and ban assault weapons so that kids can stop getting gunned down in schools throughout the country.”
Jones continued, “Mike Lawler opposes these things. He also wants to cut Social Security and Medicare and raise the cost of prescription drugs as evidenced by the fact that he has been working to unravel the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.”
Running on his record
“When I was elected in 2020, I was elected as the first person of color to ever represent this district and the first member of the LGBTQ+ community to represent this district,” Jones said.
In Congress, he was named the most legislatively active freshman legislator by a landslide.
“I’ve got a record of actually delivering for this district,” Jones said. “I brought hundreds of millions of dollars for schools, housing, and health care in the lower Hudson Valley. I negotiated passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law. And it was my bill with [U.S. Rep.] Jerry Nadler [D-N.Y.] called the Respect for Marriage Act that has made strides in safeguarding marriage equality for so many LGBTQ+ Americans around the country, even if the Supreme Court were to go back on its precedent.”
He added, “I have a track record of being an effective legislator, and people want me back.”
“I have great respect for the members of the Equality Caucus and the LGBTQ+ members in both chambers of Congress,” Jones said. “I will say that it is apparent to both me and, I think, to many people who have compared last term with this term, that my voice is missing in a significant way with respect to matters concerning the LGBTQ community.”
Among other matters, he said, this would include “of course, the Supreme Court, healthcare, healthcare equity,” – including access to PrEP medication regardless of one’s ability to pay for it – “ and justice.”
“Even the conversation around student debt cancellation is one that I described as an issue of LGBTQ justice to the president in the Roosevelt Room in the spring of 2022 when I was conveying to him the importance of canceling student debt by executive order.”
Additionally, Jones said, “When I look at what’s happened, when I look at what’s happening abroad, in certain parts of Africa, with respect to the criminalization of queer people, that is something that I would be leading on right now as the nation’s first openly gay Black member of Congress.”
“I don’t see anyone leading on that or on the Supreme Court,” said Jones, a lawyer who has worked at the Justice Department, the multinational law firm Davis Polk, and as a clerk for a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. “It makes me sad,” he said, “but I also know that is the reason why I need to fight like hell to get back in Congress and continue the work that I started last term.”
The High Court “is itself something that poses an existential threat to the lives and livelihoods of the LGBTQ+ community,” Jones said.
To remedy the problem, Jones supports court expansion – a move he proposed in legislation with Nadler and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) during the last term. It could be “a critical step to protecting basic freedoms for the LGBTQ+ community not to be discriminated against by business owners, as well as protecting the right of women to exercise their own healthcare rights, whether it is abortion or any other healthcare decision that they want to make.”
The Supreme Court has also imperiled American democracy, Jones said, referencing the 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which “opened the floodgates to the hundreds of racist voter suppression bills that we have seen introduced in dozens of states around the country — and that, in many of those states, have become law.”
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