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LA County native Leondra Kruger may be nominee for U.S. Supreme Court

If nominated and confirmed, Kruger would be not only the first Black woman on the court, but also the youngest justice

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Leondra R. Kruger, (R) keynote speaker at Tom Homann LGBT Law Association meeting 2019 (Photo credit: THLA)

By Amy Howe | WASHINGTON – During a 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate, then-candidate Joe Biden pledged that, if elected, he would nominate a Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. With Justice Stephen Breyer expected to retire at the end of this term, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger is one of the frontrunners to succeed him.

If nominated and confirmed, Kruger – who is just 45 years old – would be not only the first Black woman on the court, but also the youngest justice by over four years and the youngest justice confirmed since Clarence Thomas joined the court in 1991 at age 43. Despite her relative youth, Kruger would bring substantial experience at the high court, with 12 Supreme Court arguments under her belt, as well as a seven-year record on the California Supreme Court that resembles the record of the justice she would replace.

Early life and career

A native of southern California, Kruger is the daughter of two physicians. Her mother hails from Jamaica, while her late father was the son of Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe. Kruger attended the prestigious Polytechnic School, a private prep school in Pasadena, California, whose other alumni include Julia Child and James Ho, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit who was on former President Donald Trump’s short list to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.

After graduating from Polytechnic, Kruger compiled the kind of sterling resume the public has come to expect from Supreme Court nominees. She graduated with honors from Harvard University, where she was a reporter for the Harvard Crimson. Kruger covered a wide range of stories, including a hearing on Cambridge’s affirmative-action policy, the 1994 Senate race between the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and Mitt Romney, and a travel guide to her hometown of Pasadena that humorously dismissed East Coast stereotypes about catastrophes in California (“Earthquakes! Fires! Mudslides! Riots!”) as “only jealousy.”

After Harvard, Kruger went to Yale Law School, where she was the editor in chief of the Yale Law Journal – the first Black woman to hold that job. During law school, Kruger spent one summer as an intern for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles and a second summer as a summer associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson. After graduating from Yale in 2001, she spent a year working as an associate at Jenner & Block in Washington, D.C., before going to clerk for Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 2002 to 2003. Kruger went from the D.C. Circuit to the Supreme Court, where she clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens during the 2003-04 term.

When Kruger finished her clerkships, she went into private practice at a third firm, now known as WilmerHale. During her two years there, her clients included Shell Oil, which Kruger represented in an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit involving a half-billion-dollar judgment in a Nicaraguan court against Shell and others, as well as Verizon Communications, which Kruger represented in federal district court in California in litigation challenging the participation by telecommunications companies in the government’s domestic-terrorist surveillance program. Kruger left WilmerHale for the University of Chicago Law School, where she taught a class in transnational litigation as a visiting assistant professor.

A stint in the Obama administration, including arguments at the Supreme Court

Kruger returned to Washington in 2007 to take a job as an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general. She served in that role for several years, until she was named the acting principal deputy solicitor general. The lawyer who holds that job, which is sometimes known as the “political deputy,” is normally the only deputy in the solicitor general’s office who is not a career civil servant (and the only other political appointee, beyond the solicitor general, in the office).

During her six years in the solicitor general’s office, Kruger argued 12 cases at the Supreme Court on behalf of the federal government. One of those cases was a high-profile dispute involving whether the “ministerial exception” to employment-discrimination laws – the idea that religious institutions normally have the sole right to determine who can act as their ministers – barred a lawsuit by a teacher and ordained minister who had been fired by the Lutheran school where she worked. Kruger argued that the teacher should be able to pursue her lawsuit against the school for alleged discrimination on the basis of disability. The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, unanimously rejected that position and held that the ministerial exception applied.

The other cases Kruger argued touched on a wide range of issues, from the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause and right to counsel to federal “career criminal” laws and federal benefits laws. At the lectern, Kruger’s tone with the justices was conversational from the start, with a quiet confidence. She was poised even when she was being peppered with questions from all sides of the bench, as she was in defending an ultimately unsuccessful position in her first argument, in Begay v. United States.

Kruger left the solicitor general’s office in 2013 to serve as a deputy assistant attorney general in another section of the Department of Justice: the Office of Legal Counsel, which (among other things) provides legal advice to the president and other agencies within the executive branch. As Rory Little observed, that office has “yielded an unusual share of prominent federal judges and Justices over the past half century,” including the late Justice Antonin Scalia and the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

During her time in the Department of Justice, Kruger twice received the attorney general’s award for exceptional service, the department’s “highest award for employee performance.” Both awards give a glimpse into her work at DOJ beyond the courtroom. In 2013, she was part of a team that won the award for its work in defending the Affordable Care Act, while in 2014 she was a member of a group that won the award for its work implementing the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

An “out of the box” pick for the California Supreme Court

In 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown nominated Kruger, then just 38 years old, to serve on the California Supreme Court when Associate Justice Joyce Kennard retired. Kruger’s former bosses in the solicitor general’s office praised her selection, with then-Solicitor General Don Verrilli describing her as “brilliant, deeply principled and eloquent” and former Solicitor General Paul Clement calling her an “outstanding lawyer” who “combines an understated and easygoing manner with a keen legal mind and unquestioned integrity.” Former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal echoed those thoughts, saying that “California, and the nation, could do no better than Leondra Kruger.”

But despite those accolades from Washington, Kruger’s nomination was not greeted with unbridled enthusiasm within California because Kruger was not a practicing lawyer in the state, was not a judge, and lacked trial experience. However, Kruger was rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the California state bar group responsible for evaluating judicial nominees, and in December 2014 she was confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, a three-member body that holds a hearing to consider and decide whether to confirm nominees to the state’s highest courts. The commission’s members included Kamala Harris, then the state’s attorney general and now the vice president of the United States. Kruger was sworn into office in January 2015, becoming only the second Black woman to serve on the California Supreme Court.

Lawyers who practice regularly before that court describe Kruger in terms that are not unlike those used to characterize Breyer. In a November 2020 story for The Recorder, appellate lawyer Ben Feuer indicated that Kruger was “not looking to create radical change in the law emanating from the judicial branch.” “Rather,” Feuer continued, she understands the limited yet critical role the judicial branch plays in the complex ballet of our representative democracy.”

In a 2018 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kruger herself said that she tries to do her job “in a way that enhances the predictability and stability of the law and public confidence and trust in the work of the courts.” Many of the published decisions that Kruger has written or joined while on the California Supreme Court have been unanimous rulings, with largely (although not uniformly) liberal-leaning results.

Upholding rights of the accused, from juvenile court to death-penalty cases

Kruger wrote for a unanimous court in April 2018 in a decision holding that videotaped statements by a three-year-old who claimed that she had been sexually molested by her father should not have been used as the basis to find that the child had been abused, which in turn led to an order for the father’s removal from the family’s home. Kruger acknowledged that juvenile courts have a “sensitive and difficult task” in such cases. However, she continued, the evidence in this case of the child’s reliability was “weaker than the juvenile court acknowledged.” The juvenile court failed to take into account that the child had also recently been molested by an older child, and that “[h]er repeated statements about abuse were strikingly similar to descriptions of that” incident. Moreover, Kruger added, “the child’s account contained both inconsistencies and inaccuracies that were woven through her core allegations.”

California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger
Photo: State of California

With automatic appeals to the California Supreme Court, death penalty cases are a staple of the court’s docket. However, California has not executed anyone since 2006, and in 2019 the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, imposed an official moratorium on executions. In 2019, Kruger wrote for a unanimous court in overturning the death sentence of Jeffrey Scott Young, who was convicted of killing two people during a 2002 robbery and carjacking at an offsite parking lot near San Diego International Airport. The court agreed with Young that the jury should not have been allowed to consider evidence regarding his white supremacist beliefs and tattoos, which prosecutors had introduced during the sentencing phase of his trial to rebut evidence about his good character.

The specific evidence to which prosecutors had been responding, Kruger explained, was testimony from Young’s grandmother about, for example, “his commitment to his family and children.” Although the court did not rule out the possibility that, in a different case, evidence of a defendant’s racist beliefs could be admitted, it cannot be used, Kruger concluded, simply to demonstrate the offensiveness of those beliefs.

Kruger wrote again for a unanimous court in 2020 to throw out another death sentence, this time in the high-profile case of Scott Peterson, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2002 murders of his pregnant wife, Laci, and the couple’s unborn child, Conner. Kruger agreed with Peterson that the trial court had made “a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection that, under long-standing U.S. Supreme Court precedent, undermined Peterson’s right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase.” Most notably, Kruger explained, the trial court should not have dismissed potential jurors simply because they expressed general opposition to the death penalty, without also determining whether that opposition would have meant that they would be unable to follow the law and impose the death penalty if warranted. In December 2021, Peterson was resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Bodycam footage and sexual-abuse lawsuits

Two years ago, Kruger wrote for the court in its decision holding that a California city could not charge a public-interest group seeking public records for the approximately 40 hours that city employees spent editing footage from police body cameras. A local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild sought records relating to the Hayward Police Department’s actions in the 2014 demonstrations that followed grand jury decisions not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The city of Hayward billed the group $3,000, citing a state-law provision that requires the person or group requesting electronic records to pay the costs associated with producing copies of those records when producing those copies would require the extraction of data.

The extraction of data, Kruger explained, does not cover redacting exempt material from electronic records that the city would otherwise need to disclose. That interpretation, Kruger reasoned, is more consistent with both the text of the statute and the California legislature’s intent in enacting the law. Moreover, she added, interpreting the term “extraction” to include the costs of redaction “would make it more difficult for the public to access information kept in electronic format” – contrary to the state’s constitution, which “favors an interpretation that avoids erecting such substantial financial barriers to access.”

Kruger acknowledged the city’s argument that “requests for body camera footage present unique concerns for government agencies with limited resources” because of the privacy interests involved, among other things. But this provision does not only cover body-camera footage, Kruger stressed. Instead, she noted, “it covers every type of electronic record, from garden-variety emails to large government databases.” Only the legislature, Kruger indicated, can decide whether to create special rules for body-camera footage.

Last year, Kruger wrote for the court in a unanimous decision holding that three athletes who allege that they were sexually abused by a coach as teenagers can sue USA Taekwondo but not the U.S. Olympic Committee. In her opinion, Kruger rebuffed the plaintiffs’ suggestion that the court should adopt a “more flexible and holistic approach” to determine whether a defendant can be held responsible for failing to protect a victim from harm caused by another person. “Without denying the gravity of the injuries these plaintiffs suffered,” Kruger stressed, “nor the broader problem of sexual abuse of minors in organized youth sports and other activities,” a defendant cannot be held responsible for injuries that it did not cause “unless there are special circumstances” that create a special duty for the defendant to provide protection or help to the plaintiffs.

Other notable decisions Kruger joined

In 2018, Kruger joined a unanimous decision that upheld a state law requiring new handgun models to imprint “micro stamps” inside the guns and on shell casings to make it easier for police to identify them. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for gun manufacturers, argued that the requirement should be invalidated because it was impossible to implement the technology. The decision by Justice Goodwin Liu emphasized that the ruling did not involve the constitutionality of the requirement, but instead was simply a question of statutory interpretation. The California Supreme Court’s cases, Liu explained, have acknowledged that statutes may contain an exception when it is impossible to comply with the law when that is what the legislature intended. But in this case, Liu wrote, neither the text nor the purpose of the law indicates that, once the law went into effect, gun manufacturers may be excused from the requirement because it is impossible to comply with it.

Kruger concurred in a 2019 opinion by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye that unanimously upheld the death sentence of a man convicted of a brutal double murder and robbery. Cantil-Sakauye’s opinion also rejected the challenge by the inmate, Thomas Potts, to the constitutionality of the state’s death-penalty scheme, as well as his contention that his more than two decades on death row constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Kruger did not join a concurring opinion by Liu that, while expressing “tremendous compassion for the victims and their families,” characterized the state’s death-penalty system as “an expensive and dysfunctional system that does not deliver justice or closure in a timely manner, if at all.” It is time, Liu suggested, for a discussion of the death penalty’s “effectiveness and costs.” 

Kruger joined a unanimous opinion by Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, another Brown appointee, abolishing the state’s cash bail system. The question came to the court in the case of Kenneth Humphrey, a 66-year-old man charged with robbery. Humphrey’s bail was initially set at $600,000 and then was reduced to $350,000 – an amount that Humphrey still could not pay. Cuellar concluded that the “common practice of conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional.” “Other conditions of release,” he continued, including “electronic monitoring, regular check-ins with a pretrial case manager, community housing or shelter, and drug and alcohol treatment,” can often “protect public and victim safety as well as assure the arrestee’s appearance at trial.”

A varied record in divided cases

But not all of the California Supreme Court’s opinions are unanimous. And when the court has divided, Kruger has been difficult to pigeonhole. She has sometimes joined Democratic appointees to reach an arguably “liberal” result, but at other times she has joined Republican appointees to arrive at an arguably “conservative” result.

In the 2016 case Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Kruger declined to join Cuellar’s majority opinion holding that an employer violated state labor laws by requiring its employees – security guards – to keep their radios and pagers on during their rest periods in case they were needed. Cuellar, whose ruling was joined by four other justices, reasoned that the employer’s policies “conflict with an employer’s obligation to provide breaks relieving employees of all work-related duties and employer control.”

In an opinion joined by Justice Carol Corrigan, who was named to the court by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, Kruger agreed with the majority that employers “must provide off-duty rest periods” for their employees. But, she continued, simply requiring those employees to carry a radio or a pager during their rest periods isn’t, standing alone, work – particularly when there is no evidence that the security guards’ rest periods were actually interrupted. Kruger would have sent the case back to the lower courts for them to determine whether the company’s “on-call policy actually interfered with its employees’ ability to use their rest periods as periods of rest.”

Kruger provided the key vote in 2018 in Hassell v. Bird, in which the court declined to uphold an order that would have required Yelp to remove negative reviews of a law firm from its site. A three-justice plurality, in an opinion by Cantil-Sakauye, another Schwarzenegger appointee, agreed with Yelp that requiring it to take down the reviews would violate Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996, which generally gives websites immunity for content created by their users. (Corrigan and Justice Ming Chin, who was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, provided the other two votes for Cantil-Sakauye’s opinion.)

In a separate concurring opinion, Kruger explained that in her view it was “unnecessary to reach” the Section 230 issue. Instead, she would resolve the case on the “more basic” ground that Yelp – which had not been named as a defendant in the case – could not be required to take the review down without “its own day in court.” Kruger agreed that the majority had reached the correct result, but she emphasized that she would not weigh in on how Section 230 might apply more broadly in future cases. She reasoned that although Section 230 “has brought an end to a number of lawsuits seeking remedies for a wide range of civil wrongs accomplished through Internet postings,” “the broad sweep of section 230 remedies also has ‘troubling consequences.’” “Whether to maintain the status quo,” Kruger concluded, “is a question only Congress can decide.”

Joined by Cuellar and two other Brown appointees — Liu and Justice Joshua Groban — Kruger wrote for a 4-3 court in 2019 in throwing out a lower-court ruling that upheld a search of a car without a warrant to look for the driver’s identification. Kruger described the “central issue” before the court as “not whether the search of” the driver’s car was “consistent with the guidance given in” an earlier case, but instead whether to “continue to adhere to” that earlier decision in light of U.S. Supreme Court cases since then.

Noting that the California decision had become an outlier, Kruger observed that although the California Supreme Court’s ruling had “attempted to cordon off” the power it gave to police officers, experience had shown that in practice, the searches have come “perilously close” to full searches of the cars. There are other ways for officers to obtain the information that they need, she suggested, such as asking a driver for her name and date of birth and cross-checking that information against the Department of Motor Vehicles database.

Addressing the dissent’s argument that, without carving out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s general warrant requirement for cases like this one, “officers may not be able to achieve absolute certainty about the identity of some subset of traffic violators before issuing traffic tickets,” Kruger countered that “the test for whether an exception should be recognized is not whether, in its absence, there might be some cost in effective enforcement of the traffic laws.” Instead, she wrote, it is “whether the tradeoff to lower that risk is worth the coin in diminished privacy.” “It is not,” she concluded, “a price we should lightly require California drivers to pay.”

In 2018, Kruger wrote for a divided court – in an opinion joined by Cantil-Sakauye, Chin, and Corrigan – in rejecting a challenge to a state law that requires law enforcement officials to collect DNA samples and fingerprints from anyone arrested for a felony. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Maryland v. King, the majority concluded that the defendant in the case, Mark Buza, had been arrested for a serious offense – arson – and, at least as applied to him, the requirement therefore did not violate either the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment or the California constitution.

The majority did not weigh in on whether the law was valid for other defendants, and it rejected a suggestion – made by Liu and Cuellar, in dissenting opinions – that it determine whether the state can require a DNA sample before a judge determines that a defendant’s arrest was valid. Kruger stressed that the court’s holding was “limited,” and she explained that “the law teaches that we should ordinarily focus on the circumstances before us in determining whether the work of a coequal branch of government may stand or must fall.”

Kruger joined an opinion by Liu in 2019 that reinstated a challenge by psychotherapists to a state law that would require them to report to authorities patients who admit to viewing child pornography, even when the therapists don’t believe that the patients pose any harm to children. Writing for a four-justice majority, Liu acknowledged that the “proliferation of child pornography on the Internet is an urgent problem of national and international dimension,” but the court – over a dissent by Cantil-Sakauye, Chin, and Corrigan – concluded that the reporting requirement implicated an interest in privacy. Stressing that the court was not ruling that the reporting requirement was unconstitutional, Liu sent the case back to the lower courts for them to determine whether the reporting requirement actually advances the law’s purpose of protecting children, or whether it instead deters patients from seeking treatment for sexual disorders.

Kruger sided with the court’s conservative justices in a 4-3 ruling in 2017 that made it more difficult for inmates sentenced under the state’s “Three Strikes” law to obtain resentencing. In a separate concurring opinion joined by two of her colleagues, Kruger explained that the other provisions in the ballot initiative on which the inmates seeking resentencing relied reflected a “clear and exclusive focus on affording relief to individuals who have committed specified drug- and theft-related offenses, and neither the stated purposes of the proposition nor the ballot materials alerted voters to any possibility that a favorable vote might also result in a significant change to the separate statutory scheme governing the resentencing of life prisoners under the ‘Three Strikes’ law.” “Although this is certainly a choice the voters could make,” Kruger acknowledged, “I do not think we can say it is a choice the voters have already made.”

Under the California system, although Kruger was nominated by Brown and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, she was still required to face the voters in a “retention election,” without an opponent, in 2018. Kruger won retention easily, with nearly 73% of voters – 6.6 million in total – voting “yes.”

Personal life

Kruger is married to Brian Hauck, a partner at the law firm of Jenner & Block and a former senior official in the Department of Justice during the Obama administration. The couple has two children: a son and a daughter.

When she had their daughter in 2016, Kruger became the first California Supreme Court justice to give birth while in office. A 2018 story in the Los Angeles Times recounted how Kruger traveled from the San Francisco Bay area, where she lives, to Los Angeles with her newborn to hear oral arguments; Kruger’s mother-in-law cared for the baby, then four weeks old, while Kruger was working.

If Biden nominates Kruger, it will not be his administration’s first effort to get Kruger to return to the east coast. In January, Marcia Coyle and Ryan Barber of the National Law Journal reported that Kruger had twice turned down offers to serve as the administration’s solicitor general. Like a position as a Supreme Court justice, that job requires Senate confirmation – but a job as a Supreme Court justice comes with life tenure. 

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Amy Howe is the former editor and a reporter for SCOTUSblog and still is a contributor. She primarily writes for her eponymous blog, Howe on the Court.

Before turning to full-time blogging, she served as counsel in over two dozen merits cases at the Supreme Court and argued two cases there.

Amy is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a master’s degree in Arab Studies and a law degree from Georgetown University.

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The preceding article was previously published by SCOTUSBlog and is republished by permission.

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Politics

Log Cabin Republicans host GOP candidates in tight congressional races

Speakers included U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (D-Calif.)

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U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) speaks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Republican congressional candidates in some of the most anticipated races of the 2024 cycle delivered remarks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Milwaukee’s Discovery World Art and Science Museum on Wednesday.

Speakers included U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), a 31-year incumbent with an anti-LGBTQ voting record who is narrowly trailing gay Democratic challenger Will Rollins, and Eric Hovde, an entrepreneur vying to unseat the first openly gay U.S. senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

Nick Meade, president of LCR Coachella Valley, introduced the California congressman by acknowledging that Calvert “didn’t have the most loving relationship vote-wise for our community” when his district was redrawn to include Palm Springs in 2022.

“We met with Ken,” Meade said. “We met with him again. And he showed up again. And he showed up again. We asked him to come to events and he showed up to the events. We asked if he would support us financially. He did it and then he did it again. He continues to show up.”

Eventually, Calvert joined 46 other House Republicans in endorsing the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for married same-sex and interracial couples and was signed into law by President Joe Biden in December 2022.

Meade explained that directly after the floor vote in July, the congressman passed Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran a slip of paper on which he had written the number “47,” telling the conservative LGBTQ leader “this is for you guys.”

Addressing his remarks to Calvert, Meade said, “I know, as humble as you are, you say you didn’t whip votes, but there are a lot of your friends close to our jurisdiction, your [congressional district] that voted for it as well. I will never forget that.”

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in our party, and one of those things is just that, as Nick was pointing out, that we were able to pass the gay marriage initiative on the floor,” Calvert said. “That was a good day.”

The congressman then discussed the importance of providing for the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces. “Everyone who serves in the military should be treated equally,” he said.

“It was refreshing to see the Log Cabin Republicans admit that Ken Calvert had never met a gay Republican until he decided he needed their support to win his new congressional district,” Rollins said in an emailed statement to the Washington Blade.

“But Ken might’ve forgotten to tell them that he voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill, voted to defund LGBTQ senior centers, and just tried to make it harder for the spouses of LGBTQ military personnel killed in combat to collect survivor benefits.”

When introducing Hovde later in the program, Moran said, “Here in Wisconsin, we have a lesbian senator who’s a Democrat, who has been voting in lockstep consistently with President Biden, who has been making it worse for the lives of LGBT families, business owners, [and] service members, not only here, but also abroad.”

Senate candidate Eric Hovde speaks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Baldwin should not expect the community to line up behind her reelection effort, Moran said, because gay voters “are not just voting on gay issues.”

Hovde told the audience he was “proud” that they had not “gotten caught up in the identity politics that the left has been pushing, you know, based on your race, your sexuality, your income level, your religion.”

“They want to try to drive a narrative and say you have to vote one way when you’re talking about issues that affect everybody,” he said.

The businessman then pivoted to voice his support for Log Cabin Republicans’ positions on transgender issues that were outlined earlier by Moran — specifically, opposition to irreversible gender-affirming medical interventions for patients younger than 18 and bans prohibiting trans girls and women from competing against girls and women in sports.

In recent years, athletics have provided opportunities for girls that were not available in generations past, he said, so “I’m thankful that you are using, just, a common-sense approach to these issues because that’s where most Americans stand.”

“Men shouldn’t be playing and girls sports — period,” Hovde said, adding, “That doesn’t mean that we’re against transgender people.”

The Republican hopeful noted, “we don’t let people drive before the age of 16” and “we don’t let them drink alcohol till 21” so the idea that “we’re gonna push or allow them to change their gender at 13, 14, 12” is “insanity.”

Baldwin, Hovde said, is divisive for claiming that former President Donald Trump is “one of the most dangerous men with a dark soul,” and the Democratic senator is a “rubber stamp for the progressive socialist left” as evidenced by her refusal to confirm Ric Grenell’s nomination, during the Trump administration, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Germany (a post for which he was confirmed by vote of 56-42.)

Hovde called Grenell, who also served as acting director of national intelligence and special presidential envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations, “a super competent man with great foreign policy chops” and “exactly who you want serving in government.”

“As the first openly gay Senator, Tammy Baldwin didn’t run to make history, she ran to make a difference,” said Baldwin campaign spokeswoman Jackie Rosa. “And she’s proud of the difference she’s made to create jobs, lower health care costs, defend our freedoms, and improve the lives of millions of Wisconsinites.”

“Eric Hovde has to rely on divisive and false rhetoric about Tammy because he knows he doesn’t hold a candle to her legislative record,” she said.

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Politics

Log Cabin Republicans president, Ric Grenell outline conservative LGBTQ positions

Big Tent Event took place outside the Republican National Convention on Wednesday

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From left, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran attend the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran outlined his organization’s position on divisive LGBTQ issues during the organization’s Big Tent Event offsite from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

“As conservative members of the LGBT community, we’re extremely concerned” that a “radical gender theory” is “being advanced in the name of LGBT equality,” Moran said in a video address following his remarks at the event.

“The last three years have been a real watershed moment for these radical leftists working in conjunction with woke corporations, out of sync academics, and cultural elitists who want to hijack our hard-earned civil rights movement to advance an extremist agenda,” he said.

The problem, Moran said, is that “Americans are seriously reconsidering their support for LGBT equality as a result” as evidenced by a Gallup poll last year which found for the first time that general and broad support for LGBTQ inclusion was in decline.

“The left’s war on our traditional values is starting to take a toll on the overall amount of acceptance and tolerance for average gays and lesbians in this country,” Moran said.

The Log Cabin president then explained how his organization had worked with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican state legislature on the controversial Parental Rights in Education (“Don’t Say Gay”) law, which “prevented mandated curriculum from being instructed on sexual orientation and gender identity from age three to grade three.”

Moran characterized the legislation as policy driven by a “common sense” approach, noting, however, that “in 2023, when the presidential primary races started kicking into high gear, we saw a broad push across the nation with legislation that was an overreaction and poorly thought out.”

“That next year, the reintroduction of that same Florida bill took the prohibition on those conversations all the way up from age three to age 18 in Florida schools, which was not practical nor needed, and thus we opposed that new version of the bill,” Moran said. “It just wasn’t smart public policy.”

Broadly, “average Americans see themselves as tolerant and inclusive — and we when we present a message that smacks of homophobia, anger, vitriol, and exclusion, they will vote against us every time,” he said.

“Eighty percent of this country supports equality and inclusion for the Ls, the Gs, the Bs, and the Ts,” added Moran, “but this comes with some guardrails concerning specific policy debates.”

“This is indicative of a very serious messaging problem. This is where we at Log Cabin Republicans need to step in to help the Republican Party steer through these issues with precision,” he said.

In practical terms, Moran said this will mean, “One, fight back against leftist extremists and cultural Marxists who are trying to undo strong cultural mores in society that are hijacking our civil rights movement and two, fight back against hardline social conservatives who never accepted the real evolution and acceptance of LGBT equality in the first place from dragging the Republican Party back into the middle of a gay marriage fight that has long been settled.”

With respect to specific policy debates, he highlighted “one, the protection and integrity of women’s spaces, two, support the preservation of women’s sports and Title IX, three, strong parental consent at every level in our schools, and four, no permanent gender transition under the age of 18.”

Taking the stage before Moran was former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, who also served as acting director of national intelligence during the Trump administration.

The diplomat and conservative political operative celebrated the Republican Party’s issuance of a new platform this year that, for the first time, does not express opposition to same-sex marriage.

The two-page document does, however, call for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

“I couldn’t be more proud to have this platform under Donald Trump,” Grenell said. “After the platform was passed, President Trump called me and he said, ‘did you see what we did?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir, I did and it’s amazing. You know, I want you to know that we’re gonna stay quiet until it really gets into the fabric and we’ll give it a little time. And you know, I know it’s gonna be a little hard for some people. So, we’ll give it a little time before we talk about it.’ He goes, ‘No, we won! Start talking about it.’ He’s all in. He’s all in with us.”

“In 2016, when Donald Trump came to run this party, I never once worried that he would somehow use us politically,” Grenell said. “You’ll notice he doesn’t. He absolutely believes that we are part of the American society. And he thinks it’s really weird if you don’t.”

At the same time, however, he stressed that Trump expects “us to police our own community to make sure we call out the radical left” and told the audience they “should be very upfront about rejecting the crazy radical gay left” who “don’t speak for us.”

“Now, the gay left is going to constantly tell you that you need special protections because they like to keep us in a box and take us out six months before elections and parade us around,” Grenell said. “We don’t do that. We want to be included at the front.”

He added that “I got in the most trouble for when I said that the State Department should cut all of its DEI programs out. We don’t need a special office down the way that has glitter and rainbows. We want to be at the table of substance. When you do the African policy, we want to be in the room. When you develop European policy, we want to be in the room.”

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Trump supports anti-trans sports ban in RNC speech

Former president’s remarks did not otherwise address LGBTQ issues

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention on Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Former President Donald Trump voiced his support for banning transgender women and girls from competing on girls and women’s athletics teams during his speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday.

The proposal was included in the Republican Party’s official platform, along with plans to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

Trump had a major hand in shaping the two-page document, though apart from the sports ban his remarks closing out the RNC did not otherwise address LGBTQ matters.

Nor did the Republican presidential nominee mention Project 2025, the 900-page governing blueprint for a second Trump term that would radically reshape American government including by advancing a Christian nationalist anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice policy agenda.

In a statement following Trump’s speech, Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon pointed out that the former president also neglected to discuss “how he had inflicted pain and cruelty on the women of America by overturning Roe v Wade” or “his plan to take over the civil service and to pardon the Jan. 6th insurrectionists.”

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Owner of Milwaukee gay bar says LGBTQ patrons were avoiding areas near the RNC

Woody’s Milwaukee experienced a surge in traffic as a result

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Alan Kettering (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Woody’s Milwaukee owner Alan Kettering is no fan of Donald Trump, but when the former president was in town for the Republican National Convention this week, he told the Washington Blade it was “a bit of a nothing burger” as far as he and his gay bar were concerned.

“There isn’t a lot I can say about the RNC,” he said, except to the extent that “there was just a little bump [in business] over the weekend from people that didn’t want to, you know, go anywhere near downtown.”

Kettering suspects many of his LGBTQ patrons were deliberately avoiding getting close to the perimeter around Fiserv Forum, which contained hundreds of elected Republicans, thousands of Republican delegates, and tens of thousands of conservatives all gathered to rally around their nominee.

Asked whether any RNC attendees made their way to Woody’s this week, Kettering said there was one man who made a bit of a scene. “He claimed he was a representative of some sort” from Massachusetts, possibly a Republican delegate.

When the patron left with two men, Kettering said he worried for them because the Republican “just seemed a little unstable” but thankfully they returned to Woody’s unharmed. “I talked to them afterwards and they basically said they took an Uber down to Cathedral Square and the guy got out and ran away.”

Running a gay bar in a swing state during an election year at a particularly polarized time in the U.S. has sometimes meant having to police discussions about politics, Kettering said. “I try to quell it as much as I can, because I am very politically motivated, and I have to bite my tongue 90 percent of the time,” he said.

“And the vast majority of gay people are Democratic, the vast majority, but we do have a few that are very, very vocal, you know, in support of the current challenger,” Kettering said. “But I try very hard to limit the amount of political discussion because there is no winning.”

“You’re not going to convince me and I’m sure I’m not going to convince you. So have a drink and be mellow.”

Asked to share his thoughts about the upcoming election, Kettering was quick to relay his concerns about Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s governing blueprint for a second Trump administration, which would impose radical governmental reforms while advancing an anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice Christian nationalist agenda.

“If any of that Project 2025 is true — I mean, if any of its true — these people are nuts,” he said.

“They’re trying to roll back all kinds of freedoms. They’re trying to establish an ordained religion, and it has to be Christianity. And, you know, if you’re going to be anybody who’s worthwhile, you have to be heterosexual, married, with kids, of course.”

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Republican delegate discusses GOP platform and Project 2025 at RNC

Weymouth, Mass., Mayor Bob Hedlund spoke with the Washington Blade

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Republican National Convention attendees. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBTQ group, hosted a Big Tent Event on Wednesday offsite from the Republican National Convention, atop the Discovery World Science and Technology Museum with panoramic views of Lake Michigan.

Before the luncheon began — with remarks from GOP members of Congress and the organization’s leadership, along with former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, who formerly served as acting director of national intelligence — the Washington Blade spoke with a Republican delegate, Weymouth, Mass., Mayor Bob Hedlund.

“I bumped into, this morning, a former colleague of mine,” he said, referring to LCR Board Chair Richard Tisei, who served in the Massachusetts Senate with Hedlund and invited him to the event.

Several of the speakers would later tout the 2024 Republican party platform’s omission of references to same-sex marriage, a departure from the party’s longstanding position of opposing marriage equality. And Hedlund recalled how heated the debates were in 2004 when Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I was in the Senate when that debate went on and the court decision and multiple votes, so we were kind of at the forefront of that at the time,” he said. “It was a vote I struggled with. I probably received more pressure on that issue than anything else in my 21 years in the legislature. I had neighbors that never talked politics with me grabbing me and stopping my car one morning on the week of the vote and voicing their opinion. That was a difficult time.”

Hedlund explained that while his hometown of Weymouth was the bluest in his Senate district, the community is, and was, blue collar with a heavy Irish-Italian-Catholic bent. Twenty years ago, the town had five Catholic parishes, he said, “so there was a lot of opposition to [same-sex marriage] at the time.”

More than the volte-face on gay marriage, what stood out to the mayor about the GOP platform — the party’s first since 2016 — was how “quiet” the fight was, in contrast with the heated battles through which previous iterations were produced.

As LCR President Charles Moran previously told the Blade, Hedlund said the language of the new document, concise as it is, is a clear reflection of the values and priorities of the party’s 2024 nominee, former President Donald Trump.

“I think they can smell victory and they want to just get across the finish line,” Hedlund said, referring to the officials involved in drafting the platform.

While the document does not take a position against same-sex marriage, it does call for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

Addressing the proposed sports ban, Hedlund said “I think you don’t have any consensus in the populace over how you handle that issue. I mean, I think that’s a jump ball.”

He added that if residents in Weymouth were polled on the issue, or if it came up in a referendum, he imagines they would favor a ban. Neighboring towns have experienced controversies involving trans athletes, he said.

Personally, Hedlund said he believes there should be rules for participation in athletics that are drawn based on “some defining line as to when someone may be transitioning” and in the meantime “it’s hard to pigeonhole a party or an entity on that [issue] because people are still grappling with it.”

“I don’t know how you deal with it if someone’s fully transitioned,” the mayor said, because in that case “I think that’s a different story” and a ban might not be necessary or appropriate.

Compared to the platform, Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s governing agenda for a second Trump administration, contains far more policies sought by the conservative Christian wing of the Republican Party, including restrictions on abortion and pornography as well as LGBTQ rights.

“I didn’t know anything about Project 2025 until about a week before Trump said he didn’t know anything about it,” Hedlund said. “Honestly.”

“I’ve been aware of the Heritage Foundation for 40 years and read some of the newsletters in the past,” he said. “And I’m way more informed than the average citizen. And I’m probably way more informed than most delegates.”

While the former president has sought to distance himself from the document as it has increasingly earned blowback, CNN notes that “six of his former Cabinet secretaries helped write or collaborated on the 900-page playbook” while “four individuals Trump nominated as ambassadors were also involved, along with several enforcers of his controversial immigration crackdown. And about 20 pages are credited to his first deputy chief of staff.”

“At least 140 people who worked in the Trump administration had a hand in Project 2025,” according to a CNN review, “including more than half of the people listed as authors, editors, and contributors to ‘Mandate for Leadership,’ the project’s extensive manifesto for overhauling the executive branch.”

Asked whether he expects Project 2025 or the party platform would be a more accurate guide to a second Trump term, Hedlund said he was not sure — but added the focus on Project 2025 is misguided because “you’ve got organizations, advocacy groups, think tanks on the left, same thing on the right, that publish policy papers.”

“When those on the left complain about Project 2025, I’d like to see the media ask the same questions, ‘what are the policy papers coming out of the Council on Foreign Relations? Or out of George Soros’s foundation? And how much of the Democratic Party is adopting those policy papers or initiatives?”

Hedlund added, “I don’t know if Trump knew about it or didn’t know about it, but it’s not the Republican Party platform. It’s a separate entity.”

“Are they going to have people involved in the Trump administration that are going to be influential?” he asked. “Yes. But if you look at some of the things in Project 2025, [many require] legislative legislative action” and looking at Trump’s “first term, I mean, what did he do, really, administratively or through executive action or by fiat that was so radical?”

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Adam Schiff calls on Biden to exit 2024 race

Calif. Democrat is frontrunner to win US Senate race

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U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), the leading candidate for U.S. Senate in California, has formally called for President Joe Biden to withdraw from the 2024 presidential race.

Schiff, who is heavily favored to win his Senate race, made his statement exclusively to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

While praising Biden’s accomplishments, calling him “one of the most consequential presidents in our nation’s history,” Schiff expressed “serious concerns” about Biden’s ability to defeat Trump in November. He urged the president to “pass the torch” and allow another Democrat to secure the party’s nomination, arguing that this would help “secure his legacy of leadership.”

The move comes amid growing concern within the Democratic Party about Biden’s age and mental fitness, particularly in light of his recent debate performance against former President Donald Trump.

Anxiety within the Democratic Party has also risen exponentially since the Trump assassination attempt, which occurred just as the Republican National Convention began.

Though polling has shown little change in support nationally for Biden since his disastrous debate performance, there has been a pronounced increase in support for Trump in many of the swing states. CNN’s John King on Wednesday revealed that Trump’s support in seven of the eight swing states has surged dramatically and that the Electoral College now favors Trump.

The congressman’s call for Biden to step aside is particularly significant given his prominent role in the party and his history as a vocal critic of Trump. 

Schiff played a key role in the congressional efforts to impeach the former president and notably led the House inquiry on the Trump-led Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. His involvement in these high-profile investigations has made him a well-known figure in national politics.

Recent polling suggests that nearly two-thirds of Democrats believe the 81-year-old Biden should step aside and allow the party to nominate someone else. This sentiment has been growing since Biden’s widely criticized debate performance last month, where he at times appeared confused and struggled to articulate his positions clearly.

Adding to the complexity of the situation, the Democratic National Committee recently announced plans for a virtual roll-call vote in early August to formally nominate Biden as the party’s candidate. This decision was reportedly made to comply with a candidate certification deadline in Ohio on Aug. 7. However, the move has been met with resistance from some party members who are calling for an open convention instead.

The controversy surrounding the nomination process has exposed divisions within the party. 

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison has defended the decision, stating that the party “will have this vote by Aug. 5.” However, some Democrats have criticized the move as a “terrible idea,” arguing that forcing through an early vote while discussions about replacing Biden continue could undermine party unity and morale.

In a significant development, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) have reportedly pushed for a delay in the nominating process. This information, coming from multiple sources speaking to ABC News, suggests that even top party leadership may be reconsidering Biden’s candidacy. Schumer’s recent private meeting with Biden in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which the Senate leader only described as a “good meeting,” has further fueled speculation about the party’s plans.

ABC News reported Wednesday night, July 17, that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer privately urged President Joe Biden to withdraw from the 2024 presidential race. According to ABC’s Jonathan Karl, reporting from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Schumer made a compelling argument that Biden’s exit would benefit not only the president himself but also the Democratic Party and the nation as a whole.

Karl noted that Schumer’s office has not denied the report. Instead, they issued a statement saying, “Leader Schumer conveyed the views of his caucus.” This response suggests that Schumer’s position may reflect broader sentiments within the Democratic Senate leadership.

The reported conversation between Schumer and Biden adds to growing speculation about the president’s political future and the Democrats’ strategy for the upcoming election.

The growing calls for Biden’s withdrawal have not been limited to party insiders. 

Moderate House Democrats have expressed frustration with the president’s campaign strategy and performance. In a recent call between Biden and a group of moderate House Democrats, participants described the president as “defensive” and “rambling” in his answers. Colorado Democrat Jason Crow went so far as to say on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that there is now a “high risk” Democrats will lose the election “unless there is a major change.”

The White House reports that President Joe Biden tested positive for Covid on July 17. (Screen shot/Independent UK)

Biden, however, has continued to defend his record and mental acuity.

In a Monday interview with NBC News, he stated, “I’ve gotten more done than any president has in a long, long time in three and a half years. So I’m willing to be judged on that.” The president has also resumed campaigning in battleground states like Nevada, joined by some of his top defenders, including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and the chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The growing calls for Biden’s withdrawal, including from prominent figures like Schiff, indicate significant uncertainty within the party about its presidential nominee at a time when GOP voters have rallied more strongly than ever to support Trump.

Schiff is recognized as a key ally to the LGBTQ community and served as one of the vice chairs of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, a status that is likely to fuel LGBTQ politicos concern about Biden’s chances for success.

There is a growing sense of fear among Biden’s LGBTQ supporters as second Trump presidency could lead to significant setbacks for the community: The rollback of LGBTQ protections in areas like healthcare, employment, and housing; the appointment of conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices who might weaken or overturn LGBTQ rights decisions; further restrictions on transgender rights; expanded religious exemptions allowing discrimination; cuts to HIV/AIDS programs; removal of LGBTQ-inclusive materials from schools; reduced global advocacy for LGBTQ rights; discrimination in adoption and foster care; elimination of LGBTQ demographic questions in federal surveys; and a general worsening of the social climate for LGBTQ people. 

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Anti-LGBTQ GOP Senate hopefuls target immigration in RNC speeches

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)’s Republican opponent among Tuesday speakers

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Wisconsin Senate candidate Eric Hovde (R) at the 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Taking the stage at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Tuesday were a handful of anti-LGBTQ GOP Senate candidates whose remarks centered largely around immigration.

“Biden, with his border czar Vice President Harris, opened our Southern border allowing criminals and terrorists to enter our country,” said Eric Hovde, a real estate and banking tycoon who will face off against U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) in November.

Like the other speakers, Hovde sought to link President Joe Biden’s immigration policies to the scourge of fentanyl “killing over 100,000 Americans every year” while his own campaign has been marred by accusations of transphobia.

The Human Rights Campaign, for instance, notes that Hovde once said that being transgender is “insanity.”

Appearing on a right-wing talk radio show earlier this year, Hovde said about Baldwin, “She actually earmarked, in the last budget, $400,000 for a transgender-affirming clinic that doesn’t even tell parents that they’re doing that, with their own kids.”

Baldwin’s office said the funds could not be used for that program and instead would go entirely to cover counseling and to provide a social worker for kids experiencing homelessness. 

Additionally, former President Donald Trump’s administration gave $350,000 to the same clinic.

Baldwin became the first openly gay member to serve in the Senate in 2012, and she is considered a trailblazer as one of the country’s first out elected leaders dating back to her time in the Wisconsin General Assembly in the 1990s.

“The American dream that I live is under attack with Joe Biden and his enablers in the Senate, like Sherrod Brown who encouraged millions of illegals to invade America,” said Bernie Moreno, a GOP candidate who is challenging the senior senator from Ohio.

(The state’s junior senator, JD Vance, was tapped by Trump to join the 2024 GOP ticket.)

“Joe Biden’s border czar Kamala Harris and a Democrat Senate have put the welfare of illegals ahead of our own citizens,” said Moreno.

LGBTQ issues have loomed large in his race, too.

Leading up to the 2024 Republican primary election, the Associated Press reported that an account linked to Moreno’s email was set up on Adult FriendFinder seeking “men for 1-on-1 sex,” though the candidate’s lawyer said a former intern claimed credit for the “aborted prank.”

Moreno’s companies sponsored Cleveland and Akron’s hosting of the 2014 Gay Games and were on record in support of an LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination law in 2020. The businessman also shared that his eldest son is gay during an interview in 2016.

However, the AP notes, “he began to distance himself from his past activism, professing to be unfamiliar with the anti-discrimination legislation” during his first Senate run in 2021, and “during his current Senate campaign, Moreno has accused advocates for LGBTQ rights of advancing a “radical” agenda of “indoctrination.”

“I have never seen anything like the Biden-Harris open border policy,” said Mike Rogers, who is running for the Senate seat that will be vacated by the retirement of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

“They are rolling out the red carpet for violent gangs, fentanyl, Chinese spies, [and] individuals on the terrorist watch list,” he said.

In 2014, Equality Alabama and the Alabama Association of Realtors accused Rogers, who then represented Michigan’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, of making homophobic comments.

Equality Alabama Chairman Ben Cooper wrote in an open letter to the congressman, “when you marginalize our community, we will not be silent.”

“You allegedly joked about how nice it was to be called ‘Honey’ and ‘Sweetie’ by a woman at an Alabama restaurant rather than a D.C. men’s room,” Cooper wrote. “And you went on to mock our nation’s capital as a ‘cross between Detroit and San Francisco’ — an obvious reference to Detroit’s racial makeup and San Francisco’s vibrant gay culture. Comments like these are racist, homophobic, and hurtful, and they will not be tolerated.”

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Newsom signs law banning schools’ gender notification policies

Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) introduced AB 1955

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(Graphic courtesy of PFLAG)

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1955 on Monday, banning forced outings in California schools after facing fierce opposition.

The signature comes after Newsom faced pressure to sign, leaving many to question his stance on LGBTQ issues after vetoing a bill that would have considered parents’ acceptance of a child’s identity or orientation in legal custody battles.

The bill, proposed by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) earlier this year, bans schools from creating or enacting policies that would out students to their parents about their gender, pronouns, name change, or sexual orientation.

“This comes from a growing national attack on LGBTQ+ people and in particular transgender individuals, with several California school districts and other states enacting policies that explicitly compel teachers to tell parents that their child identifies as transgender,” said Ward during a hearing last month.

“Forced outing policies harm everyone: Parents, families, and school staff by unnecessarily compelling the staff to involve themselves in family matters and removing the opportunity for families to build trust and have conversations on their own terms.”

The introduction of the bill follows a string of policies requiring counselors, administrators, teachers, school staff, and anyone else at the school to notify parents about their child’s transition or change of pronouns.

AB 1955 supports the Support Academic Futures and Educators for Today’s Youth Act (SAFETY Act) in preventing schools from enforcing or enacting forced outing policies.

“As a nonbinary educator working at a middle school, I definitely feel relieved to have some solid protection at the state level, and I feel empowered to continue advocating for my LGBTQ+ students,” said Amanda Estrada, a middle school teacher at Los Nietos Unified School District.

Lawmakers were discordant last month at a hearing that erupted in emotions over the issue. Following the hearing, legislators sent the bill to Newsom to stop these policies against LGBTQ students, families, and educators who felt passionately about the issue.

Last summer, Chino Valley Unified School District began enforcing the policy notifying parents of any requests “to change any information contained in a student’s official or unofficial records.” The policy was later blocked in court, sparking a civil rights lawsuit from California, bringing in Attorney General Rob Bonta to advocate against the policy.

Earlier this year, the school district revamped the policy, leaving out terms like gender, biological sex, and bathrooms but continues to push for outing students based on any changes they may request.

Existing law regarding the polarizing issue requires the State Department of Education to develop school-based resources and update previous resources that aim to support LGBTQ students. The new law now requires the State Department of Education to develop community-based resources for LGBTQ students and their families as well.

Existing law also prohibits discrimination against students participating in any program or activity conducted that receives or benefits from state-level funding. The new law will now include “any governing body or body of those educational entities from enacting or enforcing policy, rule, or administrative regulation that requires an employee or a contractor to disclose any information related to a pupil’s consent unless otherwise required by law.”

The law also states that students should feel “safe, supported, and affirmed for who they are at school.” This requires allowing them to choose when and how they want to make their new identities or orientation public and making resources available for them and their families.

This legislative push for laws and policies that protect LGBTQ youth will continue to face opposition as transition and gender identity continues to be a heavily polarizing and political issue among families.

The proposed bill cites research by the Trevor Project, stating that affirming school environments significantly lower the odds of transgender and LGBTQ youth attempting suicide.

Further findings also suggest that educators often face harassment and retaliation attempts because of their lawful efforts to uphold student privacy and protect them from discrimination.

“Over the past couple of years, I started to worry more about the creep of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric across the state, mostly through small districts like mine,” said Estrada. “Now that we have this law in place, I’ve got some peace of mind, and hopefully going forward, my students will too.”

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Trump picks anti-LGBTQ JD Vance as running mate

HRC, GLAAD highlight vice presidential nominee’s record

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U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) speaks at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former President Donald Trump announced anti-LGBTQ U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) as his 2024 running mate in a Truth Social post on Monday.

A political neophyte who was first elected in 2022 thanks to Trump’s endorsement, Vance once compared the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to Adolf Hitler, also calling him “cultural heroin” and “an opioid of the masses.”

The Ohio senator’s journey from critic to acolyte was cemented over the weekend.

After Trump walked away from an assassination attempt and both of the major candidates said it was time to turn down the rhetoric, Vance went further than many on the right and directly blamed President Joe Biden and his campaign for the gunman’s actions.

“The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs,” he said on X. “That rhetoric led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination.” 

LGBTQ organizations and advocates issued statements on Monday blasting Trump’s vice president pick.

“Donald Trump has been a bully for years — and his pick of MAGA clone JD Vance is a reminder that nothing has changed. This is anything but a unity ticket,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said.

“We are not simply choosing between two campaigns. We are choosing between two fundamentally different visions of America. One, with Trump and MAGA ‘yes man’ JD Vance at the helm, where our rights and freedoms are under siege. And the other, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris leading the way, where we are advancing toward freedom and equality for all,” she said.

“Everything is at stake and the contrast could not be clearer. We must defeat Trump, Vance, and their brand of chaos and division, and send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris back to the White House.”

In a press release, HRC listed some of the ways in which Vance has denigrated LGBTQ people.

GLAAD, meanwhile, has a lengthy entry for Vance in the GLAAD Accountability Project. Positions, statements, and actions by Trump’s running mate that were noted by the two organizations include:

  • His endorsement of the “groomer” slur against Democrats for their support of LGBTQ people,
  • His statement “strongly disagree[ing]” that LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination,
  • His opposition to the Equality Act, which would federalize and codify LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections,
  • His extreme anti-choice views, including opposition to exceptions to abortion restrictions for victims of rape and incest and opposition to IVF,
  • His introduction of a bill to charge healthcare providers with a felony for providing medically necessary health care to transgender youth,
  • His statement that he would have voted “no” on the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for married same-sex couples and was supported by a dozen GOP senators,
  • His defense of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for appearing at a white supremacist conference with host Nick Fuentes, who has spread racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories, and
  • His claim, a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that Biden was risking war with Russia because President Putin doesn’t believe in trans rights.
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Garcia and Log Cabin Republicans president react to new GOP party platform

RNC had not issued a new position manifesto since 2016

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee at National Harbor, Md., on March 4, 2023. (Screen capture via Vimeo)

Following the issuance of the Republican Party’s first new policy platform since 2016, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Charles Moran, president of the conservative LGBTQ group Log Cabin Republicans, shared their reactions this week with the Washington Blade.

Unlike previous iterations, including in 2016 and 2012, the 2024 version contains no mention of same-sex marriage and very little discussion about abortion, issues long championed by the religious right factions of the party.

Still, the document calls for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

“We will keep men out of women’s sports, ban taxpayer funding for sex change surgeries, and stop taxpayer-funded schools from promoting gender transition, reverse Biden’s radical rewrite of Title IX education regulations, and restore protections for women and girls,” the platform says.

“Republicans will ensure children are taught fundamentals like reading, history, science, and math, not leftwing propaganda,” according to the document. “We will defund schools that engage in inappropriate political indoctrination of our children using federal taxpayer dollars.”

Garcia, an openly gay vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, told the Blade by phone on Tuesday that the language is of a piece of the party’s efforts across the board to restrict rights, freedoms, and protections from many of America’s most vulnerable.

“The platform is the platform,” he said. “It’s reactionary. It moves us backwards. It does not support diverse communities.”

What is more important, however, than “the Republican platform, Project 2025, all of these ideas and proposals,” Garcia said, is the question of “who’s going to implement these.”

“Look at what Donald Trump is actually saying,” Garcia said. “That should scare us. He’s saying he’s going to deport undocumented people across the country. He’s saying he’s going to empower fossil fuel and oil companies in public. He’s saying that he doesn’t support unions. He’s saying all of these horrible things. I think we should take him for his word.”

“We should already know that he’s going to do what he says. He’s saying he’s going to jail his political opponents,” the congressman added. “This is insane. So, I think that is much more instructive than any party platform or other conversation happening right now.”

Project 2025, the exhaustively detailed governing blueprint for a second Trump term that was published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, “is finally starting to get more attention,” Garcia said.

Unlike the party platform, the 900-page document reads like a wishlist for the most right-wing conservative Christian flanks of the GOP — with proposals to criminalize all pornography, for instance, and to revoke LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for federal government employees.

“I wish that over the last two days we were talking about Project 2025,” said Garcia.

House Democrats, who had just returned from the July 4 break, had been inundated with questions about whether President Joe Biden should continue leading the party’s 2024 ticket after a shaky debate performance last month exacerbated concerns about his age.

“Moving forward,” he said, Project 2025 “needs to get more attention, and I’m hopeful that it will.”

Also speaking with the Blade on Tuesday was Moran, who had attended a Log Cabin Republicans fundraiser on Monday that former first lady Melania Trump hosted and netted $1.4 million. The event was the first to be held in the Trump Tower residence since her husband launched his 2024 campaign.

“Project 2025 is like a kid’s Christmas wish list — and it has just as much chance of coming to fruition as Santa Claus coming down that chimney,” he said. “It’s just not reality.”

By contrast, the platform has Trump written all over it, Moran said.

“Even though I was not on the platform committee, it was clear those in leadership understood that the process had been commandeered in the past by special interests and those trying to use intimidation and fear to bully their influence into the final document,” he said. “The RNC took steps to ensure a clean, orderly and accessible drafting process.”

As a result of influence peddling by special interest groups, “the platform continued to be an albatross around the necks of common-sense Republicans,” providing opportunities for Democrats to portray their political opponents as anti-gay, for example, since the document historically took a position against same-sex marriage.

“The 2016 platform was crafted under the influence of Ted Cruz’s delegates, veering it in a much more conservative direction on gay issues,” Moran said. “President Trump made it clear that he wasn’t aligned with the 2016 platform, and if the full RNC convention would have been held in 2020, it would have been changed then.”

Moran added that while “the platform process has historically been influenced by paid lobbyists representing special interests trying to game the system for their client’s pet projects and desires,” this year “presented President Trump with his first opportunity to genuinely make the GOP platform represent the modern Republican Party, and make it represent an inclusive, America-First context.”

Moran said the new platform is a reflection of the campaign’s strategy and approach to this election.

“I believe the president knew that the old platform made the GOP uncompetitive in major geographic and critical demographic areas,” he said. “The platform was definitely worth fighting over, because we know that the presidential nominee needs to get the party in the best position possible to appeal to the broadest number of people.”

“This is a platform that is inclusive of many communities, including LGBT Americans,” Moran said. “It promotes the sanctity of marriage, but doesn’t exclude our marriages. It supports IVF, which is the principle way same-sex couples build families.”

“This is a pro-family platform,” he added, “but it provides a place for our families too.”

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