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