Connect with us

Congress

Out Black congressmen to CDC: require insurers to cover injectable PrEP

“We urge you to ensure that public and private insurance plans cover Apretude at no cost to patients — just like the other forms of PrEP”

Published

on

U.S. Capitol building (Blade file photo)

WASHINGTON – A pair of the openly gay Black members are leading a group of 58 House Democrats in calling on the Biden administration to require medical insurers to cover PrEP in its recently FDA-approved form as an injectable HIV preventative drug.

In a letter dated Feb. 4 and made public on Thursday, Reps. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) lead colleagues in urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid and the Centers for Disease Control to issue the new requirements for Apretude, which the Food & Drug Administration approved for use in December.

“To ensure that this life-saving medication is as accessible as possible to the people who need it most, particularly LGBTQ+ people and people of color, we urge you to ensure that public and private insurance plans cover Apretude at no cost to patients — just like the other forms of PrEP,” the letter says.

While PrEP has emerged in recent years as an HIV prevention treatment in the form of a daily pill, commonly Truvada, the injectable drug offers patients as potential alternative or those who may experience pill fatigue with a shot expected to be taken one month apart, and then every two months thereafter, according to the FDA. ViiV is the manufacturer of Apretude and expects to start shipping it to wholesalers and distributors early this year, according to the company website.

If the U.S. government were to issue rules requiring insurers to cover injectable PrEP, it would follow-up on earlier actions to make HIV prevention drugs more widely available. The CDC under the Trump administration made free PrEP available to those without insurance coverage, while the Biden administration issued requirements to make insurers include PrEP as part of their coverage.

According to a statement accompanying the letter, however, significant racial disparities remain in PrEP use: “While the HIV infection rate among Black Americans is eight times as high as among white Americans, just nine percent of the Black Americans for whom PrEP is recommended have been prescribed the medication, compared to 66 percent of their white counterparts. Similarly, while the HIV infection rate among Hispanic Americans is four times as high as among white Americans, only 16 percent of recommended Hispanic Americans have been prescribed PrEP.”

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Congress

Garcia discusses why he’s standing behind Biden

HRC: ‘We are proud to stand by our endorsement’ of the president

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) (YouTube/MSNBC screen capture)

After congressional Democrats emerged from closed-door meetings on Tuesday, House and Senate leaders reassured the media of their continued support for President Joe Biden in his bid for reelection.

As lawmakers returned from the July 4 break this week, a handful of Democrats publicly urged the president to step aside, following a debate performance last month that worsened concerns regarding the candidate’s age, signs of a potential decline in his mental acuity, and questions over his ability to bring the vigor necessary to lead the ticket.

However, speaking with the Washington Blade on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) shared his thoughts on why “it is time to move forward” from Biden’s debate performance and “focus on attacking Donald Trump and the dangers that he poses.”

The congressman was clear that colleagues who have a different opinion should feel free to express their concerns — and, to that end, he said leadership has “been incredible in hearing members who have sought out input” from them.

“The president had a rough debate, and I think he recognizes that, and I think we all recognize that it was not a great moment,” he said. “I respect the people that have had those concerns and the conversation that’s happened since, so, I get that.”

“Personally, I’ve known from day one that Joe Biden is going to be our nominee,” Garcia said. “He reinforced that with everyone, and it is time to move forward. I’ve been behind the president and the vice president. I continue to be.”

Every day the Democratic Party continues having these conversations internally, “we’re not out there defeating Donald Trump,” the congressman added. “I think for some folks it’s going to take some time for them to feel comfortable, and that’s OK [but] I’m ready to go. I’m fired up and ready to go.”

Garcia, who’s gay, serves as a vice-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, alongside some LGBTQ Democratic members who agree with his position, like Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), and others who do not, like Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.), who have called for Biden to step aside.

When it comes to LGBTQ voters, “from our perspective, I think we’ve just got to understand that we have the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in the history of politics in front of us, and we have Donald Trump on the other side,” Garcia said. “Those are our choices.”

“You don’t have to love every choice you make, but we have to understand the stakes, and we have to understand that there is a binary choice,” he said. “Every person that’s not voting, or not voting for Joe Biden, is certainly empowering Donald Trump. That’s the reality of the moment we’re in.”

Asked how the Biden-Harris campaign can outrun the speculation about the president’s age and the calls from some Democrats for him to step aside, Garcia said “the president has to continue what he’s been doing for the last couple of days. And I think what you’ve seen in the last few days is a fighting Joe Biden.”

“Joe Biden is proving that if he’s going to get punched in the nose, he’s going to punch back twice as hard,” the congressman said. “And I think that is where the campaign is headed, and what needs to continue to happen.”

Weathering the moment in which “the president did have this really bad debate night,” Garcia said, has “also invigorated the campaign and him” with Biden and his team realizing “this is serious, we have a real challenge, here. And let’s get this done.”

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ rights organization and a group that has made major investments in Biden’s reelection effort, also reaffirmed her support for the president in a statement to the Blade on Tuesday.

“Donald Trump and his Project 2025 agenda pose an existential threat to our rights, freedom, and democracy itself,” she said. “Our job remains the same: defeat him. Biden-Harris is the ticket to do it and we are proud to stand by our endorsement.”

Asked for comment, a GLAAD spokesperson said “as a [501]C3 nonprofit org, we focus on voter and reporter info and resources, to inform about elevate facts on the candidates’ records and statements about LGBTQ people.”

The spokesperson referred the Blade to a statement by the group’s president, Sarah Kate Ellis, which was issued shortly after Biden’s televised debate against Trump.

“Media must do their job to ask questions of candidates about their records and plans for and against LGBTQ people. Our community is enduring an onslaught of attacks on our lives and fundamental freedoms. Everything from our marriages to our ability to have children to keeping schools safe for LGBTQ youth is on the ballot.

“The candidates’ records are very clear, and voters need to be informed about this history to make the best decisions. Reporters and moderators must challenge candidate rhetoric for facts about abortion, immigration, inflation, and the security of each person’s vote.

“CNN failed to find time in 90 minutes to ask about Project 2025, the fascist fever dream that is laying a path for anti-LGBTQ zealots to weaponize the government to fully eliminate abortion access and LGBTQ people from equal access in American life.

“Accurate information is essential for voters to choose a leader who values the truth, decency, and who will work to ensure freedom and equality for all Americans.”

The GLAAD accountability project includes detailed entries for Trump and Biden, detailing the candidates’ records on and rhetoric concerning LGBTQ matters.

Continue Reading

Congress

House Republicans propose steep cuts in federal AIDS budget

Advocacy groups say move would eliminate ‘Ending HIV Epidemic’ initiative

Published

on

The Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative was launched during the administration of President Donald Trump. (Public domain photo)

The Republican-controlled U.S. House Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies approved a spending bill on June 26 that calls for cutting at least $419 million from federal AIDS programs that AIDS activists say would have a devastating impact on efforts to greatly reduce the number of new HIV infections by 2030.

The subcommittee’s proposed bill, which includes billions of dollars in cuts in a wide range of other federal health, education, and human services related programs, is scheduled to be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee on July 10. Officials with AIDS advocacy groups say they are hopeful that the full committee, like last year, will refuse to approve the proposed cuts in the AIDS budget.

The proposed GOP cuts would eliminate $214 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s HIV prevention programs, $190 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, and $15 million from the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Minority HIV/AIDS Program.

Activists say the impact of those cuts would kill the federal government’s Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, which among other things, calls for reducing the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75 percent by 2025 and by 90 percent by 2030. The activists point out that ironically the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative was launched during the administration of President Donald Trump.

 “Instead of providing new investments in ending HIV by increasing funding for testing, prevention programs, such as PrEP, and life-saving care and treatment, House Republicans are again choosing to go through a worthless exercise of cutting programs that the American people depend on and will never pass,” said Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV + Hepatitis Policy Institute.

“While we vigorously fight these cuts, we look forward to working with the entire Congress in a bipartisan fashion on spending bills that can actually become law,” Schmid said in a statement.

 Schmid noted that the bill also includes provisions known as “policy riders” that would take away rights and protections from women, such as access to birth control and abortion, and for minorities, including LGBTQ people.

According to a statement released by the office of U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who is the ranking minority member of the House Appropriations Committee, one of the policy riders would “block the Biden administration’s policies to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.’  The statement says another policy rider would “prevent policies or programs intended to promote diversity, equality, or inclusion.”

Most political observers believe the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate would also kill the GOP proposed policy riders and cuts in the AIDS budget if the full Republican-controlled House were to approve the budget bill passed by the appropriations subcommittee.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who serves as chair of the full House Appropriations Committee, released a statement on June 27 defending the  subcommittee’s bill and its proposed spending cuts. “The bill provides appropriate and fiscally responsible funding to ensure these departments can continue to perform their core missions while also acknowledging the fiscal realities facing our nation,” he said.

“Importantly, the bill pushes back on the Biden administration’s out-of-touch progressive policy agenda, preventing this White House from finalizing or implementing controversial rules or executive orders,” Cole said in his statement. “It also preserves long standing bipartisan policy provisions protecting the right to life.”

Continue Reading

Congress

Members of Congress introduce resolution to condemn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Joyce Beatty spearheaded condemnation

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 20 members of Congress on Thursday introduced a resolution that condemns Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Gay California Congressman Mark Takano and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) spearheaded the resolution that U.S. Reps. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mark Pocan (D-Wash.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) co-sponsored.

“The House of Representatives condemns the government of Uganda’s criminalization and draconian punishments regarding consensual same-sex sexual conduct and so-called ‘’promotion of homosexuality,’” reads the resolution.

The resolution, among other things, also calls upon the Ugandan government to repeal the law.

“It is difficult to overstate the gross inhumanity of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act,” said Takano in a press release.

President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court in April refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” A group of Ugandan LGBTQ activists appealed the ruling.

“Instead of focusing on rooting out corruption or ending extrajudicial killings, the Ugandan Parliament, president, and Constitutional Court have chosen to mark LGBTQ+ Ugandans as less than human,” said Takano. “Congress must not be silent in the face of such systematic, state-sponsored discrimination.”

“To all those LGBTQ+ people and your allies in Uganda — we see you,” added the California Democrat. “We and the Biden administration will not allow this terrible violation of basic dignity to go unchallenged.” 

Continue Reading

Congress

EXCLUSIVE: Alex Padilla, wife Angela talk LGBTQ mental health

Couple to receive award from Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles on Sunday

Published

on

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and his wife, Angela Padilla, spoke with the Washington Blade for an exclusive interview last week ahead of their receipt of Voice Awards from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles at a ceremony on June 30. 

“I’ve known members” of the organization “off and on over the years, going back to my days on the city council in Los Angeles,” when battles were waged over California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, Padilla said. 

“I was proud to be an ally for a long time, but especially in those moments, really, as a public official, as an elected official, knowing how important allyship was,” he said, stressing “the tremendous talent of the chorus” and “what they represented individually and as a group” serving as allies for “young people who may not necessarily grow up in a supportive environment or in supportive families.”

“I work very closely with Joseph Guardarrama,” a board member for GMCLA, “for many years now on my nonprofit, and it’s all in support of mental health and wellness and educating people on how to get help, why they should get help, and why it’s important to take care of your brain,” Mrs. Padilla said by phone. 

“I started FundaMental Change in 2017,” she said, to push for “the mental change that I feel that we have to have as a society when it comes to how we look at [and] how we treat mental health conditions.” 

The senator’s wife added that LGBTQ people are twice as likely to have a mental health condition while dealing “with so much more social stigma and discrimination” than their straight and cisgender counterparts. 

“This month we’re going to have a table for June 30 working with the [California] Department of Mental Health at the Pride parade,” she added. FundaMental Change also operates an LGBT Youth TalkLine and Trans Lifeline. 

Padilla noted the organization’s work combatting stigma. “One thing that we recognize both coming from Latino families is the need to overcome stigma,” he said. “There’s a lot of misunderstanding or misperceptions about mental health.” 

The effort is also central to the senator’s work as a policymaker, he said, referencing the bipartisan Senate Mental Health Caucus that he founded alongside U.S. Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to serve as “a forum for us to share stories.”

“It’s been fascinating, there are more than 30 members of the caucus now, so about a third of the United States Senate,” he said. “It’s 50/50 Democrats and Republicans,” and when approached, every member had a story to share, whether about “something that they’ve been through [or] somebody in their family, a colleague, a neighbor who can relate.”

Padilla said his decision to announce the formation of the caucus concurrently with his visit to the San Francisco LGBT Community Center “was very intentional.”

When it comes to mental health, “We’ve really prioritized trying to develop bipartisan solutions,” he said, “because those are more sustainable here in Congress.” 

The first bill backed by the caucus was Padilla and Tillis’s Local 9-8-8 Response Act of 2023, which “was to require the FCC to move to implement the geolocation technology to the 988 system.” 

Unveiled by the Biden-Harris administration in 2022, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The program provides the option for callers to reach specialized LGBTQI+ affirming counselors by pressing “3.” 

On the importance of geolocation technology, Padilla said “if I’m here in Washington, and have a need to call 988, my area code on my phone is Los Angeles — so, I’d be passed through to the Los Angeles providers.” 

The senator noted that the FCC “is moving forward with those improvements” independently of his bill’s path forward in Congress. 

More broadly, some of the policy challenges concern supply and demand problems. “From a bigger picture, longer term perspective, we’re talking about the workforce needs,” Padilla said. “So, what’s the game plan for [getting] more psychologists or psychiatrists or counselors, more therapists, more everybody in the field to better serve people across the country?”

Padilla also discussed the importance of “cultural competence” as a means of guaranteeing the best possible treatment. “When we ask people to go get help, if there’s somebody that they can relate to or that they know gets them, the better quality experience in treatment is going to come,” he said. 

“We’re not quite there yet with the Republican colleagues, but I have faith that in time we will get them there,” the senator added. “And again, the LGBTQ community is a prime example. You’ve got to feel comfortable going to somebody when you need help.”

Padilla said, “not everybody comes from a supportive environment; not everybody lives in a city or a state that is supportive. And at this particular time politically, they’re really under attack. They’re being targeted acutely. And that’s more reason and urgency to speak up and stand up.”

On Sunday, the Padillas will share the stage with the recipients of the third GMCLA Voice Award, from the critically acclaimed HBO series “We’re Here,” which follows drag queens as they travel the country to perform in one-night-only performances in small towns. 

Mrs. Padilla celebrated the ways in which drag has brought communities together, recalling when RuPaul’s Drag Race “was first airing and it was like everyone was so interested in watching the show” and “it just brought people from everywhere.”

“I have a lot of frustrations, as a Latina, with the misrepresentation of our community and our culture in television and movies,” she said. “And I feel like every opportunity that you get to see something that’s just authentic — it’s such a benefit to everyone. It really helps us understand that we have more in common than not.” 

“Drag is not new,” the senator said. “It goes back generations in the United States and I think for the LGBTQ+ community it can be can be very empowering, as an outlet for performers, but also participants in an audience to see on stage what you may not see in other places.” 

Republican-led efforts to restrict access to drag performances, especially by young people, “feels like it’s an act of desperation,” Mrs. Padilla said. 

“I think they’re resisting something that they don’t understand. I just think it’s really coming from a place of fear. And really not understanding the human behind it,” she said, adding that the reactionary forces are a product of the LGBTQ movement’s success and “that feeling of it’s out of their control.”

“The diversity of our communities, the diversity of our country, is a big source of strength,” Padilla said. “It’s just not always been embraced. I think a lot of people either misinterpret it or frankly exploit it to cause divisions in society.” 

“We can’t ignore the political climate that we’re living in,” the senator said, “heightened only by the fact that it’s a presidential election year and we see who the Republican nominee is going to be.”

Looking ahead to November’s elections, he said, “as with so many other issues, LGBTQ+ rights and opportunity in the future — It’s a 180-degree difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Let’s not take it for granted. Let’s not take it lightly. Let’s get out and vote.”

Continue Reading

Congress

EXCLUSIVE: Markey bill would offer additional support to LGBTQ elders

Measure would create Office of LGBTQI Inclusion within HHS

Published

on

U.S. Capitol Dome
U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will introduce a bill on Friday to support LGBTQ elders and older adults living with HIV by establishing an Office of LGBTQI Inclusion within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Among other responsibilities, the office would advocate, coordinate activities, issue policy recommendations, and oversee the collection of data from these communities.

A major piece of the work to improve health equity at HHS under the leadership of Secretary Xavier Becerra and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine has been data collection initiatives for LGBTQ and other populations that can encounter barriers accessing care.

The Elder Pride Act will also “establish a rural grants program to serve the unique needs of rural LGBTQI+ older adults, including through education and training, community outreach and creation of community spaces, and improved cultural competency,” according to a press release announcing the legislation, which the senator’s office previewed exclusively with the Washington Blade.

“After years of exclusion and discrimination from health care settings, workplaces, and their local communities, LGBTQ+ older Americans deserve the protections their neighbors are afforded,” Markey said.

“Queer and trans elders should be able to age with dignity, grace, and surrounded by community,” he added. “The Elder Pride Act will ensure that all older adults are able to have access to the care and services they need.”  

Cosponsoring senators include Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D- Calif.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). The legislation’s provisions were included in a pair of bills introduced earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus’s Aging Issues Task Force.

The press release from Markey’s office also highlights several of the challenges faced by LGBTQ older adults vis-a-vis their cisgender and heterosexual peers: Fewer sources of support. higher poverty rates, poorer healthcare, poorer health access, and poorer health outcomes.

At the city and county level, older adults are served by local area agencies on aging (AAAs), which receive services and activities from HHS. Fewer than half of these organizations report that they will be able to provide LGBTQ-specific activities by the time the population of LGBTQ elders reaches 7 million, which is expected by 2030.

Continue Reading

Congress

Rep. Garcia urges Feds to protect LGBTQ+ people during Pride

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance”

Published

on

Participants of the Capital Pride Festival in D.C. on June 8, 2024. Gay U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) has urged U.S. officials to ensure LGBTQ people are safe during Pride Month. (Washington Blade/Emily Hanna)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on June 12 sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray to work to ensure LGBTQ people during Pride events.

“Over the last several weeks, your respective agencies and departments have issued stark warnings, and travel advisories to the public over potential threats from foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), and their supporters during this year’s Pride Month,” said Garcia in his letter. “I understand that these steps have come after deeply concerning increases in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, calls for targeted violence, and foiled violent plots.”

The FBI on May 10 issued an advisory that warned of potential violence at Pride events and other LGBTQ-specific events. The State Department on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia — announced a similar warning.

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance,” wrote Garcia, a gay man who represents California’s 42nd Congressional District that includes Long Beach.

June 12 also marked eight years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, even though there is no evidence that suggests the extremist group ordered him to carry out the massacre. 

“This week marks the eight (sic) anniversary of the horrific Pulse nightclub Orlando shooting — during which the attacker deliberately and viciously targeted the LGBTQ+ community,” wrote Garcia in his letter. “It is important to put the recent escalation of extremist anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda and messaging in the context the Pulse nightclub shooter who was influenced by these same forces of extremism.”

Continue Reading

Congress

House Republicans pass NDAA with anti-LGBTQ riders

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) slammed Republican U.S. Rep. Josh Brecheen’s (Okla.) effort to ban drag shows on American military bases

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) during the debate on Thursday over the National Defense Authorization Act (Screen capture via C-Span)


WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) slammed Republican U.S. Rep. Josh Brecheen’s (Okla.) effort to ban drag shows on American military bases during a debate over the annual National Defense Authorization Act spending bill on Thursday.

The appropriations package, which contains five anti-LGBTQ riders pushed by House GOP members, was passed on Friday.

“We know there are a lot of threats to the health and well-being of our service members and their families: poisoned water, toxic mold in military housing, PTSD, and suicide,” said Garcia, who is gay and a co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

“So I’m stunned to see that the Republican idea to protect our troops is to ban drag shows,” he said. “Mr. Speaker, my Republican colleagues want us to believe that ‘these gays are trying to murder us.’ They want us to believe that drag is harmful, or immoral and wrong. This is ridiculous.”

“We can document and celebrate drag shows on military bases since the late 1800s, and through both world wars,” Garcia continued. “The USO and the Red Cross supported drag during World War II. That’s right: the Army that defeated Hitler and saved the world included drag queens.” 

“Ronald Regan starred in a movie called ‘This Is the Army!’ — a movie about World War II that featured four drag performances,” he said. “And he’s not the only Republican president who knew that drag can be fun and sometimes silly.”

Garcia displayed a photo of former president and presumptive 2024 GOP nominee Donald Trump alongside former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was dressed in drag.

“Mr. Speaker,” the congressman said, “drag is Art. Drag is Culture. Drag is Creativity. Drag is Comedy. And no, drag is Not a Crime. It’s not pornography. The real obscenity is when one of our colleagues, the gentlewoman from Georgia, shows literal posters of revenge porn in our Oversight Committee! If we want to end porn in government facilities, let’s ban that.”

In a statement on Friday, the Equality Caucus called out House Republicans’ politicization of the military appropriations bill.

“Like last year, House Republicans voted to add poison pill, anti-LGBTQI+ provisions to the NDAA that discriminate against our LGTBQI+ servicemembers and their families,” said Caucus Chair U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) “The Equality Caucus remains committed to preventing these discriminatory provisions from becoming law.”

Along with Brecheen’s drag show ban, the caucus highlighted four of these riders from this year’s NDAA:

  • Amendment 46 by U.S. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), which would “prohibit funds for the Department of Defense Education Activity from being used to purchase, maintain, or display in a school library or classroom books that include transgender and intersex characters or touch on topics related to gender identity or variations in sex characteristics,”
  • Amendment 49 by U.S. Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), which would “ban Pride flags from any workplace, common access area, or public area of the Department of Defense,” and
  • Amendments 52 and 53 by U.S. Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and Ralph Norman (S.C.), which would, respectively, “ban TRICARE from covering and furnishing gender-affirming surgeries and hormone treatments,” and “prohibit the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) from covering or providing referrals for “gender transition procedures”—including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgeries—for servicemembers’ dependent minor children.”

Continue Reading

Congress

Equality Caucus, White House condemn anti-LGBTQ riders in bill

“Once again, Republicans are attacking the trans & LGBTQ+ community with riders that harm LGBTQI+ veterans & undermines military readiness”

Published

on

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson speaking to the Capitol Hill press corps. (Photo Credit: U.S. House Republicans)


WASHINGTON — The Congressional Equality Caucus on Wednesday condemned House Republicans’ passage of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (“MilCon”) Appropriations Act, 2025, with anti-LGBTQ+ riders attached.

“Once again, Republicans are attacking the transgender and broader LGBTQI+ community with riders that both harm our LGBTQI+ veterans and undermine our military readiness by discouraging LGBTQI+ people from enlisting,” said caucus chair U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).

“We strongly condemn this bill and its cruel attacks that target those who have served our nation in uniform,” the congressman said. “Our members remain committed to defending the LGBTQI+ community throughout the Fiscal Year 2025 appropriations process and beyond.”

The White House said on Monday that President Joe Biden would veto the House version of the MilCon bill, with opposition stemming in part from the anti-LGBTQ riders along with anti-abortion riders, which would reverse the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ policy of covering abortions in cases of rape or incest. These provisions will almost certainly not be included in the Senate version of the appropriations package.

Also on Monday, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget issued a statement outlining the Biden-Harris administration’s position on the bill, writing: “H.R. 8580 includes numerous, partisan policy provisions with devastating consequences, including harming access to reproductive healthcare, threatening the health and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex Americans, endangering marriage equality, hindering critical climate change initiatives, and preventing the administration from promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Two of the four anti-LGBTQ riders would prohibit the use of appropriated funds for “surgical procedures or hormone therapies for the purposes of gender affirming care” and the implementation, administration, application, or enforcement of three executive orders by Biden containing LGBTQ-inclusive diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives:

A third would prohibit the flying of Pride flags over VA facilities and national cemeteries while a fourth would create a “license to discriminate” against LGBTQ people under the pretext of religious liberty.

For instance, the caucus writes, “it prohibits the federal government from reducing or terminating a federal contract or grant with an organization that discriminates against LGBTQI+ people if the organization justifies their discrimination based on the belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”

Likewise, the rider “prohibits the federal government from reducing or terminating the employment of an employee who discriminates against LGBQI+ people if the employee justifies their discrimination based on the belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”

This means a benefits counselor could, without being penalized, refuse to process applications and changes for a veteran’s same-sex spouse, the caucus notes.

On X, the caucus pledged to defeat the anti-LGBTQ riders, noting “we were able to ensure these harmful riders were not included in last year’s final MilCon-VA bill.”

Continue Reading

Congress

House ethics complaint filed over GOP staffer’s anti-trans email

“You’re disgusting and should be ashamed of yourself. Don’t email me or anyone from my office ever again!” 

Published

on

Matthew Donnellan, chief of staff to Republican U.S. Rep. Carol Miller (W.Va.), in 2012. (Screenshot/YouTube San Diego City Beat)

WASHINGTON — A federal government employee has filed a complaint to the U.S. House Ethics Committee over an email they received from Matthew Donnellan, chief of staff to Republican U.S. Rep. Carol Miller (W.Va.), which contained combative and anti-trans language. 

The Washington Blade has seen the correspondence between the parties, in which the confrontation was apparently kicked off when the congresswoman’s top aide received an email that included the sender’s preferred pronouns in the signature box, triggering his reply.

Donnellan wrote, “As a father, it is disgusting that anyone would ever tell my son or daughter that something is wrong with them and they should take sterilizing hormones or have surgery to cut off their genitals.”  

“The fact that you support that ideology by putting pronouns in your signature is awful,” he said, adding, “You’re disgusting and should be ashamed of yourself. Don’t email me or anyone from my office ever again.” 

A senior government official told the Blade in a written statement that the email was not out of character for Donnellan:

 “I’ve heard from two colleagues several months apart about two separate transphobic emails, using identical language, from Matthew. Unfortunately these emails—though inconsistent with the typical collegiality one would expect from a Chief of Staff on the Hill—is likely a reflection of both increased partisanship on the Hill and a rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from the right.

“Not only is this virtual, hate-filled temper tantrum unbecoming of a Chief of Staff, inappropriate, and unprofessional, it also hurts his boss’s constituents. DC is built on congressional staff, members of Congress, and executive officials being able to put aside their differences to find unlikely areas of commonality where they can work together. 

“Even some of the most progressive members, like [U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Jerry Nadler (N.Y.)] have partnered with some of the most conservative members, like [U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio)], respectively, when they can find common ground. 

“Matthew’s refusal to work with an agency department or office just because a staffer has pronouns in their signature isn’t just hateful—it means he’s cutting off opportunities to deliver results for his boss’s constituents, especially in a divided Washington.”

Donnellan told the Blade by email that his response to the government employee is “a reply I send to anyone who uses pronouns or pushes gender ideology in any way.” 

“No one is ‘born in the wrong body’ and it’s horrific to tell anyone that they need genital mutilation surgery or sterilizing drugs,” he said. “People who push gender ideology, actively or passively, are awful and should be confronted every single time.”

“If the blunt reality of the terrible things that they are pushing is offensive to them then they should strongly reconsider what it this they believe and the harm that they are doing rather than simply trying to conform to liberal luxury beliefs,” Donnellan said. 

Addressing the complaint filed against him, Donnellan said, “I haven’t heard anything from Ethics and doubt that I will, they generally don’t waste their time with sheltered progressives being forced into the real world for the first time.”

A House Ethics Committee spokesperson declined to comment when asked if they could confirm receipt of the complaint.

Asked whether Miller might object to the way that she and her Congressional office are represented with these confrontational email exchanges, Donnellan said his boss’s “motto is ‘cut the bull’, and gender ideology is some of the biggest bull there is.”   

On Friday, the congresswoman’s son Chris Miller placed third in the Republican primary contest for West Virginia’s gubernatorial race, where the state’s Attorney General Patrick Morrissey secured his party’s nomination in a decisive victory with 33 percent of the vote. 

Leading up to the election, trans issues had emerged as a dominant focal point as the GOP candidates squared off against each other, with Miller’s campaign attacking Morrissey with allegations that he had profited from “the trans agenda” and backed a drug company that “helps turn boys into girls” when working as a healthcare lobbyist in Washington.  

In one ad that was paid for by a super PAC chaired by his father, Miller said the pronouns used by Morrissey are “money-grubbing liberal,” an interesting charge to level at the conservative Republican attorney general of West Virginia (even notwithstanding the fact that those three words are not pronouns but, rather, nouns and verbs.)

Declaring preferred pronouns in workplace email signatures has become commonplace in both the public and private sector, whether for purposes of sending an affirming message to transgender and gender expansive employees and officers or to mitigate the chances that either they or their cisgender counterparts might be unintentionally misgendered. 

The Biden-Harris administration has pushed for agencies to adopt the practice along with other measures and policies to advance the rights and wellbeing of trans and gender expansive employees across the federal government. 

In a 2021 announcement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s issuance of updated guidance on the agency’s email signature block, Michael Watts, director of civil rights for the U.S. Forrest Service, noted that “There are plenty of gender-neutral names out there, or names from other cultures that might not give you enough information to know their gender.” 

While the inclusion of pronouns was not made mandatory at USDA, he urged employees to “strongly consider taking this small but important step toward supporting inclusiveness in the workplace.” 

“The use of pronouns in our email signatures and getting into the habit of including pronouns in our introductions doesn’t really cost us anything,” Watts added, arguing that the move constitutes “a meaningful exchange to others and makes it easier for people to be respectful in how they address each other.”

“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. 

Official guidance published by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which is responsible for administering policies across the U.S. federal civil service, stipulates that agencies should “take steps to provide the option for employees to include the pronouns they use in employee systems and profiles, including email signature blocks, employee directories and employee profiles.”

Some have gone further, such as by adding pronouns to email signatures for all employees, as the U.S. Department of State did in 2023, while others like USDA have established, as official policy, that “employees are encouraged to include their pronouns in the first line of their email signature block (e.g. he/him/his). Signature blocks are a simple and effective way for individuals to communicate their identified pronouns to colleagues, stakeholders, and customers.”

“For example,” the USDA writes, “adding pronouns to signature blocks also has the benefit of indicating to the recipient that you will respect their gender identity and choice of pronouns.”

Continue Reading

Congress

Bill to support LGBTQ+ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation & should be able to access services and care”

Published

on

U.S. Capitol Building (Photo Credit: Washington Blade/Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ+ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ+ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ+ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Rep. Bonamici, Chair of the Equality Caucus’ LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Rep. Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQI+ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

Continue Reading

Popular