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Delayed repeal of loitering law targeting sex workers sent to Newsom

SB 357 repeals “loitering with intent to engage in prostitution” law, which results in harassment of transwomen & women of color sex workers

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Sex workers under arrest by the LASD (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) sent Senate Bill 357, the Safer Streets for All Act, to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for his action Monday. The Legislature passed SB 357 last year, but Senator Wiener held the bill at the Senate desk, delaying its transmittal to the Governor.

Governor Newsom will have 12 days to sign the bill after it is processed by the Senate. SB 357 repeals a provision of California law criminalizing “loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution.” This criminal provision — arrests for which are based on an officer’s subjective perception of whether a person is “acting like” or “looks like” they intend to engage in sex work — results in the disproportionate criminalization of trans, Black and Brown women, and perpetuates violence toward sex workers.

SB 357 is sponsored by a large coalition made up of former and current sex workers, LGTBQ groups like Equality California and Transgender Gender-variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), and civil rights groups like the ACLU. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST LA) is supporting the legislation.

SB 357 does not decriminalize soliciting or engaging in sex work. Rather, it simply eliminates an loitering offense that leads to harmful treatment of people for simply “appearing” to be a sex worker.

This crime is so subjective and inherently profiling that it allows a police officer to arrest someone purely based on how they are dressed, whether they’re wearing high heels and certain kinds of make-up, how they’re wearing their hair, and the like. This criminal provision is inherently discriminatory and targets people not for any action but simply based on how they look. People who engage in sex work deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Criminalizing sex work does not make sex workers or communities safer. Most criminal penalties for sex workers, loitering laws included, do nothing to stop sex crimes against sex workers and human trafficking. In fact, loitering laws make it harder to identify trafficking victims; trafficking victims are often afraid to come forward in fear of being arrested or incarcerated. 

In February of 2021, a similar piece of legislation to repeal this type of loitering ban became law in New York. SB 357 is part of the movement to end discrimination against and violence toward sex workers, especially the most targeted communities — trans, Black, and Brown people. SB 357 is co-sponsored by Positive Women’s Network – USA, St. James Infirmary, SWOP LA, Trans [email protected] Coalition, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Equality California and ACLU California Action. 

Under current law, it is a crime to loiter in a public place with the “intent” to commit a sex work-related offense. But this law can be broadly interpreted, and thus allows for discriminatory application against the LGBTQ community and people of color. Law enforcement can use a non-exhaustive list of circumstances to subjectively determine if someone “intends” to engage in sex work, including factors such as speaking with other pedestrians, being in an area where sex work has occurred before, wearing revealing clothing, or moving in a certain way.

Because current law regarding loitering is highly subjective and vague, law enforcement officers disproportionately profile and target Black and Brown transgender women by stopping and arresting people for discriminatory and inappropriate reasons. This is how Black and Brown transgender women get arrested and cited for simply walking on the street. It also gives law enforcement the ability to more easily target and arrest sex workers.

People in the LGBTQ, Black, and Brown communities report high rates of police misconduct throughout the United States and are disproportionately affected by police violence. Transgender people who have done street-based sex work are more than twice as likely to report physical assault by police officers and four times as likely to report sexual assault by police.

A Black person is 3.5 times more likely to be shot by police than a white person. These statistics are a daily reality that transgender, Black and Brown people face and lead to mistrust of law enforcement.

SB 357 will repeal a discriminatory law that makes it a crime to loiter with the intent to engage in sex work, given that it fails to prevent street-based sex work and disproportionately results in the criminalization of transgender people and communities of color.

“This Pride Month, as we see a surge in violence against and harassment of the LGTBQ community, it is more important than ever to get rid of a law that targets our community,” said Wiener. “Current law essentially allows law enforcement to target and arrest people if they are wearing tight clothes or a lot of make-up. Many of those impacted by this law are Black and Brown trans women. Pride isn’t just about rainbow flags and parades. It’s about protecting the most marginalized in our community. I urge Governor Newsom to sign SB 357.”

“SB 357 repeals a Jim Crow law that criminalized Black and trans people in public spaces,” said Fatima Shabazz of the DecrimSexWorkCA Coalition.

“We hope that the Safer Streets for All Act will help people understand how policing does not create public safety, and will immediately deprive police of one tool they use to harass and oppress folks based on race and gender,” said Ashley Madness of SWOP LA and the DecrimSexWorkCA Coalition.

“Ahora nosotros nos sentimos libre de caminar en la calle sin miedo que la policia nos vaya a arrestar,” (Now we can walk free on the streets without fear of the police arresting us,”) said Lisseth Sánchez of St. James Infirmary and the DecrimSexWorkCA

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California Politics

Congressional candidate Christy Smith & EQCA’s Tony Hoang

Race to the Midterms 2: The Future of Democracy, Abortion Rights and Climate Change and on winning in November

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By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Here’s the unvarnished truth: if MAGA Republicans win the November 8 midterm elections, Donald Trump wins and we can kiss our democracy and our freedom goodbye.

Think this is an exaggeration?

No one really thought the US Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade and put politicians in charge of women’s bodies – but they did. No one thought there would ever be an actual coup attempt to overturn a legitimate election and a violent insurrection against the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 during the peaceful transfer of power — but we watched it live on TV in real time, as did the coup-prompting defeated president who was inciting the rioters. 

Will Congress’ January 6th Committee explain the unthinkable? Will the Department of Justice prosecute the evil domestic terrorists, including their cult leader? Or will we have to endure this chaos until either the Democrats safely secure both chambers of Congress or the MAGA Republican terrorists award their dark orange prince his hellish authoritarianism? 

It all depends on us turning out in massive numbers to vote for Democrats this November 8.  

There are patches of blue in the black sky. Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California, whom we interview for the second episode of Race to the Midterms, has quietly created a rainbow staff that reflects our diverse state. “We really want to make sure that we reflect the diverse communities that we serve, whether that’s around gender, gender identity, race and ethnicity,” Tony says during our Zoom interview. 

Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California, with U.S. Senator Alejandro ‘Alex’ Padilla, (D-CA)
Photo by Sam Garrett-Pate

Equality California Votes, their new 501.C4 political action committee, posted their first ad for out gay candidate Will Rollins (see our interview with Will in Episode 1). “Obviously, this is one of the most consequential election cycles in our lifetimes. And if we want to protect the pro-equality majority that we have in the House, that road runs through California. And so, CA-41, the district where Will Rollins is in, is one of the most important congressional flip opportunities in California.

His opponent, Congressman Ken Calvert, for 30 years has voted against things like lowering prescription drug costs for seniors, against abortion rights and reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality.” 

This victory in the Palm Springs area would be a major LGBTQ victory, turning this red seat blue. 

“Going back to 1994, how Congressman Calvert came into office is that he was attacking a number of folks in our community, specifically Congressman Mark Takano, who has was not publicly out at the time but [Calvert] was using his LGBTQ identity in those attack ads. Obviously two decades later Congressman Takano is now an out member of Congress, proudly representing California,” Hoang says.

“But for us, the sweet irony of being able to flip this seat by taking out a member who has been 100% against our community for years and years with someone that is openly LGBTQ is something that we are definitely committed to and pouring a number of resources into. I think on top of that, one thing that we were proud of in the redistricting cycle is given that this district represents the Greater Palm Springs area, and we were really committed to ensuring that we could maximize the political power of LGBTQ voters and our pro-equality allies in this district.”

Hoang says Equality California is also working to win back reproductive rights. “We have been working hand in glove with their partners like Planned Parenthood and as well as others around California because we understand that abortion rights, reproductive rights, are LGBTQ rights. At the end of the day, we are talking about bodily autonomy and privacy. And we know after the Dobs decision, these attacks have been coming for quite some time.”

“But,” he continues, “as shown from the Supreme Court decision, they’re not going to stop with just abortion rights. They’re coming for LGBTQ rights. And for us, it’s important that we stand in solidarity with our partners in the reproductive movement. And so, as part of that, what we are educating quite a lot of California members and our allies about is specifically around Proposition One that would enshrine the right to abortion access and contraception in the California Constitution….And so for me, it’s been heartening to see all of our allies come together in this moment and really fight back against the hate that is out there.”

We also interviewed Christy Smith, candidate for the CA-27 — my second-ever endorsement was for Christy Smith. Christy ran for Katie Hill’s seat after Hill resigned. That race against Mike Garcia was so nail-bitingly close, she ran again. That race was also heartbreakingly close. But Garcia has become a full-throated Trump fanboy, hanging around with cultists like Marjorie Taylor Green. He was among the MAGA Republicans who signed the amicus brief to the US Supreme Court asking them specifically to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Christy Smith, candidate for California Congressional District-27
(Screenshot/YouTube The Time is Now with Karen Ocamb)

“Subsequent to that,” Christy says in our interview, “he’s one of the people who coauthored ‘The Life Begins at Conception Act, which — don’t let them fool you — is their roadmap for a national abortion ban. So, while my opponent now tries to hide in safe spaces and say, ‘Well, abortion is safe in California — why are you so upset?’ Really? They have clearly signaled — and Lindsey Graham the other day just doubled down on the fact that they plan to pursue a national abortion ban. 

“But even aside from that,” she continues, “we should never live in the kind of dystopian country where any person’s rights vary from state to state. And you and I both know — we saw that for a very long time with gay marriage rights in this country, right? Where depending on where you live determines whether or not you can marry the person they love.”

MAGA Republicans in Congress are “very comfortable operating in these spaces where they continue to chip away at fundamental rights to privacy and freedom,” she says. “My opponent is right there on those extremes with these people. And the extremes are where our government is heading.” Mike Garcia also voted against a bipartisan bill authored by Jan. 6 Committee members Reps. Zoe Lofgren from California and Liz Cheney from Wyoming that would help clear up and correct confusion underlying the belief system Trump touts as the “Big Lie.”

My opponent is so extreme, he refused to vote for it,” Christy says. “So, you can’t say that you stand for democracy when you’re literally actively working to take away – not only people’s freedoms  -but the structure of the democratic institutions and the structure that protect those freedoms.”

Flipping this seat is a necessity. 

Christy says that her top priorities if elected would be first addressing the needs of the North Los Angeles County communities she represents, especially transportation issues for commuters.

“We need to work on local and regional economic growth so people aren’t commuting so far to have gainful employment,” she says. “We really need to focus on an investment in our public schools. We are facing a national teacher shortage right now that could really devastate our public schools….If we don’t come to terms with the fact that we have got to pay our teachers better, support them well, and keep politics out of their classroom, it’s really going to be devastating to our kids and our schools.”

Christy is also keen on urgently addressing climate change, which she considers “our biggest national security threat.” 

And,” Christy says, “I agree with Tony. I think the LGBTQ community is next [on the GOP hit list. “That is really important work that we have to do to stem the tide of the very extreme movement that they’re trying to push on America.

“You will always have an ally in me,” she says to our LGBTQ people. “I came to the movement based on the work that my mom did. My mom was a home healthcare nurse and she was doing home health right at the time that the HIV/AIDS crisis gripped the country. And the stories that she would come home and share with me about what gay couples were going through and how their rights were being violated. And they were really left with so little support at a time of great crisis and need in their life. That just affirmed for me that everything that the LGBTQ community goes through are civil rights issues. And if we’re going to get to true equity and parity in this country and have a future that speaks to the needs of everyone, this movement very much needs to continue to have a seat at the table. And that is work that I’m invested in doing. And it’s more than just preaching to it — it’s actually practicing it. So, I’m very proud of the diversity of my team that reflects the Rainbow Coalition and will continue to do so while I’m in public life.”

Go to ChristyforCongress.org to find out more about how to elect Christy Smith to Congress. 
Go here for the first Episode of “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms” with Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez and CA-41 candidate Will Rollins.

Future of Democracy, Abortion Rights and Climate Change | Featuring Tony Hoang & Christy Smith:

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California Politics

Race to the Midterms: Christy Smith & Tony Hoang

Karen Ocamb & Max Huskins along with the Los Angeles Blade present a limited YouTube series “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms”

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By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The unimaginable is happening. Two years ago, Marc Elias, founder of the voting rights and elections-watcher Democracy Docket, warned that “we are one or two elections from losing our democracy.”

Complete and comprehensive voting rights legislation was needed to prevent that. Nothing happened and now several states are running slates of Trump cultist election deniers and MAGA Republican are “flooding the system” with anti-voting lawsuits. “It’s getting worse. It’s not getting better,” Elias told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace on Friday.

“The real threat to America’s electoral system is not posed by ineligible voters trying to cast ballots. It is coming from inside the system,” the New York Times Editorial Board wrote Friday, Sept. 23

“All those who value democracy have a role to play in strengthening and supporting the electoral system that powers it, whatever their party. This involves, first, taking the threat posed by election deniers seriously and talking to friends and neighbors about it. It means paying attention to local elections — not just national ones — and supporting candidates who reject conspiracy theories and unfounded claims of fraud. It means getting involved in elections as canvassers or poll watchers or precinct officers….And it means voting, in every race on the ballot and in every election.”

A warranted panic is slowly moving through minority communities across the country — but there is still little concerted national outreach to LGBTQ voters who have our very lives, rights and future at stake in the upcoming Nov. 8 midterm elections. Not that LGBTQ organizations and candidates don’t want to reach out – it’s just incredibly hard to break through all the news noise.

That’s why we — Karen Ocamb and (ally) Max Huskins — have teamed up with the Los Angeles Blade to produce a limited YouTube series “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms.” Our intention is to bring visibility to candidates and organization leaders and encourage LGBTQ people to get engaged, donate, do whatever they can to ensure a huge turnout for both local and statewide candidates and ballot measures, as well as electing candidates who will keep the US House of Representatives and the US Senate in Democratic hands. 

If MAGA Republicans win, Trump wins and we can kiss our democracy and our freedom goodbye. Think this is an exaggeration? No one really thought the US Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade and put politicians in charge of women’s bodies – but they did. The unthinkable is happening. 

Meet Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California. During the height of the AIDS crisis, the disease was perceived to be isolated to the gay community and gay meant “white.” The result was that many people of color avoided seeking prevention and help. Today, California is a minority-majority state and EQCA has a rainbow staff that reflects that. “We really want to make sure that we reflect the diverse communities that we serve, whether that’s around gender, gender identity, race and ethnicity,” Tony says during the Zoom interview. 

Equality California Votes, their new 501.C4 political action committee, just posted their first ad for out gay candidate Will Rollins (see our interview with Will in Episode 1). “Obviously, this is one of the most consequential election cycles in our lifetimes. And if we want to protect the pro-equality majority that we have in the House, that road runs through California. And so, CA-41, the district where Will Rollins is in, is one of the most important congressional flip opportunities in California. His opponent, Congressman Ken Calvert, for 30 years has voted against things like lowering prescription drug costs for seniors, against abortion rights and reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality.” 

It would be a “sweet irony” for LGBTQ voters to turn this red seat blue. 

Tony also talks about working with Planned Parenthood to explain why abortion rights is an LGBTQ issue and the importance of voting for Proposition One on the California ballot.

Tony is our first interview in tomorrow’s show. 

Full disclosure: since I am no longer a journalist, I get to express my own opinions and make endorsements. My first endorsement was for former EQCA executive director Rick Chavez Zbur, who I’ve known forever and who’s now running for the state Assembly. My second-ever endorsement was for Christy Smith

Meet Christy Smith, candidate for the CA-27. Christy ran for Katie Hill’s seat after she resigned. That race against Mike Garcia was so nail-bitingly close, she ran again. That race was also heartbreakingly close. But Garcia has gone from a dullard Republican to a major Trump fanboy, hanging around with cultists like Marjorie Taylor Green. He was among the MAGA Republicans who signed the amicus brief to the US Supreme Court asking them specifically to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“Subsequent to that,” Christy says in our interview, “he’s one of the people who coauthored ‘The Life Begins at Conception Act, which — don’t let them fool you — is their roadmap for a national abortion ban. So, while my opponent now tries to hide in safe spaces and say, ‘Well, abortion is safe in California — why are you so upset?’ Really? They have clearly signaled — and Lindsey Graham the other day just doubled down on the fact that they plan to pursue a national abortion ban. 

“But even aside from that,” she continues, “we should never live in the kind of dystopian country where any person’s rights vary from state to state. And you and I both know — we saw that for a very long time with gay marriage rights in this country, right? Where depending on where you live determines whether or not you can marry the person they love.”

Flipping this seat is a necessity. 

But one of the aspects about Christy Smith that folks may not know is that she’s a policy nerd – and a policy nerd who likes to get things done. 

Here’s a quick clip of Christ talking about how climate change is a paramount national security issue. Please check back here Sunday for our full Episode 2 show of “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms.”

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California Politics

LGBTQs- reclaim patriotism in the Midterms or lose everything

We must seize our own power & help Democrats win so we have a chance to secure our fundamental Constitutional rights

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By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – LGBTQ+ people – this is not a drill. Be afraid. Be very afraid of what will happen if MAGA Republicans win enough seats in Congress during the Nov. 8 midterm elections to not only block President Biden’s democratic agenda but fulfill their cruel Trumpian fantasies of what America should look like under Christian National white supremacy.

Already Trump Supreme Court justices have indicated that overturning Roe v Wade is just the beginning. MAGA Republicans want government control over decisions by women, transgender and nonbinary people regarding their own identity and bodily autonomy and they want the recriminalization of homosexuality, starting with striking down the fundamental right to marriage equality. 

For people of color, MAGA Republicans have gone way beyond curtailing voting rights. Now just stepping out the door takes courage. This was published by Statista Research Department on Sep 12: “Sadly, the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing, with a total 730 civilians having been shot, 71 of whom were Black, as of September 8, 2022. In 2021, there were 1,055 fatal police shootings, and in 2020 there were 1,020 fatal shootings.” The rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than that for any other ethnicity as of September 2022.

It is not hyperbolic to say our democracy — the promise of the Declaration of Independence, the very freedom to live authentic lives —  is on the ballot in the upcoming midterm elections as MAGA Republicans seek power for the sake of power alone – not to create a more perfect union. 

The evidence? 2022 is on track to set a record for the number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures.  NBC News/NBC Out reported: “State lawmakers have proposed a record 238 bills that would limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans this year — or more than three per day — with about half of them targeting transgender people specifically. Nearly 670 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed since 2018, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans, with nearly all of the country’s 50 state legislatures all having weighed at least one bill.” 

MAGA Republican Congressmembers often cite state and local data to propose federal action. Consider Republican Rep. Ken Calvert. According to Bloomberg.com, he supported a Texas lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the 2020 election and he objected to the certification of Biden electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Calvert said: “Today I lent my voice to the millions of Americans and my constituents who are deeply concerned by the integrity of the election.” 

However, after redistricting, Calvert now represents Palm Springs, California which has an all-LGBTQ city council and is considered one of the LGBTQ-ist places on earth. They are probably more concerned that – while Calvert may not have the same violent stripes as the rioters who scaled the walls of the US Capitol on Jan. 6 — he’s still an insurrectionist propagandizing Trump’s Big Lie about a stolen election.  

Enter Will Rollins, a brilliant gay former national security prosecutor who is challenging Calvert for that flip-able CA-41 congressional seat. 

Will Rollins is the true patriot here. 

“I was a federal prosecutor for five years in the central district of California, specialized in counterterrorism and counterintelligence and helped prosecute some of the people who attacked the Capitol,” Rollins tells me for a new limited YouTube series about the midterms. “As those of us in federal law enforcement were responding to that attack, my opponent Ken Calvert, was voting to decertify the election, voted against the commission to even investigate the attack. And then, even after it became clear that five police officers had died as a result of the attack, [he] called for dropping charges against the Capitol rioters. I didn’t want to look back on my life and regret not stepping up when our country needed people to challenge those who don’t believe in the rule of law and our Constitution, regardless of political party.”

Rollins has had a lifelong interest in national security, starting as a junior in high school watching the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. He wanted to join the military but feared being outed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He wanted to join the CIA as an Arab linguist but was bad at learning the language.

Eventually, Rollins went to Dartmouth, worked in media relations in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration, went to Columbia Law School, clerked for a couple of judges, and got hired as an Assistant Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office where he got to specialize in national security, including prosecuting a QAnon cultist who tried to attack a hospital ship in the Port of Los Angeles.  

“As those rising threats from domestic extremism cropped up over the last five years, culminating in January 6, it became clear to me that I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines,” Rollin says. 

Also interviewed in “The Time is Now: Racing to the Midterms” is Mark Gonzalez, the out chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party – which lists their endorsed candidates, including down-ballot candidates, on their LACDP.org website. Gonzalez talks about how the Trump census caused California to lose a congressional seat on the Eastside of LA – undercounting 100,000 people. He also talks about why it’s important for men to stand up for the rights of women who are a major target of MAGA Republicans, along with LGBTQ folks, people of color and migrants.   

This is the first time down-ballot races include city races and local propositions that are usually on the ballot in March or June. Gonzalez exhibits his leadership by admitting that LACDP screwed up by endorsing LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva in his first election. Villanueva recently displayed a very “Trumpian” move by having scores of deputies execute a questionable search warrant in the early hours at the home of out Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. 

“We made a mistake,” Gonzalez says. “I think what’s crucial to that is when we endorsed the current Sheriff, this was historic for us to endorse somebody who was a Democrat over a hundred and something years and that we made a pivotal change to put somebody in who was and is a Democrat and expressed those values in the Democratic Party, unlike the previous sheriff. Unfortunately, though, this particular sheriff — many of our membership, many Democrats across the county, feel that they’ve been duped…. [Now] he’s been on Republican platforms talking about his agenda.” 

Gonzalez says LACDP now supports Villanueva’s challenger, former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna and calls for a ballot measure that gives the LA County Board of Supervisors the power and authority to remove a sheriff for violations of public trust. 

“Election Day starts the first week of October,” he says. “Why is that important? It’s the sixth time that every single California registered voter in California will receive a ballot in the mail. That’s important because ads are going to ramp up. Folks are going to start to get their ballot in the box and they’re going to look at it and they have literally a month to return it.” The mail-in ballot must be postmarked by Election Day for it to count. 

Despite the stakes, we really haven’t seen a big Get Out The Vote push yet. That’s what Max Huskins and I are producing this limited YouTube series.

We are tired of letting MAGA Republicans stake a claim to “patriotism” as they carry Confederate flags through the US Capitol, looking to “hang” Vice President Mike Pence and “get” Speaker Nancy Pelosi in order to stop the Constitutional peaceful transfer of power and install their fake prince as President. What the hell? Even in junior high school sports, opposing teams line up and shake hands, no matter who wins or loses the game. 

Max and I are regular people with regular jobs — and we’re American patriots, too. That’s why we are reaching out to you, to stand up as an individual patriot who also cherishes this country and what it and you can become. We must all work hard to fight the Trumpification of America and save our democracy. 

And, as an LGBTQ person, I am tired of always being afraid of making some straight person uncomfortable by my mere existence. I am 72 years old and I do not want to die as an official second-class citizen in this country I love.

We LGBTQs must seize our own power and help Democrats win so we, too, have a chance to secure our fundamental Constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Who is fighting for your LGBTQ+ rights in the midterms?

    

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