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LGBTQ groups react to president’s State of the Union speech

LGBTQ rights groups have largely praised President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech that he delivered on Tuesday

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House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) with Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson (Rep. Hakeem Jeffries/Twitter)

WASHINGTON – LGBTQ rights groups have largely praised President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech that he delivered on Tuesday.

“It’s our duty to protect all the people’s rights and freedoms,” said Biden. “Make no mistake: If Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it. Let’s also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity.” 

The Equality Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law. The bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives in two previous Congresses, but did not come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate. 

“In re-upping his call for Congress to pass the Equality Act and protect transgender youth, the president is leading by example to expand freedom so no one is left behind,” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis commented on Twitter. 

Likewise, Equality PAC, the political arm of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, was committed to the president’s vision of a safer U.S. for LGBTQ+ people. 

“At a time where LGBTQ Americans, especially those who are trans, are increasingly under attack by right wing extremists, these [legal] protections have never been more dire,” remarked U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who co-chair Equality PAC. “We remain committed to working with President Biden and members of Congress to pass the Equality Act and enshrine additional LGBTQ rights into law.” 

The National LGBTQ Task Force in its response to the State of the Union noted how all of the issues on which Biden touched — Social Security, fair wages, Medicaid expansion, access to education, reproductive rights and police reform — have the LGBTQ community “at the center of all the issues.” 

“LGBTQ people are often disproportionately impacted because of the discrimination our community faces every single day. LGBTQ people are not fully able to participate or benefit from all that our country has to offer. For too many queer people, the American dream is out of reach,” said National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson. 

Research from the Trevor Project notes 36 percent of LGBTQ youth have reported they have been physically threatened or harmed due to either their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sixty percent of LGBTQ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it, and 89 percent of them said seeing LGBTQ representation in the media made them feel good about being LGBTQ.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson, who attended the State of the Union alongside House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), said “we appreciate that President Biden is making a point to focus national attention on this urgent topic and stand up for transgender kids, because we need our nation’s leaders to show up and prove that, collectively, we are greater than hate.” 

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Joe Biden to ‘stand down’ from 2024 presidential race

Announcement comes amid growing pressure from Democrats to step aside

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Pride celebration on June 10, 2023, at the White House. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

President Joe Biden on Sunday announced he will “stand down” from the 2024 presidential ticket.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your president,” he said in a statement he posted to X. “And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as president for the remainder of my term.”

Biden said he will speak to the country “later this week in more detail about my decision.”

The president in his statement specifically thanked Vice President Kamala Harris, describing her as an “extraordinary partner in all this work.” Biden in a second statement endorsed her.

The move comes after weeks of pressure from Democratic leaders, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who met privately with the president to urge him to step aside because he had no clear path to beating the Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Doubts among Democrats were crystalized by Biden’s poor performance in his televised debate against Trump on June 27, which led prominent donors including actor George Clooney to urge the party to replace him. They were followed by a steady trickle of elected Democrats.

“We are deeply grateful to President Biden for his more than 50 years of public service and his longtime support for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson in a statement. “Today’s announcement reflects his legacy and what President Biden has done his entire career: put the needs of Americans and his country above his own. We owe the Biden-Harris team a debt of gratitude for leading the country out of a state of chaos and constant crisis under former President Trump.”

“The Biden-Harris administration has been the most pro-LGBTQ+ equality administration in history: assembling the most diverse administration, signing the Respect for Marriage Act into law to protect against attacks on marriage equality, and taking important steps to protect our transgender community and LGBTQ+ students,” added Robinson. “President Biden and Vice President Harris have worked closely with HRC and others to get things done and move us closer to equality. We look forward to hearing President Biden address the nation later this week.”

Los Angeles reacts, backs Harris

Reaction was swift and supportive in Los Angeles, where Harris has long been a popular figure.

During her 2020 run for president, Harris made the LGBTQ fundraising rounds and raised large sums of money, most notably during a private event at the home of David Cooley, the then- owner of the Abbey. Cooley agreed to host at his home after Harris popped in unexpectedly at the famous bar while campaigning.

Just this week she toured Los Angeles with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and then traveled with him to a swank fundraiser in Provincetown, Mass., that brought the financial elite of Los Angeles together.

The Biden-Harris Provincetown fundraiser was co-hosted by noted Angelenos, including Creative Artists Agency partner Joe Machota and his husband Michael Russell, along with Bryan Rafanelli and Abbey owner Tristan Schukraft, raising more $2 million for the Biden-Harris reelection campaign.

That, coupled with today’s announcement, indicates the vice president will have no trouble raising funds from the LGBTQ community and Hollywood as a presidential candidate.

LGBTQ elected officials and other LGBTQ community leaders were ecstatic about today’s events:

“I’m excited to support Vice President Harris and look forward to continuing the progressive legacy she championed alongside President Joe Biden,” West Hollywood Mayor John Erickson told the Los Angeles Blade. “VP Harris is a longtime champion of LGBTQ+ rights and access to abortion, and we need her leadership in the White House.”  

“Every election, we say: ‘This is the most important election,’ and this time, we really need people to understand that it is,” he continued. “We are at the moment in history where we either will defeat the evil being presented by the other side of the aisle or choose to embrace what this country is really all about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.” 

Wilson Cruz, chair of the GLSEN board of directors, said he is “so grateful to President Biden for, once again and always, putting the nation and its needs before his own. A statement we can never make about the Republican nominee. “

“Kamala Harris, he said, is the future. She is the embodiment of the promise of America. As a California resident, I wholeheartedly supported and then voted for her at every opportunity. As we will see when she prosecuted the case against felon and his VP lackey, she is more than qualified, fit and ready for this fight.”

Cruz said he sees Harris as a “unrelentingly vocal and visible ally” and believes she will “build the most supportive administration the LGBTQ community has ever seen.”

“I will do anything and everything the campaign believes I will be useful in doing,” Cruz told Blade.

“I’m going to get LGBTQ and people of color out to vote in order to protect this democracy, protect a woman’s bodily autonomy and defend and secure the rights of LGBTQ people across this country,” he said, adding “let’s go!”

Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang, in a statement that focused on Biden, said his organization is “eternally grateful to President Joe Biden for his lifetime service to our country, and his longtime support for the LGBTQ+ community.”

“As he has throughout his more than half a century in elected office, President Biden has put what is best for America above all else,” said Hoang. “During his time in the White House, President Biden pushed forward a proactive agenda that opens doors and levels the playing field for all LGBTQ+ Americans, while defending against attacks from far-right extremists seeking to roll back our hard-fought rights. Our community owes President Biden a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

“As vice president under President Barack Obama, he was one of that administration’s earliest voices in support of marriage equality, and as president he has led the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in history,” he added. “From overturning a discriminatory ban on transgender people serving in the military, to signing the Respect for Marriage Act, to strengthening protections for LGBTQ+ people, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the betterment of all LGBTQ+ Americans. Additionally, President Biden tapped members of the LGBTQ+ community to serve key roles in his cabinet, including Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation and Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine — the first out transgender Cabinet official in American history — as Assistant Secretary of Health, and nominated hundreds of pro-equality federal and district judges.

Moving forward, our primary objective must be defeating Donald Trump and JD Vance this November. Both candidates pose an existential threat to democracy, evidenced by their support of extremist agendas such as Project 2025 — which spells out in chilling detail processes to dismantle governmental checks and balances, reverse all progress made by LGBTQ+ people, and threaten reproductive choice and bodily autonomy.

At a time of unprecedented anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and hate violence directed at our community, it is more important than ever before to have strong champions for LGBTQ+ equality in the White House. In the coming days, we will reevaluate the organization’s endorsement for president. Equality California remains committed to getting out the vote this November to ensure that pro-equality champions are elected up and down the ballot to continue building a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all people.”

West Hollywood Councilmember and former Mayor Sepi Shyne thanked Biden “for his many years of service to our country and his legacy on LGBTQ+ rights, especially his vital role in supporting gay marriage when he was VP.”

“He has been a champion for us,” she said, adding, “I am in full support of his decision to step down and endorse vice president Harris as the Democratic nominee for president.”

Shyne states that she “fully supports VP Harris and has faith she will win.”

“This is an incredibly important moment for us all to unite for justice, women, LGBTQ+ rights, diversity, common sense, democracy, and our human rights,” she said. “When we stand together we win. I am with VP Kamala Harris all the way.”

Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Executive Officer Joe Hollendoner said “the Biden-Harris Administration is the most pro-LGBTQ+ in United States history. I am grateful to President Biden for his commitment to our community and applaud his service to our country.”

He added “the nation is facing an unprecedented time and we continue to face dangerous inflection points targeting LGBTQ+ civil rights, reproductive justice, and so much more. This November, we need candidates who will not abandon our interests on the ballot and instead keep a steadfast commitment to the issues facing LGBTQ+ Americans.” 

Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang told the Blade that “President Biden‘s announcement that he won’t seek reelection is a moment in history won’t be forgotten for time immemorial.” He noted “it is an example of the highest standard of pure statesmanship.”

Prang also said “the president’s action marks an amazing half century political career that began as one of the youngest senators in the nation and is now ending as its oldest president.”

“Under his steady calm but strong guidance the Biden–Harris administration led our nation through the COVID pandemic while he rebuilt our manufacturing arm here at home,” he said. “Leading the way was his work to return the manufacturing of the computer chip here in our great nation.”

Prang also points out “he fought for investment both at home and globally that created hundreds of thousands of new jobs that will steer the country into a stronger industrial well that could charge our economic recovery.”

Prang thanked the president for his legacy of selfless public service

Troy Masters contributed to this story.

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Log Cabin Republicans host GOP candidates in tight congressional races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Log Cabin Republicans president, Ric Grenell outline conservative LGBTQ positions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump supports anti-trans sports ban in RNC speech

Former president’s remarks did not otherwise address LGBTQ issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alan Kettering (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Republican delegate discusses GOP platform and Project 2025 at RNC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Adam Schiff calls on Biden to exit 2024 race

Calif. Democrat is frontrunner to win US Senate race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anti-LGBTQ GOP Senate hopefuls target immigration in RNC speeches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LGBTQ issues have loomed large in his race, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Newsom signs law banning schools’ gender notification policies

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

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(Graphic courtesy of PFLAG)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump picks anti-LGBTQ JD Vance as running mate

HRC, GLAAD highlight vice presidential nominee’s record

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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