Connect with us

Politics

Rep. Maxwell Frost demands action on LGBTQ rights, gun control

Frost spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act which he categorized as a “bigoted law made by bigoted people”

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) (Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) during an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade on March 24 called for President Joe Biden to “speak out about” the wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country.

The congressman said the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education “should be heavily involved in investigating what’s going on in Florida and in all these states where these bills are being passed.” Frost added that Biden is “the perfect person” to warn voters about the consequences of extreme anti-equality policies; noting the pro-worker, pro-union “Joe from Scranton” frequently promotes his working-class roots.

“That [message] coming out of his mouth, the story of these policies impact everyone, I think would have a really big impact,” the congressman said. 

Frost, 26, in 2022 became the first Gen Zer elected to Congress. 

He represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District that includes Pulse, a gay nightclub in which a gunman killed 49 people on June 12, 2016. 

Frost co-organized the March for Our Lives, which took place in D.C. on March 24, 2018, less than two months after a gunman killed 17 people in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. His gun control advocacy efforts began when he became a volunteer for the Newtown Action Alliance, a group that formed in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

DeSantis ‘a dictator’

Frost during the interview spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act — more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — which he categorized as a “bigoted law made by bigoted people.”

The law aims to regulate classroom discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade. It also prohibits public schools from using confidentiality forms in the case of a student disclosing sensitive information that includes their gender identity and sexual orientation and requires personnel to inform their parents if they were to ask for the information.

“They’re starting to change our education system because they want to try to counteract the inherent progressive and, you know, decent values that young people have,” explained Frost. 

While Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis focuses on preparing legislation that otherwise helps “take away” history, Frost notes the governor does not put forth measures that seek to improve his state.

“He’s not focusing on raising wages, ensuring people have a livable planet, ensuring that we end gun violence, the rocketing housing prices,” Frost said. “And these things impact everybody.”

The congressman was weary of the overall repercussions that the “Don’t Say Gay” law would have on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ people across Florida, and he went as far as saying it could result in deaths. Frost further pointed out the number of hate crimes in his state has increased since DeSantis took office.

“This is going to have real impacts to LGBTQ+ students, parents, etc. Just people in the district and across Florida, that can result — that will result and is resulting in — trauma and people being hurt and hate crimes, and we probably will see death from it,” said Frost.

“This [governor] is a dictator,” he concluded. 

State lawmakers and other members of Congress have introduced Florida-style ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws.

Republican Louisiana Congresswoman Julia Letlow introduced a Parental Bill of Rights Act in March that looks “to ensure the rights of parents are honored and protected in the nation’s public schools.” Frost maintains, however, that these types of bills only serve to spread bigotry and hate “under the guise of parental rights.”

Frost perceives what he contends is the extremist overhaul of the country’s educational system as a “long-term plan” from Republican politicians. A plan that, in his view, goes back to the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson in a statement to the Blade said Biden “has been outspoken in his support of LGBTQI+ Americans and he’ll continue to speak out against vicious political attacks against them.” 

Biden earlier this month during an interview with Kal Penn for “The Daily Show” described efforts to restrict the rights of transgender people in Florida and elsewhere as “close to sinful.” 

Four LGBTQ advocacy groups earlier this month filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four families with trans children who are challenging the Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine’s ban on gender affirming healthcare for minors.

Patterson in her statement stressed Biden “is grateful for the leadership of Congressman Frost and other leaders who share his commitment to supporting LGBTQI+ Americans and speaking out against dangerous policies that seek to vilify our fellow Americans.”  

Frost survived gun violence in 2016

Frost spoke with the Blade a day after Capitol Police arrested Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, was killed in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.

Officers arrested Manuel Oliver after he and his wife, Patricia Oliver, challenged U.S. Reps. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) during a joint House Oversight and Judiciary Committee hearing on gun control. 

The two Republican congressmen asked officers to remove the Olivers from the hearing. 

Frost, a vocal gun control supporter who survived a gun violence incident in 2016, told the Blade the hearing was full of “lies.”

“Folks were in town and people came out [because of my recently introduced gun bill]; glad they came to the hearing. And they sat through all of those lies,” Frost said. “And I think when you hear those lies, sometimes you just want to say something.”

The Oliver family spoke out against Fallon’s defense of guns, saying how guns were the very thing that took their son away. Fallon then insisted that they be taken out of the hearing. 

Frost later said the “real story” was the fact that there were “two parents who lost their son who was in high school, because he was shot to death and died in a pool of his own blood.” 

Frost, who’s vice chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, recently introduced a gun control bill that, according to a press release, “would bring together those most impacted by gun violence with leaders across federal agencies to advance policy, collect and report data, expand state and local outreach, and maximize existing programs and services related to preventing gun violence.” 

Frost introduced the bill alongside U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) 

Frost opposes oil drilling project

The congressman also spoke about Biden’s controversial Willow Project, an oil drilling venture that will take place in Alaska. Climate activists are among those who strongly oppose the plan. 

“A lot of times in life, but also a lot in politics, you have to hold multiple truths,” Frost emphasized. “And there’s a lot of truths to hold at the same time. The president approving this project is directly against, I believe his values, but also [the] campaign promises that he had made.”

The Trump administration originally approved the Willow Project in 2020, and up to 600 million barrels of oil are located in the area in which the drilling will take place.

The Biden-Harris White House felt it could not do much since Houston-based ConocoPhillips has the existing and valid leases for the area. 

Even so, Frost emphasized that although the current administration is in favor of drastically cutting emissions, it also recognizes the fact that “at least for the next decade or two we’ll need a reliance on oil and fossil fuels as we transition, which is another truth.” He did stress, nonetheless, that he does not “subscribe” to the idea that society needs “more capacity to scale back emissions over the next few decades.”

U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“And we’re also here to tell the administration that, you know, there’s a lot more that can be done, there’s more projects pending,” Frost said. “We’d love to see them do the right thing on that. So, we’re talking with the administration directly. We’re working with organizations, especially like youth organizations, that are really thinking through the climate crisis.”

Additional reporting from Christopher Kane and Michael K. Lavers

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

California Politics

Second chartered jet with migrants arrives in Sacramento

Is there anything more cruel than using scared human beings to score cheap political points?” asked Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg

Published

on

Temecula Border Patrol Station - Sub Station Border crossing station, a USBP officer deals with overwhelming number of migrants. (Screenshot/YouTube Reuters)

SACRAMENTO – The Office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta acknowledged to reporters that a second chartered plane full of migrants arrived in Sacramento on Monday morning. Officials say the transportation was again arranged by the state of Florida.

This latest prompting Governor Gavin Newsom to escalate his war of words with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, threatening to charge his fellow governor with a crime.

“.@RonDeSantis you small, pathetic man. This isn’t Martha’s Vineyard. Kidnapping charges? Read the following. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=207.&lawCode=PEN” Newsom tweeted.

Tara Gallegos, a spokesperson for Attorney General Bonta, told reporters the migrants’ paperwork indicated they were transported through a program run by Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and carried out by contractor Vertol Systems Co.

This is the same firm paid $1.56 million by Florida officials last year to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and for a possible second flight to Delaware that never took place, which Governor Newsom referenced when he tweeted about it earlier on Monday.

The Associated Press noted that neither Vertol Systems nor DeSantis’ office responded to requests for comment. Alecia Collins, a spokesperson for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, which oversees Florida’s migrant flights program, said in an email Monday that she couldn’t immediately confirm whether the agency was involved in this latest instance.

A statement from Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg showed the frustration and anger with DeSantis’ tactics: Whoever is behind this must answer the following: Is there anything more cruel than using scared human beings to score cheap political points?”

Continue Reading

Politics

Trans kids driving teen suicides says Republican hopeful Haley 

“There is zero evidence that this is remotely true in any sense and it’s horrific that Nikki Haley is espousing this view”

Published

on

Screenshot/YouTube CNN

DES MOINES – Veteran CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper moderated a wide ranging live CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley on Sunday in Iowa’s capital city.

Tapper had asked about her feelings on “woke” when the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations suddenly pivoted to an attack on transgender teens. “How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms?” Haley asked. “And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year.”

“I want everybody to live the way they want to live,” she continued. “But stop pushing your views on everybody else, that’s the problem.”

Conflating the two separate issues according to Washington, D.C. based Rotimi Adeoye, a spokesperson for the ACLU is wrong. “There is zero evidence that this is remotely true in any sense and it’s horrific that Nikki Haley is espousing this view. This furthers dangerous anti-trans ideologies that could hurt people.”

In a recent study released on April 28, 2023 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one third of female students in 2021 reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months before the survey. Researchers also found that in addition, prevalence was significantly higher among LGBQ+ female students, lesbian or gay; 2.60 bisexual; 1.80 questioning; 2.40 trans or other) compared with heterosexual students

However there was zero correlation or facts to substantiate Haley’s claims.

The Republican hopeful was one of the declared presidential candidates to make appearances over the weekend with the exception of former President Donald Trump.

Continue Reading

California Politics

Migrants dumped at Calif. church after charted jet flight from Texas

Immigrants were carrying documentation purported to be from the State of Florida according to the Attorney General’s office

Published

on

Attorney General Rob Bonta in Bakersfield discussing best practices to eliminate the staggering rise of hate and extremism, June 3, 2023. (Photo Credit: Office of the Attorney General)

SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Governor Gavin Newsom expressed outrage after a group of 16 migrants were transported by a private chartered jet from Texas via New Mexico and were left at the doorstep of the offices of the Sacramento Catholic Diocese on Friday.

“Today Attorney General Rob Bonta and I met with over a dozen migrants in Sacramento, Governor Newsom said in a news release. “These individuals were transported from Texas to New Mexico before being flown by private chartered jet to Sacramento and dumped on the doorstep of a local church without any advance warning.”

“We are working closely with the Mayor’s office, along with local and nonprofit partners to ensure the people who have arrived are treated with respect and dignity, and get to their intended destination as they pursue their immigration cases. My Administration is also working with the California Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances around who paid for the group’s travel and whether the individuals orchestrating this trip misled anyone with false promises or have violated any criminal laws, including kidnapping,” the Governor said.

The Attorney General said in a separate statement:

“Today I met with over a dozen migrants who were brought to Sacramento by private plane, with no prior arrangement or care in place,” said Bonta. “We are investigating the circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California. We are also evaluating potential criminal or civil action against those who transported or arranged for the transport of these vulnerable immigrants. While this is still under investigation, we can confirm these individuals were in possession of documentation purporting to be from the government of the State of Florida.

“While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting. We are a nation built by immigrants and we must condemn the cruelty and hateful rhetoric of those, whether they are state leaders or private parties, who refuse to recognize humanity and who turn their backs on extending dignity and care to fellow human beings. California and the Sacramento community will welcome these individuals with open arms and provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they will need after such a harrowing experience,” Bonta added.

Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento noted: “Within each of the 16 migrants transported to Sacramento on Friday we recognize the humble presence of Jesus, and we hear His call to stand by them. The urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of good will. We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned.”

According to Diocese officials, the migrants arrived with everything they own stuffed in their backpacks. Migrant rights advocates say that the sixteen Venezuelan and Colombian nationals were lied to and intentionally deceived.

Eddie Carmona, campaign director at PICO California, a faith-based community organizing group that has been assisting the migrants told the Associated Press that the migrants had already been processed by U.S. immigration officials and given court dates for their asylum cases when “individuals representing a private contractor” approached them outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas, Carmona said. They offered to help the migrants get jobs and get them to their final destination, he said.

“They were lied to and intentionally deceived,” Carmona said, adding that the migrants had no idea where they were after being dropped off in Sacramento.

Late Sunday the Los Angeles Times reported the documents appear to show that the flights were arranged through the Florida Division of Emergency Management and that it was part of the state’s migrant transportation program, according to a spokesperson with the attorney general’s office who did not want to be identified.

Continue Reading

Politics

Elon Musk to lobby for criminalizing healthcare for trans youth

Musk’s 18-year-old trans daughter had filed papers in court to legally change her first and last name and request a new birth certificate

Published

on

Elon Musk in a recent interview with The Babylon Bee, a conservative Christian news anti-left satire website. (Screenshot/YouTube)

SAN FRANCISCO – Elon Musk started Pride Month with a series of transphobic tweets that constitute his most extreme attacks agains the community to-date and included a pledge on Thursday that he will be “actively lobbying to criminalize” healthcare interventions for transgender youth.

Also on Thursday, Musk responded “Totally agree” to a tweet from a trans-exclusionary LGB account that said, “LGB don’t even want Pride month anymore. We just want to be separated from the TQ+.”

And then on Friday, the Twitter owner intervened on behalf of anti-trans pundit Matt Walsh when the platform took steps to limit the reach of his “documentary” attacking the community, and then he re-tweeted Walsh’s video.

The New Republic named Walsh “Transphobe of the Year” in 2022, noting that he stood out in a crowded field of hate purveyors, having “raised his profile by spreading grotesque conspiracy theories about grooming” and pedophilia in the LGBTQ community.”

Responding to Musk’s promise to fight for the criminalization of gender affirming care, anti-trans conservative media commentator and University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson tweeted, “Prison. Long term. Without Parole. No Mercy. And maybe for the compliant ‘therapists’ and the butchers they enable.” Musk replied, “Absolutely.”

Medical societies that develop and publish clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minor patients do not generally recommend genital surgeries before the age of 18.

Access to the interventions proscribed in these guidelines, which are supported by every mainstream scientific and medical body, have been shown to dramatically reduce rates of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicides among trans youth. Studies show rates of post-treatment regret are exceedingly rare.

Musk has long been known as an online provocateur, often taking aim at institutions like Hollywood, big businesses, and the mainstream news media that he believes promote a left-leaning agenda without providing room for dissenting voices.

However, the tech billionaire has increasingly aligned himself with more extreme right-wing politics and conservative political figures like Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who launched his 2024 presidential campaign last week with a Twitter Spaces discussion hosted by Musk just days after signing some of the most extreme anti-trans laws of any state in the country.

Likewise with his public statements concerning the transgender community. A few years ago, Musk courted controversy for mocking and complaining about the practice of calling trans and nonbinary people by their preferred pronouns. This week’s anti-trans tirade was markedly more extreme.

Last year, Insider noted Musk’s comments about gender pronouns in its coverage of a Reuters report that the South African born entrepreneur’s 18-year-old transgender daughter had filed papers in a California court to legally change her first and last name and request a new birth certificate.

Per Reuters, the teen said that she no longer wished to be “related to my biological father in any way, shape or form.”

A month later, the elder Musk publicly declared his support for the Republican Party. In an interview with the Financial Times, he said the reason for his estrangement from his daughter was “full on communism” in elite colleges and universities.

Continue Reading

Politics

Biden sends Sean Patrick Maloney nomination to the Senate

New York’s first openly gay member of Congress, he finished his fifth term as chair of the DCCC before narrowly losing his bid for reelection

Published

on

Former U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) with his husband. (Photo Credit: Sean Patrick Maloney)

WASHINGTON – The White House on Thursday officially announced the nomination of former Democratic congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York to serve as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s U.S. representative with the rank of ambassador.

Since February 2022, former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has represented U.S. before the OECD, an intergovernmental body with 38 member countries founded to promote economic progress and stimulate world trade.

Along with Maloney’s nomination to replace him, Markell’s nomination last month to serve as ambassador to Italy is now pending before the Senate.

New York’s first openly gay member of Congress, Maloney finished his fifth term as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Party’s sixth highest-ranking position in the House, before narrowly losing his bid for reelection in 2022.

Maloney was credited with helping to secure the Democrats’ better-than-expected performance in the midterm elections but lost his own race by just 1,800 votes after New York’s 17th Congressional District was redrawn

Continue Reading

Politics

Senate signs off on debt ceiling deal, bill heads to the president

The deal leaves neither side happy with the outcome. With today’s action the volatile debt ceiling issue has been pushed back until 2025

Published

on

President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this week as negotiations between the two sides dragged on. (Screenshot/YouTube ABC News)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate passed the debt ceiling and budget cuts package negotiated between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a late night session Thursday. After four months of contentious debate between Republicans and the White House, a large bipartisan majority of the Senate voted 63-36 to approve the bill, which passed the House on Wednesday night.

The deal leaves neither Republicans nor Democrats happy with the outcome. With today’s action and once the president signs the measure, the volatile debt ceiling issue that risked imploding the U.S. and global economy, has been pushed back until 2025 – after the next U.S. presidential election. Had the American nation defaulted it would have triggered a global recession and the loss of millions of jobs.

In a speech on the Senate floor after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the chamber, “By passing this bill we will avoid default tonight. America can breathe a sigh of relief. “From the start, avoiding default has been our north star. The consequences of default would be catastrophic,” he said. “For all the ups and downs and twists and turns it took to get here, it is so good for this country that both parties have come together at last to avoid default,” Schumer added.

The Hill reported that four Democrats voted against the measure: Sens. John Fetterman (Pa.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), along with Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Joining a total of 31 Republicans who also voted against the measure.

The Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) labeled the deal package a major win for Republicans.  

“I think Speaker McCarthy should be congratulated on capturing a number of priorities,” McConnell said, pointing out that Congress enacted approximately $2.7 trillion in new spending on party-line votes when Democrats were in full control in 2021 and 2022.  

“So, we’ve gone from one party spending $2.7 trillion in two years to a discussion about actually reducing government spending. So, I think the American people’s decision to change House has already yielded benefits for our country,” he said.  

“All Americans should be offended by the manufactured crisis and hostage taking by Republicans threatening our nation’s economy, but the consequences of defaulting on our debt are too severe and would disproportionately fall on working class and low-income families. We cannot allow our country to default on its debt,” said U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) 

“While not ideal, this agreement protects our nation’s historic economic recovery and the progress we’ve secured over the past two years through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, the PACT Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. Democrats prevented Republican-proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare programs that the American people have worked for, paid for, and rely on to survive,” the senator noted.

“And while I am pleased that the deal expands nutrition assistance to veterans, people experiencing homelessness, and former foster youth, I’m disappointed that Republicans continue to target programs that have kept families in need from going hungry—all under the pretext of insufficient work requirements. Republicans were more than willing to allow a catastrophic default that would have put millions of Americans out of work and decimated retirement savings. With today’s vote, the Senate thankfully helped avoid disaster, but it should have never come to this point,” Padilla added.

Continue Reading

Politics

Rep. Cicilline on future of LGBTQ rights & life after Congress

Looking beyond Congress, Cicilline said he is eager to continue advancing “equality and justice for our community”

Published

on

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Speaking with the Washington Blade by phone on Tuesday from Rhode Island, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) was optimistic about the outcome of the debt ceiling negotiations that have roiled Capitol Hill, the White House, and Wall Street for weeks.

“My sense of it is there are enough Democratic and Republican votes to get it to the president’s desk,” said the congressman, who would fly back to Washington in the evening with the expectation that a vote would be held the following day.  

Even amid the chaos and back-and-forth travel this week, Cicilline was ready to look back on the landmark legislative accomplishments of his distinguished career in politics, which have included groundbreaking advancements for LGBTQ rights.

And despite the ascendancy of anti-LGBTQ attacks from the right, including from much of the Republican caucus, he told the Blade there is ample reason to be optimistic that the chamber’s pro-equality work will continue in his absence.

As announced back in February and effective on Thursday, Cicilline will retire from Congress to lead his state’s largest philanthropic organization, the Rhode Island Foundation, having represented its 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House since 2011.

A former attorney, Cicilline was tapped to lead the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism.

Particularly in recent years, the congressman became one of the most powerful House Democrats, elected to leadership in 2017 as a co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and picked in 2021 by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to serve as one of the nine members tasked with managing the House’s second impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

Among other legislative achievements, Cicilline is widely credited with leading the House’s passage, twice, of the biggest civil rights bill since the 1964 Civil Rights Act – the Equality Act, which would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in areas from education and housing to employment and public accommodations.

While the Senate failed to pass the Equality Act, Cicilline said, “I’m handing that work off to [U.S. Rep.] Mark Takano [D-Calif.], who I know will take it over the finish line” once Democrats win control of the House again.

The congressman told the Blade that he hopes his leadership on this bill will be remembered as a key part of his legacy – and was adamant that its passage through both chambers is now a question of “when” rather than “if.”

“The majority of Americans support the Equality Act, and a majority of voters in every single state support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people,” so “this is about the Republican conference in Congress catching up with the American people,” Cicilline said.

Congress is beginning to look more like America in at least one respect, though. After his first election to the House, Cicilline was one of only three openly LGBTQ members serving in Congress (having already made history in 2003 as the first openly gay mayor of a state capital, Providence, R.I.).

Today, “I’m leaving with 10 colleagues in the House and two in the Senate,” he said, “so that’s great progress.”

“The calvary has arrived” with “young new members who are going to lead the next wave of this fight” such as openly LGBTQ U.S. Reps. Robert Garcia (Calif.), Becca Balint (Vt.), Eric Sorensen (Ill.), and Ritchie Torres (N.Y.), Cicilline said.

Echoing comments from his final speech on the House floor last week, the congressman also expressed his faith and confidence in party leaders with whom he has worked closely, including Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)

Hopes and expectations for the current Democratic conference’s ability to deliver on behalf of LGBTQ Americans were buttressed late last year by passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation co-led by Cicilline that codified fundamental rights for same-sex couples that might otherwise be erased if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or weakens its constitutional protections for marriage equality.

How to combat the rightwing crusade against LGBTQ and especially trans Americans

However prepared Cicilline believes his colleagues are to meet the moment, the congressman is also up to speed on the unprecedented challenges presented by the current political climate with respect to LGBTQ rights.

This year, state legislatures have introduced hundreds of bills targeting trans Americans, which endeavor to restrict their access to everything from lifesaving healthcare to public bathrooms. At the same time, anti-trans rhetoric has escalated to such an extent that a rightwing pundit speaking at CPAC said “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely,” which some interpreted as a call for genocide against the community.

Legislatively, Cicilline said it is all part of a cynical political strategy adopted by Republicans. Having concluded that their crusade against same-sex marriage was no longer winnable, the party sought another way to fight against LGBTQ rights, eventually polling anti-trans positions and messaging that successfully motivates “the most extreme parts of their political base,” he said.

“Our Republican colleagues have weaponized the trans community in such a way that they think it’s politically advantageous to attack even trans kids,” which is “really horrific” especially considering the potential for tragic real-world consequences, including targeted violence against the trans community, Cicilline said.

“I hope people who are seeking public office will be conscious of that and will be responsible, but unfortunately, I think there are some who are so driven by their desire for power, that they’re prepared to do almost anything to get there,” the congressman added.

Some conservatives hope their polarization of and fear mongering about trans issues will drive a wedge, providing sufficient incentive or a permission structure for LGB Americans to turn their backs on the trans community, Cicilline said, but “That’s not gonna happen.”

“We are standing in lockstep with our trans brothers and sisters, and we’re just not going to allow them to be attacked in this way,” he said.

Broadly speaking, Cicilline said elected Democrats must “stand up for the queer community, speak out, condemn this kind of [anti-LGBTQ/anti-trans] legislation, and let the American people see the contrast” between the Democratic Party, which “stands for inclusion and has fought for LGBTQ+ equality” and the GOP, which is pushing “these very toxic and dangerous and un-American attacks on the LGBTQ community.”

The congressman noted that working against the interests of LGBTQ Americans is nothing new for congressional Republicans. “With just a couple of exceptions,” he said, the House GOP caucus voted against the Equality Act’s nondiscrimination protections, which stem directly from America’s most basic foundational values of fairness and equality.

“So that means I have colleagues in the Congress of the United States on the Republican side who fundamentally rejected the legislation that would grant me and others in my community full equality as citizens of this country, [colleagues who would] allow discrimination to continue against our community,” Cicilline said.

When it comes to navigating interpersonal working relationships with anti-LGBTQ Republicans in the chamber, though, “I frankly don’t really care how they feel about us,” the congressman said. “That’s irrelevant to me.”  

Cicilline to continue advocating for LGBTQ Americans after Congress

In addition to the Equality Act, Cicilline said that if Democrats recapture control of the House, he expects to see renewed momentum for a bill that he authored, the Global Respect Act, and another for which he was an original cosponsor, the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act. Both were passed by the House but not by the Senate and therefore remain “unfinished business,” he said.

The Global Respect Act, Cicilline said, “will allow the U.S. to impose visa sanctions on anyone who commits gross human rights violations against the LGBTQ community,” while the latter bill would mandate that federal surveys must include data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Other legislative efforts that Cicilline has led, in areas from antitrust to foreign policy to gun violence, also include some “unfinished business” – bills that might see movement in the next Congress that carry the potential, in many cases, to measurably impact the lives of all Americans.

For instance, Cicilline, who has been at the vanguard of Congress’s work modernizing and strengthening antitrust law, remains hopeful about the eventual passage of six bills that he introduced in 2021, all designed to increase competition in digital markets.

These would curb the monopolistic power of dominant tech platform companies whose business models center engagement as the primary mechanism to drive advertising revenue – even though, as these firms are aware, content that tends to earn more engagement tends to be that which is incendiary, offensive, hateful, false, or misleading, violent or otherwise outrageous.

Looking beyond Congress, Cicilline said he is eager to continue advancing “equality and justice for our community” at the Rhode Island Foundation, building upon the organization’s existing work “supporting the organizations that are doing really important work to support the LGBTQ community.”

Cicilline acknowledged that leading an “explicitly non-partisan organization” will be a departure from his work in Washington – though perhaps not to the extent one might imagine.

“You know, our community remains, in this country, a marginalized community,” the congressman said. “In fact, it’s the only community, still, in America, that it’s legal to discriminate against.”

At this point, rather than pivoting back to discussing the need for passage of the Equality Act, Cicilline instead explained that because of the lack of national nondiscrimination protections, he is even more eager to include the LGBTQ community in the foundation’s work advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Continue Reading

Politics

Liberal PAC poll shows Floridians oppose DeSantis policies

Respondents were asked their opinion of recent laws being signed by Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis that targets LGBTQ+ Floridians

Published

on

Billboard mock-up photo provided by Cedar Key Progress PAC

SACRAMENTO -A recent Cedar Key Progress poll of 400 Floridians, conducted May 18-22, 2023 by Civiqs, found that Floridians oppose LGBTQ+ book bans and Ron DeSantis’s attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.

In a series of questions, respondents were asked their opinion of recent laws being signed by Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis that targets LGBTQ+ Floridians, especially LGBTQ+ youth and educational instruction.

Do you support or oppose laws removing books mentioning gay and transgender people and history from public school libraries?
Support 42%
Oppose 48%
Neither support nor oppose 7%
Unsure 3%

Do you support or oppose laws banning diversity, equity, and inclusion programs from colleges and universities?
Support 39%
Oppose 50%
Neither support nor oppose 7%
Unsure 4%

Full poll results here.

The Cedar Key Progress group is also sponsoring six billboards during June’s LGBTQ+ Pride month 2023 to be positioned along six major throughfares across the state including:

Titusville, Brevard County
East side, Northbound U.S. 1, north of Golden Knights Blvd

Tallahassee, Leon County
West side, Lake Bradford Road north of Hutchinson St

Yulee, Nassau County
US 17 south of Harts Road

Pensacola, Escambia County
South side of I-10 west of Alt US 90

Summerfield, Marion County
US 27 south of SE 132nd St

Winter Haven, Polk County
Cypress Gardens Blvd south of Old Helena Rd

Continue Reading

Politics

Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point partners with registered sex offender

Bergstrand served time for attempted “coercion and enticement” after trying to persuade “a minor female” to “engage in sexual activity”

Published

on

Charlie Kirk speaking on the 2021 Turning Point USA college tour (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

NASHVILLE – Far-right extremist radio chat show host and Turning Point USA CEO Charles J. Kirk, in statements he made this past week at the TPUSA’s second-annual Pastors Summit, told attendees that conservatives and others needed to boycott Target for “their support for grooming kids.”

Kirk also attacked Target, telling a packed audience of religious leaders: “If you love God, you must hate evil.”

One of the TPUSA summit’s corporate sponsors was Shawn Bergstrand, currently CEO of Bismarck-based Rightside Up Apparel, who is also a registered sex offender in North Dakota Rolling Stone magazine reported.

Bergstrand, served time in federal prison for attempted “coercion and enticement” after trying to persuade “a minor female” to “engage in sexual activity.”

In a statement to Rolling Stone, TPUSA spokesman Andrew Kolvet said that TPUSA Faith “was not aware of this incident” but emphasized that, as an “exhibit sponsor,” Bergstrand was not a speaker, organizer, or “professing doctrine from the stage.”

Kirk, who decried the sexualization of children at his pastors summit, responded on Twitter saying: “What a joke. Let’s set the record straight. First, I’ve never met this person. He was one of many exhibitors at our event. He’s not a “corporate sponsor” but rather a small business trying to market his company.

I’m told from the team that coordinates exhibitors that he’s a nice person who did something wrong over a decade ago, and unlike Target, he repented and the experience led him to his faith. Good for him. That’s the Gospel.

Lastly, he doesn’t hide what happened. He tells his story on his own website, and the jerks at Rollingstone [sic] took that public testimony and called it “exclusive,” just to unfairly smear him and play gotcha with me and TPUSA Faith. Rollingstone [sic] should be ashamed. Trash outlet that publishes trash hit pieces about an event they didn’t witness and know nothing about.

Rolling Stone also noted: Kirk responded to Rolling Stone’coverage of his group’s new crusade. “First of all, it’s not my Turning Point,” Kirk insisted of his organization. “It’s the Lord’s Turning Point.” He added: “I am both a Christian and a nationalist, but most importantly, I’m a Christian.”

Bergstrand did not respond to requests for comment from the magazine, but his address on North Dakota’s sex offender registry matches the registration address for Bergstrand and Rightside Up in a corporate registry maintained by North Dakota’s secretary of state. Bergtrand’s photo on the offender registry also matches video of the apparel CEO from RightsideUp’s website.

Kirk has launched attacks on progressive politicians in a similar vein as his attacks on Target. Last November, in a lengthy tirade on Twitter, Kirk, while loosely channeling an InfoWars host Alex Jones style-attack, went after California State Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF District 11) implying that the veteran lawmaker endorses and supports child molestation.

Kirk’s attack on the senator commenced with: “Thousands of pedophiles in California are going free after just a few months in jail, thanks to the state’s radically reduced penalties for child molestation. One reason so many of these predators are going free so early is California lawmaker Scott Wiener.”

Editor’s Note: It needs to be made clear, California has NOT reduced penalties for child molestation.

Senator Wiener responded to Kirk’s attacks saying on Twitter:

Charlie Kirk — one of the biggest attention-seeking liars around — is spreading bald-faced lies about me. These statements are absolutely false & defamatory. These are the lies bigots have always spread about LGBTQ people — lies that lead to violence against our community.

Continue Reading

California Politics

LA Times poll: Trump’s big lead over DeSantis with California GOP

“The former president’s rise shows his ability to use the media to galvanize the voters most likely to back his third White House bid”

Published

on

Former President Trump, and former VP Mike Pence honor the late Rev. Billy Graham, shown speaking with Graham's anti-LGBTQ+ right-wing son Franklin Graham on March 2, 2018. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

BERKELEY, Calif. – Former President Trump has vaulted back to a big lead in California over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, as the party’s voters brush aside his legal travails, a new poll finds.

The latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll finds that Trump now leads DeSantis 44% to 26%, a reversal of where they stood in February. A dozen other Republicans were included in the poll, but none got more than 4%. Almost 9 in 10 California Republicans say investigations into Trump are more about politics than law and justice.

Read the entire story here: (Los Angeles Times)

Continue Reading

Popular