WASHINGTON – Responding to criticism from some in the LGBTQ community about the Kids Online Safety Act, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) defended the legislation and reiterated his strong support for queer youth.
“I would never put my name on any bill that targets or disparages or harms the trans or LGBTQ community,” Blumenthal told the Washington Blade on Friday.
“There have been a lot of eyes” on the Kids Online Safety Act, he said. “A lot of very smart and careful people have reviewed its language, and they and I have worked to make it as rigorous and tight as possible.”
The proposed legislation, introduced by Blumenthal and Republican U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), would address harms experienced by children and their families at the hands of dominant social media and tech platform companies. It enjoys broad bipartisan support in the Senate.
Critics took issue with previous iterations of the bill, however, raising alarms that conservative state attorneys general tasked with enforcing its provisions might treat positive or tonally neutral LGBTQ content as harmful to children under the statute.
A coalition of organizations issued a letter last year warning Congress that “online services would face substantial pressure to over-moderate,” at a time in which “books with LGBTQ+ themes are being banned” and “people providing healthcare to trans children are being falsely accused of ‘grooming.’”
Blumenthal told the Blade changes to the 2023 version in areas including the duty of care, which were made in consultation with a bevy of LGBTQ groups and individual advocates, have changed these organizations’ positions on the legislation.
“We have tightened the statute – tightened and clarified the statute – as much as we can to try to make it as rigorous as possible to avoid both the misuse and potential chilling effect,” the senator said.
He also highlighted some reasons for the urgent need for passage.
“The real devastating harms done to children by the bullying,” along with toxic content promoting eating disorders and suicide, “largely as a result of black-box algorithms, is the kind of evil that I have fought throughout my career,” he said.
The senator has fought for accountability from these companies for decades, combatting child predation on Myspace and Facebook as attorney general of Connecticut in the early aughts and, in Congress, championing antitrust reforms targeting Big Tech that have come to the fore in recent years.
He has also been a staunch pro-equality ally for the LGBTQ community, earning a perfect 100 on the Congressional Scorecard from the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group.
“I care deeply about that community as is evidenced by a lifetime of work in this area, as attorney general and now as the U.S. senator,” he said.
“The Kids Online Safety Act is designed to give children and their parents tools to protect themselves,” Blumenthal said, “and also to impose accountability on those companies that are profiteering; achieve more transparency about those algorithms; and give parents reporting mechanisms and other means, in effect, to take back control and [also for] children to take back control.”
The proposed bill would require covered platforms to “take reasonable measures” to “prevent and mitigate” harms to youth such as “anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and suicidal behaviors,” along with “patterns of use that indicate or encourage addiction-like behaviors” and “physical violence, online bullying, and harassment of the minor.”
LGBTQ youth are affected by these challenges and harms, too, and in many cases, disproportionately.
“Take bullying, for example,” Blumenthal told the Blade. No longer relegated to the school yard, this behavior follows victims home, he said, adding, “the addictive quality of social media is so powerful that it can be all consuming.”
During an interview Thursday on the Rated LGBT Radio program, attorney Laura Marquez-Garrett noted how LGBTQ youth will turn to social media platforms searching for affirmation about their sexual orientation or gender identity only to find “this really harmful experience that is causing, in many cases, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts.”
Marquez-Garrett, a litigator who left her law practice in 2020 to join the Social Media Law Center, explained the Kids Online Safety Act includes a carve-out, “added in the last couple months, which says that a covered platform has no duty to prevent or preclude any minor under 17 from deliberately and independently searching for or specifically requesting content.”
Still, concerns persisted after Blackburn noted, in March, efforts toward “protecting minor children from the transgender [sic] in this culture and that influence” before talking about the Kids Online Safety Act.
Her legislative director later clarified that, “KOSA will not — nor was it designed to — target or censor any individual or community.”
Addressing these matters, Blumenthal told the Blade, “whatever anyone including Senator Blackburn may say about their personal beliefs, I know what the bill does and that’s what’s important here.”
“My goal,” he said, is to remedy the problems caused by social media and online platforms, problems that in too many cases are fatal for young people, while avoiding “any of the unintended consequences” because “it’s not enough to have good motives.”
Blumenthal said that while “my colleagues on the Republican side and I may differ in certain beliefs about a wide variety of issues” and “Senator Blackburn and I vote together a small minority of times, where we’re united, we try to work together.”
“And we’re united on preventing the harms that are so egregiously crippling and killing,” he added.
So, Blumenthal said, “looking at it substantively, putting aside who’s for it and who’s against it, I think on the merits, it holds up. The merits and the substance and the actual words of the proposed statute really refute those arguments that the tech companies have sought to make.”
Asked whether he believes the dominant tech platforms and social media companies might be behind efforts to sow doubt and distrust with respect to the Kids Online Safety Act among LGBTQ and other communities, the senator noted, “they have no compunction about distorting or misrepresenting the facts and trying to twist and deceive about specific provisions of legislation.”
“They resort to any and every means,” he said, “And they will try to exploit communities that may be susceptible to their misrepresentation.”
Additionally, Blumenthal said, the “tech and social media companies have – I don’t know how to put it politely – but they’ve essentially tried to ignore the important changes that we have made” including “the narrowing of the duty of care provisions” and “the broadening of support services.”
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House averts shutdown, clears bipartisan spending bill
Conservative members of GOP caucus warned they would replace the Speaker if he cooperated with Democrats on a deal to avoid a shutdown
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House on Saturday approved a 45-day continuing resolution that, should the Senate approve the stopgap measure, as expected, will avert a government shutdown.
In a stunning turn of events, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats backed the proposal, H.R. 5860 advanced by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), which was passed with a vote of 335-91.
Ninety Republicans and one Democrat voted against the continuing resolution which, in addition to funding U.S. government agencies through mid-November, will provide billions in disaster relief .
Democrats agreed to the bill even though it did not contain U.S. aid to Ukraine. Still, the most conservative members of McCarthy’s caucus have warned they would replace their speaker if he cooperated with Democrats on a deal to avoid a shutdown.
In recent weeks, these members advanced far-right anti-LGBTQ amendments to spending packages that stood no chance of becoming law.
The Senate voted 88-9 to pass a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government at current levels through Nov. 17 and gives the Biden administration $16 billion it requested to assist victims of natural disasters.
“Bipartisanship, which has been the trademark of the Senate, has prevailed. And the American people can breathe a sigh of relief,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.
After the Senate voted late Saturday evening to pass the House stop-gap continuing resolution, the White House released the following statement from President Biden:
“Tonight, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to keep the government open, preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans. This bill ensures that active-duty troops will continue to get paid, travelers will be spared airport delays, millions of women and children will continue to have access to vital nutrition assistance, and so much more. This is good news for the American people.
But I want to be clear: we should never have been in this position in the first place. Just a few months ago, Speaker McCarthy and I reached a budget agreement to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis. For weeks, extreme House Republicans tried to walk away from that deal by demanding drastic cuts that would have been devastating for millions of Americans. They failed.
While the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of Congress have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, there is no new funding in this agreement to continue that support. We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted. I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”
Biden is expected to sign the measure once it is delivered to the White House before the midnight deadline.
On Saturday, September 30, 2023, the President signed into law:
H.R. 5860, which provides fiscal year appropriations to Federal agencies through November 17, 2023, for continuing projects of the Federal Government and extends several expiring authorities.
Speaker McCarthy’s Press Conference After House Passage of 45-Day Stop-Gap:
McCarthy dealt another blow by far-right GOP seeking to oust him
In January, McCarthy narrowly secured his bid for the speakership after an unprecedented 15 votes from his caucus
WASHINGTON – After joining with the Democrats on Friday to sabotage House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (Calif.) plan to forestall a government shutdown with a last-ditch spending package, a group of far-right members are now focused on replacing him.
The stop-gap funding bill was defeated 232-198 with more than 20 Republicans voting against the measure.
House GOP sources tell the Washington Blade that removing McCarthy from the speaker’s chair is now a top priority, along with resisting pressure from Senate Republicans seeking to broker a deal to avoid allowing funding to lapse.
These sources confirmed reporting in the Washington Post about discussions of tapping U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.) to become the chamber’s top Republican, though the congressman told CBS Minnesota/WCCO News, “I fully support Speaker McCarthy. He knows that and I know that. I have zero interest in palace intrigue. End of discussion.”
While Emmer was among the 39 House Republicans who voted with the Democrats in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, which protects the rights of couples in same-sex marriages, in April he was among the more vocal members pushing for a federal ban to prohibit transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.
In January, McCarthy narrowly secured his bid for the speakership after an unprecedented 15 votes from his caucus. Many of the same members now calling for his replacement demanded concessions, including conditioning their votes on McCarthy’s agreement to allow any member to call for a motion to vacate the chair at any time.
During the votes, which were held over a period of five days, other members like U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) were nominated for the position.
Dianne Feinstein dies
Calif. Democrat elected to U.S. Senate in 1992
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has died at the age of 90.
Her office in a statement said the California Democrat, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 1992, passed away at her Washington home on Thursday night.
Feinstein in 1978 became San Francisco’s mayor after the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk.
“Her passing is a great loss for so many, from those who loved and cared for her to the people of California that she dedicated her life to serving,” reads the statement that Feinstein’s office released.
“Senator Feinstein never backed away from a fight for what was just and right,” it added. “At the same time, she was always willing to work with anyone, even those she disagreed with, if it meant bettering the lives of Californians or the betterment of our nation.”
President Joe Biden, who served alongside Feinstein in the Senate from 1992 to 2009, released a statement calling her “a pioneering American,” “a true trailblazer,” and “for Jill and me, a cherished friend.”
“In San Francisco, she showed enormous poise and courage in the wake of tragedy, and became a powerful voice for American values. Serving in the Senate together for more than 15 years, I had a front row seat to what Dianne was able to accomplish. It’s why I recruited her to serve on the Judiciary Committee when I was Chairman – I knew what she was made of, and I wanted her on our team.
“There’s no better example of her skillful legislating and sheer force of will than when she turned passion into purpose, and led the fight to ban assault weapons. Dianne made her mark on everything from national security to the environment to protecting civil liberties. She’s made history in so many ways, and our country will benefit from her legacy for generations.
“Often the only woman in the room, Dianne was a role model for so many Americans – a job she took seriously by mentoring countless public servants, many of whom now serve in my Administration. She had an immense impact on younger female leaders for whom she generously opened doors. Dianne was tough, sharp, always prepared, and never pulled a punch, but she was also a kind and loyal friend, and that’s what Jill and I will miss the most.
“As we mourn with her daughter Katherine and the Feinstein family, her team in the Senate, and the people of California, we take comfort that Dianne is reunited again with her beloved Richard. May God Bless Dianne Feinstein.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, who served alongside Feinstein as U.S. Senator for California from 2017 to 2021 and, previously, was California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney, issued the following statement:
“Senator Dianne Feinstein was one of the greatest public servants that California and our nation has ever known.
“As the first woman president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the first woman to serve as mayor of San Francisco, and the longest-tenured woman to serve in the United States Senate, Dianne Feinstein broke barriers, inspired generations of women to run for office, and improved the lives of millions of Americans through her vision, courage, and leadership.
“From her work to help pass the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, to her work to safeguard California’s public lands, and her longstanding advocacy for reproductive rights, marriage equality, and LGBTQ+ rights, Senator Feinstein helped build a better America.
“For years, I witnessed Senator Feinstein’s leadership, when the cameras were on and when they were off. In 2008, when I was re-elected District Attorney of San Francisco, it was Senator Feinstein who swore me in. As a United States Senator, it was my honor to serve the people of California alongside Senator Feinstein.
“On the Senate Intelligence Committee, we spent a great deal of time together—in classified, bipartisan briefings and hearings—working on issues critical to America’s national security and the stability of the world. Senator Feinstein and I shared a fundamental belief in the importance of strong American leadership. And I saw firsthand how she worked courageously to ensure that our leadership was guided by our nation’s values.
“In the tradition of so many great Senators from California, she was not only a leader for our state, but for our nation and our world. Through her long career, Senator Feinstein worked across the aisle to help our nation live up to its promise.
“Doug and I send our prayers to Senator Feinstein’s family.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom shared a statment on X.
Addressing the Senate floor on Friday, California Sen. Alex Padilla (D) said, “long before being able to serve together here in the Senate, Diane gave me one of my first jobs in politics in her Los Angeles office. At a time early in my career, when I was looking to make a difference for my community, and for our state. It’s in part thanks to her groundbreaking career that a Latino son of immigrants could one day not just work for her but work alongside her to keep up the fight for the American dream.”
Padilla also shared an anecdote about how Feinstein showed him a photograph, from her archives, of the AIDS Walk San Francisco in 1987, which she had inscribed with a handwritten note.
Also speaking from the floor in tribute to their late colleague following an address from the Senate Chaplain and a moment of silence were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
The statement by U.S. House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) touched on the senator’s early career in Democratic politics: “Dianne was a pioneering woman leader, who served as San Francisco’s first female Mayor with unmatched courage, poise and grace. Standing strong amid horror and heartbreak – from the brutal murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone to the deadly HIV/AIDs epidemic – she offered our City a beacon of strength and hope.”
“Personally, it was a great honor to serve alongside Dianne for decades – from the hilly streets of San Francisco to the hallowed halls of Congress,” Pelosi said. “We were not only colleagues, but neighbors and friends.”
She added, “My daughter, Nancy Corinne, has long been an admirer and devoted friend of Senator Feinstein, and we were all close friends with her and her late husband, Richard.”
LGBTQ groups issue statements on Feinstein’s passing
“Senator Dianne Feinstein’s passing is a loss for us all,” tweeted Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson. “Her steadfast support for the LGBTQ+ community and the fight for justice will be remembered. We carry her legacy forward in our relentless pursuit of equality without exception.”
Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, released a statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang on Friday. “Senator Feinstein devoted her life to serving the people of California and our nation, championing LGBTQ+ civil rights, reproductive freedom, gun safety reform and democracy throughout her remarkable career. Senator Feinstein stood with our community back when few others did, fighting for funding and action to combat the AIDS crisis when most elected officials chose to look away.”
“On the Board of Supervisors and then as Mayor, she played a crucial role in uniting San Francisco after the horrific assassinations of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, demonstrating exceptional leadership and compassion at a time when our LGBTQ+ community needed it most,” the group wrote.
“Her role in American history is unmistakably intertwined with LGBTQ+ history and the assassination of Supervisor Harvey Milk,” PFLAG said. “She had been a constant and strident advocate for LGBTQ+ rights ever since, supporting marriage equality, military service for LGBTQ+ people, the Equality Act, and so much more.
“PFLAG families in California and across the country mourn the loss of this stalwart advocate who worked to make our laws just and equitable so every LGBTQ+ person could live with dignity and respect.”
“Harvey Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk posted “After the assassination of Uncle Harvey – Senator Feinstein rose to national attention – determined, unwavering champion on women’s rights, gun control & eventually a consistent supporter of LGBTQ inclusion,” Stuart Milk, co-founder and president of the Harvey Milk Foundation, posted on X. “She is the patron of the USNS Harvey Milk -deep condolences Godspeed Dianne,” he wrote, referring to the U.S. Navy ship named for the late gay rights pioneer.
National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson said, “The loss of Senator Feinstein’s voice as an advocate and champion is immeasurable. Our hearts are with her family during this time. She was a champion for those who call California home and those seeking justice everywhere.”
“She was a trailblazer who paved the way for so many. Her deep roots in the queer community, forged as a city councilmember in San Francisco and shaped by her relationship with Harvey Milk, contributed to her unwavering supporting for LGBTQ people,” Johnson said.
She added that Feinstein was “a leader who took risks. She was an original cosponsor of the Equality Act and a key champion for legislation like the Violence Against Women Act. She is succeeded by and undoubtedly inspired a deep bench of congress people like Tammy Baldwin who are bold and unapologetic freedom fighters who are unrelenting in their quest for freedom and justice for all! She will be deeply missed.”
This photo is from 2010, when Dianne Feinstein endorsed me in my first run for Board of Supervisors. I was a community activist & not well known. Sen Feinstein — one of the most powerful people in the U.S. — spent more than an hour with me & took a chance on me. I’m so grateful. pic.twitter.com/VjfRxxbwZC— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) September 29, 2023
A look back at Feinstein’s career
A native San Franciscan born in the city on June 22, 1933, she first attended San Francisco public schools and then graduated from the Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in 1951.
She earned her degree at Stanford University in Palo Alto in 1955 and became actively involved in government service first serving as a member of the California Women’s Board of Terms and Parole 1960-1966.
In her first foray into city politics she won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing the Marina neighborhood, serving from 1970-1978, and as president 1970-1971, 1974-1975, 1978.
In 1978 Feinstein was thrust into the state and national political spotlight when on November 27, 1978 she became the mayor of San Francisco, after disgruntled former city supervisor Dan White entered City Hall and assassinated Mayor George Moscone after Moscone refused to appoint White back into his seat he had resigned from days before. White then also murdered openly gay city supervisor Harvey Milk who had sparred with White over gay rights and had opposed White getting his seat back.
Feinstein served as mayor for ten years from 1978-1988 then she served on the board as a director of the Bank of California 1988-1989 at which point she made an unsuccessful run as a candidate for Governor of California in 1990.
After losing that race for governor in 1990, Feinstein later won a special election on November 3, 1992, as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate. The special election was triggered by the resignation of Pete Wilson, who had defeated her in the 1990 gubernatorial election. She took office on November 4, 1992, and was subsequently reelected in 1994, 2000, 2006, 2012, and again in 2018 for the term ending January 3, 2025.
Feinstein’s record on LGBTQ+ rights was mixed
Senator Feinstein’s record on LGBTQ+ rights was mixed as reported on by San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ newspaper The Bay Area Reporter’s Assistant Editor John Ferrannini who noted:
Earlier in that campaign  she’d faced some opposition from members of the LGBTQ community after she made remarks to Ladies’ Home Journal perceived as homophobic, but later won community support after gay candidate David Scott endorsed her in a runoff against independent Quentin Kopp. Scott endorsed Feinstein after she committed to appoint a gay person to the police oversight panel, which Feinstein followed through on with her appointment of lesbian Jo Daly.
Feinstein’s veto of city employee benefits for domestic partners led to a recall effort in 1983, though she won 81% to 18%.
In the Senate she was one of the few Democratic members who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which had been supported by then-senator and current President Joe Biden (D). The last vestiges of DOMA were formally repealed in December when Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act. DOMA had key provisions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 (Section 3, U.S. v. Windsor) and 2015 (Section 2, Obergefell v. Hodges).
Feinstein was never without controversy though, and in 2004 upset more progressive Democrats when she said then-mayor and now Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to order San Francisco officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was “too much, too fast, too soon.”
She was criticized in 2020 when she said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing was “one of the best” and hugged Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina), then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Barrett’s vote last June on the Supreme Court was key for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which had protected abortion as a constitutional right, a key issue for Feinstein.
In 2017 the Senator openly criticized then President Trump’s ban on trans military service.
Feinstein in February announced her decision to retire at the end of her term. “I am announcing today I will not run for reelection in 2024 but intend to accomplish as much for California as I can through the end of next year when my term ends,” she said in a statement.
Out gay California state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) wrote on Twitter:
“Dianne Feinstein has been a trailblazer for more than 50 years,” he stated. “Her accomplishments are legion. We’re so proud of her in San Francisco & grateful for her service to our city & our state.”
Dianne Feinstein has been a trailblazer for more than 50 years. Her accomplishments are legion. We’re so proud of her in San Francisco & grateful for her service to our city & our state.— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) February 14, 2023
Equality California released a statement from Hoang:
“Throughout her storied political career, Dianne Feinstein has been a champion for LGBTQ+ rights – from her early days on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors serving alongside Harvey Milk, to her historic service as the first woman Mayor of San Francisco and the first woman to represent California in the United States Senate.
“From being one of only 14 Senators to oppose the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996 to being the lead Senate sponsor on the recently-signed Respect for Marriage Act, which repealed DOMA, Senator Feinstein has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of not only her constituents, but all LGBTQ+ Americans.
“She has supported landmark federal hate crime legislation, fought for access to life-saving treatment for people living with HIV, sponsored the Equality Act, spoken out in support of LGBTQ+ service members before and after ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, and has stood up for our community – even before it was popular to do so and when it presented significant political risks. Senator Feinstein has also been a leading champion in the fight against gun violence, recently reintroducing legislation to ban high-capacity magazines in the wake of deadly mass shootings like those at Club Q – an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado. Equality California has been proud to call her a friend and ally –we are eternally grateful for her service and will continue to work with her as she finishes out her term.”
Additional reporting by Michael Lavers and Brody Levesque
House passes amendment targeting LGBTQ+ USDA workers
“In a clear indication moderates are completely controlled by the extreme fringe, they’re passing blatantly homophobic legislation”
WASHINGTON – House Republicans on Wednesday pushed through a proposal by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from using federally appropriated funds for materials supporting the agency’s LGBTQ employees.
Passing by just three votes in the face of unified opposition from Democrats, along with one GOP member, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), the measure will never be signed into law amid Democratic control of the Senate and White House.
For weeks, Boebert and her ideological allies in the lower chamber have dashed hopes of forestalling a government shutdown by insisting on ladening must-pass spending bills with far-right demands, often targeting the LGBTQ community and initiatives promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Even so, the aim and scope of the Colorado congresswoman’s amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill was striking.
Among the 17 types of “courses, books, or study guides” circumscribed in the measure are those concerning “approaching LGBT issues in the workplace,” “understanding and supporting LGBTQ+ employees,” “becoming an ally to all,” “conversations with LGBTQ+ leaders on the power of identity,” and “creating an inclusive work community” for transgender employees.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Viet Shelton condemned House Republicans’ passage of the amendment in a statement shared with the Washington Blade:
“In a clear indication that so-called moderate Republicans are now completely controlled by their extreme fringes, they are now passing such blatantly homophobic legislation that mandates federal employees be discriminated against in the workplace,” he said. “Their focus on these hateful policies while ignoring middle class families struggling with rising costs is why they will lose their majority in Congress next year.”
Boebert denigrates, misgenders trans Pentagon official
“Rep. Boebert, just spent 5 minutes misgendering & attacking our Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness—just because she’s trans”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) denigrated and deliberately misgendered Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly, the Pentagon’s highest ranked transgender official, during a debate Wednesday over amendments to a defense appropriations bill.
In remarks that stirred outrage from her Democratic colleagues, the congresswoman called Skelly a “delusional man thinking he is a woman” and the embodiment of “woke-ism” before proposing an amendment that would reduce her salary to a dollar.
Skelly served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for 20 years as a naval flight officer before retiring with the rank of commander. Her record of service includes senior positions with the Defense and Transportation Departments during the Obama administration.
“Assistant Secretary Skelly has served in her role admirably, as she has done as her time as a naval officer,” responded Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (Minn.), stressing each of the feminine pronouns as she spoke.
The second-term Colorado representative countered with more transphobic comments: “if you want to call Mr. Skelly a her, his chromosomes are still XY, and we trust the science over here rather than delusion and playing dress up and imaginary games with our military readiness. “
Boebert is among the more vocal members of an ultraconservative cohort of House Republicans who, in recent weeks, have sabotaged efforts to clear must-pass appropriations spending packages before October 1 to forestall a government shutdown.
Members of the far-right faction have attached to these bills controversial, partisan, and often anti-LGBTQ amendments — effectively dooming their chances of passage by the U.S. Senate amid Democratic control of the chamber.
With respect to the Defense Department spending bill, for example, GOP members have advanced proposals that would defund healthcare services for transgender service members and ban Pride flags from military bases.
On X, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, wrote that “Republicans claim to support the military but Rep. Boebert, just spent 5 minutes misgendering & attacking our Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness—just because she’s trans. Ms. Skelly serves our country w/ honor. I can’t say the same for Boebert.”
The Caucus added, “It’s disgusting that a Member of Congress would use their platform on the House Floor to misgender & attack a top-ranking @DeptofDefense official and veteran just because she’s a trans woman.”
It's disgusting that a Member of Congress would use their platform on the House Floor to misgender & attack a top-ranking @DeptofDefense official and veteran just because she's a trans woman.— Congressional Equality Caucus (@EqualityCaucus) September 27, 2023
We stand with Ms. Skelly & thank her for her service and commitment to this country. https://t.co/J6wId22rGC
House GOP sinks spending bill, Dems object to anti-LGBTQ riders
Speaker McCarthy: “Frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate”
WASHINGTON – A group of four hardline House Republicans on Thursday joined Democratic colleagues to sink their own spending bill, a $886 billion military appropriations package full of riders from GOP members that include anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ provisions.
The 216-212 vote raised the likelihood of a government shutdown if lawmakers are unable to forge a path forward before the end of September.
“Instead of decreasing the chance of a shutdown, Speaker McCarthy is actually increasing it by wasting time on extremist proposals that cannot become law in the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
His counterpart in the House, Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) expressed frustration with his own caucus, characterizing the impasse he has reached with colleagues as “frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate.”
“And then you got all the amendments if you don’t like the bill,” he continued. “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down — it doesn’t work.”
A group of 155 House Democrats on Thursday issued a letter objecting to anti-LGBTQ provisions in the bill, the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, addressing the message to U.S. Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.
The effort was led by Congressional Equality Caucus Chair U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and the co-chairs of the Caucus’s Transgender Equality Task Force, U.S. Reps. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
Specifically, the letter argues several anti-equality amendments would “actively target LGBTQ+ service members and LGBTQ+ dependents and threaten the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces.”
Among these are riders prohibiting coverage of gender affirming healthcare interventions for service members and their dependents; banning LGBTQ Pride flags, drag shows and other events; and restricting funding for certain books in schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity.
Senate confirms Rita Lin as Federal Judge for Northern California
She will be the first Chinese-American woman to serve. Lin previously fought for marriage equality as a lawyer in private practice
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted 52-45 to confirm Rita Lin’s nomination by President Joe Biden to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The first Chinese American woman to serve in the role, Lin previously fought for marriage equality as an attorney in private practice with the multinational firm Morrison and Foerster.
As co-counsel in a 2012 case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, she secured the first ruling striking down the law, which proscribed marriage as exclusively heterosexual unions, since President Obama announced his administration would no longer defend it.
The Senate’s vote to confirm Lin was supported by all present Democratic members and three Republicans: U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).
Last year, during hearings for her nomination in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) objected to an article she wrote in 1998 while a junior at Harvard University calling members of the Christian Coalition “bigots.”
The Christian Coalition was founded by the late Christian media mogul Pat Robertson, who attracted controversy throughout his life and career for making sexist, homophobic and racist remarks.
Lin was appointed as a judge in the San Francisco Superior Court in 2018, and she currently presides over felony and misdemeanor criminal trials. She previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney in San Francisco.
Freedom Caucus threatens shutdown over ‘woke’ military policies
They also want to stem flow of immigrants at the southern border & address the “unprecedented weaponization” of the Justice Dept. & FBI
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House Freedom Caucus has raised the specter of a government shutdown by announcing on Monday plans to oppose any stop-gap funding measure that fails to, among other demands, “end the Left’s cancerous woke policies in the Pentagon.”
Conditioning support for a must-pass spending bill on its inclusion of conservative policies that will almost certainly be a non-starter in the Senate, let alone the White House, the caucus’s 45 ultraconservative members have once again created headaches for their House Speaker, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
The chamber’s top Republican, who is hustling to pass a bill before the end of September to avoid a shutdown, has said he would back a temporary continuing resolution to buy more time for budget talks so long as they do not extend past early December.
Along with combatting the “woke” policies “undermining our military’s core warfighting mission,” the caucus wants to stem the flow of immigrants at the southern border and “address the unprecedented weaponization of the Justice Department and FBI.”
A spokesperson did not respond to a request seeking details about which specific policies at the Pentagon the group finds objectionable, but caucus members in recent months have targeted those impacting the LGBTQ community in amendments to other spending bills.
For example, these House Republicans have sought to block government funding of healthcare services for transgender Americans serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and pushed bans that would prohibit military bases from flying Pride flags and hosting drag shows or other LGBTQ events, such as celebrations honoring Pride month.
Communications staff for the caucus’s chair, communications chair, and policy chair, U.S. Reps. Scott Perry (Pa.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), and Chip Roy (Texas), did not immediately respond to requests for clarification about the Pentagon policies.
Lawmakers urge World Bank to suspend loans to Uganda
Country’s president on May 29 signed Anti-Homosexuality Act
WASHINGTON — Nearly a dozen members of Congress this week asked the World Bank Group to suspend loans to Uganda in response to the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.
U.S. Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Al Green (D-Texas), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Brittany Pettersen (D-Colo.), Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton in a letter they sent to World Bank Group President Ajay Banga urged him “to immediately postpone and suspend all current and future lending to Uganda until the recent Anti-Homosexuality Act, signed by President Yoweri Museveni on May 29, 2023, is struck down.”
“While we undoubtedly support efforts to promote long-term economic development and poverty reduction in Uganda, the recent law mandates state-sponsored discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ individuals, creating a humanitarian crisis that plainly violates World Bank stated policies,” states the letter.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act, among other things, contains a provision that calls for the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”
The Council for Global Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, Outright International, Rainbow Railroad and Planned Parenthood Global are five of the 170 human rights organizations that urged the World Bank on June 15 to suspend loans to Uganda. The State Department the following day announced the U.S. had imposed visa restrictions against Ugandan officials.
Then-World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in 2014 postponed a $90 million loan to the Ugandan government in response to Museveni’s decision to sign a version of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that did not contain a death penalty provision. (The Constitutional Court later struck down the law on a technicality.)
Kim’s decision to postpone the loan without first consulting the World Bank board sparked widespread criticism among board members. Advocacy groups had asked the World Bank not to fund future projects in Uganda, but they did not ask for the cancellation of existing loans.
“We stand with Ugandan activists, international humanitarian organizations, and the LGBTQ+ community and insist that the bank take swift action to postpone and suspend all lending to Uganda until the law is struck down,” reads the Congress members’ letter to Banga. “Continuing to lend money to Uganda and implement projects in the country would signal to the Ugandan government, other governments considering similar laws and LGBTQ+ people around the world that the World Bank does not truly value inclusion and that its commitments to nondiscrimination are disingenuous. The World Bank can and must do better.”
The Washington Blade on Friday obtained an email from a Ugandan LGBTQ+ and intersex activist that indicates the World Bank “has announced that they are carrying out a review of lending to Uganda, and that they won’t disburse any funding or agree on any new lending during this period.”
The Blade has reached out to the World Bank for comment.
GOP is accused of anti-LGBTQ animus on House subcommittee
“Had Republicans struck funding from “the NAACP or the Urban League, [they] would — rightfully so — be called racist bigots”
WASHINGTON – Republican members of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) filed en bloc amendment on Tuesday striking three LGBTQ Community Project Funding requests from a spending package containing a total of 2,680.
Speaking to the Washington Blade minutes before markup was set to resume, the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), pledged to file an amendment restoring funding for the three projects: LGBTQ Secure Housing Inc., Gay Community Center of Philadelphia, and The LGBT Center of Greater Reading.
“The only three they pulled out were projects for the LGBTQ community,” Quigley said. “So, you know, it’s not hard to draw conclusions with that,” in fact, “it’s hard to draw any other conclusion.”
Quigley added, “You’ve gotta ask yourself, how did they find these three?”
It is a question on which the congressman said he will press his GOP colleagues, along with: “why after months of vetting, and a week after the bill was made public, do these three projects raise concern and not the other 2,677”?
Quigley added, “one could speculate — reasonably — that somebody in leadership said, ‘we have members that won’t vote for the base bill if it has projects for the gay community.'”
Having served on the Appropriations Committee for the better part of a decade, Quigley told the Blade he has “never seen anything like” Tuesday’s move by his Republican colleagues.
“If you’re going to do this sort of thing, which I would argue is is prejudiced,” the congressman asked, “why would you do it so publicly?”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) drew attention to two additional Community Project Fundings that would ultimately go to benefit LGBTQ individuals—however those are not being targeted for removal.
If instead of these three projects, Republicans had struck funding from “the NAACP or the Urban League, [they] would — rightfully so — be called racist bigots,” U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a member of the Appropriations Committee and chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, told colleagues during the first THUD markup on Tuesday.
If the @HouseGOP took away earmarks from the NAACP or the Urban League because they serve the Black community, they'd rightfully be called racist bigots.— Rep. Mark Pocan (@RepMarkPocan) July 18, 2023
Stripping funding from LGBTQI+ groups, however, is just another day in Congress for these extremists.
Enough is enough. pic.twitter.com/YwaRyDX3OY
“When you do it to the LGBT community, it’s another frickin’ day in Congress,” he said, adding, “This is below the dignity of this Committee.”
The congressman recalled instances in which he had been the victim of homophobic hate, such as when “I wasn’t out yet [and had] left a gay bar and two people followed me and beat me with a baseball bat till I was bloodied and unconscious and called me a ‘faggot.'”
“This is what you guys do by introducing amendments like this,” Pocan said.
The congressman said U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) should not vote for the bill unless he is looking for a path to early retirement, given his new Congressional district includes the famously gay city of Palm Springs.
U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), ranking member of the U.S. House Budget Committee, issued a statement objecting to the Republicans’ revocation of funding for one of the projects he had earmarked.
“As a member of Congress, I’m able to designate up to 15 worthy recipients in my district of federal funding,” he said. “One of those is the historic William Way LGBTQ Center in Center City, Philadelphia.”
“Well, just today with no notice, the Republican majority filed an amendment that out of over 3,800 projects from members of Congress, 3,800 that have been approved, they are now voting to strip funding from the only three projects that have LGBTQ in the organization’s name,” Boyle said.
“This is outrageous,” the congressman said. “This is one of the most obvious and disgusting examples of bigotry that I have seen in my career and in my life.”
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