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Off-year elections prove promising for Democrats

Voters for LGBTQ equality & fundamental freedoms came out in force in the 2023 election, showing that most Americans support LGBTQ people

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Especially notable in Tuesday's results was the reelection of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), an LGBTQ ally who vetoed the ban on gender affirming care for minors passed by his deep-red state legislature. (Screenshot/YouTube MSNBC)

WASHINGTON – Tuesday’s off-year elections, seen as a bellwether for the 2024 races, spelled victory for Democrats, LGBTQ candidates, and abortion rights while also signaling the failure of anti-trans attacks that were intended to motivate conservative voters.

Especially notable was the reelection of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), an LGBTQ ally who vetoed the ban on gender affirming care for minors passed by his deep-red state legislature, as well as Virginia Del. Danica Roem’s successful bid to become the country’s second trans state senator.

AdImpact found Beshear’s Republican opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, spent more than $5 million in television ads attacking LGBTQ rights, while Roem’s Republican challenger had lobbed anti-trans attacks against her throughout the campaign.

LGBTQ Victory Fund President and CEO Mayor Annise Parker said the newly anointed Virginia state senator “made LGBTQ+ history tonight because she put constituents first, speaking to the real issues that impact children and their families in Virginia, from fixing roads to ensuring kids and families have food on the table.”

Parker added, “Her win tonight will make national headlines and serves as a deafening rebuke to bigots who continue to try and silence the LGBTQ+ community and trans people in particular.”

The Mississippi House of Representatives and Philadelphia City Council are also slated to welcome their first LGBTQ representatives, Fabian Nelson and Rue Landau, while Luanne Peterpaul became the first LGBTQ woman elected to serve in the New Jersey General Assembly.

“Voters for LGBTQ equality and everyone’s fundamental freedoms came out in force in the 2023 election, reflecting the reality that a supermajority of Americans support LGBTQ people and our right not to be discriminated against,” GLAAD said in a statement.

“The results will lead to a better lived reality for LGBTQ people in the South and Midwest, and send a message to all lawmakers: LGBTQ people are valued members of our communities, we value everyone’s freedom to be themselves and make their own health care decisions, and we embrace diversity in our elected officials,” the group said.

After canvassing on Monday for Roem and Josh Thomas, whose victory on Tuesday was key in securing Democratic control of the Virginia House of Delegates, Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson told the Washington Blade voters she spoke with were concerned about their neighborhoods, their kids, and their schools.

The experience, just days after a national New York Times and Sienna College poll showed disappointing levels of support for President Joe Biden, was a reminder, she said, of “that old adage, ‘all politics is local.’”

Along with LGBTQ rights, abortion was on the ballot on Tuesday. Both chambers of Virginia’s legislature were won by Democrats after a deluge of advertising focused on abortion, following Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) decision to push for “reasonable” restrictions on the procedure.

Ohio voters turn back GOP efforts and enshrine reproduction rights


In Ohio, meanwhile, by a double digit margin voters elected to have the right to abortion enshrined in their state constitution — a blow to Republicans, especially considering how Ohioans had overwhelmingly supported former President Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections.

“Ohioans and voters across the country rejected attempts by MAGA Republican elected officials to impose extreme abortion bans that put the health and lives of women in jeopardy, force women to travel hundreds of miles for care, and threaten to criminalize doctors and nurses for providing the health care that their patients need and that they are trained to provide,” Biden said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This extreme and dangerous agenda is out-of-step with the vast majority of Americans,” the president said. “My Administration will continue to protect access to reproductive health care and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law once and for all.”

“The results in Ohio underscore what the vast majority of Americans believe: politicians should not interfere in decisions that should be between a woman and her doctor,” said Vice President Kamala Harris. “Since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, people across the country have voted to defend reproductive freedom every time it has appeared on the ballot – including in Kansas, California, Michigan, Montana, Kentucky, and Vermont.”

Moms for Liberty sees major defeats in key states


School board elections also broke in favor of progressive and moderate candidates in places like Fairfax County, Va., which saw a surge in LGBTQ members after Tuesday, where, as Fairfax County School Board Vice Chair Karl Frisch said, “residents have made it clear: they want safe and inclusive schools for every student, including those who identify as LGBTQ+.”

Ailen Arreaza, executive director of ParentsTogether Action, a national family advocacy group, said, “From Ohio to Virginia to Kentucky and beyond, voters saw the GOP’s emphasis on education and parental rights as exactly what it is: an attempt to distract from their extreme and unpopular agenda.”

The school board races proved a strong rebuke to the Republican aligned anti-LGBTQ group Moms for Liberty, which had funneled significant resources into them.

Democrats swept contests in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where the group backed 50 candidates running in 28 districts, including in the closely watched races for the Central Bucks and Pennridge school boards.

Meanwhile, in Iowa’s Linn-Mar school district, which saw another particularly contentious race over issues of gender identity policy in a battleground state, all candidates supported by Moms for Liberty failed to place in the top four.

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Garcia and Log Cabin Republicans president react to new GOP party platform

RNC had not issued a new position manifesto since 2016

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee at National Harbor, Md., on March 4, 2023. (Screen capture via Vimeo)

Following the issuance of the Republican Party’s first new policy platform since 2016, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Charles Moran, president of the conservative LGBTQ group Log Cabin Republicans, shared their reactions this week with the Washington Blade.

Unlike previous iterations, including in 2016 and 2012, the 2024 version contains no mention of same-sex marriage and very little discussion about abortion, issues long championed by the religious right factions of the party.

Still, the document calls 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.”

“We will keep men out of women’s sports, ban taxpayer funding for sex change surgeries, and stop taxpayer-funded schools from promoting gender transition, reverse Biden’s radical rewrite of Title IX education regulations, and restore protections for women and girls,” the platform says.

“Republicans will ensure children are taught fundamentals like reading, history, science, and math, not leftwing propaganda,” according to the document. “We will defund schools that engage in inappropriate political indoctrination of our children using federal taxpayer dollars.”

Garcia, an openly gay vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, told the Blade by phone on Tuesday that the language is of a piece of the party’s efforts across the board to restrict rights, freedoms, and protections from many of America’s most vulnerable.

“The platform is the platform,” he said. “It’s reactionary. It moves us backwards. It does not support diverse communities.”

What is more important, however, than “the Republican platform, Project 2025, all of these ideas and proposals,” Garcia said, is the question of “who’s going to implement these.”

“Look at what Donald Trump is actually saying,” Garcia said. “That should scare us. He’s saying he’s going to deport undocumented people across the country. He’s saying he’s going to empower fossil fuel and oil companies in public. He’s saying that he doesn’t support unions. He’s saying all of these horrible things. I think we should take him for his word.”

“We should already know that he’s going to do what he says. He’s saying he’s going to jail his political opponents,” the congressman added. “This is insane. So, I think that is much more instructive than any party platform or other conversation happening right now.”

Project 2025, the exhaustively detailed governing blueprint for a second Trump term that was published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, “is finally starting to get more attention,” Garcia said.

Unlike the party platform, the 900-page document reads like a wishlist for the most right-wing conservative Christian flanks of the GOP — with proposals to criminalize all pornography, for instance, and to revoke LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for federal government employees.

“I wish that over the last two days we were talking about Project 2025,” said Garcia.

House Democrats, who had just returned from the July 4 break, had been inundated with questions about whether President Joe Biden should continue leading the party’s 2024 ticket after a shaky debate performance last month exacerbated concerns about his age.

“Moving forward,” he said, Project 2025 “needs to get more attention, and I’m hopeful that it will.”

Also speaking with the Blade on Tuesday was Moran, who had attended a Log Cabin Republicans fundraiser on Monday that former first lady Melania Trump hosted and netted $1.4 million. The event was the first to be held in the Trump Tower residence since her husband launched his 2024 campaign.

“Project 2025 is like a kid’s Christmas wish list — and it has just as much chance of coming to fruition as Santa Claus coming down that chimney,” he said. “It’s just not reality.”

By contrast, the platform has Trump written all over it, Moran said.

“Even though I was not on the platform committee, it was clear those in leadership understood that the process had been commandeered in the past by special interests and those trying to use intimidation and fear to bully their influence into the final document,” he said. “The RNC took steps to ensure a clean, orderly and accessible drafting process.”

As a result of influence peddling by special interest groups, “the platform continued to be an albatross around the necks of common-sense Republicans,” providing opportunities for Democrats to portray their political opponents as anti-gay, for example, since the document historically took a position against same-sex marriage.

“The 2016 platform was crafted under the influence of Ted Cruz’s delegates, veering it in a much more conservative direction on gay issues,” Moran said. “President Trump made it clear that he wasn’t aligned with the 2016 platform, and if the full RNC convention would have been held in 2020, it would have been changed then.”

Moran added that while “the platform process has historically been influenced by paid lobbyists representing special interests trying to game the system for their client’s pet projects and desires,” this year “presented President Trump with his first opportunity to genuinely make the GOP platform represent the modern Republican Party, and make it represent an inclusive, America-First context.”

Moran said the new platform is a reflection of the campaign’s strategy and approach to this election.

“I believe the president knew that the old platform made the GOP uncompetitive in major geographic and critical demographic areas,” he said. “The platform was definitely worth fighting over, because we know that the presidential nominee needs to get the party in the best position possible to appeal to the broadest number of people.”

“This is a platform that is inclusive of many communities, including LGBT Americans,” Moran said. “It promotes the sanctity of marriage, but doesn’t exclude our marriages. It supports IVF, which is the principle way same-sex couples build families.”

“This is a pro-family platform,” he added, “but it provides a place for our families too.”

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Republican National Convention expected to address LGBTQ issues

The Washington Blade will be reporting from Milwaukee next week

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Former President Donald Trump (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade will be in Milwaukee next week covering the Republican National Convention, which is expected to include events and discussions concerning LGBTQ issues.

  • GRACE, the gender research advocacy council and education, will host a media availability at the RNC next week with Alaina Kupec, its founder and president, and Executive Director Jennifer Williams.

Williams is a Republican city councilmember representing Trenton, N.J., and the first transgender woman elected to a municipal office in the state. Kupec, who is also trans, is a Navy veteran who has served in executive level positions at biopharmaceutical companies.

GRACE was founded to “assist other groups in addressing misinformation about transgender people,” as Kupec told Bay Area Reporter. The organization has also focused on engaging conservatives and moderates, including through a series of ads spotlighting right-leaning, Christian fathers of trans children.

The organization notes that the 2024 Republican Party platform included “references to the transgender community.”

  • On July 15, the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, will host “Heritage Policy Fest: Fighting for America’s Future.”

The group’s Project 2025, a 900+ page governing agenda for a second Trump administration, would repeal LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections and direct the federal government to advance principles of Christian nationalism.

The Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign has sought to bring attention to Project 2025 and tie it to Trump’s candidacy, as the document contains extreme policy proscriptions including a proposal to criminalize all pornography.

  • The anti-LGBTQ group Moms for Liberty will host “Giving Americans a Voice Town Hall” on July 16.

The group, which is considered a far-right extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has close ties to the Republican Party, has sought to ban books with LGBTQ characters or themes and its members have harassed and intimidated educators and school officials.

  • Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBTQ group, will host a Big Tent Event on July 17.

Former first lady Melania Trump hosted a fundraiser for the organization on Monday at the Trumps’ penthouse in Trump Tower, raising $1.4 million according to the New York Post. The event was the 2024 campaign’s first that was held at the couple’s residence.

  • On July 18, the anti-LGBTQ Faith and Freedom Coalition will host a prayer breakfast.

The organization, led by Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, opposes same-sex marriage and “transgender ideology.”

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Politics

EXCLUSIVE: Will Rollins raises $2.2+ million in Q2

Gay Democrat seeks to unseat anti-LGBTQ GOP opponent

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Will Rollins and his partner, Paolo, at the 2022 Palm Springs Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of Will Rollins for Congress)

Will Rollins, the gay Democrat vying for anti-LGBTQ U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert’s (R-Calif.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, raised more than $2.2 million in the second quarter, the Washington Blade has learned.

Fundraising totals covering the period from April 1 to June 30 must be reported to the U.S. Federal Election Commission by or before July 15.

With this latest haul, the Rollins campaign’s cash on hand will exceed $4.7 million and the total raised for the 2024 cycle, $7 million.

If Rollins out-raises Calvert, it would be the fourth consecutive quarter. In the first quarter of 2024, Rollins brought in more than $950,000 more than his opponent, boasting $3,162,026.27 in cash on hand to Calvert’s 2,639,376.83.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee believes California’s 41st Congressional District is likely to flip from red to blue, and therefore has made additional investments in Rollins’s campaign as he seeks to unseat a GOP member who has served since 1993.

The Democratic challenger’s campaign says this quarter saw more than 29,000 total contributions, 95 percent of which were $100 or less, for a total this cycle of more than 44,000 unique donors.

“Flipping the 41st District is critical for a host of reasons: Installing new leadership that prioritizes working families over special interests, defending and restoring into law a woman’s fundamental right to choose, protecting our fragile democracy, mitigating the effects of climate change and creating local green energy jobs that will protect our planet, and so much more,” Rollins told the Blade in an emailed statement.

“But, it’s also a history-making opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “If elected, I’d have the honor of being the first openly LBGTQ+ member of Congress to represent Palm Springs and the first openly LGBTQ+ member of Congress from a law enforcement background.”

Rollins continued, “I think that this representation and visibility resonates with a lot of grassroots supporters who see our current congressman for who he is: A staunch opponent of our community. Calvert’s record speaks for itself, including voting against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill and just last year voting to strip funding for basic services for LGBTQ+ community centers, including meals for seniors. It’s abhorrent.”

“As a result, we’ve been fortunate to have an outpouring of support from the LGBTQ+ community, particularly those locally in Riverside County,” Rollins said. “And it’s just one of a host of reasons why our campaign’s fundraising has been so strong — I’m very thankful for the support and look forward to finishing the job this November.”

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California Politics

Update: Calif. proposes LGBTQ commission amid escalating national and local challenges

Assemblymember Alex Lee introduced Assembly Bill 3031

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In response to mounting pressures on LGBTQ rights across the nation, California lawmakers have introduced Assembly Bill 3031 that would create a statewide LGBTQ commission. 

This initiative comes at a critical juncture, as the LGBTQ community faces intensifying challenges even within the traditionally progressive Golden State.

Recent years have seen a troubling trend in smaller California cities, where school boards face pressure from anti-LGBTQ groups to withdraw supportive curriculum and disband LGBTQ student organizations. 

In communities like Chino Hills, for instance, school boards have passed policies requiring schools to forcibly out transgender students to their parents, a move that has sparked intense debate and concern among LGBTQ advocates. These local battles mirror a larger national movement seeking to limit LGBTQ visibility and support in educational settings.

Simultaneously, some city councils, most recently in Downey, have moved to ban the Pride flag from flying on public property, a symbolic gesture with far-reaching implications for LGBTQ acceptance and representation.

At least one leader of these efforts, Claudia Frometta, a Downey, California councilmember who unsuccessfully voted against funding of LGBTQ Pride events in that city and one year later lead a successful effort to ban the flying of the Rainbow Flag on city property, has risen to national prominence. Frometta was recently elected President of the highly influential National Association of Elected Officials (NALEO).

Such developments contribute to a climate of exclusion and send a powerful message about the value placed on LGBTQ lives and experiences in these communities and organizations.

These local actions unfold against a backdrop of rising hate crimes targeting LGBTQ individuals. 

Between 2021 and 2022, California witnessed a 29 percent increase in reported hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation bias, totaling over 391 incidents. This surge in violence has sparked alarm among LGBTQ advocates and underscores the urgent need for comprehensive state-level action to protect and support the LGBTQ community.

The proposed commission aims to address these multifaceted challenges. 

Assemblymember Alex Lee, who serves California’s 24th Assembly District (Alameda County and Santa Clara County), the bill’s author, emphasized its importance: 

“It’s critical that the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ community members are recognized by our government,” he said. “The commission will play an important role in informing policy and programs for the LGBTQ+ community.”

LGBTQ advocates have expressed particular concern over the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation sweeping across the country. 

In 2023 alone, 520 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in more than 40 states, with 84 signed into law. The pace has not slowed in 2024, with 490 such bills proposed by June. This legislative onslaught has targeted various aspects of LGBTQ life, from restricting access to gender-affirming care for transyouth to limiting discussions of LGBTQ topics in schools.

Adding to these concerns is the Republican Party’s Project 2025 blueprint — a comprehensive plan that outlines potential rollbacks of LGBTQ rights should the party regain control of the White House. This document suggests threats to marriage equality and protections in employment and housing and other hard-won victories. The combination of ongoing legislative attacks and the potential for sweeping federal changes has created a climate of uncertainty and fear within the LGBTQ community, even in progressive states like California.

Equality California Executive Director Tony Hwang highlighted the urgency of the situation. 

“California has come a long way in the fight for full, lived equality for LGBTQ+ people, but our state is not immune to the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ hate, violence and right-wing extremism sweeping the country,” he said. “California’s commitment to the health, safety and dignity of LGBTQ+ people is needed now more than ever.”

The proposed commission would consist of nine members representing California’s diverse LGBTQ community. The governor would appoint five members, while the Assembly speaker and the Senate Rules Committee would each appoint two members. This structure aims to ensure a broad representation of perspectives and experiences within the LGBTQ+ community.

The commission’s responsibilities would be wide-ranging and impactful. It would act in an advisory capacity to the state legislature and governor on policy matters affecting the LGBTQ community. This would involve monitoring proposed legislation and regulations, coordinating with other relevant commissions on issues of mutual concern, and working with state agencies to assess the impact of their programs and policies on LGBTQ individuals.

The commission would also engage in fact-finding and data collection to gain a comprehensive understanding of the experiences and needs of LGBTQ Californians. This would involve holding public hearings to gather input directly from community members, as well as conducting research on various issues affecting the LGBTQ population. 

The commission would be required to submit annual reports to the legislature and governor, summarizing its findings and offering policy recommendations to address the needs of the LGBTQ community.

The bill has garnered support from various quarters, including local government bodies. 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in January 2024. From left to right: Janice Hahn, Hilda Solis, Lindsey Horvath (chair), Kathryn Barger and Holly Mitchell. (photo courtesy of the LA County Board of Supervisors)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on June 25 officially threw its support behind AB 3031.

Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Hilda Solis in a motion they put forth said the bill would create a commission “that represents California’s diverse LGBTQ+ community and shines a light on the unique challenges that LGBTQ+ people face.”

The Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee President Drew Lloyd told the Bay Area Reporter that having “a commission that addresses disparities facing California’s queer community and works to elevate our community’s unique experiences, voices, and concerns, is invaluable. BAYMEC enthusiastically endorses the creation of this commission and looks forward to working with all stakeholders and our community to create a safe and unique space that leads to a better California for all.”

“I thank my colleague Assemblymember Alex Lee for introducing this important legislation to establish the California LGBTQ+ Commission, which will empower our LGBTQ+ community with independent representation to advise the Legislature and governor on policy matters and provide recommendations for future actions we can take to identify and reduce systemic inequalities and barriers,” Assemblymember Evan Low, co-sponsor of AB 3031 and a member of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, stated,

As AB 3031 progresses through the legislative process, it represents California’s proactive stance in safeguarding LGBTQ rights amidst a challenging national landscape. The commission’s establishment would signal the state’s commitment to not only maintaining existing protections but also actively addressing the evolving needs of its LGBTQ residents in the face of unprecedented threats to their rights and well-being.

The creation of this commission comes at a time when LGBTQ Californians, estimated at 2.7 million or roughly 9 percent of the state’s adult population, face both longstanding and emerging challenges. From workplace discrimination and healthcare disparities to the recent surge in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policy proposals, the need for a dedicated body to address these issues has never been more apparent.

As the bill moves forward, many in California’s LGBTQ community and their allies are hopeful that this commission will provide a powerful voice for their concerns at the highest levels of state government. In doing so, it may serve as a model for other states seeking to protect and empower their LGBTQ residents in an increasingly challenging political climate.

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Project 2025 is Trump’s roadmap to the elimination of LGBTQ rights

US Supreme Court on Monday boosted former president’s re-election chances

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As a doubly emboldened Donald Trump eyes a return to the White House, a chilling blueprint for a fascist takeover of the country has emerged in the form of a 900-page blueprint called Project 2025. Every LGBTQ person, every agency that works on our behalf, every political and legal ally, every person who believes in civil liberties, equality and justice, must pay attention.

We are now facing a national emergency that requires you to understand the seriousness of Project 2025.

This far-reaching plan, developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and its allies, outlines a radical reshaping of the federal government, and includes an uncompromising plan to reverse course on LGBTQ rights in this county. 

Project 2025, of course does not only target LGBTQ poeple. It also targets immigrants, people of color and every allied interest community and progressive ideal.

Project 2025 is a $22 million initiative created in collaboration with 100 right-wing partner organizations. It includes a 180-day playbook of regulations and executive orders, a database of potential appointees, and a 1,000-page handbook outlining policy priorities. While its creators claim it’s designed to “save our republic,” Project 2025 in fact represents a coordinated assault on civil liberties, particularly those of LGBTQ Americans.

The project outlines numerous actions that would severely impact the LGBTQ community. A key focus is stripping away non-discrimination policies. This includes removing terms like “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “diversity” from federal documents, restricting the application of the Bostock v. Clayton County decision that prohibited discrimination against  LGBTQ people in the workplace, and rescinding all regulations prohibiting discrimination based on LGBTQ status.

The plan also aims to narrowly define “sex discrimination” in a way that would exclude LGBTQ identities, effectively erasing legal protections for this community.

Healthcare access for LGBTQ individuals, particularly transgender people, is another major target. The project proposes eliminating trans healthcare coverage in Medicare and Medicaid, opposing trans healthcare for service members, and ending anti-discrimination rules based on gender identity and sexual orientation in the Affordable Care Act.

These changes would significantly restrict access to necessary medical care for many LGBTQ Americans.

The military is not spared from this sweeping agenda. Project 2025 calls for reversing policies that currently allow trans people to serve openly in the armed forces. It goes further, proposing to expel trans troops and even individuals living with HIV from military service, regardless of their ability to perform their duties.

In education, the project aims to repress LGBTQ-inclusive policies and curricula. It promotes restrictive views on gender in schools, seeks to disallow students from using names or pronouns that don’t match their birth certificates, and advocates for removing LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum and policies.

These changes would create hostile environments for LGBTQ students and staff in educational settings.

The influence of Project 2025 extends beyond U.S. borders. It proposes ending the State Department’s LGBTQ equality initiatives globally, potentially emboldening anti-LGBTQ sentiments and policies in other countries, particularly in regions where LGBTQ rights are already under threat.

The project falsely characterizes trans identities as an “ideology” linked to child exploitation and portrays LGBTQ-inclusive education as harmful. It aims to prioritize a narrow definition of family that excludes LGBTQ parents and single mothers.

Project 2025 represents a coordinated effort to not only halt progress on LGBTQ rights but to actively dismantle existing protections. Its implementation would significantly impact the lives of LGBTQ Americans across various sectors, from healthcare and employment to education and military service, potentially setting back decades of progress in civil rights and equality.

The comprehensive nature and far-reaching consequences of Project 2025 make preventing its implementation one of the most urgent priorities for LGBTQ advocates and allies. The plan’s potential to systematically erase LGBTQ protections and rights at a federal level poses an unprecedented threat to the community.

The urgency to act against Project 2025 is further underscored by recent developments in the Supreme Court and political landscape. In a historic and controversial decision, the court granted substantial immunity from prosecution to Trump on election subversion charges, with potential far-reaching consequences for presidential accountability and the 2024 election.

This 6-3 decision, split along ideological lines, not only establishes broad new immunity for past and future presidents but also significantly boosts Donald Trump’s chances at reelection.

The timing of that ruling is also particularly bad, coming on the heels of what many observers described as a disappointing debate performance by President Joe Biden, an ally who, if reelected in 2024, would stand as a bulwark against the implementation of Project 2025’s goals.

The ruling states that presidents may not be prosecuted for exercising their “core” constitutional powers, and even in situations where former presidents might be prosecuted after leaving office, they are entitled to at least presumptive immunity for official actions taken as president.

Biden addressed the Supreme Court’s ruling, warning of its dangerous implications.

“Today’s decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president can do,” Biden said. He continued, “This is a fundamentally new principle, and it’s a dangerous precedent because the power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even including Supreme Court of the United States. The only limits will be self-imposed posed by the president alone.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, argued that such immunity is necessary to protect an “energetic” and “independent executive” willing to take “bold” actions and make unpopular decisions when needed. However, this ruling raises significant concerns for LGBTQ advocates and civil rights groups, especially in light of Project 2025.

The decision potentially makes it more difficult to hold presidents accountable for actions that may infringe on the rights of marginalized communities, including LGBTQ people. This could embolden a future Trump administration, or any administration aligned with Project 2025’s goals, to implement discriminatory policies with little fear of legal consequences.

This combination of factors — a well-funded, comprehensive plan to roll back LGBTQ rights, coupled with increased legal protections for those in power who might enforce such policies, and a political landscape that seems increasingly favorable to Project 2025’s proponents — presents a grave threat to the LGBTQ community. It underscores the critical importance of mobilizing now to prevent Project 2025 from becoming a reality.

LGBTQ advocates must not only work to thwart Project 2025 but also address the broader legal and political landscape that could enable its implementation. This includes pushing for legislative action to counteract the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling, working to ensure that future judicial appointments prioritize civil rights protections, and engaging in voter education and mobilization efforts to support candidates who oppose Project 2025’s agenda.

The stakes have never been higher. The time for action is now, before the combined threats of Project 2025, expanded presidential immunity, and potential political shifts can erode decades of progress in LGBTQ rights and protections.

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LGBTQ issues absent from Trump-Biden debate

Advocacy groups hoped candidates would address queer topics

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Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden debate on CNN on Jun 27, 2024. (Screen captures via CNN)

At their televised debate in Atlanta on Thursday, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump traded barbs on issues from abortion and election integrity to immigration and foreign policy. The 81 and 78-year-old candidates even argued over who is a better golfer.

Absent from the discussion, however, were matters of LGBTQ rights that have animated national politics in this election cycle with the presumptive Republican nominee promising to weaponize the federal government against queer and transgender Americans as the president pledges to build on his record of expanding their freedoms and protections.

CNN hosted Thursday’s debate, with the network’s anchors Dana Bash and Jake Tapper moderating. ABC News will run the second debate scheduled for Sept. 10.

Setting the tone early into the program was Trump’s repetition of the lie that Democrats are so “radical” on matters of abortion that they “will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth.”

Biden, meanwhile, laid the blame at his opponent’s feet for appointing three U.S. Supreme Court justices during his term in office who overturned Roe v. Wade’s 51-year-old constitutional protections for abortion.

He also referenced the fallout from that ruling and the extreme restrictions passed by conservative legislators in its wake, arguing that Trump would not veto a federal abortion ban if Republican majorities in Congress were to pass one.

Trump also repeated falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election.

“Will you pledge tonight that once all legal challenges have been exhausted, that you will accept the results of this election,” Bash asked him, “regardless of who wins, and you will say right now that political violence in any form is unacceptable?”

The Republican frontrunner first responded by denying he was responsible for his supporters’ violent ransacking of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

After the CNN anchor pressed him twice to answer the first part of her question, Trump said, “if it’s a fair and legal and good election, absolutely” but “the fraud and everything else was ridiculous.”

“You appealed and appealed to courts all across the country,” Biden responded. “Not one single court in America said any of your claims had any merit, state or local, none. But you continue to provoke this lie about somehow, there’s all this misrepresentation, all this stealing — there is no evidence of that at all.”

The president continued, “And I tell you what, I doubt whether you’ll accept it, because you’re such a whiner.”

Advocacy groups hoped the debate would address LGBTQ issues

Leading up to the debate, advocacy groups urged the candidates to defend their records on and policy proposals concerning LGBTQ rights, with some arguing the discussion would advantage Biden’s campaign, as reported by The Hill’s Brooke Migdon.

As the community celebrated Pride this month, the Biden-Harris 2024 team made significant investments in paid media and the Out for Biden national organizing effort to court LGBTQ voters, who are expected to comprise a larger share of the electorate than ever before.

“This will be an enormous slight to our community if LGBTQ questions are not asked during this debate,” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said. “Our community is deeply affected by where these candidates stand.” 

“The safety and freedom of LGBTQ people depends on your engagement with the candidates and ability to inform voters about their records and proposals,” she said.

Annise Parker, the outgoing president of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, said “I certainly hope that the moderators bring up the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ issues, because there is a stark contrast between the two candidates.”

“I hope we see a substantive conversation on the records of these two men for the fight for a more equal society,” said Brandon Wolf, national press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign.

“A vast majority of people in this country support an America that treats people with dignity and respect; they support an America that prevents people from experiencing discrimination and harm simply because of who they are,” he said.

“That is where the American people largely are, and I hope we get an opportunity on that stage to see the contrast between these two candidates.” 

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Bobby Berk may hit campaign trail for Biden, speak at DNC

‘Queer Eye’ star attended White House Pride event

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Bobby Berk attends the White House Pride event on June 26. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Interior designer and television personality Bobby Berk talked with the Biden-Harris 2024 team on Tuesday about “going on the road, going on the campaign trail, and maybe speaking” at the Democratic National Convention, he told the Washington Blade on Wednesday.

“I had a great meeting” with the president’s team, he said during a brief interview just ahead of the White House Pride celebration, which was headlined by first lady Jill Biden.

“I’m very excited here to support an administration that has 100 percent support in our community, and for that matter, has supported everyone,” Berk said. “You know, that’s what’s so amazing about this administration is they are for everyone, not just for a select few.”

Berk, who appeared on the first eight seasons of Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” also commented on the significance of being invited to the White House for the administration’s Pride event. “It’s kind of the center of the earth,” he said.

“To have somebody like the first lady presiding over an event like this — showing the world, every country, that she accepts us, that the president accepts us, that the administration accepts us — I think it’s a very powerful message,” he said. “It says 1,000 words.”

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Drag queens lobby members of Congress

MoveOn organized Tuesday’s Drag Lobby Day

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Drag artist Joey Jay speaks at a press conference at the House Triangle near the U.S. Capitol on June 25, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of drag queens on Tuesday traveled to D.C. to lobby members of Congress to support pro-LGBTQ legislation.

“Drag Race Philippines” judge Jiggly Caliente, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 13 contestant Joey Jay and Brigitte Bandit urged lawmakers to support the Equality Act, which would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Transgender Bill of Rights, which would add trans-specific protections to federal nondiscrimination laws. 

Caliente, Jay and Bandit met with U.S. Reps. Juan Ciscomani (D-Ariz.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), and Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) and/or their staffers.

Jay posted to her X account a picture of her, Caliente, and Bandit outside Crockett’s office. The Texas Democrat in response said “you’re always welcome, queens.”

MoveOn organized the visit, which it called the Drag Lobby Day.

“Today we brought together a trio of advocates and drag artists to stick up for LGBTQ folks, talk about what’s at stake and fight back against some extremist, hateful attacks, and narratives from conservative politicians,” said MoveOn Campaign Director Nakia Stephens during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol.

Caliente said the Equality Act and the Trans Bill of Rights “will make it easier for people to find and keep employment and protect our communities more fully from discrimination in housing, health care, and so much more.”

Jay, who now lives in Phoenix, cited statistics that indicate 320 trans people were killed in 2023. Jay also stressed to conservatives that drag queens and LGBTQ people are not “trying to shove our lifestyle down your throats.”

“We are just trying to live in peace without fear of being murdered,” said Jay.

(WASHINGTON BLADE VIDEO BY SEAN KOPEREK)

Bridget Bandit — known as the “Dolly of Austin” — has testified against two anti-drag bills in Texas while in drag. Bandit noted she joined an American Civil Liberties Union of Texas lawsuit against the state’s Senate Bill 12, which would have criminalized drag shows and other performances that took place in front of children, “to fight for our freedom of expression.”

A federal judge last September blocked the law from taking effect.

“This fight is far from over,” said Bandit. “We continue to face the effects of this harmful rhetoric legitimized by our lawmakers.”

Drag artist Brigitte Bandit speaks at a press conference at the House Triangle near the U.S. Capitol on June 25, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sean Koperek contributed to this story.

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EXCLUSIVE: Chasten Buttigieg hits the campaign trail for Biden

Trump ‘is the biggest threat standing between our community and full equality’

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Chasten Buttigieg spoke with the Washington Blade by phone on June 18 for an exclusive interview at the tail end of his trip to Michigan and Wisconsin with the Biden-Harris campaign’s “Out for Biden” national organizing effort targeting LGBTQ voters.

The teacher, author, LGBTQ activist, and husband to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg relayed some of the conversations he has had with constituents and communities about issues important to them and the reasons why they are rallying around the president and vice president’s reelection bid.

“I like to get out of Washington, and I like to get on the ground and meet voters where they’re at and hear them out and talk about why I’m supporting the president,” he said. “And to me, that is just the realness of politics.”

Buttigieg said spending time with the local volunteers and organizers was a reminder of the many “good people that make up this country and all of the people who are fighting day in and day out to make these things happen,” usually without much fanfare.

He said he feels especially at home doing this work in the Midwest. In 2022, a year after they adopted twins, the Buttigiegs moved to Traverse City, Mich., where the family is now close to Chasten’s parents. “It’s obviously easier to hop across the lake and come over to Wisconsin, where I spent a lot of years in college and post college, so this is home,” he told the Blade.

“In a way, these feel like my neighbors. And to me, the best political work that I can be doing is talking with my neighbors and talking with folks that I care about and communities that I care about.”

LGBTQ people have multiple identities

“There are a lot of people on the ground here who, of course, support the president because he is the only person on the ballot who is a pro-LGBTQ and equality president, but also there are many other issues that affect our community, many people on the ground here working to make those things happen,” Buttigieg said.

Additionally, “supporting queer Americans isn’t just defending our right to exist or our right to marry,” he said, “but many of these other issues that the president and the vice president support are queer issues” too, including reproductive freedom and access to in-vitro fertilization.

“LGBTQ Americans have families,” Buttigieg said. “We’re LGBTQ, but also we’re business owners, we’re farmers, we’re teachers, we’re parents. These are all uniquely queer issues as well.”

“For me, as a parent and as a teacher, some of these things like expanding the Child Tax Credit, making sure that every family has access to quality, affordable early childhood education and public education, and making sure that every family has access to paid leave — to me, that should not be political,” Buttigieg said.

“Unfortunately, it is in this environment. But those are pro-family policies. I think they’re pro- American policies. And that’s why I am proud to support the president and the vice president.”

The Out for Biden team is engaging with parents who are raising LGBTQ children. Buttigieg said he was “talking to a parent of a young trans kid who’s worried about not only access to health care here in the state of Wisconsin,” but also the rhetoric from leaders on the right like the presumptive GOP nominee, former President Donald Trump, who are “attacking their child simply for being who they are.”

Buttigieg said they also visited a small business owned by a queer woman in Milwaukee and learned about how the business expanded during COVID and why they’re supporting the president because of his work protecting queer Americans, small businesses, and reproductive rights.

Conversations drive voting behavior

“Oftentimes, the only reason a person is going to go into that ballot box and pull the lever in our direction is because someone they love or trust asked them to and explained what was on the line for them,” Buttigieg said.

These conversations “helped them understand how politics is deeply personal for them, and how the choices that are made in those big, white buildings in Washington trickle down to our mailboxes, our dining room tables, our doctors’ offices, and our classrooms,” he said.

“Politics is deeply personal, and we shouldn’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability and tell our neighbors and the people that we love what we stand to gain, what we stand to lose,” Buttigieg added.

He explained some of the ways he has approached these discussions, drawing from his own lived experiences.

“I often talk about my experience in the classroom, not only as a as an openly gay teacher, but as the teacher who was running lockdown drills,” Buttigieg said. “I never, ever wanted to traumatize my students with lockdown drills, talking about a gunman coming into the school, recognizing that gun violence is the number one cause of death among young people in this country — I would have rather been spending my time teaching instead of frightening my students.”

Growing up, Buttigieg said his parents were small business owners who “didn’t have a ton of money” and often were “making sacrifices to support their three kids rather than affording mom’s medicine.”

“That’s deeply personal stuff,” he said. This election will be won because Democrats are willing to go out there and tell those deeply personal stories, and move their neighbors and move their friends and families off the couch into the streets and hopefully to the ballot box to pull that lever in the direction that I believe will make our country safer and better because we reelected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

Making the case for Biden — and the case against Trump

Noting that the president and vice president have repeatedly called for Congress to enshrine federal LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections by passing the Equality Act, Buttigieg added that, “It’s not just policy, it’s the words that come out of their mouths, and it’s the actions.”

“I often hear the quip, ‘vote for the person you trust to leave your kids with,'” Buttigieg said. “Joe Biden has been an incredibly supportive president. When our kid was fighting for his life on a ventilator at two months old, the president was eager to pull Pete aside and remind him that the entire administration had our family’s back and was there for us.”

“That’s the kind of leader I want for this country, someone who cares about families,” he said. “Not just families like mine, but all families. That’s really important to me.”

“And on the other side, you have someone like Donald Trump, who, of course, is not going to acknowledge the reason that we have Pride, the reason for the march, the reason for resistance, the reason for action, but is actively surrounding himself with people who are propping up Project 2025,” Buttigieg said.

The 881-page governing blueprint for a second Trump term “threatens many of these hard-fought protections for the LGBTQ community,” he said.

Another consideration is “that the next president of the United States might appoint two more Supreme Court justices to join a bench [that] was already flirting with overturning Obergefell,” Buttigieg said, referring to the precedent that made same-sex marriage the law of the land, and noting that the court “already upheld their promise to overturn a woman’s right to choose.”

Buttigieg said, “I think it’s actually really embarrassing” for the anti-LGBTQ right “that the majority of Americans support LGBTQ equality,” meaning “they’re not only against the majority of the public opinion, but they’re also against people in their own party who are so exhausted by the divisive rhetoric, and yet here they are doubling down on their hatred for queer people.”

With respect to Trump himself, he said “if he wanted to get with the times, and if he wanted to maybe potentially save a little face with his party and push them in another direction and say, ‘hey, actually, I think we should step back, I think we should leave queer people alone, especially young, vulnerable trans Americans alone,’ he would.”

“But he won’t, and he hasn’t, because that’s who he is,” Buttigieg said. “If Donald Trump wanted you to believe that he didn’t really care one way or the other about the existence of LGBTQ Americans and their protections, he would let you know. The words and the actions that come from your campaign inform the country of what your values are, and if Donald Trump truly cared, then he would let us know.

Instead, “he surrounds himself with known bigots, white supremacists” and “with people who are touting Project 2025” who “are rallying against the existence of Pride and LGBTQ Americans and those hard fought protections that Democrats are winning and enacting around this country.”

“Maya Angelou said, ‘when people show you who they are, believe it the first time,'” Buttigieg said. “Donald Trump does not support our community. I think Donald Trump would be the most disastrous president for our community. And he is the biggest threat standing between our community and full equality.”

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Rollins’ campaign- more than gunning for anti-LGBTQ Rep. Calvert

In this election cycle, the Democratic challenger believes he is better positioned to win the seat, which could tip control of the U.S. House

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Will Rollins and his partner, Paolo at the 2022 Palm Springs Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of Will Rollins for Congress)


RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Two years ago, openly gay prosecutor Will Rollins launched his first bid for public office and nearly defeated incumbent Republican Congressman Ken Calvert, who has represented California’s 41st Congressional District since the presidential administration of George H.W. Bush.

In this election cycle, the Democratic challenger believes he is even better positioned to win the seat, which could tip control of the U.S. House of Representatives to his party now that Republicans have only a feeble five-member majority in the chamber.

And if accurate proxies can be found in the results of recent polls, quarterly fundraising metrics, and extra muscle deployed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, it appears Rollins’s confidence is shared by critical masses of voters, donors, and party leaders.

On the one hand, Rollins said he is buoyed by flagging support for his opponent. He argued that instead of working to deliver results for his constituents like “high paying jobs, better wages, and better benefits for workers,” Calvert has instead spent much of his time in Congress helping to fuel costly culture wars and embracing right-wing extremism while enriching himself through “legalized corruption” schemes and undermining the justice system and rule of law.

At the same time, Rollins said that his background in law enforcement, his political orientation as a moderate, and his policy agenda, which includes a focus on popular and often populist reforms, has proven to be a winning formula on the campaign trail from the westernmost parts of Southern California’s Inland Empire to the Colorado Desert town of Palm Springs.

The city, home to a thriving LGBTQ community, helped make the 41st district far purpler after congressional maps were redrawn to include the region in 2022. Rollins said the redistricting helps to explain “part of why people are so bullish on flipping the seat.”

He explained, “Calvert has historically [represented] deep red parts of southern California, and that used to include Murrieta and northern Temecula,” Rollins said. When the new maps were drawn, “he lost those two cities and he gained the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indian Wells, all of which had previously been represented by a Democrat, Raul Ruiz.”

Rollins is well positioned at this point in the race

Congressional Candidate Will Rollins during the 2022 campaign.
(Photo Credit: Rollins for Congress campaign)

Reflecting on his performance in the midterm elections, Rollins noted that 2022 saw higher turnout among Republican voters and lower turnout among Democratic voters, a hurdle made more difficult by the advantages Calvert exercised by virtue of his 32-year incumbency.

By contrast, as a first-time candidate, “when you go from a job as a federal prosecutor, where it’s the antithesis of self-promotion, to suddenly needing to build an entire brand and raise your name I.D. and self promote and campaign, that’s a steep learning curve, and I had basically six months after a primary to do it,” Rollins said.

As November approaches, the presidential race is expected to even out the disparities in voter turnout, and by now Rollins has now spent nearly three years introducing his candidacy and his campaign to residents across CA-41.

For the first time in either cycle, Rollins was ahead of his opponent (by one point) in an internal poll last month that provided respondents with no additional information about the candidates, a sign that “more people are getting to know me, and our name I.D. is increasing, and more people are also hearing our message,” he said.

The Democratic hopeful also noted his campaign out-raised Calvert’s in the third consecutive quarter, Q1 2024, and by more than $1 million, thanks to “voters and our grassroots supporters [who] know that this seat is primed to flip.”

The DCCC seems to agree with their assessment. As one of the organization’s “Red to Blue” candidates, a highly competitive distinction awarded to those with the best odds of unseating Republicans in their districts, Rollins receives “strategic guidance, staff resources, training, and fundraising support” to ensure the best possible odds for his victory in November.

Additional help from the organization responsible for fundraising and organizing on behalf of Democratic House candidates could be decisive in a race as close as this one, but Rollins also stressed his appeal among center and center-right constituents.

Building coalitions in a purple district

For example, the campaign recently secured high-profile endorsements from the likes of Stan Sniff, retired Republican sheriff of Riverside County, and California State Assemblymember Chad Mays, who previously served as the elected Republican leader.

Additionally, last month, the Palm Springs Police Officers Association, which had supported Calvert in 2022, announced it would back Rollins this year. Asked how he managed to win over the organization, Rollins pointed to his ability to relate to law enforcement officers along with his tenacious approach to engaging with the group.

“For cops in Riverside County, having somebody represent them who has worked alongside them, prosecuting MS-13, the Sinaloa Cartel, murderers, rapists, terrorists, that’s really powerful for the line officers who want somebody that understands what it is like every single day to do an important job that they do, putting their lives on the line to keep us safe,” he said.

Rollins added that he was now cowed by the group’s endorsement of his opponent during the midterms and was persistent in reaching out to facilitate a dialogue. “I refuse to give up on trying to persuade people that I would do a better job of representing them in Congress than Ken Calvert, ” as well as his ability to relate to law enforcement officers.

The campaign’s efforts to engage with the Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBT group, were less successful. Rollins said that during both election cycles “we reached out to [chapters located in CA-41] repeatedly, and all of our outreach was ignored.”

It is easy to imagine areas in which the organization could find common ground with the Democratic candidate. Rollins would be the first LGBTQ member of Congress with a law enforcement background, a candidate who has worked for a Republican governor and deliberately engaged with and courted support from other individuals and groups that are right-of-center.

He also questioned why conservative LGBTQ+ Californians would ally themselves with his opponent. “What is Ken Calvert done for you? He’s voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. He’s voted against letting you serve in the military. It makes no sense to go out and support somebody like that.”

Rollins said it seems Log Cabin “is increasingly used by elected Republicans to try to maintain the appearance of support and to conceal some of their actual record on our rights” and their refusal to engage with him is likely a sign of the extent to which the GOP has become mired in partisanship.

Drawing the contrast


Rollins attributes much of his success in winning major endorsements and contributions to the many contrasts voters are seeing between his campaign and his opponent’s, perhaps starting with the professional backgrounds and records on which they are running.

In recent months, Calvert’s campaign has sought to portray Rollins as “soft on crime” because of his opposition to a criminal justice initiative, California’s Proposition 47, but the former prosecutor told the Blade he welcomes the chance to frame their race around these issues.

Rollins pointed out that while his career was spent “going after drug cartels, terrorists and violent criminals across southern California,” Calvert “is somebody who has voted to defund the FBI, who voted to defund Border Patrol, who said that the FBI has been infiltrated, [that] the Department of Justice has become a political weaponization tool,” and “called for dropping charges against people who assaulted the U.S. Capitol” on January 6.

Further undermining Calvert’s effort to position himself as the “law and order” candidate is the encounter he had with police who found him consorting with a sex worker shortly into his first term in Congress, Rollins said.

He added the incident also shows the hypocrisy of his opponent’s legislative record, considering the Republican’s habit of “voting to get the government into our bedrooms and into our exam rooms, and to prevent gay people from getting married, from serving in the military.”

Rollins, who has prosecuted cases involving white collar crime, also accused his rival of exploiting “a system of legalized corruption” in Congress through which members from both parties have been allowed to exploit the powers and privileges of their office for personal financial gain with loopholes and loose oversight protecting them from consequences.

Specifically, he said Calvert has enriched himself to the tune of $20 million over his 17 terms in office “by using earmarks to benefit his own personal real estate investments,” Rollins said, “a form of insider trading in real estate.”

Rollins said that his opponent has earned a reputation for self-dealing and topped lists of the most corrupt members of Congress, with California’s 41st district taking notice. “When people have seen their own rent and gas and groceries skyrocket while their member of Congress makes $20 million since 1992, that is a major red flag for voters,” he said.


The corruption problem is bigger than Calvert, which is why Rollins said he has made reforms and policy solutions in this area a cornerstone of his campaign.

If elected, the Democrat said he will push for “a ban on members trading stock across the board” as well as “a ban on [members] using inside information to benefit their real estate investments” and “a ban on lobbying by former members of Congress.”

Rollins said he will also work to implement term limits for members of Congress and to fix the problems created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling in Citizens United v. FEC (2010), which allowed for unlimited spending by corporations and outside groups on political campaigns.

He said that even more modest reforms like establishing “disclosure rules for members” would go a long way toward mitigating concerns about the flow of dark money “into these competitive congressional races through independent expenditures.”

Each of these proposals “have been tied into our own theme of the campaign around public service and protecting our communities, and law enforcement service versus self-enrichment, self-dealing,” Rollins said. “There’s no movement to police ourselves, and yet that is what the public craves most,” he added.

Polls have long shown the overwhelming popularity of measures designed to improve the functioning of Congress along with mechanisms requiring more accountability and transparency from its members, which should perhaps come as little surprise considering that 66.7 percent of Americans disapprove of the institution according to FiveThirtyEight.

Rollins said audiences from across the political spectrum have responded enthusiastically whenever he has discussed his anti-corruption proposals, whether before a chamber of commerce or a meeting of the Stonewall Democratic Club.

Generally speaking, rather than “angertainment and click-bait politics,” most Americans want to see policy solutions aimed at addressing real problems, he said. “They want money out of politics. They want common sense solutions to traffic problems in their district. They want safer streets. They want clean energy. They want term limits.”

Likewise with their elected representatives, Rollins said. Voters “want people in the middle, not necessarily on the far left or the far right,” especially in purple districts where “you can run a successful campaign just being on what I call ‘team normal.'”

“The challenge for Democrats,” particularly those running for competitive seats, “is to make it really clear that the current MAGA majority [in the House] is different from the moderate, regular Republican voters in your district,” Rollins said.

Democrats should embrace populism


One way to reassure conservative-leaning voters is for Democrats to talk openly about the problems that helped facilitate the ascent of Donald Trump and the rise of right-wing populist movements, Rollins said.

Americans, regardless of their politics, are right when they say “government is broken,” or “The system is corrupt,” but solutions are not going to come from elected Republicans, least of all “the former host of Celebrity Apprentice,” Rollins said.

The more Democrats elected to the House who “are focused on those reforms, the better the party will do,” he said. “Because our brand can become an anti-corruption brand, and we should try to to cultivate that as much as possible, because certainly the GOP isn’t about that right now.”

Rollins added, “Right now, there’s only one political party that cares about getting money out of politics,” meaning that Democrats have the opportunity to campaign on an issue that “is supported by 90 percent of Americans.”

When it comes to more divisive matters, “a lot of it is tied to kitchen table issues, and I think that’s where we as a party are our strongest, where we’re talking about how it affects your wallet and why the far-right’s focus on culture wars is actually a massive waste of your tax dollars,” Rollins said.

Of course, it is important to call out the ways in which women, LGBTQ communities, and other groups are harmed when elected Republicans endeavor to restrict their rights, freedoms, and protections, but there is also an opportunity to explain why all Americans suffer as a result, he said.

For instance, after noting that Calvert and Congressional Republicans support “a national [abortion] ban with no exceptions,” along with restrictions on access to the abortion medication mifepristone and measures to make it more difficult for women in the military to access reproductive healthcare, Rollins stressed how these moves could damage the economy and threaten national security.

Likewise with LGBTQ rights. “I would be remiss if I didn’t also state the obvious,” Rollins said, “which is Calvert has one of the most horrible anti-LGBTQ rights voting records of any member in Congress, and started his political career by outing Mark Takano,” the gay congressman who ran against him in 1992 and now represents California’s 39th Congressional District.

Rollins said that when the subject comes up on the campaign trail, “I also talk about the way that his votes don’t just impact the LGBTQ community, because obviously they have hurt our community over the years, but they’ve actually hurt every American.”

For instance, he said, “when you try to make it harder for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. military, you deprive us of qualified pilots, snipers, Marines, Navy SEALs, Arabic linguists,” thereby weakening America’s military and security interests.

Rollins also noted the widely reported story last year about pediatric cardiologist Jake Kleinmahon, who ultimately decided to relocate out of Louisiana with his husband and daughter when conservative state lawmakers in Baton Rouge advanced a slate of anti-LGBTQ bills last year.

Following the family’s move to Long Island, Kleinmahon told CNN the only two remaining physicians in Louisiana who manage heart transplants would be expected to serve the same number of patients as they did before his departure.

“That is going to affect care,” he said, adding that “the absolute hardest part is me saying goodbye to my patients.”

“I believe the kids in Louisiana should have the same world class health care as any other part of the United States.”

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