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Sullivan, Gallagher trade barbs on marriage at forum

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Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

A forum intended to address whether LGBT people have a place in the conservative movement quickly gave way to discussion on the validity of same-sex marriage as a conservative value.

Gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan and Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, presented opposite sides of the argument Wednesday during a Cato Institute forum in Washington, D.C.

Sullivan said he’s touted same-sex marriage as a conservative value since the publication of his 1995 book “Virtually Normal,” and noted that he remains “in favor of marriage rights rather than civil partnerships.”

“I believe that gay people are members, integral members, of our families, and we deserve not to be cast out or segregated from them as we grow old,” he said.

When gays realize their sexual orientation, Sullivan said, they suffer considerable psychological pain when they subsequently realize they won’t be able to marry.

“We were told as kids when we figured out we were gay and we knew that could never happen to us,” he said. “The psychic wound and pain that it inflicts — and still inflicts everyday on our children — destroys the psyche, warps the soul, destroys the soul.”

But Gallagher rejected the notion that same-sex marriage could be considered a conservative value, citing majority opposition to gay nuptials in national polling.

“Somewhere between 55 to 60 percent — even if they support gay rights — think this marriage thing is something else, gay marriage is not right,” she said.

Gallagher also decried that people in the United States who believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman are accused of being bigots.

“People are waking up in a American where suddenly their deepest core moral convictions — they’re being told are immoral and should be the legal equivalent of racism,” she said. “It’s pretty striking and people are pretty scared.”

Arguing that not all gays are in support of same-sex marriage, Gallagher said she knows openly gay people who’ve worked for NOM and believe that same-sex couples shouldn’t have marriage rights. When pressed by Sullivan to names these individuals — arguing they couldn’t be outed if they’re openly gay — Gallagher declined.

Also in her argument against same-sex marriage, Gallagher lamented the Catholic Church’s recent decision to close its foster services in D.C. now that marriage rights for gay couples will soon be available in the district.

In response, Sullivan noted that divorce has always been available in D.C., and the Catholic Church had run a foster agency in the district even though divorce runs contrary to Catholic beliefs.

But the primary focus on the forum — titled “Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?” — was whether gays belong in the conservative movement, particularly if they’re concerned about the advancement of LGBT rights.

Nick Herbert, a gay member of British Parliament and the country’s Conservative Party, said his party has made considerable headway in reaching out to LGBT people, even going so far as to apologize for the party’s past hostility toward them.

Herbert said the Conservative Party has adopted acceptance of gays because of the tenet of democracy that all people are created equal.

“Conservatives should always believe that everyone should have an equal chance in life, regardless of any other factors, and that they should not be discriminated against,” he said.

Herbert said a successful political party should be open to everyone and reflect the country it aspires to govern. He noted that if the Conservative Party secures a majority in the House of Commons by one just seat in the upcoming election, the party would likely have more openly gay ministers serving in government than the Labor Party.

Herbert said although he’s a conservative, he supports hate crimes legislation in his country and he rejects legislation that would prohibit same-sex couples from adopting. He also noted that Conservative Party leader David Cameron endorsed civil partnerships as relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

“Gay people are not the property of the left, or of any party,” he said. “They will vote for the political party which best sits with their views, so long as that party does not make itself taboo.”

But Gallagher expressed skepticism about whether gays could be involved in the American conservative movement if they’re seeking new laws that would require religious people to tolerate gays.

Gallagher also said she didn’t think the British model for conservatism would fit well in the United States and that she didn’t know many American conservatives who would like their movement to be more like the movement in the United Kingdom.

“With all due respect, I’m not here to say what a British conservative should believe, but it seems to me that America remains a unique place for the protection of liberty, or classical liberalism, which I share,” she said.

But Sullivan maintained that gays in American can identify as conservatives, even though he said the Republican Party doesn’t embraced conservatism.

“I do not see the connection between being gay and whether you are in favor of the Iraq war,” he said. “I simply do not see a connection between being gay and whether you believe in a carbon tax rather than cap-and-trade.”

Sullivan decried how the Republican Party in recent years had taken upon itself to demonize LGBT people to win elections — particularly in 2004 when former President George W. Bush endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment.

At the forum’s end, Sullivan gave a few barbed responses to questions from the audience. The moderator asked Sullivan, who endorsed President Obama in the 2008 in the election, how conservatives can support the president even though Obama supports government expansion.

Sullivan said he wouldn’t answer because it has no relevance to topic of the forum.

“That’s an utterly irrelevant question to this conversation,” he said. “I won’t answer it. I’m happy to answer it at some other level, but it’s so utterly unrelated to the subject we’re talking about, I think it’s a preposterous question.”

Additionally, Sullivan rebuked an accusation from audience member Jamie Kirchick, a writer for The New Republic, who said Sullivan doesn’t “speak for gay conservatives.”

Kirchick noted the significant number of gays who said in exit polls they voted for Republican nominee John McCain in the 2008 election.

Sullivan said was very clear in his book “The Conservative Soul” in how he adheres to conservatism and that he’s been studying the works of conservative intellectuals for some time.

“I think a know a little bit more about it than Jamie Kirchick, to be honest, and I do not believe the conservative movement as it now exists in America has a place for a conservative like me,” Sullivan said. “But I do refuse to give up the term conservative because it’s something that I believe in.”

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure

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The Florida State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, the Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone

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NCAA, gay news, Washington Blade
The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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