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Providence mayor makes bid for Congress



The mayor of Providence, R.I., last weekend announced he is running for Congress, making him one of several openly gay candidates slated to be on ballots this fall.

David Cicilline, who’s served as mayor since 2003 and was the first openly gay mayor of a state capital, formally declared Feb. 13 that he wouldn’t pursue another term as mayor and would instead seek the congressional seat that will be vacated at the end of the year when pro-LGBT lawmaker Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) retires.

In an interview with DC Agenda, Cicilline said he wanted to pursue a run to represent Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district because of the economic hardships his state is facing and Washington’s slow response in addressing the issue.

“Over the past 18 months, it has become very clear to me that Washington has really lost sight of what is happening to the hard-working middle-class in cities and towns across this country,” he said.

Rhode Island has been hit particularly hard by the recession. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for the state in December 2009 was 12.9 percent, putting it just behind Michigan and Nevada among states with the highest unemployment.

“People are sick of reading about hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on bank bailouts and hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on bailing out the Big Three car companies, and they do not feel like Washington is doing anything to improve their lives,” he said.

Cicilline said he’s heard “every single day” about families in his home state who are concerned about whether they can “keep the job that they have, whether they can be able to find work, or whether they can afford their rent.”

“I think what we need in Washington, what I really bring to this work, is [a] very practical problem solving approach,” he said. “That’s what mayors do. We sit around, we sit down and try to bring people together who have divergent views and deal with the hard issues and fashion solutions to come up with answers to address problems every day.”

But Cicilline isn’t the only Democratic candidate seeking to represent his district in Congress. William Lynch, who recently stepped down as Rhode Island’s state Democratic Party chair after 12 years, also announced on Saturday his candidacy for the seat.

In a Sept. 14 primary, voters in Rhode Island’s first congressional district will decide who will be the Democratic nominee for the general election. The winner of the primary will most likely take on John Loughlin, the Republican candidate whom the GOP seems poised to nominate.

Loughlin is an Army veteran and Rhode Island State House member who has had notable success raising money. According to the Federal Election Commission web site, Loughlin has raised more than $246,000 for his campaign.

As a gay man, Cicilline said he’s “very, very committed” to supporting legislation and issues that would “affect my community and provide for equality at every level of state, local and federal government.”

“I think when you get elected to any office, you bring to that office your — who you are,” he said. “All of your life experiences and who you are as a person contribute to the way you look at issues, the issues that you care about.”

Cicilline said he would vote in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Uniting American Families Act, as well as back repeals of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act.

While saying he would as a member of Congress step up to support the LGBT community, Cicilline said he didn’t think his sexual orientation would provide any additional challenge for him in his campaign. He noted that his sexual orientation wasn’t an issue in his runs for mayor.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund hasn’t yet determined whether to endorse Cicilline in his run for Congress, although the organization had endorsed him in previous mayoral bids and his campaign this year for a third term as mayor.

Denis Dison, a Victory Fund spokesperson, said the process by which the organization determines its endorsements is the same for candidates in all races, but that evaluating whether or not to endorse Cicilline will be “a little bit of an easier load” because the organization is already familiar with him.

“We have endorsed this candidate multiple times; it’s not like we have to get to know him,” Dison said. “It’s a matter of doing the work on the ground and talking to local politicos and party leaders and things like that — just to make sure that we have crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s before we endorse.”

Dison declined to comment on whether the Victory Fund and the Cicilline campaign have held any conversations about an endorsement.

Cicilline said he’s looking for both the Victory Fund and the Human Rights Campaign to endorse him in his bid for Congress.

“They’ve endorsed me for both of my previous races — the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund — so I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I hope to be endorsed by both organizations in this campaign,” he said.

Cicilline’s candidacy means he’s joining other gay candidates who are pursuing a run for Congress. Steve Pougnet, who’s gay and mayor of Palm Springs, is seeking to oust incumbent Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) to represent California’s 45th congressional district.

Should Pougnet succeed, he would be the first openly gay person who’s legally married with children to serve in Congress.

The Victory Fund has endorsed Pougnet, making him the only non-incumbent, openly LGBT person the organization has endorsed in a run for Congress.

Dison said the Democratic Party is looking at this seat as a possible pickup, but it’s too early to determine whether Pougnet will be in a good position to beat Bono Mack in November.

“Nobody’s really in the thick of it yet, and that’ll become clear later on, but he’s been a fantastic fundraiser so far for a non-incumbent, so there’s definitely hope there.”

According to the Federal Election Commission, Pougnet has raised more than $563,000 for his campaign and Bono Mack has raised more than $992,000. While Pougnet is behind in fundraising, challengers typically raise less than incumbents.

Andy Stone, spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Pougnet is doing what’s needed to mount a serious challenge to Bono Mack this fall.

“Mayor Pougnet is aggressively raising the necessary funds and it’s clear that Congresswoman Bono Mack is already feeling the heat from this formidable challenger,” he said.

Pougnet has been heralded as a supporter for LGBT causes and as a strong fundraiser for the campaign against Proposition 8 in California. When same-sex marriage was available in the Golden State in 2008, Pougnet married 118 couples in his capacity as mayor of Palm Springs, more than any other mayor in the state.

Still, some perceive Pougnet as running against a pro-gay Republican. Bono Mack voted twice against the Federal Marriage Amendment and has supported hate crimes legislation as well as ENDA.

Another openly gay candidate seeking a seat in Congress is Ed Potosnak, a former staffer for Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and public school teacher who’s running to represent New Jersey’s 7th congressional district.

Potosnak, currently the only Democratic candidate running for the nomination in that district, said he’s pursuing a seat in Congress because of the economic hardship that many people in New Jersey face.

“For me, what really prompted me to run for Congress is the fact that I’m not a career politician,” he said. “I’m someone who has really lived through struggles of the middle class, and I think that real world experience positions me well to address the problems that our families are facing.”

If elected, Potosnak said he’d support ENDA and UAFA, as well as repeals of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA.

Still, Potosnak is running in a district that Republicans have won consistently since 1980. And the one-term GOP incumbent he’s challenging, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) voted in favor of hate crimes legislation last year and is a co-sponsor of ENDA.

But Potosnak said the LGBT community shouldn’t support Lance because the lawmaker has been unhelpful in the struggle to win relationship recognition in New Jersey.

“As a state legislator, before he came to Congress, he didn’t support civil unions and he also is undecided on whether it should be repealed in the state,” he said. “He’s also undecided on whether there should be a constitutional ban or a definition of marriage between in a man and a woman.”

The Lance campaign couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the lawmaker’s position on relationship recognition.

Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality, said his organization wishes Potosnak good luck “in a very challenging district.”

“Garden State Equality has made endorsements in federal races,” Goldstein said. “We target districts, based on not just issues, but also electability.”

Since Potosnak has only recently declared his candidacy, his fundraising numbers aren’t yet available on the Federal Election Commission web site. Lance has already raised nearly $584,000 for his campaign.

The incumbent gay lawmakers in Congress — Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) — are expected to seek re-election. Dison said he didn’t know whether the three House members would have any difficulty in retaining their seats.

“I just have not studied the races and seen what the position is,” he said. “We’re preparing for that eventuality, of course.”



Federal judge halts enforcement of Fla. trans healthcare ban

Advocacy groups challenged Senate Bill 254



A federal judge has halted enforcement of a Florida law that bans gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

In his 44 page ruling, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida has barred the state from any further enforcement action against transgender youth or their parents from seeking appropriate gender-affirming care.

Hinkle’s ruling allows Florida parents challenging the ban to access necessary medical care for their trans children while the legal challenge to the bans continues. The ruling blocks enforcement of Florida state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine rules banning established medical care for trans adolescents as well as provisions in Senate Bill 254 that codify those rules into state law with added criminal and civil penalties.

In his summary Hinkle wrote: “Gender identity is real. Those whose gender identity does not match their natal sex often suffer gender dysphoria. The widely accepted standard of care calls for evaluation and treatment by a multidisciplinary team. Proper treatment begins with mental health therapy and is followed in appropriate cases by GnRH agonists and cross-sex hormones. Florida has adopted a statute and rules that prohibit these treatments even when medically appropriate.”

In today’s ruling the court indicated that the plaintiff parents are likely to succeed in their claims that SB 254 and the Boards of Medicine rules unconstitutionally strip them of the right to make informed decisions about their children’s medical treatment and violate the equal protection rights of trans youth by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare.

The challenge to the Boards of Medicine and SB 254 healthcare bans is likely to proceed quickly to trial.

The families are represented by Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign, which issued the following statement:

“Today’s ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children. The court recognized the profound harm the state of Florida is causing by forcing parents to watch their kids suffer rather than provide them with safe and effective care that will allow them to thrive. We are incredibly relieved that these Florida parents can continue to get healthcare for their children while we proceed to challenge these bans and eventually see them fully overturned.”

Read the ruling:

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Events roundup: Federal gov’t celebrates Pride month

Bidens to host White House Pride reception on Thursday



U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (Photo courtesy DHS)

The White House, U.S. federal agencies, and Congress are honoring Pride month with a slate of official and unofficial events this year, many taking place this week.

Details for some events have not yet been announced, so this article will be updated when new information becomes available – such as details about the U.S. State Department’s Pride reception, which is expected to happen later this month.

  • The U.S. Department of the Interior kicked off Pride month with a celebration on June 1, where DoI Secretary Deb Haaland raised the Progress Pride Flag alongside members of Interior’s LGBTQ community.
  • Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs hosted a flag raising ceremony on June 1 at the John A. Wilson Building. The Mayor’s Office is also sponsoring a District of Pride Showcase at the Lincoln Theatre on June 29.
  • On June 2, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security held a flag raising ceremony at the agency’s headquarters with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
  • Speaker Emerita U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will throw out the ceremonial first pitch during the Washington Nationals Night OUT game on Tuesday, Major League Baseball’s longest-running annual Pride event. The Speaker will be honored this year for her advancement of LGBTQ civil rights throughout her career in Congress.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense’s DoD Pride, an LGBTQ employee resource group for service members and DoD civilian employees, will hold its annual Pride month event on June 7 at the Pentagon.
  • President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden are hosting a Pride month celebration on the South Lawn of the White House on June 8, which will feature a performance by singer-songwriter Betty Who.
  • The LGBTQ Victory Fund’s June 22 Federal PAC Reception will feature LGBTQ members of Congress: U.S. Reps. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Eric Sorensen (D-Ill.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Robert Garcia (D-Calf.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).
  • On June 28, Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff are hosting a reception in celebration of Pride at the Vice President’s residence, in collaboration with GLAAD.
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Same-sex marriage support remains strong at 71 percent high

Supreme Court issued Obergefell ruling in 2015



A Gallup Poll released Monday showed that support for same-sex marriage is maintaining a position of 71 percent of Americans who think it should be legal, matching the previous year’s percentage.

Gallup noted that public support for legally recognizing gay marriages has been consistently above 50 percent since the early 2010s.

The latest figures are from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 1-24.

When Gallup first polled about same-sex marriage in 1996, barely a quarter of the public (27 percent) supported legalizing such unions. It would take another 15 years, until 2011, for support to reach the majority level. Then in 2015, just one month before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, public support for legalizing gay marriage cracked the 60 percent level. In 2021, it reached the 70 percent mark for the first time and has been there each of the past three years.

Support Relatively Low Among Republicans, Weekly Churchgoers

Gallup has recorded increases in support for same-sex marriage across all major subgroups over time. Today, majorities of all but two key subgroups — Republicans (49 percent) and weekly churchgoers (41 percent) — say gay marriages should be legally recognized.

Republican support for gay marriage has hovered around the 50 percent mark since 2020, with slight majorities backing it in 2021 and 2022. The latest 49 percent recorded for this group is statistically similar to the level of support Gallup has recorded in recent years.

Like all other subgroups, weekly churchgoers (41 percent) are more supportive of gay marriage now than they were in the previous two decades. However, their level of support has been steady since 2018 — ranging between 40 percent and 44 percent.

Bottom line

Same-sex marriage has received majority support in the U.S. for over a decade, and support has been on an upward trajectory for most of Gallup’s polling since 1996.

Gay marriage became the law of the land after the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision, and President Joe Biden signed bipartisan legislation to ward off future judicial attempts at undoing its legality late last year.

Among many groups — including older adults, Protestants and residents of the South — perspectives on gay marriage have gone from majority opposition to majority support over the course of Gallup’s trend spanning more than a quarter of a century. But two groups remain holdouts on the issue, with Republicans evenly divided on the legality of same-sex unions and weekly churchgoers maintaining their position against it.

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