Connect with us

National

National news in brief

Gay man leads in close vote for Gainesville mayor & more

Published

on

Craig Lowe, who’s gay, appeared to narrowly beat his opponent Tuesday to become the next mayor of Gainesville, Fla. (Photo courtesy of Craig Lowe for Mayor)

Gay man leads in close vote for Gainesville mayor

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The city of Gainesville, Fla., on Tuesday appeared to elect an openly gay man as mayor by 35 votes.

Craig Lowe, a 52-year-old gay city commissioner, beat out Don Marsh, a window-cleaning business owner, in an apparent victory in the city’s mayoral runoff election.

County law in the area requires a recount in cases where victories are achieved by a margin of less than 0.5 percent. If Lowe survives this recount, he’ll become the first openly gay mayor in northern Florida, and one of fewer than 30 openly LGBT mayors serving in the United States, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

In a statement provided by Equality Florida, Lowe gave particular thanks to the organization’s political action committee for its assistance in his election.

“I would like to thank Equality Florida Action PAC for their tremendous help in my race,” Lowe said. ”Not only did they endorse my candidacy early on, they also served as a watchdog against the lies about my campaign and put people on the ground to help get our message out to voters.”

According to Equality Florida, Lowe endured “homophobic rhetoric and smear tactics” in the weeks before his win. A local church displayed a “No Homo Mayor” billboard on their front lawn.

In addition to the state LGBT organization, Lowe received endorsements from the Victory Fund as well as other local organizations such as the Gainesville Professional Firefighters’ Association, the African American Coalition for Political Action and the Alligator Newspaper.

Senate passes resolution against anti-gay Uganda bill

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved by unanimous consent a resolution condemning a harshly anti-gay bill pending in the Ugandan parliament.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African affairs, introduced the resolution in February. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) were original co-sponsors.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda, but the African nation’s pending legislation would, among other things, institute the death penalty in some cases for LGBT people and require citizens to report LGBT people to the police.

In a statement, Feingold praised “so many political, religious and civic leaders in Uganda and around the world” for speaking out against the Uganda bill.

“Sadly, this legislation is just one example of actions taken around the world to restrict the rights of people just because of their gender or sexual orientation,” he said. “We need to speak out consistently against all such discrimination. The Senate’s passage of this resolution begins to move us in that direction, and I will continue working with my colleagues and the administration to continue to address this issue.”

In addition to condemning the Uganda bill, the Senate resolution calls for repeal of the criminalization of homosexuality in other countries and urges the State Department to closely monitor human rights abuses against LGBT people abroad.

In the House, another resolution condemning the Uganda legislation, introduced by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), is pending before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution has 58 co-sponsors.

HRC says Vatican official ‘diverting attention’ on abuses

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign this week accused a Vatican official of “diverting attention away from decades of Vatican cover-ups of pedophile behavior” when he blamed gays for the abuses.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the pope’s top aide, outraged gay advocacy groups, politicians and others with his remarks Monday in Chile.

“Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia,” said the Italian cardinal, according to the Associated Press. “But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”

Harry Knox, an HRC director of religion issues, responded to Bertone on Wednesday.

“Cardinal Bertone’s statement makes clear that he is more interested in diverting attention away from decades of Vatican cover-ups of pedophile behavior than he is in living up to his pastoral role,” Knox said. “He should actually get to know gay people and read the voluminous opinions of medical and psychological experts that make clear pedophilia is not related to sexual orientation.”

Huckabee likens gay marriage to incest, polygamy

WASHINGTON — Mike Huckabee, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said the effort to allow same-sex couples to marry is comparable to legalizing incest, polygamy and drug use.

The Associated Press reported that Huckabee also told college journalists last week that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt. “Children are not puppies,” he said.

Huckabee visited The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., April 7 to speak to the Student Government Association. He also was interviewed by a campus news magazine, The Perspective, which published an article April 9.

Huckabee told the interviewer that not every group’s interests deserve to be accommodated, if their lifestyle is outside of what he called “the ideal.”

“That would be like saying, well there are a lot of people who like to use drugs so let’s go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them. There are people who believe in polygamy, should we accommodate them?” he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

The 2008 presidential hopeful and former Arkansas governor also said that deciding which lifestyles should be accommodated and which ones should not creates a slippery slope.

“Why do you get to choose that two men are OK but one man and three women aren’t OK?” he asked.

Huckabee added that his goal isn’t to tell others how to live, but that the burden of proving that a gay marriage can be successful rests with the activists in favor of changing the law.

“I don’t have to prove that marriage is a man and a woman in a relationship for life,” he said. “They have to prove that two men can have an equally definable relationship called marriage, and somehow that that can mean the same thing.”

Since the magazine published the interview, Huckabee’s remarks have attracted considerable attention online.

In a statement Tuesday, Huckabee said that while he believes what people do in their private lives is their business, “I do not believe we should change the traditional definition of marriage.” He also said he thought the college magazine was sensationalizing his “well-known and hardly unusual views of same-sex marriage.”

Calif. gay marriage ban repeal falls short

SAN FRANCISCO — Gay rights activists say they have failed to qualify a measure that would repeal California’s same-sex marriage ban for the November ballot.

The Associated Press reported that Restore Equality 2010 chair Sean Bohac said the volunteer-run group fell short of gathering the nearly 695,000 signatures needed to put the initiative before voters. Monday was the deadline for submitting the signatures to the secretary of state’s office.

Bohac said Restore Equality’s failed effort was undermined by the decision of more established gay rights groups not to participate in the campaign. He noted that same-sex marriage supporters now are turning their attention to trying to repeal Proposition 8 in 2012.

A lawsuit to overturn Prop 8 also is pending before a federal trial judge.

Lance Bass, others sponsor gay-friendly prom

TUPELO, Miss. — Green Day, former ‘N Sync member Lance Bass and celebrity chef Cat Cora are among those helping to pay for a gay-friendly prom in Mississippi next month, the Associated Press reported.

Organizers say the event is open to everyone but geared toward gay students. The American Humanist Association also will contribute $20,000 for the May 8 event in Tupelo.

The annual prom is organized by the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition. This year’s event has drawn attention because of the case of Constance McMillen, a high school senior who challenged her school district’s rule banning same-sex dates at proms.

Coalition spokesperson Matthew Sheffield said plans for the event haven’t been completed. But he noted that Bass, who is gay, is among the celebrities expected to attend.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Florida

Miami hotel liquor license may be revoked over a drag show

State’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco targets business

Published

on

Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Miami. (Photo by dennizn/Bigstock)

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is in the process of revoking the Hyatt Regency Miami’s alcohol license after the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation determined that the hotel’s affiliated James L. Knight Center had hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas” performed Dec. 27 with minors present in the audience.

The Knight Center is a major South Florida venue and has previously hosted the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. The venue’s main room can seat 4,600 people.

This is the third time the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which operates under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, has targeted a business that hosted a drag show.

A popular restaurant and pub in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood is also under threat of losing its liquor license. The R House identifies itself on its Facebook page as “the proud home of South Florida’s most popular weekend drag brunches.”

The July 2022 complaint filed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation asks for a final order that the R House restaurant is a declared a public nuisance and has its liquor license revoked. 

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the complaint was issued after a video of a recent performance at the bar’s drag brunch went viral. A topless drag queen wearing lingerie stuffed with money can be seen in the video attempting to dance with a young girl, who the DPBR estimates is “between three and five years old.” Twitter account “Libs of Tik Tok” originally found the footage on Tik Tok, posted by a user who wrote, “Children belong at drag shows!!!! Children deserve to see fun and expression & freedom.”

In late December “A Drag Queen Christmas” was hosted by the Orlando non-profit Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation on Dec. 28, filing a complaint alleging that children under age 18 were allowed to attend.

The complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic alleged the foundation violated Florida law in allowing for a person to “commit lewd or lascivious exhibition” in the presence of an individual who is less than 16 years old.

In this latest targeting of the show, which is a holiday-themed drag show that tours in 36 different cities and features stars from the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Insider webzine journalist Kimberly Leonard reported that the DeSantis administration officials accused the Knight Center of several violations, including a prohibition of “lascivious exhibition” before people younger than 16, mirroring the December complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic.

The department’s complaint said performers engaged in “acts of simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays” that included:

  • Performers forcibly penetrating or rubbing exposed prosthetic female breasts against faces of audience members
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ prosthetic female breasts and genitalia to the audience
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ buttocks to the audience
  • Simulating masturbation through performers’ digitally penetrating prosthetic female genital
  • Graphic depictions of childbirth and/or abortion

Hyatt Regency Miami is allowed to keep selling alcohol until the department makes a final decision. The business has 21 days to request a hearing, Beth Pannell, spokeswoman for the department, told Insider.

Regulators had warned the facility to change how it marketed the show before it went live, according to a copy of the letter included in the complaint. The letter accused the marketers of putting on a performance that constitutes “public nuisances, lewd activity, and disorderly conduct” when minors are present.

News of this latest action was first reported by far-right conservative internet based outlet Florida’s Voice.

As more and more Republican states target drag shows, in just the past few weeks, Tennessee became the first to ban adult performances, including drag, from public spaces such as parks and schools. 

Continue Reading

U.S. Military/Pentagon

New VA mission statement recognizes commitment to all veterans

‘To fulfill [Lincoln’s] promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military & for their families, caregivers, & survivors’

Published

on

VA Secretary Denis McDonough. (Screenshot/YouTube)

In a speech delivered Thursday at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA), located at the main entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in suburban Virginia, VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued an updated version of its 1959 mission statement.

The new mission statement is: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”

As the VA secretary commenced his remarks, he honored several notable women in the audience including Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton, the assistant secretary of veterans affairs for public and intergovernmental affairs.

Fulton, is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., which was the Academy’s first class to admit women. She is an out lesbian and served as a founding board member of Knights Out, the organization of LGBTQ West Point graduates, and later worked with OutServe, the association of actively-serving LGBTQ military members and SPARTA, an LGBTQ military group advocating for transgender military service.

“Whenever any veteran, family member, caregiver, or survivor walks by a VA facility, we want them to see themselves in the mission statement on the outside of the building,” said Secretary McDonough. “We are here to serve all veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors — and now, our mission statement reflects exactly that.”

In crafting the new mission statement, VA surveyed roughly 30,000 Veterans. Among veterans surveyed, the new version of VA’s mission statement was chosen over the current version by every age group; by men and by women; by LGBTQ+ veterans; and by white, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native Veterans.

In addition to two rounds of surveys, VA conducted dozens of small-group engagements with veterans to understand what was most important to them in a VA mission statement, then incorporated that feedback into quantitative research. The new mission statement reflects that VA serves all of the heroes who have served our country, regardless of their race, gender, background, sexual orientation, religion, zip code or identity.

The previous mission statement was: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.” The previous mission statement is posted in roughly 50 percent of VA’s facilities. Over the coming months, VA’s new mission statement will replace the previous version.

VA announces new mission statement, recognizing sacred commitment to serve all who served:

Continue Reading

Michigan

Mich. governor signs statewide LGBTQ rights law

‘Bigotry is bad for business’

Published

on

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 16, 2023, signed an LGBTQ rights bill into law. (Photo courtesy of Whitmer's office)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act on Thursday, which expands basic protections for the LGBTQ community.

The measure, Senate Bill 4, was sponsored by openly gay state Sen. Jeremy Moss who less than a year previously had been shot down by the Republican majority as he attempted to have a non-binding resolution to recognize “Pride Month” adopted by the Senate.

In her signing remarks, Whitmer noted: “In the words of Detroit native Lizzo, it’s about damn time! Bigotry is bad for business. Come to Michigan, you will be respected and protected under the law.”

“As Equality Michigan celebrates this historic step forward, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Generations of activists have inspired us to fight for justice and equality for all LGBTQ+ Michiganders, and our community has been working to update our state’s civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in every single legislative session since Elliott-Larsen was first adopted,” Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott said in a statement. “We applaud Gov. Whitmer for signing this bill into law, and are humbled by this pro-equality legislature that made amending ELCRA a top priority. Senator Jeremy Moss and Rep. Jason Hoskins introduced this legislation and championed it all the way through to the finish line.” 

“The victory we have today in Michigan is a great one, but it’s also one we don’t take lightly at this moment. Let it not be lost on us that this privilege, however hard-earned, is a unique one that exists amid a nationwide political assault on LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary youth, and their families,” added Knott. “There are over 400 anti-trans bills moving across state legislatures in the US, twice the amount introduced last year.”

“This bill being signed into law is a beacon of hope and sends a powerful message of acceptance to LGBTQ people across the nation. At the Trevor Project, we work every day to protect the lives of LGBTQ youth, and days like today prove that in generations to come, both their legal and lived equality will no longer be fodder for political debate,” said Troy Stevenson, director of state advocacy campaigns for the Trevor Project. “Our research shows that having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt among LGBTQ young people by 40 percent. We applaud the elected leaders, advocates and Gov. Whitmer for making this a reality, and affirming the dignity and rights of LGBTQ Michiganders by codifying these protections into law.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular