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Gay candidates harp on opponents’ ‘Don’t Ask’ votes

Pougnet, Potosnak running against lawmakers who voted no

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Gay candidates seeking congressional office are capitalizing on their incumbent opponents’ votes against overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to build support in their electoral bids.

Those seeking to oust lawmakers from office are hoping that public support for ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — which a CNN poll taken before congressional votes last month found nearly 80 percent of Americans favor overturning — will help build opposition to lawmakers who opposed the repeal compromise.

The votes on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal were taken May 27 in the U.S. House and the Senate Armed Services Committee to attach the measure as part of pending defense budget legislation.

Among the candidates capitalizing on votes against repeal is Steve Pougnet, the gay Democratic mayor of Palm Springs, Calif. who’s seeking to oust Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) from office.

Jordan Marks, campaign manager for Pougnet, said Bono Mack’s vote against repeal contributes to dispelling the perceived notion that she’s a moderate Republican.

“On ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ for so long, Mary Bono Mack had to have it both ways to show that she was a friend to the gay and lesbian community,” he said.

In a statement published shortly after the vote, the lawmaker defended her vote against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal measure by saying she wants to wait until the Pentagon completes its study on the issue at the end of the year.

“I care deeply about our men and women in uniform and believe it is essential that a thorough review be completed by our military commanders prior to Congress enacting such a sweeping change,” she said. “This vote should have happened after that review.”

Bono Mack also noted opposition to the repeal measure voiced by the four service chiefs before the vote took place. She said lawmakers do these military leaders “a great disservice if we ignore their advice on this important issue.”

Until the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” vote, Bono Mack had been regarded in some circles as a pro-gay Republican because of her voting record. Bono Mack had voted twice against the Federal Marriage Amendment and in favor of hate crimes legislation and a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

After the vote against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal tarnished her record on May 27, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Pougnet.

Although Pougnet is running in a traditionally Republican district, a boost from the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” vote could be enough to give Pougnet the necessary edge to topple Bono Mack in what’s seen as a competitive race.

Pougnet is credited with being a powerhouse fundraiser and, according to Marks, will report $1.2 million in fundraising at the end of the second quarter. As of mid-May, Bono Mack has about $1.5 million in net receipts, according to Federal Election Campaign records.

Additionally, a June report in the Politico revealed that the National Republican Congressional Committee identified Bono Mack as one of nine potentially vulnerable Republican congressional lawmakers.

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, said Bono Mack’s “no” vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” provides “clear proof” to supporters of repeal that she’s waffling on the issue.

“She always said if the military was OK with repealing it, she was fine,” Kors said. “The bill that went forward requires the military to finish its process and say that it won’t harm our military to repeal it, yet she still voted against it.”

Kors said Bono Mack’s vote has “riled up” those who thought she supported LGBT rights and “intensifies people’s belief that it’s time for her to go.”

On the other side of the country, Ed Potosnak, a Democrat running against incumbent Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) to represent New Jersey’s 7th congressional district, is similarly capitalizing on his opponent’s vote against overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Potosnak, a former staffer for Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and public school teacher, said Lance’s vote is evidence the lawmaker has changed since he was elected to office.

“The vote against repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ really goes a long way in demonstrating that Lance is just out of touch,” Potosnak said.

Potosnak said Lance’s vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — as well as other votes the lawmaker has cast in his career — show he’s “on the wrong side of history.”

As the campaign progresses, Potosnak said voters “will have the opportunity to see how much he has changed since going down to Washington.”

Lance’s campaign didn’t respond to the Blade’s request to explain the lawmaker’s vote against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

While the lawmaker’s vote against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal could give Potosnak an edge in the race, he still faces an uphill battle. He’s running in a traditionally Republican district, and recent campaign finance reports show that he has around $51,000 in cash-on-hand compared to the $500,000 in Lance’s coffers.

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, a gay conservative group that advocates for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” defended lawmakers who voted “no” by noting results of the Pentagon study have yet to be revealed.

“We had a plan to look at this and get rid of it, and now you’re telling [us] to scrap that plan and vote on it now,” LaSalvia said. “The reason for many of those votes were the result of the Democrats changing the strategy in mid-stream, and it couldn’t have been more poorly handled.”

Another gay candidate seeking congressional office won’t be to draw attention to an opponent’s vote against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in his campaign. David Cicilline, the Democratic mayor of Providence, R.I., who’s seeking to represent Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district, isn’t running against an incumbent candidate.

The lawmaker that Cicilline is seeking to succeed is Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who announced his planned retirement from the House earlier this year. Kennedy voted in favor of the repeal measure.

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Virginia

Va. Senate committee kills six anti-transgender bills

Democrats control chamber by 22-18 margin

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Senate Education Committee on Thursday killed six anti-transgender bills.

The committee rejected state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 960, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s Senate Bill 791 and state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County)’s Senate Bill 1203. All three measures would have banned transition-related health care for minors in Virginia.

The committee also killed state Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake)’s Senate Bill 911, Reeves’ Senate Bill 1186 and Peake’s Senate Bill 962. The measures would have banned transgender athletes from school teams corresponding with their gender identity.

Equality Virginia in a tweet said committee members received more than 3,000 emails “in opposition” to the bills. The statewide advocacy group further noted 10 out of 12 anti-trans bills introduced during this year’s legislative session have been defeated.

“Thank you to everyone who has spoken up against these bills,” said Equality Virginia. “Virginia is remaining a better, more inclusive state because of your efforts.”

“The fight isn’t over,” added the advocacy group. “But we know Virginians will show up for trans youth, day after day.”

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee essentially kills three anti-transgender bills

Measures would ban transition-related health care for minors

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Tuesday essentially killed three bills that would have banned transition-related health care for minors in the state.

Equality Virginia in a tweet noted the Senate Health Subcommittee “recommended killing” state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 960, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s Senate Bill 791 and state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County)’s Senate Bill 1203. 

“We expect these bills to be officially dead after the full committee meets on Thursday,” said Equality Virginia.

Democrats have a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, and they have said they will block any anti-LGBTQ bill that reaches their chamber. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly transgender woman seated in a state legislature in the U.S., on Tuesday reiterated this point.

“With the defeat of these bills in the Senate, our (Virginia Senate Democrats) made it clear that *any* bills in the House targeting trans kids during the final week before crossover will not become law if they make it to the Senate,” she tweeted. “Let’s focus on feeding kids, not singling them out.”

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The White House

Doug Emhoff visits monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin

Second gentleman marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Auschwitz

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The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism in Berlin on July 23, 2022. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff visited the memorial on Jan. 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Tuesday visited a monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin.

A readout from Emhoff’s office notes he visited the Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism with Philipp Braun of the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ and intersex rights group. Christopher Schreiber and Alexander Scheld of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Federation were also with Emhoff.

“The Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under Nazi Socialism is intended to honor the homosexual victims of National Socialism and at the same time ‘set a constant sign against intolerance, hostility and exclusion towards gays and lesbians,'” notes the readout.

Emhoff on Tuesday visited other memorials that honor the Sinti and Roma and people with disabilities who the Nazis killed. The second gentleman also visited Berlin’s Holocaust memorial before he met with five people who survived it.

The second gentleman earlier in the day participated in a roundtable with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and met with Ukrainian refugees at Berlin’s New Synagogue. Emhoff on Monday participated in a meeting at the city’s Topography of Terror Museum that focused on antisemitism.

International Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1945, took place on Jan. 27. 

Emhoff, who is Jewish, traveled to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum and participated in ceremonies that commemorated the camp’s liberation. He later attended a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, visited Oscar Schindler’s factory and met with Ukrainian refugees at a U.N. Refugee Agency community center before he traveled to Germany.

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