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Gay Fla. city councilman seeks U.S. House seat

Galvin, Victory Fund see ‘path to victory’ despite crowded primary

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A gay city councilman in Florida has won several high-profile endorsements in his bid for a U.S. House seat.

Scott Galvin, who serves on the North Miami City Council, is among nine contenders seeking the Democratic nomination to represent Florida’s 17th congressional district. The primary is set for Aug. 24.

Galvin said he’s running for Congress because the U.S. faces what he called “a challenging time in our nation’s history.” Among the issues that Galvin said he wants to “bring background to Washington on” are national security issues overseas.

“We’ve got military challenges not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but, I think, right around the corner, right in front of us — challenges in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula,” Galvin said.

The seat Galvin is seeking to win is held by Rep. Kendrick Meeks (D-Fla.), who’s vacating the position to run for the U.S. Senate.

Among the national LGBT organizations that are backing Galvin are the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and the National Stonewall Democrats. Galvin said Florida Together, a local LGBT organization, also has thrown its support behind him.

Denis Dison, spokesperson for the Victory Fund, said his organization endorsed Galvin because he met the criteria considered in the organization’s endorsements. Such criteria include having a plan necessary to raise the money to compete.

“The political team and our board both agreed that there was a path to victory for Scott,” he said.

One of the factors that Dison cited in the Victory Fund’s endorsement was the crowded Democratic primary.

“When there are nine people running for this nomination, it’s much different than if you just have one or two people competing,” Dison said.

Local endorsements for Galvin have also come from Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl and Broward County Tax Appraiser Lori Parrish.

Galvin said he is additionally pursuing an endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign. He noted the organization was expected to meet this week to discuss an endorsement for his campaign.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said Galvin “has a strong shot” at winning because of the crowded primary field.

“A strong … turnout can make the difference between winning and losing,” she said. “So, I think there’s going to be a real race.”

Smith said Equality Florida won’t make an endorsement in the race because her organization doesn’t have a federal political action committee. She nonetheless noted Equality Florida would help in get-out-the-vote efforts.

Galvin said LGBT issues would be “a very high priority” for him if elected to Congress. But he noted that Congress would likely tackle some of those issues, such as repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” before he would take office.

Among the pro-LGBT issues Galvin said he would support are the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Uniting American Families Act. Galvin also supports same-sex marriage and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Galvin said the Food & Drug Administration’s ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood has long been “a pet peeve” for him and that the policy makes no sense “at all levels.”

“I don’t know why there would be a need to wait,” Galvin said. “Most of the blood banks themselves advocate for getting rid of it. Unfortunately, the stars haven’t aligned.”

Galvin said he would support legislation to overturn the ban, even though he thinks the Department of Health & Human Services should end the ban administratively.

Another issue Galvin cited as important to him was LGBT adoption rights, a priority spurred in part by Florida’s law preventing gays and lesbians from adopting.

Galvin said he was adopted by a straight couple and can “speak quite personally for the need for babies that are put up for adoption to find loving, caring homes.”

Still, Galvin called the ban “a state issue” and said he doesn’t know how much he’d be able to impact the ban as a member of Congress.

“It’s not something I’d have a direct vote in necessarily, but I would use my influence to pressure local legislators — from the governor on down to our local House people — to overturn it if there was an opportunity,” he said.

Legislation pending in Congress known as the Every Child Deserves a Family Act would address the adoption ban in Florida. The bill would restrict federal funds for states like Florida that allow discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Galvin said he wasn’t familiar with the legislation, but said it sounds like something he’d support as well as “whatever the federal government can do” to address the adoption issue.

Galvin said discussions about whether sufficient progress has already been made 18 months within the Obama administration shows “things are actually moving quicker than … some want to give the president credit for.”

“Would I rather see him with a sweeping stroke of the pen do everything on one day?” Galvin said. “Absolutely. I also know — and this is just politics — things do move slowly.”

Galvin said judging the president would be more effective at the end of his first term as opposed to before the mid-term election.

“I certainly applaud the president for pushing LGBT issues and I’d like to see him move faster,” he said. “Hopefully, if I’m one of those sitting in Congress, I’ll be able to help make that happen.”

During his tenure on the city council following his first election in 1999, Galvin advocated for LGBT issues. He said he helped obtain domestic partner benefits for city workers and institute a policy requiring city contractors to provide such benefits to their employees.

Galvin is a member of the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the Gay & Lesbian Community Center, according to a campaign bio.

As far as family, Galvin said he’s been dating someone for four years, but declined to identify him for this article. Galvin said his sexual orientation has “not really” yet factored into his campaign either in positive or negative ways.

Galvin said Miami-Dade County has three openly gay officials and his sexual orientation is widely known.

“It’s not like it’s a surprise or anything,” he said. “Are there people out there who are perhaps using it as a negative behind the scenes? I don’t know. None of that’s gotten back to me at this stage.”

Despite Galvin’s ambitions to serve in Congress, he faces a funding disparity among other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the election, according the most recent Federal Election Commission reports.

Rudolph Moise, a physician and president of the Comprehensive Health Center in North Miami, has accumulated the most money of any candidate in the field, raising more than $515,000. By comparison, Galvin reportedly raised about $56,000.

Still, Galvin said he knows his “pathway to victory” exists despite the challenge in financing.

“It’s a good-old-fashioned, shoe-leather, hitting-the-ground, get-your-voters-to-the-polls effort,” he said. “We’ll continue pushing it.”

Galvin attributed Moise’s lead in fundraising to “self-financing” of his campaign. Galvin said Moise has “a large burn rate” because he lent himself more than $200,000, but also spent more than $200,000 in the race.

“Just raising money — if you don’t do something of substance with it — doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing a [good] job with it,” Galvin said. “So, I think raising money in a campaign is — you got to look at [it] in a fashion that more than just, the bottom line, how much have you raised?”

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State Department

State Department releases annual human rights report

Antony Blinken reiterates criticism of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

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(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday once again reiterated his criticism of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act upon release of the State Department’s annual human rights report.

“This year’s report also captures human rights abuses against members of vulnerable communities,” he told reporters. “In Afghanistan, the Taliban have limited work opportunities for women, shuttered institutions found educating girls, and increasing floggings for women and men accused of, quote, ‘immoral behavior,’ end quote. Uganda passed a draconian and discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act, threatening LGBTQI+ individuals with life imprisonment, even death, simply for being with the person they loved.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court earlier this month refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” More than a dozen Ugandan LGBTQ activists have appealed the ruling.

Clare Byarugaba of Chapter Four Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTQ rights group, on Monday met with National Security Council Chief-of-Staff Curtis Ried. Jay Gilliam, the senior LGBTQI+ coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, in February traveled to Uganda and met with LGBTQ activists who discussed the Anti-Homosexuality Act’s impact. 

“LGBTQI+ activists reported police arrested numerous individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity and subjected many to forced anal exams, a medically discredited practice with no evidentiary value that was considered a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and could amount to torture,” reads the human rights report.

The report, among other things, also notes Ugandan human rights activists “reported numerous instances of state and non-state actor violence and harassment against LGBTQI+ persons and noted authorities did not adequately investigate the cases.”

Report highlights anti-LGBTQ crackdowns in Ghana, Hungary, Russia

Ghanaian lawmakers on Feb. 28 approved the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill. The country’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has said he will not sign the measure until the Ghanaian Supreme Court rules on whether it is constitutional or not.

The human rights report notes “laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults” and “crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex persons” are among the “significant human rights issues” in Ghana. 

The report documents Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and members of his right-wing Fidesz party’s continued rhetoric against “gender ideology.” It also notes Russia’s ongoing crackdown against LGBTQ people that includes reports of “state actors committed violence against LGBTQI+ individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly in Chechnya.”

The report specifically notes Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 24 signed a law that bans “legal gender recognition, medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person, and gender-affirming care.” It also points out Papua New Guinea is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The Hungarian Parliament on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his right-wing Fidesz party in 2023 continued their anti-LGBTQ crackdown. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Cook Islands and Mauritius in decriminalized homosexuality in 2023.

The report notes the Namibia Supreme Court last May ruled the country must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside the country. The report also highlights the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling against marriage equality that it issued last October. (It later announced it would consider an appeal of the decision.)

Congress requires the State Department to release a human rights report each year. 

The Biden-Harris administration in 2021 released a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad.

The full report can be read here.

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National

Same-sex couples vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change

Williams Institute report based on Census, federal agencies

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Beach erosion in Fire Island Pines, N.Y. (Photo courtesy of Savannah Farrell / Actum)

A new report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law finds that same-sex couples are at greater risk of experiencing the adverse effects of climate change compared to different-sex couples.

LGBTQ people in same-sex couple households disproportionately live in coastal areas and cities and areas with poorer infrastructure and less access to resources, making them more vulnerable to climate hazards.

Using U.S. Census data and climate risk assessment data from NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, researchers conducted a geographic analysis to assess the climate risk impacting same-sex couples. NASA’s risk assessment focuses on changes to meteorological patterns, infrastructure and built environment, and the presence of at-risk populations. FEMA’s assessment focuses on changes in the occurrence of severe weather events, accounting for at-risk populations, the availability of services, and access to resources.

Results show counties with a higher proportion of same-sex couples are, on average, at increased risk from environmental, infrastructure, and social vulnerabilities due to climate change.

“Given the disparate impact of climate change on LGBTQ populations, climate change policies, including disaster preparedness, response, and recovery plans, must address the specific needs and vulnerabilities facing LGBTQ people,” said study co-author Ari Shaw, senior fellow and director of international programs at the Williams Institute. “Policies should focus on mitigating discriminatory housing and urban development practices, making shelters safe spaces for LGBT people, and ensuring that relief aid reaches displaced LGBTQ individuals and families.”

“Factors underlying the geographic vulnerability are crucial to understanding why same-sex couples are threatened by climate change and whether the findings in our study apply to the broader LGBTQ population,” said study co-author Lindsay Mahowald, research data analyst at the Williams Institute. “More research is needed to examine how disparities in housing, employment, and health care among LGBT people compound the geographic vulnerabilities to climate change.”

Read the report

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Federal Government

Lambda Legal praises Biden-Harris administration’s finalized Title IX regulations

New rules to take effect Aug. 1

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U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (Screen capture: AP/YouTube)

The Biden-Harris administration’s revised Title IX policy “protects LGBTQ+ students from discrimination and other abuse,” Lambda Legal said in a statement praising the U.S. Department of Education’s issuance of the final rule on Friday.

Slated to take effect on Aug. 1, the new regulations constitute an expansion of the 1972 Title IX civil rights law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.

Pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County case, the department’s revised policy clarifies that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes sex-based discrimination as defined under the law.

“These regulations make it crystal clear that everyone can access schools that are safe, welcoming and that respect their rights,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said during a call with reporters on Thursday.

While the new rule does not provide guidance on whether schools must allow transgender students to play on sports teams corresponding with their gender identity to comply with Title IX, the question is addressed in a separate rule proposed by the agency in April.

The administration’s new policy also reverses some Trump-era Title IX rules governing how schools must respond to reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, which were widely seen as imbalanced in favor of the accused.

Jennifer Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said during Thursday’s call that the department sought to strike a balance with respect to these issues, “reaffirming our longstanding commitment to fundamental fairness.”

“We applaud the Biden administration’s action to rescind the legally unsound, cruel, and dangerous sexual harassment and assault rule of the previous administration,” Lambda Legal Nonbinary and Transgender Rights Project Director Sasha Buchert said in the group’s statement on Friday.

“Today’s rule instead appropriately underscores that Title IX’s civil rights protections clearly cover LGBTQ+ students, as well as survivors and pregnant and parenting students across race and gender identity,” she said. “Schools must be places where students can learn and thrive free of harassment, discrimination, and other abuse.”

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