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LGBT voters approve of Obama’s performance: poll

But numbers slip on president’s handling of gay issues



President Obama received high marks in an unscientific straw poll of LGBT voters the Blade conducted during Capital Pride. (Photo by Pete Souza, courtesy of White House)

Nearly 77 percent of LGBT participants in an unscientific straw poll the Washington Blade conducted during last month’s Capital Pride street festival said they approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing as president.

The president’s 76.9 percent approval rating among the LGBT respondents — most of whom said they live in D.C., Maryland or Virginia — far exceeds the 46 percent approval rating he received from American voters nationwide who participated in a Gallup Poll in June.

Just over 17 percent of the 519 LGBT people who responded to the Blade straw poll said they disapprove of the president’s job performance, and about 6 percent said they had no opinion.

In a separate question on the Blade straw poll, about 51 percent of LGBT respondents said they approve of the job Obama is doing in “addressing LGBT-related issues.” On the matter, about 36 percent said they disapprove and about 13 percent said they had no opinion.

A third question asking respondents to grade Obama “on his handling of LGBT issues” showed a range of opinions. About 8 percent of the straw poll’s LGBT respondents gave Obama an “A” grade, whereas 37.7 percent gave him a “B,” 37.5 percent gave him a “C,” about 13 percent gave him a “D,” and about 2 percent gave him an “F.” The remaining respondents had no opinion.

The Blade straw poll follows a year in which the president has faced sharp criticism from some LGBT activists who say he hasn’t been forceful enough in pushing for LGBT-related bills in Congress, including legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

At the time of his election in November 2008, most LGBT activists agreed that Obama was about to become the nation’s most LGBT-supportive president. As a candidate, Obama said he supported civil unions rather than same-sex marriage, but expressed strong support on virtually all other LGBT issues.

Among other things, he called for repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure passed by Congress in 1996 that federally defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The act bars married same-sex couples joined in states that allow same-sex marriage from receiving any of the federal rights or benefits of marriage that wedded opposite-sex couples receive.

The president has continued to speak in favor of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA, has appointed a record number of high-level openly LGBT officials throughout the federal government, and has hosted LGBT events at the White House.

His LGBT supporters say the criticism is unfair. They note that the Obama administration has taken extensive action on the LGBT front and should not be held responsible for inaction by Congress, which has stalled in the approval of most LGBT-related bills.

That the Blade straw poll shows the president with an overall 76.9 percent approval rating among LGBT respondents suggests large numbers of LGBT people continue to have confidence in Obama while having concerns about his handling of at least some LGBT-related issues.

“I think the overall view is that we still like him,” said Peter Rosenstein, a gay Democratic activist.

“But I think it shows there’s a feeling it would be very nice if he spoke out on our issues in the same forceful way he did about health care to the Congress,” Rosenstein said. “There’s a frustration that he is not speaking out forcefully enough on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and on [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act] and our community wants to see more action.”

Andrew Tobias, who’s gay and serves as treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, said he understands the frustration of some of the Blade poll respondents who are disappointed that more LGBT-related advances have not materialized.

“But we also need to recognize that in less than two years, with so much else on his plate, Obama’s made a terrific start, and a night-and-day difference over where we were or where we would have been with [Republican presidential candidate John] McCain.”

Tobias said the Blade poll results show an overwhelming majority gave the president a favorable rating and a passing grade.

“If you had asked people to rate the Republicans, virtually 100 percent would have flunked them outright,” he said.

But Clarke Cooper, executive director of the gay partisan group Log Cabin Republicans, said the Blade poll indicates that LGBT voters are questioning the president’s actions on LGBT issues, especially the administration’s decision to oppose in court a Log Cabin lawsuit seeking to overturn the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law.

“It is presumptuous of President Obama and the DNC to assume LGBT voters will march in blind lock-step support of the president,” Cooper said.

Organizers of the Capital Pride festival, the D.C. area’s annual LGBT Pride event, estimated about 200,000 people turned out for the event, which was held June 13 along Pennsylvania Avenue near the U.S. Capitol.

The Blade staff invited festival attendees to participate in the straw poll as they walked past the Blade’s booth. Participation included filling out a one-page, confidential questionnaire and placing the completed questionnaire in a closed ballot box.

Of the 559 respondents, about 59 percent identified as gay, about 26 percent as lesbian, about 5 percent as bisexual, about 1 percent as transgender, and about 3 percent as queer. The remaining 6 percent identified as straight.

The Blade isolated the respondents identifying as straight from its calculation of the results so that a more accurate presentation of the straw poll’s LGBT sample could be obtained.

A separate calculation of the poll’s 36 straight respondents, showed that about 72 percent approved of the job the president is doing, while about 22 percent disapproved and about 5 percent had no opinion. On the question of how the president was doing on LGBT-related issues, about 34 percent of the straight respondents expressed approval, while some 25 percent expressed disapproval and 40 percent had no opinion.

Among all straw poll respondents, about 82 percent identified themselves as white, about 10 percent as black, 5 percent as Latino, about 3 percent as Asian/Pacific Islander, and another 3 percent as other.

Similar to nationwide public opinion polls such as the Gallup Poll, black respondents to the Blade poll gave a higher approval rating to the president than white respondents.

On the Blade poll’s question on whether respondents approve or disapprove of how Obama is doing as president, nearly 91 percent of the black LGBT respondents said they approve compared to less than 2 percent who said they disapprove. The remaining 7 percent of black LGBT respondents had no opinion.

On the same question, more than 77 percent of white LGBT respondents said they approve of the job the president is doing compared to about 18 percent who said they disapproved, while about 4 percent had no opinion.

The difference between black and white respondents narrowed on the question of how the president is doing on LGBT-related issues. About 60 percent of black respondents said they approved of the president’s handling of LGBT issues, while about 19 percent said they disapproved and some 21 percent had no opinion on the question.

Among white respondents, nearly 50 percent said they approved of President Obama’s handling of LGBT-related issues and about 35 percent said they disapproved, while about 15 percent said they had no opinion.

Gallup Poll results from a June survey shows 46 percent of American voters approve of Obama’s job performance. A Rasmussen Poll also conducted in July shows that just 27 percent of the respondents “strongly approve” of the overall job the president is doing compared to 43 percent who “strongly disapprove.”

High unemployment rates and the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster were among the issues that the Gallup and Rasmussen polls indicated were factors in respondents saying they disapprove of the job the president is doing.

Dan Pinello, who’s gay and a political science professor at the City University of New York, said the overall support the Blade straw poll found for Obama’s job performance is consistent with national exit polls of LGBT voters conducted by the news media for presidential elections.

He noted that the exit polls have consistently shown that LGBT voters support the Democratic presidential candidate at about 75 percent.

Pinello said he was unsurprised over the Blade poll finding that the Obama approval rating drops to about 50 percent on the question of how the president is handling LGBT-related issues. He noted that since the sample consists of self-identified LGBT people at a Pride event in Washington, the respondents most likely are “skewed” toward more politically aware people.

“But in the minds of many in our community, Barack Obama has not lived up to his campaign promises,” Pinello said. “Plus, Barack Obama has had an ambitious political agenda, much of which he’s accomplished. He got the health reform bill through Congress. He got the stimulus package passed. He got financial reform passed. Lots of major, consequential, historic legislation has passed in the last year and a half. And I think a lot of gay people, especially in the nation’s capital who are very attuned to these issues, are looking at that and saying, ‘Why not us?’”


The White House

White House hosts roundtable with transgender youth

Friday was International Transgender Day of Visibility



Upwards of 1,000 people took part in the March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy in D.C. on March 31, 2023. The White House on the same day held a roundtable with young trans and nonbinary people. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The White House said in a statement released Saturday said Presidential Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy “hosted a roundtable at the White House Friday about the joys, hopes and challenges that transgender children are experiencing.”

The roundtable took place on International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual event occurring on March 31 dedicated to celebrating trans people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by trans people worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society.

This year’s Transgender Day of Visibility was one of the largest in years.

Huge crowds gathered in cities across the U.S. in celebrations of visibility and protest as over 450 bills that target queer and trans youth are under consideration or have been passed by state legislatures.

“Transgender kids and their parents traveled to the White House from states that have attacked the rights of transgender kids, including Arizona, Texas and Virginia, and shared the devastating effects these political attacks are having on their mental health and wellbeing,” reads a White House readout of the roundtable. 

“As one round table participant shared, it feels scary when the politicians elected to represent you don’t care about your wellbeing. Families participating in today’s roundtable also highlighted that transgender kids can thrive when parents love and affirm their transgender children, and when transgender kids have access to the support they need at school and in their communities,” it notes. “Ambassador Rice and Dr. Murthy reiterated the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to standing up for the rights of transgender kids and their parents, and to challenging state laws that harm transgender kids. They also thanked the families for their unwavering advocacy and bravery in challenging these discriminatory laws.”

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Fla. lawmakers pass bill to expand ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Hundreds of students protested in Tallahassee



More than 150 students protest Florida's "Don't Say Gay" expansion bill in Tallahassee, Fla., on March 31, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Equality Florida)

On International Transgender Day of Visibility, hundreds of students from across Florida descended on the Capitol to protest the legislature’s fast-tracking of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda of book banning and classroom censorship and assaults on academic and medical freedom.

Buses arrived from Central and South Florida in a collaboration between high school, college and university students called the Student Unity Coalition.

Organizers marched the coalition from Florida State University campus into the halls of the Capitol building just as the House of Representatives voted 77-35 in favor of House Bill 1069, which would expand the “Don’t Say Gay” law’s censorship provisions through 8th grade, ban parents from requiring the school system use their child’s correct pronouns, and escalating book bans, allowing one person from anywhere in the nation to challenge a book in a Florida school, prompting its immediate removal pending a lengthy review.

“The students who mobilized in the hundreds today sent a clear message about the Florida they want to grow up in,” said Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders. “They want a Florida that values freedom — real freedom. Free states don’t ban books. Free states don’t censor LGBTQ people from society or strip parents of their right to ensure their child is respected in school. Students and families across Florida are fed up with this governor’s agenda that has put a target on the backs of LGBTQ people. Shame on DeSantis’ legislative cronies for peddling more anti-LGBTQ lies on the House floor today and ramming through an expansion of the censorship policies that have emptied bookshelves across the state and wreaked havoc on our schools. Shame on them for ignoring the voices outside demanding a state that respects all families and protects all students.”

House passage of HB 1069 comes as last year’s “Don’t Say Gay” law wreaks havoc on Florida’s schools and drives educators and families from the state. DeSantis’ Florida has become synonymous with the sweeping book bans that are targeting books with LBGTQ characters or Black history themes, including “The Life of Rosa Parks” and “And Tango Makes Three.” Students’ graduation speeches have been censored.

Rainbow Safe Space stickers have been peeled from classroom windows. Districts have canceled long standing after school events and refused to recognize LGBTQ History Month.

The rampant right wing censorship has exacerbated Florida’s exodus of educators, with vacant teacher positions ballooning to more than 8,000, and, according to a recent survey from the Williams Institute, has led a majority of LGBTQ parents in the state to consider leaving Florida altogether.

On Thursday, parents and educators held a joint press conference outside the House chamber to decry this legislation and other proposals that would strip them, their students, and their families of the rights to academic and medical freedom.

That same day, Republicans lawmakers rejected numerous reasonable amendments to House Bill 1069, including a Parental Rights amendment by state Rep. Rita Harris that would have allowed parents to write a letter instructing schools on what pronouns their child should be addressed with, a clarifying amendment from state Rep. Ashley Gantt that would have finally defined the term “classroom instruction,” which bill sponsor state Rep. Stan McClain acknowledged has been left undefined and vague, and a marriage equality amendment by state Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby that would have struck outdated and bigoted sex education language that mandates instruction on the benefits of “monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”

The more than 150 high school and college students who rallied in Tallahassee filled the Capitol rotunda just before 1 p.m. ET, with their chants of “this is what democracy looks like” temporarily interrupting a disinformation-filled rant by GOP Representative, and sponsor of the bill to criminalize medical care for transgender youth, Ralph Massullo.

The “Don’t Say Gay” expansion bill’s Senate version, Senate Bill 1320, will move next to its final committee, Fiscal Policy.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Justice Department appeals federal judge’s ACA ruling

Decision impacts PrEP, other preventative health services



The Pride flag over the Justice Department's D.C. headquarters (Photo courtesy of the Justice Department)

Justice Department attorneys filed a notice of appeal Friday with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services after U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that employers cannot be forced to cover specified preventive health care services under the Affordable Care Act.

Thursday’s ruling means that more than 150 million Americans on employer-sponsored health plans will lose some cost-free coverage for immunizations, contraception, cancer screenings and PrEP.

O’Connor’s ruling struck down the recommendations that have been issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force regarding the preventive care treatments provisions required by the ACA directing insurers provide at no cost to the patient.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement on the Justice Department decision to appeal:

“The president is glad to see the Department of Justice is appealing the judge’s decision, which blocks a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that has ensured free access to preventive health care for 150 million Americans. This case is yet another attack on the Affordable Care Act, which has been the law of the land for 13 years and survived three challenges before the Supreme Court.
Preventive care saves lives, saves families money, and protects and improves our health. Because of the ACA, millions of Americans have access to free cancer and heart disease screenings. This decision threatens to jeopardize critical care.
The administration will continue to fight to improve health care and make it more affordable for hard-working families, even in the face of attacks from special interests.”

AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein decried O’Connor’s ruling saying:

“Stripping away access to preventive care will hurt tens of millions of Americans. These services are essential, and eliminating them will have dangerous consequences. While we expect this unconstitutional ruling ultimately will fail, the decision creates uncertainty and is a threat to public health.

“With this devastating ruling, a Trump-appointed judge placed the health of millions of Americans in extreme danger, based on an extremist political agenda. Undermining screenings and treatment for cancer, blood pressure, pregnancy, and mental health doesn’t just hurt individuals — it damages the health of the entire country,” California state Sen. Scott Wiener said.

“The effect of this decision on HIV prevention will be disastrous. In recent years, we’ve made incredible progress reducing the number of new HIV infections, largely because hundreds of thousands of people are now taking PrEP, an HIV prevention drug proven to be essentially 100 percent effective. This decision reverses that progress by allowing health plans to charge patients through the nose for this life-saving medication, raising barriers to access for the communities of LGBTQ people and people of color most at risk. Judge O’Connor will soon have thousands of new HIV cases on his conscience,” Wiener added.

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, released the following statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang in response to a ruling from O’Connor:

“Judge Reed O’Connor, already having attempted to invalidate the Affordable Care Act as a whole in 2018, has once again issued a ruling that puts the lives of Americans in danger. Preventive care is essential in helping to screen for potential severe health conditions and attempt to mitigate them — this ruling affects screenings for cancer, diabetes, STDs, cardiovascular disease, and so much more.

More than 150 million Americans currently have private insurance with coverage for preventive care under the ACA, yet a partisan judge in Texas is attempting to single handedly rollback access to these basic health care services. Equality California is committed to ensuring that these critical preventive services remain in place for the health of all Americans. We expect an appeal of this decision immediately. 

Thankfully, most health plans in California are unaffected by today’s ruling because existing state law already requires health plans regulated in California to cover preventive services without cost sharing. Today’s ruling may affect a small subset of employer-sponsored health plans that are not regulated by the state.

Equality California is proud to be sponsoring legislation with Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur and Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, AB (Assembly Bill) 1645, which will strengthen existing law and go even further to ensure that Californians have access to essential preventive services, including STD screening and PrEP for HIV prevention. While right-wing judges and politicians are attempting to roll back our rights and inflict harm on LGBTQ+ people, California will continue doubling down to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

Read the notice of appeal here:

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