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Two gay candidates shine in fundraising

Pougnet, Cicilline post strong second-quarter results



Congressional candidate David Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, R.I., has raised $1.16 million over the course of his campaign. (Photo courtesy of Cicilline)

Two gay politicians posted strong second-quarter fundraising numbers that could propel them to seats in Congress.

Campaign finance reports made public earlier this month show Steve Pougnet, the mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., and David Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, R.I., boasting particularly strong numbers.

And Pougnet had the added accomplishment of keeping his fundraising numbers on par with his incumbent Republican opponent, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.). Both candidates raised about $400,000 for the April to June period.

The second-quarter numbers mean Pougnet has raised $1,267,910 so far in his campaign, leaving him with $878,283 in cash on hand, while Bono Mack raised $1,731,752, leaving her with $1,241,919 in cash on hand.

In a statement, Pougnet said he’s “incredibly humbled” by the support he’s received in his bid to represent California’s 45th congressional district.

“In these very difficult times, our congresswoman has been absent and it’s clear people are hungry for change,” Pougnet added.

But Ryan Mahoney, campaign manager for Bono Mack, touted the Republican candidate’s fundraising ability and noted that Bono Mack is “humbled” by the support she’s received.

“She is proud to represent the people of California’s 45th congressional district and will continue to fight on their behalf to end reckless spending and debt in Washington and create more jobs and better business opportunities in California,” Mahoney said.

Pougnet’s ability to match Bono Mack during the second quarter is unusual because challengers often do not match their incumbent opponents in fundraising. The fundraising numbers are also significant because the race in the 45th district is widely seen as among the most competitive congressional contests in the country.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put Pougnet on its “Red to Blue” program, and Bono Mack has been a lawmaker the National Republican Congressional Committee has worked to protect.

Notable donations to Pougnet from LGBT groups include $2,400 from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and $6,900 from the Human Rights Campaign. Both organizations have endorsed the candidate. Donations also have come from Bruce Bastian, a Utah-based gay billionaire philanthropist, who donated $2,400; Hilary Rosen, a D.C. lesbian PR executive, who donated $1,000; and Lane Hudson, a D.C. gay activist, who contributed $300.

But Bono Mack is not without LGBT donors. In April, the Log Cabin Republicans gave $500 to her campaign.

Bono Mack had been considered a pro-LGBT Republican because of her votes in favor of the hate crimes bill and a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as votes against the Federal Marriage Amendment. Her record was tarnished in May when she voted against an amendment that would lead to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s national director, noted his organization made the $500 contribution prior to Bono Mack’s vote against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

He said although Bono Mack voted against the repeal amendment, she ultimately voted in favor of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill as a whole. Consequently, Cooper said Log Cabin’s endorsement of the Republican lawmaker stands.

“[Log Cabin] will continue to work with Representative Bono Mack,” Cooper said. “Using the carrot approach, additional [Log Cabin] PAC funds could be made available contingent upon her future work and performance in the House.”

Cicilline, who’s running to succeed Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) to represent Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district, meanwhile raised $436,000 in the second quarter. He’s raised $1.16 million over the course of his campaign and ended the quarter with $901,000 in cash on hand.

In a statement provided by his campaign, Cicilline said he’s pleased with his fundraising and the LGBT support he received in the second quarter.

“I am extremely grateful to the members of our community who are supporting my campaign for Congress,” he said. “They are helping to ensure that we have the resources necessary to get our message out for the Sept. 14 primary.”

Bill Lynch, the former head of the Rhode Island Democratic Party who’s running against Cicilline in the primary, raised $55,832 in the second quarter. In the same period, he spent $126,000, leaving him with $139,000 in cash on hand.

The winner of the Democratic primary will likely face Republican John Loughlin, an Iraq war veteran and Rhode Island Assembly member. He raised $104,786 in the second quarter while spending $192,000. Loughlin has $101,000 in cash on hand.

Cicilline is running in a safely Democratic district and the Democratic nominee who wins the primary is widely expected to succeed Kennedy in the U.S. House.

The Providence mayor has been the beneficiary of LGBT support over the course of the campaign, particularly during the second quarter. The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has endorsed Cicilline, contributed $2,400 to his campaign in the second quarter.

Michael Cole, an HRC spokesperson, said his organization donated $721 to Cicilline in the second quarter, which was mostly in-kind contributions raised through HRC’s website.

Noting that HRC previously donated $6,025 to Cicilline, Cole said HRC plans to max out that contribution to $10,000 by year’s end.

Among the notable contributors to Cicilline’s campaign in the second quarter were Bastian, who donated $4,800; Rosen, who donated $500; Joe Solmonese, HRC’s president, who personally donated $500; and Winnie Stachelberg, senior vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, who donated $1,000.

Other gay congressional candidates seeking office didn’t fare as well as Pougnet or Cicilline during the second quarter.

Ed Potosnak, a gay Democratic former staffer for Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and public school teacher running in New Jersey, raised $47,000 in the second quarter while spending $26,000.

His finances leave him with $72,000 in cash on hand. Potosnak has raised $148,000 over the course of his campaign. Potosnak’s GOP opponent in his race to represent New Jersey’s 7th congressional district, one-term incumbent Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), raised $108,000. However, he spent nearly $250,000 in the same period, leaving him with $359,000 in cash on hand.

In what could be an uphill battle for a U.S. House seat, Potosnak is running in a traditionally Republican district. He hasn’t been endorsed by HRC or the Victory Fund.

Despite the funding disparity, Potosnak said he’s happy with the amount he raised in the second quarter because it came from individuals donors and not special interest money.

“Compared to the opponent, the guy that I’m running against, Congressman Lance, I received more contribution from individuals in the last filing — about $5,000 more,” Potosnak said. “I didn’t get the special interest money from the big banks and Wall Street that are fueling his campaign.”

A similar situation with campaign finances is playing out in Florida’s 17th congressional district, where nine candidates, including North Miami City Council member Scott Galvin, are vying for the Democratic nomination in a primary set for Aug. 24.

After raising $57,000 in the second quarter while spending $97,000, Galvin had about $15,000 in cash on hand. He’s raised about $112,000 over the course of his campaign, according to FEC records.

Galvin said he’s feeling good about his finances for the second quarter and was preparing to submit an amended report showing that he has raised $130,000 over the course of his campaign.

“We found several pages of donations that didn’t get included by accident, so for what it’s worth, the to-date total, I guess, would show $130,000,” Galvin said.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has endorsed Galvin, contributed $2,400 to his campaign during the second quarter.

The candidate in the Democratic primary with the greatest war chest is Rudolph Moise, a physician and president of the Comprehensive Health Center in North Miami. He raised $938,162 for his campaign, although $800,000 was a personal loan to his campaign from himself. He spent $280,000 in the second quarter, leaving him with $909,000 in cash on hand.

Galvin said the disparity in finances didn’t bother him and he would remain focused on a “grassroots concentrated effort.”

“We’re doing it through all the old-fashioned, knocking-on-door, mail-to-the-home, traditional way of campaigning,” he said.

The 17th congressional district in Florida is also considered a safely Democratic seat. No Republican candidate has filed for candidacy, so the winner of the Democratic primary would be the presumptive winner of the seat.

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Does a potential overturn of Roe imperil LGBTQ rights?

Some fear that Obergefell marriage decision could fall



Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1. (Photo by Cathy Renna)

The oral arguments before the justices of the United States Supreme Court had barely ended in the case brought by the state of Mississippi defending its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when alarms were set off in legal circles as some argued that Obergefell v. Hodges — the same-sex marriage decision — would be in danger should the high court rule to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, appearing on NPR’s ‘Heard on All Things Considered,’ told host Mary Louise Kelly that there was a basis for concern over whether the court would actually overrule its precedents in other cases based on the questions and statements raised during the hearing by the conservative members of the court.

Asked by Kelly if she saw a legal door opening Ziegler affirmed that she did. Kelly then asked her, “Them taking up cases to do with that. What about same-sex marriage?”

Ziegler answered, “Yeah, same-sex marriage is definitely a candidate. Justices Alito and Thomas have in passing mentioned in dicta that they think it might be worth revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage decision.

“And I think it’s fair to say that in the sort of panoply of culture war issues, that rights for same-sex couples and sexual orientation are still among the most contested, even though certainly same-sex marriage is more subtle than it was and than abortion was.

“I think that certainly the sort of balance between LGBTIQ rights and religious liberty writ large is a very much alive issue, and I think some states may try to test the boundaries with Obergefell, particularly knowing that they have a few justices potentially willing to go there with them.”

As almost if to underscore the point raised by Ziegler during the hearing, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor pointed out that the high court has taken and “discerned” certain rights in cases from the Constitution.

Along with abortion, the court has “recognized them in terms of the religion parents will teach their children. We’ve recognized it in their ability to educate at home if they choose,” Sotomayor said. “We have recognized that sense of privacy in people’s choices about whether to use contraception or not. We’ve recognized it in their right to choose who they’re going to marry.”

In following up the cases cited by Justice Sotomayor, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, who was defending the state’s abortion law, whether a decision in his favor would affect the legal precedents in those cases cited by Justice Sotomayor.

In his answer to Justice Barrett, the state’s Solicitor General said cases involving contraception, same-sex marriage and sodomy wouldn’t be called into question because they involve “clear rules that have engendered strong reliance interests and that have not produced negative consequences or all the many other negative stare decisis considerations we pointed out.”

However, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director, Sharon McGowan had a different take and interpreted remarks by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to mean that the decisions in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized private sexual intimacy between same-sex couples, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down remaining bans on the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, would actually justify overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a publicly released media statement McGowan noted: “During today’s argument, Justice Kavanaugh suggested that two key Supreme Court decisions protecting LGBTQ civil rights—Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges—support overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

‘To that we say, NOT IN OUR NAME. LGBTQ people need abortions. Just as important, those landmark LGBTQ decisions EXPANDED individual liberty, not the opposite. They reflected the growing societal understanding of our common humanity and equality under law.

“Just as the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the lie of ‘separate but equal,’ the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Obergefell appropriately overruled precedent where it was clear that, as was true with regard to race, our ancestors failed properly to acknowledge that gender and sexual orientation must not be barriers to our ability to live, love, and thrive free of governmental oppression. … 

“These landmark LGBTQ cases, which Lambda Legal litigated and won, and on which we rely today to protect our community’s civil rights, were built directly on the foundation of Casey and Roe. Our interests in equal dignity, autonomy, and liberty are shared, intertwined, and fundamental.” 

On Sunday, the Blade spoke with Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBTQ+ legal organization that represented three same-sex couples from Tennessee, whose case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court along with Obergefell and two other cases.

Minter is urging caution in how people interpret the court arguments and remarks made by the justices.

“We should be cautious about taking the bait from anti-LGBTQ groups who falsely argue that if the Supreme Court reverses or undermines Roe v. Wade, they are likely to reverse or undermine Obergefell or Lawrence. In fact, that is highly unlikely, as the argument in Dobbs itself showed,” he said.

“The only reason Justice Kavanaugh mentioned Obergefell and Lawrence, along with Brown v. Board of Education, was to cite them as examples of cases in which the Supreme Court clearly did the right thing. All of those decisions rely at least as strongly on equal protection as on fundamental rights, and even this extremely conservative Supreme Court has not questioned the foundational role of equal protection in our nation’s constitutional law,” Minter stressed.

During an interview with Bloomberg magazine, David Cortman, of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist hate group, said “two things in particular distinguish abortion from those other privacy rights: the right to life and the states’ interest in protecting a child.”

Cortman, whose group urged the justices to allow states to ban same-sex marriages, said those other rights may be just as wrong as the right to an abortion. “But the fundamental interest in life that’s at issue in abortion means those other rights are probably not in any real danger of being overturned.”

But Cortman is of the opinion that there is little impetus among the court’s conservatives to take up challenges to those cases.

However, the fact that the six to three makeup of the high court with a conservative majority has progressives clamoring for the public to pay closer attention and be more proactively engaged.

Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in an emailed statement to the Blade underscored those concerns:

“Reports and analysis coming out of Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are extremely disturbing and represent a threat to our individual constitutional rights to privacy and autonomy. There is no ‘middle ground’ on what the Constitution guarantees and what was decided decades ago with the Roe v Wade decision. 

“This is about liberty, equality, and the rule of law, not the political or partisan views of those sitting on the bench. The unprecedented decision to remove a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court 50 years ago would set back civil rights by decades. ….

“Abortion access is essential, and a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Bans on abortion are deeply racist and profoundly sexist – the harshest impacts fall on Black and Brown women and pregnant people and on our families and communities.

“If you think this decision will not affect you, think again: a wrong decision by the Supreme Court means you, too, will lose your bodily autonomy, your ability to own your own personal and community power. This is not just about abortion; it is about controlling bodies based on someone else determining your worthiness. This is a racial justice issue. This is a women’s issue. It is an LGBTQ issue. It is a civil rights issue. These are our fundamental rights that are at stake.”

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Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students



Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday



Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

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