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Homocon was an affair to remember

Gay conservatives, Ann Coulter celebrate our fabulous freedom

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Conservative pundit Ann Coulter brought her usual sense of audaciousness to last weekend's Homocon. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

It was an affair to remember. Last Saturday, GOProud hosted its Homocon event, appropriating a term that has been used derisively to describe gay conservatives. The event, which organizers plan to make annual, took place at the Manhattan apartment of Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of Pay Pal, who is based in the Bay Area.

The purpose of the event was to welcome GOProud supporters in a New York City venue and also make a national splash. But controversy quickly ensued as controversial Ann Coulter was the featured speaker. The event was something to behold: lots of hot young volunteers wearing tight “freedom is fabulous” T-shirts (a phrase coined in this column and newspaper), even hotter bartenders and wait staff and an apartment that made me wish that I had co-founded Pay Pal.

As I mingled around the room, I met people from just about everywhere. I met three Canadians who flew into New York just for Homocon. Other folks who traveled for the event were a North Carolinian, a Brit and a few from Los Angeles. There were also a lot of people from the District, GOProud’s home turf.

In sum, there were a lot of interesting people at the event, including a world-famous porn star. And, despite Esquire calling it a room of gay men, there were several women there. One of them was Margaret Hoover. She is a fabulous straight woman who is dedicated to marriage equality and is part of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. AFER’s purpose is to achieve marriage equality and is funding Ted Olson and David Boies’ court fight against Proposition 8.

Hoover had this to say about the event: “What’s unique about GOProud, particularly this event, is that they are the only group that actively strives to engage their skeptics.  Debating Joe Farah and inviting Ann Coulter to speak demonstrates the best of the American system — that when we talk to each other reasonably, with respect and persistence, we can win hearts and minds. Hearts were changed at the World Net Daily Take America Back conference. With Ann, we listened and disagreed, but the effort to reach out instead of speaking in an echo chamber is remarkable.”

And I also disagreed. Coulter went on a rant against gay marriage. She also does not like lesbians, as was demonstrated by her calling the Mississippi high schooler who wanted to take her girlfriend to the prom an “annoying lesbian.” When Coulter says that she likes gays, she means gay males. But Coulter was only a small part of a bigger event.

Tammy Bruce, an author, Fox News commentator and lesbian feminist who ran the Los Angeles chapter of NOW for several years was at Homocon. We got a chance to chat in the hall of Thiel’s apartment:

 

Jessica Lee: What was your overall reaction to the Homocon event tonight?

Tammy Bruce: I think it’s terrific; it’s our generation.

Lee: Can you define “our generation?”

Bruce: Our generation is we who are moving into our 40s and 50s and had to deal with AIDS and the ignorance on that issue. It is a generation that has moved from wanting more from government to realizing that maybe less government is the answer. As we get older, we have a sense that we are now in charge of our lives and the country. And while our lives are not necessarily easy, we are doing well because we are Americans. And we have to ask ourselves why we are doing well, especially being in New York today where Iranian leader Ahmadinijad has recently been. That reminds you of the power and importance of this nation and the power of importance of what we can do with it.

So our generation, and being a right of center gay, is about embracing who you are, knowing the importance of activism but also being respectful that we wake up first as Americans every day.

As we get older, we also see what works and was doesn’t. We have learned that liberalism does not work. That is why, when someone like Barack Obama, who is my age, doesn’t get it, something is wrong with that person.

Lee: Don’t you also think that the young voters who embraced Obama had never seen the Carter years, gas rationing and stagflation, and take prosperity as a given?

Bruce: It is a younger generation, and just like every younger generation there is a whole host of things that they have missed. Our responsibility as people who have gone through certain things, going through the Carter years and the 70s and 80s, AIDS and the abortion wars — any time when any group wants to interfere with the nature of who we are and what we do, however that manifests, at first we worked on it thinking that government is the answer, but you find out as you get older that it is not. Whenever government gets involved not only does it get screwed up, but then they want more power. Then we lose our individual power. The only answer regardless of the economic situation is for people to be able to live the lives that they want to live: personally, in business and as entrepreneurs.

Lee: Tonight Ann Coulter made a comment that gays are high income and therefore should not complain about being discriminated against. Is that not the same argument that has been used against Jews for centuries?

Bruce: It is. And the interesting thing is that we do earn more money, because the system has forced us to be independent. Those who are more successful are more isolated from government controls and support and we find ways to make our lives better.

Lee: Because we can’t rely on our families or the government?

Bruce: Exactly. And so when you look at that in a larger context, those who rely on government are still in poverty and hurting right now. It’s not about being a Jew or being gay, it is about striking out on one’s own. That is the thing that makes a person a success.

Lee: Which is what Jews have always had to do to survive.

Bruce: Exactly. So when you look at, historically, what works and what doesn’t, we know what works. What works is small government, individual initiative and the American individualist sensibility. I think that bodes well for gay conservatives, because Americans really want what is best for their families and the future. Supporting gays might be at odds with their faith, or may not be, but the bottom line, especially with Obama, is that we now know that this nation is at risk, that we must work shoulder to shoulder, that we have more in common than not even though there are people who say otherwise.

I think tonight is very exciting because it highlights my generation that is the power generation that realizes what is important, what we need to do now, and it bodes well for the future. It also sends a very good message to young people: that there is a different way of doing things, and it is at least worth considering. And I think that a lot of people now are open to different ideas because what they were told was going to work with Barack Obama not only didn’t, but it is destroying things that are very important in our lives.

Lee: And don’t you think that when you give the government the power to help you, via ENDA or something similar, you also give the government the power to discriminate against you. And if you look at it, it is the federal government that does 99 percent of the discrimination against gay people.

Bruce: Well, exactly. If you are looking to the federal government you are looking to politicians and politicians only care about themselves. You can look at the Clintons—they did more damage to gay civil rights than any Republican ever in office. So politicians are politicians. No one is going to be our daddy. No one is going to be our savior but ourselves. As long as you look to the government to feel good about yourself in the morning, you’re in trouble. As long as you are looking for someone else to help you, then you are putting off something that you have to do yourself.

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District of Columbia

Bill calls for designating D.C. street in honor of gay former slave

Black resident called ‘early pioneer’ for LGBTQ rights in 1880s

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Excerpt from the National Star, Jan. 13, 1896. (Image courtesy National Archive)

The D.C. Council is expected to approve a bill that calls for designating Swann Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle in honor of William Dorsey Swann, a little known Black gay D.C. resident and former slave who is credited with leading a group that organized drag shows in the late 1800s. 

A statement released by D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), who introduced the bill along with 10 other Council members, including gay Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), says William Dorsey Swann was an early pioneer in LGBTQ rights who referred to himself as “The Queen of Drag.”

“Beginning in the 1880s, William Dorsey Swann ran a group known as the ‘House of Swann’ and organized balls, largely attended by queer, formerly enslaved men who would gather to dance and cross dress,” according to Pinto’s statement, which she released on Feb. 28 at the time she and the other Council members introduced the bill.

“William Dorsey Swann was persecuted by the authorities and arrested multiple times for ‘impersonating a woman’ and ‘keeping a disorderly house,’ and was the first American activist to lead an LGBTQQIA+ resistance group,” Pinto’s statement says. “Swann eventually sought a pardon from President Grover Cleveland, becoming the first American on record to pursue legal action in defense of LGBTQQIA+ rights,” the statement says.

Her statement cites the Jan. 24, 1912, edition of the Congressional Record for the U.S. Senate as saying that Swann Street, N.W. had originally been named for Thomas Swann, an “enslaver” who served as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland.

“Officially designating this street in honor of native Washingtonian and trailblazing LGBTQQIA+ rights activist William Dorsey Swann is an opportunity to ensure that our streets honor those who embody the District’s value of social equality and human dignity,” the statement says. 

“The location of Swann Street, N.W. provides a physical and symbolic representation of the District’s Black Queer community, sitting both within the Strivers’ Section Historic District, a historic Black neighborhood, and the Dupont Circle neighborhood, the historic epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQQIA+ community,” it says. The street would maintain the current nomenclature and signage as ‘Swann Street,’” the statement concludes.

Swann Street is located between 14th Street, N.W. and 19th Street, N.W. and parallel to and between S Street, N.W. and T Street, N.W.

Pinto’s statement says William Dorsey Swann is believed to have been born in 1858 and died in 1925.

At the time of its introduction, the bill, called the William Dorsey Swann Street Designation Act of 2023, was sent to the Council’s Committee of the Whole, which consists of all 13 Council members.

In addition to Pinto and Parker, the Council members who co-introduced the bill include Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Robert White (D-At-Large), Kenyan McDuffie (I-At-Large), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), and Matthew Frumin (D-Ward 3).

Lindsey Walton, a spokesperson for Mendelson, said the Committee of the Whole voted unanimously on March 21 to approve the bill, which was expected to come before the full Council on April 4 for the first of two required votes.

One potential problem for the immediate passage and implementation of the Swann Street bill surfaced in a March 21 memo prepared by D.C. Chief Financial Officer Glen Lee and sent to Council Chair Mendelson.

Lee says in his memo that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has determined it will cost $30,000 to fabricate and install a commemorative sign called for under the bill explaining the historic background of William Dorsey. It says the sign is to be located at the intersection of Swann Street, New Hampshire Avenue, and 17th Street, N.W.

“Funds are not sufficient in the fiscal year 2023 through fiscal year 2026 budget and financial plan to implement the bill,” Lee says in his memo. “Department of Parks and Recreation will need to work with ANC 2B to design the sign and then will fabricate and install it…The fabrication and installation will cost $30,000 and the agency is unable to absorb the cost within its existing budgeted resources,” the memo says.

Walton, Mendelson’s spokesperson, said Mendelson and the other supporters of the bill on the Council will look for funds for the $30,000 needed to implement the bill in the city’s supplemental budget.

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District of Columbia

Former Trump official elected president of D.C. Log Cabin Republicans

Says GOP group welcomes ‘wide spectrum’ of conservative adherents

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D.C. Log Cabin Republicans President Thad Brock (Screen capture via Heritage Action for America YouTube)

Log Cabin Republicans of D.C., the local chapter of the national LGBTQ Republican organization with the same name, earlier this month elected former Trump administration official Thad Brock as its new president.

Brock replaces longtime GOP activist Adam Savit, who served as the D.C. Log Cabin group’s president for the past two years. The local group held its officers election on March 7 during a meeting in which U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) appeared as a guest speaker.

Brock served from 2018 to 2019 during the Trump administration as Assistant to the Administrator at the U.S. General Services Administration, according to his LinkedIn page.

His LinkedIn page says he served from 2019 to January 2021 as Special Assistant to the CEO at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. agency that works with the State Department to help facilitate foreign trade and assistance for developing countries.

Brock told the Blade the two positions were presidential appointments.

Information released by the D.C. Log Cabin group says its members also elected Andrew Mink as vice president, Matthew Johnson as secretary, Greg Wallerstein as treasurer, and Andrew Desser, Tyler Stark, and Jaime Varela as at-large board members.

“Log Cabin Republicans is the nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies,” the national Log Cabin group states on its website. “For more than 40 years, we have promoted the fight for equality through our state and local chapters, our full-time office in Washington, D.C., and our federal and state political action committees,” the statement says.

“We believe in limited government, strong national defense, free markets, low taxes, personal responsibility, and individual liberty,” the statement continues. “We believe equality for LGBT Americans is in the finest tradition of the Republican Party,” it adds, an assertion that many LGBTQ Democrats strongly dispute.

Asked what he thought about the Trump administration’s record on LGBTQ rights, Brock said he would defer that question to Charles Moran, president of the National Log Cabin Republicans.

In discussing plans for the D.C. Log Cabin group, Brock said he and the newly elected board members will continue the types of activities and emphasis of the former board and former President Savit.

“We will definitely continue to build off the success of the former board members and continue with speakers and events that are representative to the interest of our membership,” he said. “But one of our big focuses will be meeting people where they are,” he said, noting that plans were underway to hold events in different D.C. neighborhoods.

“I think one of the things that we’re also really looking forward to doing is a really big recruitment push to get a lot more members on the conservative spectrum that share a wide variety of ideas,” he said.

But Brock said he and his fellow board members will likely retain a policy put in place by Savit and the previous board in which most of the group’s meetings and events are closed to the press.

“The culture of our membership is strengthened by an open and honest dialogue with our speakers,” he said, which have included GOP members of Congress. “For a better free-thinking environment, we have limited access for the press to attend,” Brock said. “If there is an event that warrants press availability, I will certainly let you know,” he said.

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United Kingdom

LGBTQ ally Humza Yousaf becomes Scotland’s next first minister

Nicola Sturgeon resigned in February

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Humza Yousaf, right, and charity worker during a March 20, 2023, event at Who Cares? Scotland in the group's Glasgow offices. (Photo courtesy of Humza Yousaf's office/Facebook)

Humza Yousaf, in a tumultuous election race for leadership of the Scottish National Party pitted against socially conservative rivals Kate Forbes and Ash Regan, was elected Monday as SNP leader. He becomes the first Muslim to lead a major U.K. political party and the first Muslim to lead a European democracy.

In a vote in the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood) on Tuesday, Yousaf was confirmed as Scotland’s next first minister, replacing Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon had resigned as the SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister last month, setting off a close contest within the party to succeed her. 

Her decision was tied to two key political challenges: The future of the independence campaign and changes to Scotland’s gender recognition laws. In January Sturgeon castigated the conservative government of U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for blocking the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from being signed into law by King Charles III.

The Gender Recognition Reform bill introduced by the Scottish government in Holyrood last spring was passed in a final 86-39 vote days before this past Christmas. The sweeping reform bill modifies the Gender Recognition Act, signed into law in 2004, by allowing transgender Scots to gain legal recognition without the need for a medical diagnosis.

The measure further stipulates that age limit for legal recognition is lowered to 16.

The Guardian noted the most pressing question is how a change of leadership affects the Scottish government’s plans to contest the U.K.’s decision to block the bill, which it did using section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, described by sources as “the nuclear option.” Scottish ministers have three months from the date the section 35 order was laid — Jan. 16 — to contest it.

PinkNewsUK reported that Yousaf had received a tidal wave of support and well wishes after his victory was announced. SNP MP John Nicolson said that Yousaf led a “positive and bold campaign.”

“Humza knows that young voters love our party’s vision of a liberal, progressive, egalitarian independent Scotland,” Nicolson said. “His campaign promised a progressive agenda of fair taxation, defending LGBT+ rights from Westminster attack, and support for the vulnerable at home and abroad.”

Speaking to PinkNews, Nicolson added: “I think young people want a Scotland which is socially progressive and liberal. And for young people, independence isn’t about a face, but it’s about the kind of country that they imagine independent Scotland could be — a progressive country — and Humza very deliberately tapped into that in the course of the election campaign and made it very clear what his views were and championed that.”

During the campaign Yousaf had promised voters, “If elected Scottish National Party (SNP) leader and Scotland’s next first minister, I’ll build on our track record of promoting and protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ people by: (1) banning conversion practices and (2)  embedding LGBTQ+ rights in an independent Scotland’s constitution.”

A political commentator and SNP source told the Washington Blade on Monday they are “happy with the result and motivated by what is to come. Humza has secured the continuation of a progressive agenda. I think he will be more popular as he becomes more well-known.”

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