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Education sec’y says ‘unacceptable’ bullying caused suicides

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The Education Department is calling on people to “stand up and speak out against intolerance” in the wake of a string of reported suicides of young gay men.

In a statement on Friday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the recent incidents of two young gay men taking their own lives happened for an “unacceptable reason” — because they were bullied and harassed for their sexual orientation.

Duncan noted the deaths of these teens follow the suicides of at least three other young gay men and said these deaths occurred because “the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.”

Late Wednesday, Raymond Chase, a sophomore at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, took his own life. The exact circumstances of his death have yet to become public.

On Sept. 22, Tyler Clementi leapt to his death Sept. 22 from the George Washington Bridge near his New Jersey college campus after classmates allegedly broadcast him in a same-sex encounter behind closed doors in his dorm room.

The deaths follow the suicides of other gay teens earlier this month in California, Indiana and Texas.

“This is a moment where every one of us — parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience — needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms,” Duncan said.

Duncan included in the list of recent incidents of harassment the attacks from Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shrivel against Chris Armstrong, the openly gay student president at University of Michigan.

Shirvell’s blog, “Chris Armstrong Watch,” accuses Armstrong of “anti-Christian behavior” and trying “to recruit your sons and daughters” into becoming gay. Shrivel was suspended from his position at the attorney general’s office on Thursday.

“Whether it’s students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough,” Duncan said.

The complete statement from Duncan follows:

“This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay. These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.

“This is a moment where every one of us – parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience – needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms. Whether it’s students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough. No more. This must stop.”

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First lady warns Trump is ‘dangerous to the LGBTQ community’ at HRC event

Jill Biden spoke in Arlington, Va., on Friday

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Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson introduces the First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the Human Rights Campaign's Equality in Action event on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Arlington, Va. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

Delivering a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality in Action event Friday, First lady Jill Biden warned former President Donald Trump is “a bully” who is “dangerous to the LGBTQ community.”

Her appearance at the three-day volunteer and board gathering at the Sheraton Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., comes as part of the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s “Out for Biden” program, which aims to “mobilize LGBTQ+ voters, communities, and leaders across the country.”

“Today, this community is under attack,” Biden said. “Rights are being stripped away. freedoms are eroding. More and more state laws are being passed targeting this community. Just last month, we had to fend off more than 50 anti-gay amendments that Republicans tried to force into the government funding bill.”

“These were extreme measures aimed directly at this community — measures that would have limited health care and weakened protections for same sex couples,” she said. “And they served only one purpose to spread hate and fear.”

In a nod to her long career as an educator, Biden said, “History teaches us that our rights and freedoms don’t disappear overnight. They disappear slowly. Subtly. Silently.”

She continued, “A book ban. A court decision. A ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. One group of people loses their rights and then another. And another. Until one day you wake up and no longer live in a democracy … This is our chapter of history and it’s up to us how it ends.”

Biden then highlighted some of the advancements for LGBTQ rights secured under the Biden-Harris administration.

“Thanks to President Biden, marriage equality is now the law of the land,” she said. “He ended the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. He’s made it possible for trans Americans to serve openly and honorably in our military. And he’s standing firmly against conversion therapy.”

“Yes, there are forces outside these walls that are trying to erase these hard fought gains, trying to unwind all the progress that we’ve made,” Biden said. “They want to take our victories away, but we won’t let them. Your president will not let them — I will not let them.”

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‘Out for Biden-Harris’ LGBTQ-targeted campaign is launched

Several events planned in coming weeks

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Pride celebration, June 10, 2023, at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

The Biden-Harris campaign on Wednesday debuted “Out for Biden-Harris,” which is a “national organizing and engagement program to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters, communities, and leaders across the country.”

Out for Biden-Harris “will train supporters to organize within their own networks and leverage messengers from the community to ensure we are meeting LGBTQ+ voters where they are,” the campaign wrote in a press release announcement.

“From drag queens to elected leaders to LGBTQ+ faith leaders, Team Biden-Harris will use a wide range of validators to communicate what’s at stake for the LGBTQ+ community in this election and why it’s critical that we vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

The campaign also previewed some of the events and initiatives in coming weeks, which will include:

  • A virtual organizing call featuring actor Wilson Cruz, Congressman Robert Garcia, HRC President Kelley Robinson, to mobilize LGBTQ+ supporters;
  • A series of virtual relational organizing trainings focused on activating and reaching new volunteers targeting battleground voters. The campaign will be engaging trusted messengers, including high-profile and trusted messengers in the LGBTQ+ community, like Brita Filter, Danica Roem, Gina Ortiz Jones, and Rev.
  • Hosting a series of Out For Biden-Harris house parties and community events including events in Phoenix, Arizona, Ferndale, Michigan, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Las Vegas, Nevada to mobilize supporters.
  • First Lady Jill Biden will be a featured speaker at the Human Rights Campaign Equality In Action Conference bringing together a network of 400 organizers and activists in Arlington, VA.

The campaign noted that LGBTQ voters will be “a key part” of its coalition, while 39 percent of voters consider LGBTQ equality a “make-or-break issue.”

“In 2020, nearly 11,000 LGBTQ+ volunteers mobilized to help elect President Biden and Vice President Harris,” the campaign wrote. “This year, Out for Biden-Harris will re-engage these supporters and build on their work. The program is designed around the idea that there is no better messenger to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters than their friends and neighbors to bring new supporters into our campaign.”

The Biden-Harris administration is the most pro-LGBTQ in history, and LGBTQ groups with a combined 3.8 million members have endorsed President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign.

However, “the fight for equality for all Americans is at stake this November as Trump and his allies plan to roll back the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ Americans,” the Biden campaign wrote. “Trump and his MAGA allies are running on an extreme, anti-LGBTQ+ agenda which would push to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, even going after the right to marry who you love.”

“LGBTQ+ voters are a force to be reckoned with. They were critical to our victory in 2020, and they will be critical to winning again this November,” said Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign Manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez. “That’s why we’re thrilled to launch Out for Biden-Harris, which will harness the LGBTQ+ community’s organizing prowess to reelect President Biden and Vice President Harris this November.”

Chavez Rodriguez continued, “LGBTQ+ Americans couldn’t have more at stake this election: Donald Trump and his extremist allies are running to gut LGBTQ+ rights and erase history as their top priorities. LGBTQ+ Americans deserve leaders who will fight for every American’s freedom and dignity. That’s what President Biden and Vice President Harris have done throughout their time in office, and what they will do if reelected, including pressing Congress to pass the Equality Act.”

“There has never been a more critical time to protect the rights of all Americans, no matter who you love or how you identify, and Out for Biden-Harris will be critical to not just safeguarding, but strengthening the rights and voice of every single American,” she said.

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Melania Trump to host Log Cabin Republicans event

Former first lady is close with the group

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Melania Trump, gay news, Washington Blade
Former First Lady Melania Trump (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former first lady Melania Trump is back on the campaign trail with plans to host a fundraising event for the conservative LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans on April 20 at Mar-a-Lago, Politico reported on Thursday.

Funds will be used to support the group’s “Road to Victory” program, which will target voters in swing states. LCR has had a close relationship with Mrs. Trump, who was a special guest for its Spirit of Lincoln Gala in 2021, where she received the Spirit of Lincoln Award.

Politico reports that the host committee for this month’s event will include GOP donors Saul Fox, Amanda Schumacher, Bill White, Bryan Eure and Richard Grenell, who is gay and served as ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence during the Trump administration.

“Melania Trump’s work as first lady, from helping children reach their full potential to championing a more inclusive Republican Party, has been historic,” LCR President Charles Moran said in a 2021 press release concerning the Spirit of Lincoln event.

“Her vocal support of Log Cabin Republicans has been a signal to Republicans everywhere that it is possible to simultaneously be conservative and support equality under the law for all Americans,” he said.

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