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LGBT activists join progressive rally challenging Tea Party

Lincoln Memorial event includes lesbian, gay, trans speakers

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‘I am not either black or lesbian. I am both and much more,’ said Darlene Nipper at Saturday’s One Nation Working Together rally in D.C. (Photo courtesy of the Task Force)

A large contingent of LGBT leaders and activists joined tens of thousands of people who turned out for a rally at the Lincoln Memorial Saturday to mobilize voters backing liberal and progressive policies.

Organizers billed the event as a direct challenge to the Tea Party, whose leaders organized a “conservative” and Christian-oriented rally at the Lincoln Memorial site one month earlier hosted by Fox News commentator Glenn Beck.

The National Black Justice Coalition, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign were among more than 40 LGBT organizations that joined mainline civil rights, labor and immigrant rights groups in sponsoring the Saturday rally called One Nation Working Together.

“I stand here before you today as a proud openly lesbian African-American woman,” said Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, who spoke to the crowd from the Lincoln Memorial steps.

“I am not either black or lesbian. I am both and much more,” she said. “And like you, I seek justice for all of us. In America, justice means equal rights for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sex, gender expression, sexual orientation or ability.”

In her five-minute speech, Nipper joined most of the more than two dozen speakers in sounding a theme of unity among all progressive groups and constituencies.

“We can no longer work in silos, whether by campaign, issue or community,” said Gregory Cendana, a gay official with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, who also addressed the rally from the memorial steps.

“There needs to be an understanding that the fight and struggle for economic justice and workers rights is the same fight and struggle for LGBT equality,” he said. “And for civil and human rights it’s the same as the fight for immigrant justice. And access to equality and education is the same fight for the environment and green jobs.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, appeared on the speakers’ platform with a group of labor, environmental and education advocates, who recited broad themes of unity for a progressive agenda.

“The whole point is we’re all in this together,” she told the Blade after the rally.

Many of the LGBT participants in the rally, like their straight counterparts, arrived by bus from cities and states along the East Coast, including New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. More than 200 LGBT activists held their own smaller rally at Freedom Plaza at 14th and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., where they were joined by participants completing the D.C. AIDS Walk.

From Freedom Plaza, the LGBT contingent marched to the Lincoln Memorial carrying signs and banners promoting such causes as repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which calls for prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The National Black Justice Coalition, NGLTF, National Stonewall Democrats and Pride at Work, an LGBT labor group affiliated with the AFL-CIO, sponsored a forum the day before the rally on a national “LGBTQ inclusive social justice agenda” at Howard University School of Law.

Among those attending the Lincoln Memorial rally was former Army Lt. Dan Choi, a national advocate for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Choi carried a sign calling for addressing LGBT teen suicide, saying ongoing discrimination was responsible for the recent rash of suicides among gay male teenagers.

Christine Quinn, the lesbian speaker of New York City Council, who also attended the rally, said she was among several thousand New Yorkers attending the event.

“I just wanted to make sure my voice was added to the others today calling for a national discussion that isn’t so divisive, isn’t so full of hate and nasty rhetoric but one that is instead about what we needed right now — jobs, improved public education, fuller civil rights and equal rights for everyone,” she said.

In her remarks at the rally, Nipper cited hate crimes as yet another problem that affects different groups and can be addressed by various groups working together.

“We are so proud that last year Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act,” she said. “I hope we never forget those two men and the hundreds of others who died at the hands of hatred — Matthew Shepard, who was killed for his gayness, and James Byrd, who was killed for his blackness.

“Yes, our communities are tied and united together,” she said. “Our communities – people of color and those in the lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender community stand united against hate crimes of any type against anyone.”

Two other prominent out lesbians spoke at the rally — Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Tim

    October 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of emphasis on LGBT rights at the rally. A few of the speakers addressed our issues, but it was really more about issues. Considering how many LGBT organizations were participating, one might have hoped for a bit more coverage.

    • Bill

      October 7, 2010 at 11:19 pm

      Tim – I am finding (and for a long time now) that other progressive groups will throw us under the bus whenever they can. We are quite expendable and very often aren’t included in their “list” of acceptable issues and groups.

  2. Peter Ryskewecz

    October 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    TITLE: A “Former Gay Democrat; Now A Gay Tea Party Republican”

    I am Gay, and I have spent nearly half a century as a thoughtless “liberal” gay-clone, believing everything the gay ghetto and my labor union has told me. I have blamed the decimation of gay men dying of AIDS on Reagan, Bush, Cheney, Rove and Gingrich. I have dutifully voted Democratic in almost every election since John F. Kennedy. I have called for a “French Revolution” in America and preached the socialist gospel of European superiority to anybody who would listen. But I have changed!

    What brought about this change? In one word: Obama !!!

    His taxpayer bailouts of the incompetent rich contradicted his beautiful rhetoric of condemning the rich when he campaigned for President. His health-care reform is a farce and does not control costs for any age-group. His star has faded,. His luster is diminished, just as millions of people have lost their homes and their employment. He blames Bush, but unemployment used to be almost half of what it is in today’s Obama-world.

    He has left us so deeply in debt that China, our primary creditor, is almost certain to become the world’s most powerful economy. Even Europe is telling Obama he is going in the wrong direction.

    He implores us to vote for Democrats; and if we don’t, there will be no funding for AIDS. Yet Bush spent hundreds of millions on AIDS, as did Reagan and Gingrich. I no longer believe Gay propaganda and Gay editorial writers.

    I am tired of being expected blindly to follow a Democratic Party that usurps my Gayness to raise millions, only to raise my taxes and to promote bogus fear of Republicans to extort even more money from my friends and me.

    During this campaign season, I have attended numerous GOP and “Gay” GOP events. None of the Republican candidates or GOP activists treated me like an alien. All of them welcomed my patriotism and my gayness. Now I realize how much “so-called progressive gay activists” lie and exaggerate about right-wing homophobia.

    I am fed-up with being told that because I am Gay, I must vote Democratic! Otherwise, I will hate myself. I am tired of Gay left-wing demagoguery in the Gay blogs and publications.

    In 2008, over one out of three Gay voters voted for John McCain in an otherwise dismal year for the GOP. They must have been on to something. I can only hope, for my country and for my unemployed friends and family, that even more Gays will vote Republican in November.

    South Florida

    • Ben

      October 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

      And your so The first Black President made you realize who the hell you really were!
      George Bush bailed banks out also. Why didn’t that change your mind then????

      LIAR, LIAR MISS HONEY YOUR PANTS IS ON FIRE
      Now go to hell with the rest of the KKK Gays and The Tea Party!

      • Bill

        October 9, 2010 at 1:55 pm

        You seem to have this knee-jerk reaction regarding black issues and read into any post an attack against blacks. You might want to examine it, because you come across a bit crazy in your posts. Also criticism of Obama as president is not criticism of him as black. Just a thought . . .

    • Bill

      October 7, 2010 at 11:20 pm

      My biggest question is how did you ever get some much space to post your reply?

      • Jason Stein

        October 8, 2010 at 5:47 am

        Not form what I heard. And I’m told – I was out knocking on doors for progressive candidates, that the press ignored tens of thousands who came to protest Glen Beck – the morman asshole of the asshole church of Prop Hate.

        Some people, like Beck will do anything for the multimillion $$ pay they get. For poisoning the well of American Politics. Hey, if America falls apart they’ll have tens of millions invested in gold. And can buy their own jet plane (entry costs about 10 mil+1 mill per year to run and maintain (I’m a commercially licensed pilot).

        To go live in Monaco or whereever else big money will buy them comfort and security.

  3. Tom

    October 6, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    The reporter neglected to mention that, despite being organized by more than 400 union/liberal groups, the rally was a relative bust in terms of turnout.

  4. Jason Stein

    October 8, 2010 at 5:37 am

    Yeh – and I am your monkey’s uncle. I’ve played your kind of game on some republcian web sites.

    If bush had his way, and if you realize who was behind him, it was the christo-facists of the bible belt in the south. The same people whose culture gave us sslavery, the still active KKK, and segtregation. And would turn gay people in the near “Jews of germany”, and you know where that led. In fact they don’t have to turn you into the new Jews, because germany’s gays joined the Jews in hitlers ovens.

    And if there is a shred of truth to what you claim to be, the bailout was an absoltuely necessary thing. There was an article in some magazine last year, and I’ve seen confirmation of the story recently. On a friday, the govt called together the key banking people, and the key fed reserve people.

    And the situation was simple – if we don’t do anything, the financial markets will NOT open on monday.

    And that would have totally destroyed the economy. It would have been 1929 all over again. I remember my parents telling me stories about it Dad graduated college in 1929. His only job in his chemical engineering field lasted 4 months. I also know how his family almost lost their home (a 3 decker) for want of a $10 or $20 mortgage payment. And how his car was up on blocks for 6 months because he didn’thave $10 for the required insurance in MA.

    And I think the only way that my parents survived the depression was an uncle who was a very capable CPA, and catered to the moneyed people. He supported most of the family – 5 familes – on my mothers side.

    And he said he got a little better, then collapsed again in 1937. Only the upcoming war – a lousy scene – began to bring the economy up. And I was the first child, Conceived in spring of 1939. My parents having waited 6 years to have a child due to economics.

    Whetehr you like the democrats or not, they are the only realistic to the republicans. And I’ve studies the republicans and I’ve studied nazi germany. Adn so much of the republican mantra comes right out of the nazis

    eg If you tell a lie often enough and outrageous enough, it will be seen as the truth. (Goebbels who got hitler elected.)

    all the way to the BS about calling democrats elites – that is also what hitler did to the Jews and others he hated.

    The list goes on. I only wish I could take most of the republcian party – especially the leadership, and send them str8 to an Islamic hell.

    but since we cant do that, Its a susre bet that we shouldn’t support what has as its ultimate goal turning America into a state run by big corporations and the religious extremists. Greed and theocracy.

    And where did theocracy come in re the nazis – well , Hitler was born and baptised CAtholic, and he leveraged the churches hatred of the Jews (the “christ killers) to get elected.

    And like bush and his gang, and huckabee etc, he often talked about moral values – his speeches are preserved in a great library in a book in this country.

    And every german soldiers belt buckle said on it “Gott mit Uns” close enougn to the english that we should all be able to translate it, especially if you drop one letter in the last word.

  5. Jason Stein

    October 8, 2010 at 5:43 am

    BTW – the catholic church has yet to EXcommunicate hitler, because that would be admitting their guilt.

    And the RATZI Pope in 2009 Unexcommunicated a Bishop Williamson, a a holocaust denier.

    Reminds me of the old line by the right wing churches – “give me a child by the age of 7 and I’ll make him a “good” christian for life.

    Of course – the kid doesnt have the experience or guts to say “Bullshit”

    And you can replace “Christian” with Nazi. Especailly seeing that Pope RATZInger was born in 1928 and grew up in Nazi germany.

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Venezuelan man with AIDS dies in ICE custody

Pablo Sánchez Gotopo passed away at Miss. hospital on Oct. 1

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Pablo Sanchez Gotopo, who was living with HIV/AIDS, died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Mississippi on Oct. 1, 2021. (Courtesy photo)

A Venezuelan man with AIDS died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on Oct. 1.

An ICE press release notes Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, 40, died at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood, Miss., which is a suburb of Jackson, the state capital. The press release notes the “preliminary cause of death was from complications with acute respiratory failure, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), pneumonia, acute kidney failure, anemia and COVID-19.”

ICE said U.S. Border Patrol took Sánchez into custody near Del Rio, Texas, on May 17. He arrived at the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss., four days later.

“Upon arrival to an ICE facility, all detainees are medically screened and administered a COVID-19 test by ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) personnel,” said ICE in its press release. “Sánchez’s test results came back negative.”

The press release notes Sánchez on July 28 received another COVID-19 test after he “began showing symptoms of COVID-19.” ICE said he tested negative, but Adams County Detention Center personnel transferred him to a Natchez hospital “for additional advanced medical care.”

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff in its New Orleans Field Office, according to the press release, “coordinated with hospital staff to arrange family visitation” after Sánchez’s “health condition deteriorated.” Sánchez was transferred to Merit Health River Oaks on Sept. 25.

“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” says the press release.

Venezuela’s political and economic crises have prompted more than 10,000 people with HIV to leave the country, according to the New York-based Aid for AIDS International.

Activists and health care service providers in Venezuela with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent years have said people with HIV/AIDS in the country have died because of a lack of antiretroviral drugs. Andrés Cardona, director of Fundación Ancla, a group in the Colombian city of Medellín that works with migrants and other vulnerable groups, told the Blade last month that many Venezuelans with HIV would have died if they hadn’t come to Colombia.

The Blade has not been able to verify a Venezuelan activist’s claim that Sánchez was gay. It is also not known why Sánchez decided to leave Venezuela and travel to the U.S.

ICE detainee with HIV described Miss. detention center as ‘not safe’

Activists and members of Congress continue to demand ICE release people with HIV/AIDS in their custody amid reports they don’t have adequate access to medications and other necessary medical treatment.

Two trans women with HIV—Victoria Arellano from Mexico and Roxsana Hernández from Honduras—died in ICE custody in 2007 and 2018 respectively. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman with HIV who fled El Salvador, died in 2019, three days after ICE released her from a privately-run detention center.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center. The detainee said there was no social distancing at the privately-run facility and personnel were not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“It’s not safe,” they told the Blade.

The entrance to the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, a Natchez resident who supports ICE detainees and their families, on Wednesday told the Blade that she was able to visit the Adams County Detention Center and other ICE facilities in the Miss Lou Region of Mississippi and Louisiana from November 2019 until the suspension of in-person visitation in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Medical neglect and refusal of medical care has always been an issue in the detention center at Adams County,” said Grant-Gibson. “After the facilities were closed to public visitation, those problems increased.”

Grant-Gibson told the Blade she “worked with a number of families and received phone calls from a number of detainees, and I was told again and again that detainees were being refused the opportunity to visit the infirmary.”

“When they did visit the infirmary, they were given virtually no treatment for the issues they were presenting with,” said Grant-Gibson.

ICE in its press release that announced Sánchez’s death said fatalities among its detainees, “statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.” ICE also noted it spends more than $315 million a year “on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.”

“ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) ensures the provision of necessary medical care services as required by ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards and based on the medical needs of the detainee,” notes the ICE press release. “Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay. All ICE detainees receive medical, dental, and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care.”

An ICE spokesperson on Wednesday pointed the Blade to its Performance-Based Detention Standards from 2011, which includes policies for the treatment of detainees with HIV/AIDS.

A detainee “may request HIV testing at any time during detention” and ICE detention centers “shall develop a written plan to ensure the highest degree of confidentiality regarding HIV status and medical condition.” The policy also states that “staff training must emphasize the need for confidentiality, and procedures must be in place to limit access to health records to only authorized individuals and only when necessary.”

“The accurate diagnosis and medical management of HIV infection among detainees shall be promoted,” reads the policy. “An HIV diagnosis may be made only by a licensed health care provider, based on a medical history, current clinical evaluation of signs and symptoms and laboratory studies.”

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Rachel Levine on becoming four-star admiral: ‘It comes from my desire to serve’

Trans official sworn-in to U.S. Public Health Service

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For Rachel Levine, the appointment to her new role as a four-star admiral complementing her existing duties as assistant secretary for health is another way for the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed presidential appointee to serve.

“I think that this just really comes from my desire to serve in all capacities,” Levine said in an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade. “To serve the first day in my field of academic medicine and pediatrics, but then in Pennsylvania and now in the federal government, and it furthers my ability to do that.”

Levine, 63, also recognized the importance of the appointment as a transgender person within the U.S. Public Health Service, for which she was ceremonially sworn in on Tuesday

“I think for the LGBTQ+ community, it is a further sign of progress and our president’s commitment to equity, to inclusion and diversity,” Levine said. “So I think that it is a very important milestone, and I’m pleased to serve.”

As part of her duties, Levine will lead an estimated 6,000 public health service officers serving vulnerable populations, including deployments inside and outside the country for communities beleaguered with the coronavirus, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. The role involves working closely with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, whom Levine called her “friend and colleague.”

The U.S. Public Health Service, Levine said, has deployed “many, many times,” including its greatest number ever of deployments to vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic. Among the places the service has deployed, Levine said, was in her home state of Pennsylvania, where she recently served as secretary of health.

Not only is Levine the first openly transgender person to serve in the uniformed health service as a four-star general, but she’s also the first woman to serve in that capacity.

“We have 6,000 dedicated committed public servants really all focused on our nation’s health, and they serve in details to the CDC and the FDA and the NIH, but also clinically with the Indian Health Service, and the federal prison system,” Levine said. “They’re also detailed and deployed throughout the country, and they deployed like never before for COVID-19 as well as the border, as well as dealing with floods and hurricanes and tornadoes.”

Although the Public Health Service is primarily focused on addressing public health disasters within the United States, Levine said it has a record of deployments overseas, including years ago when it was deployed to Africa under the threat of Ebola.

Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra had high praise for Levine in a statement upon news of taking on a leadership position in the service.

“This is a proud moment for us at HHS,” Becerra said. “Adm. Levine — a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health — is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”

Levine, however, was careful to draw a distinction between her appointment within the Public Health Service and being a service member within the U.S. armed forces.

“It is not a military branch, it’s not the armed forces: It’s a uniformed force, so it’s different,” Levine said. “For example, the Army, the Navy, our military, there are two other uniformed branches, and that is ours, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and NOAA.”

The new role, Levine said, would complement her duties as assistant secretary for health. Although not only secretaries of health have been commissioned to take the uniform, Levine said she wanted to undertake that as part of her role in the Biden administration.

The two appointments were not simultaneous, Levine said, because of a general process she undertook, which was completed just this week.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Levine. During her Senate confirmation process, when she was hounded by anti-transgender attacks in conservative media and rude, invasive questioning by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on her gender identity.

Levine, however, said she hasn’t encountered any hostility regarding her new role (as of now) and shrugged off any potential attacks in the future and said the move is about her career “to serve and to help people.”

“I’ve continued that for our nation as the assistant secretary for health and this is just a further demonstration of my commitment to service,” Levine said. “I don’t know what others will say, but that’s the genesis of my wanting to serve in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and to place on the uniform.”

Levine’s new appointment comes shortly after a group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent her a letter dated Sept. 30 calling on her and Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, to issue new guidance for hospital or residential care on mental health needs of transgender people.

Asked about the letter, Levine said mental health issues are under the authority of Delphin-Rittmon and the two “will work together and we will respond.”

Specifically, the senators in the letter call on the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, or BHCC, and experts in the field of adolescent trans care to offer guidance on best practices for inpatient mental health care among these youth.

Asked what the response will look like, Levine said, “We’re going to work on that.”

“We will be looking at what they’re asking for and the requirements, and we’ll talk with them and the stakeholders and we’ll look to issue appropriate guidance,” Levine said.

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Colin Powell, leaving mixed legacy on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ dies at 84

Key figure once opposed gays in military, then backed review

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gay news, Washington Blade, Colin Powell, gay marriage
Colin Powell leaves behind a mixed legacy on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Colin Powell, the first ever Black secretary of state who served in top diplomatic and military roles in U.S. administrations, died Monday of coronavirus at age 84, leaving behind a mixed record on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The world continues to grapple with the pandemic and the public grows increasingly frustrated with its persistence as many remain unvaccinated despite the wide availability of vaccines. Powell was fully vaccinated, according to a statement released upon his death. Powell reportedly suffered from multiple myeloma, a condition that hampers an individual’s ability to combat blood infections.

Rising to the top of the military as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell supported in 1993 Congress moving forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that barred openly gay people from serving in the U.S. military.

During a key moment congressional testimony, Powell and other top military officials were asked whether or not allowing gay people in the military would be compatible with military readiness. Each official, including Powell,” responded “incompatible.” Congress would enact “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that year.

Things changed when President Obama took office 15 years later and advocates for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were eager to claim Powell’s voice among their ranks. After all, Powell was highly respected as a bipartisan voice after having served as secretary of state in the administration of George W. Bush and endorsing Obama in the 2008 election.

After the Obama administration in 2010 announced it would conduct a review of the idea of allowing gay people to serve openly in the military, Powell came out in support of that process. Advocates of repeal called that a declaration of reversal, although the statement fell short of a full support for gay people serving openly in the military.

“In the almost 17 years since the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” General Powell said in a statement issued by his office, adding, “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”

Congress acted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the policy was lifted in 2011. At the time, Powell was widely considered a supporter of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and publicly counted among supporters of repeal, although the Blade couldn’t immediately find any statements from him to that effect.

In 2012, Powell had similar vaguely supportive words on same-sex marriage, saying he had “no problem with it” when asked about the issue.

“As I’ve thought about gay marriage, I know a lot of friends who are individually gay but are in partnerships with loved ones, and they are as stable a family as my family is, and they raise children,” Powell said. “And so I don’t see any reason not to say that they should be able to get married.”

The Blade also couldn’t immediately find any statement from Powell on transgender people serving in the military. After the Obama administration in 2016 lifted decades-old regulations against transgender service, former President Trump issued a ban by tweet the following year. President Biden reversed that ban and allowed transgender people to serve and enlist in the military in his first year in office.

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