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LGBT activists join progressive rally challenging Tea Party

Lincoln Memorial event includes lesbian, gay, trans speakers



‘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.



Miami hotel liquor license may be revoked over a drag show

State’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco targets business



Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Miami. (Photo by dennizn/Bigstock)

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is in the process of revoking the Hyatt Regency Miami’s alcohol license after the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation determined that the hotel’s affiliated James L. Knight Center had hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas” performed Dec. 27 with minors present in the audience.

The Knight Center is a major South Florida venue and has previously hosted the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. The venue’s main room can seat 4,600 people.

This is the third time the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which operates under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, has targeted a business that hosted a drag show.

A popular restaurant and pub in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood is also under threat of losing its liquor license. The R House identifies itself on its Facebook page as “the proud home of South Florida’s most popular weekend drag brunches.”

The July 2022 complaint filed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation asks for a final order that the R House restaurant is a declared a public nuisance and has its liquor license revoked. 

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the complaint was issued after a video of a recent performance at the bar’s drag brunch went viral. A topless drag queen wearing lingerie stuffed with money can be seen in the video attempting to dance with a young girl, who the DPBR estimates is “between three and five years old.” Twitter account “Libs of Tik Tok” originally found the footage on Tik Tok, posted by a user who wrote, “Children belong at drag shows!!!! Children deserve to see fun and expression & freedom.”

In late December “A Drag Queen Christmas” was hosted by the Orlando non-profit Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation on Dec. 28, filing a complaint alleging that children under age 18 were allowed to attend.

The complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic alleged the foundation violated Florida law in allowing for a person to “commit lewd or lascivious exhibition” in the presence of an individual who is less than 16 years old.

In this latest targeting of the show, which is a holiday-themed drag show that tours in 36 different cities and features stars from the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Insider webzine journalist Kimberly Leonard reported that the DeSantis administration officials accused the Knight Center of several violations, including a prohibition of “lascivious exhibition” before people younger than 16, mirroring the December complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic.

The department’s complaint said performers engaged in “acts of simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays” that included:

  • Performers forcibly penetrating or rubbing exposed prosthetic female breasts against faces of audience members
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ prosthetic female breasts and genitalia to the audience
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ buttocks to the audience
  • Simulating masturbation through performers’ digitally penetrating prosthetic female genital
  • Graphic depictions of childbirth and/or abortion

Hyatt Regency Miami is allowed to keep selling alcohol until the department makes a final decision. The business has 21 days to request a hearing, Beth Pannell, spokeswoman for the department, told Insider.

Regulators had warned the facility to change how it marketed the show before it went live, according to a copy of the letter included in the complaint. The letter accused the marketers of putting on a performance that constitutes “public nuisances, lewd activity, and disorderly conduct” when minors are present.

News of this latest action was first reported by far-right conservative internet based outlet Florida’s Voice.

As more and more Republican states target drag shows, in just the past few weeks, Tennessee became the first to ban adult performances, including drag, from public spaces such as parks and schools. 

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

New VA mission statement recognizes commitment to all veterans

‘To fulfill [Lincoln’s] promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military & for their families, caregivers, & survivors’



VA Secretary Denis McDonough. (Screenshot/YouTube)

In a speech delivered Thursday at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA), located at the main entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in suburban Virginia, VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued an updated version of its 1959 mission statement.

The new mission statement is: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”

As the VA secretary commenced his remarks, he honored several notable women in the audience including Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton, the assistant secretary of veterans affairs for public and intergovernmental affairs.

Fulton, is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., which was the Academy’s first class to admit women. She is an out lesbian and served as a founding board member of Knights Out, the organization of LGBTQ West Point graduates, and later worked with OutServe, the association of actively-serving LGBTQ military members and SPARTA, an LGBTQ military group advocating for transgender military service.

“Whenever any veteran, family member, caregiver, or survivor walks by a VA facility, we want them to see themselves in the mission statement on the outside of the building,” said Secretary McDonough. “We are here to serve all veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors — and now, our mission statement reflects exactly that.”

In crafting the new mission statement, VA surveyed roughly 30,000 Veterans. Among veterans surveyed, the new version of VA’s mission statement was chosen over the current version by every age group; by men and by women; by LGBTQ+ veterans; and by white, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native Veterans.

In addition to two rounds of surveys, VA conducted dozens of small-group engagements with veterans to understand what was most important to them in a VA mission statement, then incorporated that feedback into quantitative research. The new mission statement reflects that VA serves all of the heroes who have served our country, regardless of their race, gender, background, sexual orientation, religion, zip code or identity.

The previous mission statement was: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.” The previous mission statement is posted in roughly 50 percent of VA’s facilities. Over the coming months, VA’s new mission statement will replace the previous version.

VA announces new mission statement, recognizing sacred commitment to serve all who served:

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Mich. governor signs statewide LGBTQ rights law

‘Bigotry is bad for business’



Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 16, 2023, signed an LGBTQ rights bill into law. (Photo courtesy of Whitmer's office)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act on Thursday, which expands basic protections for the LGBTQ community.

The measure, Senate Bill 4, was sponsored by openly gay state Sen. Jeremy Moss who less than a year previously had been shot down by the Republican majority as he attempted to have a non-binding resolution to recognize “Pride Month” adopted by the Senate.

In her signing remarks, Whitmer noted: “In the words of Detroit native Lizzo, it’s about damn time! Bigotry is bad for business. Come to Michigan, you will be respected and protected under the law.”

“As Equality Michigan celebrates this historic step forward, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Generations of activists have inspired us to fight for justice and equality for all LGBTQ+ Michiganders, and our community has been working to update our state’s civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in every single legislative session since Elliott-Larsen was first adopted,” Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott said in a statement. “We applaud Gov. Whitmer for signing this bill into law, and are humbled by this pro-equality legislature that made amending ELCRA a top priority. Senator Jeremy Moss and Rep. Jason Hoskins introduced this legislation and championed it all the way through to the finish line.” 

“The victory we have today in Michigan is a great one, but it’s also one we don’t take lightly at this moment. Let it not be lost on us that this privilege, however hard-earned, is a unique one that exists amid a nationwide political assault on LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary youth, and their families,” added Knott. “There are over 400 anti-trans bills moving across state legislatures in the US, twice the amount introduced last year.”

“This bill being signed into law is a beacon of hope and sends a powerful message of acceptance to LGBTQ people across the nation. At the Trevor Project, we work every day to protect the lives of LGBTQ youth, and days like today prove that in generations to come, both their legal and lived equality will no longer be fodder for political debate,” said Troy Stevenson, director of state advocacy campaigns for the Trevor Project. “Our research shows that having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt among LGBTQ young people by 40 percent. We applaud the elected leaders, advocates and Gov. Whitmer for making this a reality, and affirming the dignity and rights of LGBTQ Michiganders by codifying these protections into law.”

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