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Gay Republican weighs run for president in 2012

Veteran GOP operative exposed Mormon links to Prop 8

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Fred Karger, who is considering a run for president, founded Californians Against Hate, an independent group that waged a media campaign disclosing what Karger called a secret effort by the Mormon Church to bankroll Prop 8 and similar measures in other states. (Photo by and courtesy of Adam Bouska)

Meet Fred Karger

Sunday

5 to 8 p.m.

Duplex Diner

18th and U streets, N.W.

A longtime GOP political operative who is credited with helping to develop the political attack ads that sunk the 1988 presidential campaign of Democrat Michael Dukakis says he’s seriously considering running for president in 2012 as an openly gay Republican.

Laguna Beach, Calif., resident Fred Karger, 60, has formed a presidential campaign exploratory committee and is “testing the waters” by campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to hold a presidential nominating caucus or primary.

“My thirty-five years of experience as a fighter in politics places me in a unique position to run,” Karger said in an April news conference when he announced his interest in running for president.

“I have worked on nine presidential campaigns. This would be my tenth,” he said. “I have managed dozens of other campaigns all over the country, and would bring that wealth of experience to my own candidacy.”

Should Karger officially declare his candidacy, his status as an out gay presidential contender is likely to pose a dilemma for many gay activists aligned with both the Republican and Democratic parties.

In his campaign literature he makes it clear he would be a strong and vocal advocate for the entire LGBT movement’s agenda. Among other things, he favors same-sex marriage equality, passage of a congressional non-discrimination bill for LGBT people, and repeal of both the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law and the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

But for years, before coming out as gay, Karger helped Republicans – some who opposed LGBT-related legislation — win elections as a behind-the-scenes operative with the Dolphin Group, a California-based GOP campaign consulting firm. The firm specialized in creating negative TV ads targeting Democrats.

In 1986, Karger played a key role in a media campaign targeting three liberal California judges by lining up grieving parents whose children were murdered by death row inmates, according to a report by the Sacramento Bee. The three judges, who had a record of overturning death sentences, lost their re-election bids under California’s system of electing judges, with the campaign orchestrated by Karger and his firm being credited for their defeat.

Two years later, in the midst of the 1988 presidential election, Karger worked with the campaign of then Vice President George H.W. Bush to develop the now famous “Willie Horton” campaign against Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis, the then governor of Massachusetts.

Sacramento Bee senior editor Dan Morain reported in a profile of Karger earlier this year that Karger lined up family members of victims of Horton, a convicted murderer who committed a rape while released on furlough from the Massachusetts prison system during Dukakis’s tenure as governor.

“Karger used the Horton story to help to thwart Dukakis’ presidential bid and elect George H.W. Bush,” Morain wrote in his profile.

Karger says he remained deep in the closet during those years. Although he considers himself a moderate Rockefeller-style Republican, he acknowledges his work helped elect conservative Republicans across the country, including President Ronald Reagan.

Now he says he’s poised to become an outspoken advocate for LGBT causes through the national platform of a presidential campaign.

Karger became involved in gay rights causes in 2006 following his retirement from the political consulting business. And when anti-gay leaders launched their campaign to kill California’s same-sex marriage law in 2008 through Proposition 8, Karger jumped head first into the fray — this time on the side of LGBT advocacy groups that opposed the marriage ballot measure.

Using his skills as a campaign organizer, Karger pored over campaign finance records for the committee leading the campaign in favor of Prop 8 and discovered huge amounts of campaign funds for the committee came from people with links to the Mormon Church.

He quickly founded Californians Against Hate, an independent group that waged a media campaign disclosing what Karger called a clandestine effort by the Mormon Church to bankroll Prop 8 and other campaigns across the country opposing same-sex marriage and LGBT rights legislation.

Among Karger’s targets was the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, which he described as a Mormon front group aimed at killing same-sex marriage through ballot measures in California, Maine and other states.

Although voters approved Prop 8 and the Maine ballot measure, Karger has been credited with forcing NOM to spend large sums of money to fight off campaign finance investigations and complaints initiated by Californians Against Hate before governmental bodies that monitor campaign financing.

NOM leaders denied Karger’s allegations during the Prop 8 campaign and later subpoenaed him to testify in proceedings called to determine whether NOM was required to disclose the names of its contributors. Karger called the subpoenas an attempt to intimidate him.

Like all of the well-known prospective GOP presidential candidates, such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Karger has yet to officially declare his candidacy. Due to Federal Election Commission rules, he – like the others – must walk a fine line between expressing interest in running and saying openly that he will run.

However, Karger has appeared many times this year in Iowa and New Hampshire. Last month, he ran a TV commercial on New Hampshire’s largest television station introducing himself as a possible GOP candidate.

His immediate strategy, he says, is to build up enough name recognition to gain access to the GOP presidential debates and forums in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he would be observed by a nationwide TV audience alongside the better-known candidates.

An official with the New Hampshire Republican Party said TV stations and civic groups in the state historically have used their sole discretion in choosing which candidates to invite to appear in debates during the presidential primaries. An independent bipartisan commission determines which candidates to invite for presidential debates in the general election, but no such body exists for the primaries and caucuses.

Karger compares his possible run for the presidency to the 1972 presidential candidacy of Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.), who became the first serious black and female candidate for president.

“Her campaign paved the way for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988, and the election of Barack Obama as our 44th president in 2008,” Karger said.

“Our movement, I think, needs new blood and I think it needs somebody at that level, someone to be in those debates who is openly gay, not just a fierce advocate, someone who has walked the walk,” he said.

“And I will be in those debates. I’m a fighter and I have a strategy and it’s being implemented.”

Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the national LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans, said the group welcomes Karger’s candidacy but could not comment on whether the group would consider endorsing him. Berle noted that Karger is a Log Cabin member.

“His presence in the race will raise the level of discourse on equality issues in the Republican primary,” Berle said. “When Fred joins the Republican debates in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will represent the core conservative principles of individual liberty and freedom for all Americans on which our party was founded.”

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Peter the saint

    October 8, 2010 at 3:23 am

    You’re telling me that there is a direct line from President George Bush Jr to THIS guy?? And, we should promote Karger because he has great CAMPAIGNING experience? And also knows how to destroy his competition?? Gee, sweet, sounds just like GW alright.

    Bush Jr and his policies that continue, to this day, today, and years in the future, to wreak havoc on our country and the entire world. TODAY in the news, it was announced that there is a real possibility that millions of past foreclosures could be challenged in court, and that there may be a need for a TARP TWO bailout of the Banking system if things gum-up again. AGAIN. Or else, you know, DISASTER (maybe either way…). Because of all manner of GOP-led deregulation and especially the securitization of millions of home mortgages that have now ended up with no clear titles of home ownership!

    Who gives a dang if “you can win!”… If you don’t have proven, unfailing governing experience, forget the rhetoric. Forget any grand ideologies or promises. Forget Karger For President. Try running a school or something first. Sorry to be so harsh but, America doesn’t need great speech writing and campaigning anymore. We need Integrity. Experience. Leadership. VISION. Really, it must be out there SOMEWHERE… =\

    • Stephen Gorman

      October 8, 2010 at 10:39 am

      This is just another self promoting grandstanding version of the adage that says “running for president has never been a bad career move” because it fattens the “candidate’s” bank accounts. The Christian right did all of the time during the 80s and 90s as their congregations of sheep forked over more yet money. And nothing says that they have to return the money to the donors after they inevitably say that the “campaign” failed to gain traction. Its an old trick, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be strategic about our response to Karger. If you feel so strongly about his political past, then flood the Dupont Diner. He is paying for all of the drinks so its an opportunity to both increase tax revenue for DC while at the same time soaking his account dry of money as payback. .

  2. Robert Hagedorn

    October 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Anal sodomy? For a really big surprise, google The First Scandal Adam and Eve. Then click once or twice to get the surprise.

  3. tyler looney

    October 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    We need to have a gay man in the republic. it would be very beneifial for ous as a community and it would help the future generations of gay youths

  4. customartist

    October 11, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Two points:

    Firstly, we are all appreciative and admire the srength, intellect and fortitude of Fred Karger for taking up the fight with the Prop 8 issue. Words alone cannot express our gratitude. Without his efforts, we may never have the level of understanding of the extent of influence Mormons had in this campaign.

    But Secondly, I am sad to see, that Mr. Karger has taken the path that he has in siding categorically with Republicans, AND in taking his financial contrubutions with him, which were made under other premises, by earnest gays and gay supporters, with vastly different uses of said funds in mind. Those donations were not made for use by a Republican Candidate, nor for Republican-Specific agendas.

    I would like to think that Karger hadn’t this in mind when appealing to the gay community for donations to his Californians Against Hate org. It is troubling now though that motivations are in question. What or whom is influencing his previously Gay-Focused efforts, to subsequently become Republican, taking along proceeds AND supporters prtentially, to and for another party’s agenda? All so disturbing.

    Nothing that I see in his story speaks any more of genuine societal interests, but of personal ones, in the end. I can contribute no more. Those who benefit here are evident.

  5. Fausto Fernandez

    October 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    This is a joke, isn’t it? Pu-leez! Can you see him getting more than 1% of the vote for the nomination?

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Texas

Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-Trans youth sports bill

“Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids & adults- the emails to the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law”

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday H.B. 25, an anti-Transgender youth sports bill banning Trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year banning transgender youth from participating in school sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said.

“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s crisis services. The Trevor Project the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political debate — please know that you are valid, and you are deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said.

********************

Additional resources:

Research consistently demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth face unique mental health challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide risk compared to their peers.  

  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. 
  • A newly published research brief on “Bullying and Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming (65%).
  • A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.
  • Trevor’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) had never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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National

Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled

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Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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Utah

VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights

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(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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