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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)

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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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Biden administration to ban discrimination against LGBTQ patients

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The Biden administration announced on Monday it would enforce civil rights protections under Obamacare to prohibit discrimination in health care against patients for being LGBTQ, reversing policy during the Trump years excluding transgender status as a protected characteristic under the law.

The Department of Health & Human Services declared it would enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of sex, and begin to take up cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement the Supreme Court has “made clear that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

“Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” Becerra said. “It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”

The move is consistent with the executive order President Biden signed on his first day in office directing federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the furthest extent possible. Federal agencies were directed to comply within 100 days of the executive order, which is about now and a short time after Biden’s first 100 days in office.

The announcement with respect to Section 1557 comes on the same day as the hearing took place this morning in Bagly v. HHS, a case before a federal court in Massachusetts challenging Trump’s undoing of transgender protections under the law. An attorney with the U.S. Justice Department announced a new notice of proposed rule-making is coming with respect to Section 1557.

Sharita Gruberg, vice president for the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement the change “assures LGBTQ people that their rights will be upheld at the doctor’s office, vaccine sites, and everywhere else they seek health care and coverage.”

“The administration’s announcement that it will enforce these protections are a critical step toward addressing vaccine hesitancy among LGBTQ people, a population that has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and seriously harmed by the previous administration’s attempts to permit discrimination against LGBTQ patients, Gruberg added.

The past three administrations have instituted policy on LGBTQ protections based on their interpretation of Section 1557. Each move had varying implications and directions for LGBTQ patients.

The Obama administration issued a rule in 2016 interpreting Section 1557 to apply to cases of anti-transgender discrimination and discrimination against women who have had abortions, which was consistent with court rulings at the time. However, that move was enjoined by a nationwide court order in Texas as a result of litigation filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The Trump administration, shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock, made final a regulation proposed last year rescinding the Obama administration’s transgender protections under Section 1557. Faced with criticism, the Trump administration defended itself by saying its move was consistent with the court order in Texas, although it seemed to ignore the decision from the higher court.

The new rule from HHS goes above and the beyond the Obama administration by instituting protections based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the proposed rule would be a new regulation entirely, or seek to modify the changes that were made in the two previous administrations. The Blade has placed a request seeking comment with HHS.

Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement the new HHS rule is a welcome change after the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgender patients.

“It’s unfortunate that such an obvious step had to be taken; the AMA welcomes this common-sense understanding of the law,” Bailey said. “This move is a victory for health equity and ends a dismal chapter in which a federal agency sought to remove civil rights protections.”

Discrimination in health care is an experience transgender people commonly report. The U.S. Transgender Survey in 2015 found one-third of responders said they had at least one negative experience in health care related to being transgender. Further, 23 percent of responders said they didn’t seek health care because they feared being mistreated and one-third said they didn’t go to a provider because they couldn’t afford it.

A Center for American Progress survey from 2018 had similar findings with respect to transgender people and patients with being gay, lesbian and bisexual or queer. Eight percent of responders said a doctor refused to see them because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, while 28 percent of providers said a doctor refused to see them because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Hospitals, especially religiously affiliated providers, refusing to provide transition-related care, including gender assignment surgery, is another frequently reported incident for transgender patients. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, has filed litigation against hospitals under Section 1557 for refusing to perform the procedure.

Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to obtain Senate confirmation, hailed the HHS rule change in a statement.

“The mission of our Department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. All people need access to healthcare services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health, and screen for cancer risk,” Levine said. “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”

Although the Biden administration’s announcement is a welcome move for LGBTQ advocacy groups, the change is not without critics.

John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University who declares himself a supporter of transgender rights, said the policy could have unintended consequences, which he said has become evident in the British health system.

“[Transgender] individuals with a penis but no vagina are being asked to have medical tests on their non-existent cervices, while [transgender] persons with a vagina and cervix will not be asked, under new guidelines which appear to place lives at risk and encourage a physically impossible medical exam on organs which simply do not exist,” Banzhaf said. “And, carrying this absurdity to its totally illogical conclusion, a patient with a penis and a full beard was offered a cervical test because, despite his clearly masculine appearance and style of dress, he registered himself as being gender neutral.”

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)

 

MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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