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11th hour anti-gay attacks against Cicilline?

R.I. GOP opponent stresses family, support for ‘Don’t Ask’



A gay politician seeking to represent Rhode Island in Congress is enduring what could be thinly veiled attacks on his sexual orientation as Election Day approaches.

David Cicilline, the gay mayor of Providence, R.I., is vying to represent the state’s 1st congressional district in the U.S. House. The seat is being vacated by retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.).

Cicilline, a Democrat, is running against Republican John Loughlin, a member of the Rhode Island State House and an Army veteran.

With Rhode Island’s unemployment rate currently at 11.5 percent — fifth highest in the nation — both candidates have been emphasizing job creation during the campaign.

But in the final weeks of the campaign, Loughlin has made several statements that could be considered digs at Cicilline based on his sexual orientation.

In a “Voice of the Candidate” clip that aired on a local NBC affiliate in Rhode Island, Loughlin repeatedly mentions that he is a father and a husband — possibly a reference to the fact that Cicilline is gay and single.

“I’ve been married for 23 years to my wife, Susan, and we have two daughters,” Loughlin says. “I know about the struggles of working families in Rhode Island because I’m part of one. I’ve had to worry about how to pay for dance lessons, summer camp and all the extras that come from raising children.’

Similar language about Loughlin’s family is included in one of the campaign’s recent radio ads promoting the candidate.

“John Loughlin is a husband, a father, a small businessman,” says a voiceover in the ad as somber trumpets play in the background.

Additionally, in a debate last week with Cicilline, Loughlin notably emphasized his support for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Republican candidate said the law “has served the military well” and he would “like to see it continue.”

Loughlin continued that the U.S. armed forces shouldn’t be a place to “celebrate” anyone’s sexual orientation and that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” simply means “you cannot celebrate your sexuality while you are on active duty.”

“Mayor, I was there, I know, I served and I have seen it — you have not,” Loughlin said. “We are not interested in celebrating anyone’s sexuality; we are about doing the job.”

Eric Hyers, campaign manager for the Cicilline campaign, declined to comment on whether Loughlin’s statements amounted to anti-gay attacks and emphasized the Cicilline campaign is focused on bread-and-butter issues.

“David and his campaign are 100 percent focused on how to get Rhode Islanders back to work, how to make sure that we don’t privatize Social Security,” Hyers said. “We’re making sure that we fight to end tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas.”

Loughlin’s campaign didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment on whether the Republican candidate’s statements were intended as anti-gay attacks against Cicilline.

One political observer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said “grasping at something” like a candidate’s sexual orientation is not uncommon in races where an opponent is behind.

“They think that if they grasp at David’s sexual orientation, that they might catch fire,” the observer said. “Could you try to interpret what Loughlin is doing as baiting? Probably. But I don’t think anybody’s really sensing that given how out David is.”

Last week, Politico included the race to represent Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district in the U.S. House as among its “99 Seats in Play” for the election. Cook Political Report last month changed the status of the race from “likely Democrat” to “leans Democrat.”

David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report, said Cicilline is waging “as good a race as he can” against Loughlin, but said socially conservative Democrats outside of Providence could side with the GOP candidates in the wake of the campaign attacks launched against the Providence mayor.

“Loughlin is gaining traction by pointing to Cicilline’s mayoral record,” Wasserman said. “Big city mayors often have a hard time turning an election into a referendum on their opponents when they have such a lengthy record to defend themselves.”

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, identified the Providence mayor as the “favorite” in the Rhode Island race and said the outcome of the contest would be “likely” Democratic. Even so, Sabato acknowledged that, “Republicans claim that the race has closed fast.”

But Hyers dismissed talk that Cicilline is in danger of losing the election, even as he acknowledged that the 2010 elections are “a tough environment for Democrats.”

“Fortunately for us, we’ve been running this campaign like we’re tied ever since it began,” Hyers said. “We’re taking nothing for granted we’ve seen what happens when Democrats take their foot off the gas. We’re not going to let that happen; we’re going that voters know everything there is to know about these two candidates.”

Cicilline is running in a Democratic stronghold and is credited for being a powerhouse fundraiser. He has raised nearly $1.7 million so far in his campaign while, in comparison, Loughlin has raised $618,000.

A poll made public earlier this month by NBC 10-Quest Research in Rhode Island also indicates that Cicilline is heading to victory. The poll found that Cicilline is leading Loughlin by 47 percent to 36 percent among likely voters.

Hyers said he thinks Cicilline’s prospects for winning are solid and said credible polls have the Providence mayor with a “solid lead — often times in double digits.”

“We have a phenomenal grassroots operation, a great ground game that’s started to turn out the voters … and the response at the doors is overwhelming,” Hyers said.

Compared to other non-incumbent openly gay congressional candidates, Cicilline is widely seen as having the best chance of winning on Election Day.

Steve Pougnet, the mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., is running in California’s 45th congressional district to unseat Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.).

At the other end of the country, Ed Potosnak, a former staffer for Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and a public school teacher, is running in New Jersey’s 7th congressional against Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.).

Both gay candidates are running under the Democratic banner in traditionally “red” districts against GOP incumbents at a time when major Republican gains are expected in Congress.

Sabato said Bono Mack is the “clear favorite” in the race against Pougnet, although he acknowledged California’s 45th congressional district is “in one of the weaker districts for a Republican this year.”

“Steve Pougnet would need a strong top-of-the-ticket coattail from [Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Jerry Brown and [U.S. Sen.] Barbara Boxer to win, and that is unlikely in this district,” Sabato added.

Despite these challenges, the political observer speaking on condition of anonymity said Pougnet has run an “equally good race” as Cicilline and has likewise been a fundraising powerhouse.

According to Federal Election Reports, Pougnet has been keeping up with Bono Mack, which is unusual because she’s an incumbent. Pougnet has raised nearly $1.7 million in the campaign while Bono Mack has raised $2.2 million.

“If you look at the last financial filings, you’ll be shocked at how similar they are in how much money they’ve raised,” the observer said.

Still, Pougnet has a tougher race than Cicilline because the Palm Springs mayor is challenging an incumbent.

“As time has shown, over and over again, running against an incumbent is that much more challenging, especially someone who’s been there as long as she has,” the observer said.

Potosnak’s race is seen as the toughest for an out gay candidate this year. Sabato said he has “no indication” he could put the Republican incumbent in “any electoral trouble.”

“We list that one as safe [Republican],” Sabato said. “This is not the year to upset secure Republican incumbents.”


The White House

Country’s first nonbinary state lawmaker participates in Gaza ceasefire hunger strike

Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner is Muslim



Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner in front of the White House on Nov. 30, 2023, while taking part in a hunger strike for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The country’s first nonbinary state lawmaker last week participated in a hunger strike for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip that took place in front of the White House.

Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner took part in the 5-day action alongside actress Cynthia Nixon, Virginia state Del. Sam Rasoul, Delaware state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, Michigan state Rep. Abraham Aiyash, former New York Congressional candidate Rana Abdelhamid, Muslim Founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Adalah Justice Project Director of Strategy and Communications Sumaya Awad and Linda Sarsour. The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, Democratic Socialists of America, IfNotNowMovement, Dream Defenders, the Institute for Middle East Understanding and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee are the organizations that either participated in the hunger strike or endorsed it. 

“This is the place where you should be,” Turner told the Washington Blade on Nov. 30 while they were standing in front of the White House.

Turner is from Ardmore, Okla., and has been a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives since 2021. They are the first Muslim person elected to the Oklahoma Legislature.

“Oklahoma is no stranger to genocide, displacement, uprooting communities — beautiful, vibrant, vulnerable communities — just because they could,” said Turner, referring to the treatment of Native Americans in what became Oklahoma during the 1800s and early 1900s. “Specifically as a Muslim and as an Oklahoman it is my duty to be here.”

The hunger strike took place nearly two months after Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from Gaza.

The Israeli government has said roughly 1,200 people have been killed, including at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in a kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli government also says more than 5,000 people have been injured in the country since the war began and Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 others.

Yarden Roman-Gat, whose gay brother, Gili Roman, spoke with the Washington Blade on Oct. 30 in D.C., is one of the 105 people who Hamas released during a truce with Israel that began on Nov. 24 and ended on Dec. 1.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 15,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began. Israel after Oct. 7 cut electricity and water to Gaza and stopped most food and fuel shipments.

“It’s absolutely wild to think about what is happening to the Palestinian people in Gaza and in the West Bank,” said Turner.

Turner noted the war began two days before Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“By October the 10th, when the world was really seeing what was happening in Gaza,” they said. “So many people who had celebrated specifically Indigenous Peoples’ Day had also sided with the Israeli government over the indigenous people of the land.”

‘The death of civilians is absolutely horrible’

Turner in response to the Blade’s question about the Israelis who militants killed on Oct. 7 emphatically said “the death of civilians is absolutely horrible.” Turner added they “cannot stress enough that when we back people into a corner, we don’t know what will happen.”

“The truth of the matter is our governments, our governmental officials do not have to put people in a corner,” said Turner.

Turner was particularly critical of the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza after Oct. 7.

“I don’t think there’s any place where a government has the power to shut off right water, food, healthcare supplies, things like that,” they said. “It’s just in doing so against a population that has 2 million people … that’s not anyone looking for equitability or justice. That is genocide against its people.”

Turner noted Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to publicly support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Turner told the Blade “when we oppress people over decades and decades … we cannot, we don’t get to cherry pick” or “we don’t get to tone police or however they are fighting back to be heard, to be, to live for vibrant lives.”

“We cannot tell oppressed people how to hurt out loud,” they said, specifically referring to Palestinian people. “We can create governments that care for people from a community standpoint who are thinking creatively about how we provide aid and support and we can ask our elected officials (members Congress, President Joe Biden, state and local officials) to teach truth. We can ask them to continuously make sure that we are providing the best care and understanding of the situations at hand. We can ask them to do a ceasefire to stop sending aid to the Israeli government and emboldening their military forces.”

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Climate change threatens LGBTQ resort communities

Provincetown, Cape Cod, other destinations face ‘existential’ challenge



The beach in Fire Island Pines, N.Y., on New York's Fire Island has been the scene of extreme erosion in recent years. (Photo courtesy Actum Vice President Savannah Farrell)

As the world reckons with worsening impacts of climate change, some LGBTQ communities and destinations are grappling with the “existential” threat posed by the crisis.

The United Nations’ annual climate conference will take place in the United Arab Emirates through Dec. 12. LGBTQ climate activists, however, are concerned about representation at COP28 because the meeting is taking place in Dubai, which is in a country that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.

President Joe Biden on Nov. 14 delivered a statement on climate change policy during his administration. Biden spoke on the American Rescue Plan, the Fifth National Climate Assessment, new transparency about the state of the country’s climate and more. 

Biden emphasized “advancing environmental justice for disadvantaged communities, because they’re the ones always left behind.” Evidence of this trend can be found in LGBTQ destinations across the country.

Julian Cyr, a gay Massachusetts state senator who represents Provincetown and other towns on Cape Cod, recognizes the state’s importance to the LGBTQ community, stating that “according to the Census, it may be the highest per capita density of LGBTQ+ people certainly in the United States, and perhaps internationally.”

Provincetown, a popular gay destination located at the tip of Cape Cod, is facing worsening storms as climate change advances. These storms reshape the natural environment as well as damage the built environment. A series of Nor’easters in 2018 flooded Provincetown, damaging homes, businesses and the town hall. 

“The climate crisis is … already forcing us to do a lot of planning and reevaluation of coastal resilience of our built environment,” said Cyr. 

All hope isn’t lost yet for Massachusetts destinations. 

Then-Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, in 2022 introduced the Climate Roadmap, which aims for zero carbon emissions by 2050. The state also is building the country’s first offshore wind farm, Vineyard Wind. 

Cyr said citizens can push for climate change legislation by making the urgency known to their local elected officials.  

“This is truly existential for coastal, low-lying communities like those that I represent,” said Cyr. “It’s really important that constituents weigh in with their elected officials and make sure that they know that this issue is crucially important. I don’t know how we not solve this issue.”

Experts are seeing similar effects in nearby LGBTQ destinations, such as Cape Cod.

“One thing that we do see already is the effect of storms,” said Mark Adams, a retired Cape Cod National Seashore cartographer. “Those storms are the signal of sea level rise.”

Adams said that as a result of rising temperatures and new, intense storms, he is also starting to see damaged ecosystems, unnatural migration patterns of local wildlife, and planting-zones moving northward. Adams told the Washington Blade these changing ecological relationships may mean an uncertain future for life along the coast: the self-sustaining lifestyle and seafood could be at risk as ocean acidification puts shellfish in danger. 

“If you can’t get oysters and clams, that would really change life on Cape Cod,” he said. 

In addition to the damage caused by storms, Cape Cod’s natural environment is also facing the threat of littering and plastic pollution. While the area’s beaches keep tourism alive, fishing gear and marine debris washing up on the shore are growing concerns for the community. 

Adams said this is where the choices individuals make to avoid plastics will make a huge difference in the future of these communities. 

“There are little choices we can make to get off of the petroleum stream,” he said.

A car in floodwaters in Miami Beach, Fla., in July 2018. Climate change has made Miami Beach and other coastal cities more susceptible to flooding. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Aspen Gay Ski Week adapts to warmer winters

Aspen Gay Ski Week was the first gay ski week, and it is the largest such event in the world, and is the only non-profit gay ski week.

Rising temperatures and short winters are growing concerns for destinations like Aspen, Colo., that depend on snow, according to AspenOUT Executive Director Kevin McManamon.

“As our seasons get shorter … we have to plan for the future,” McManamon said.

Colorado has also faced increased forest fires in recent years.

The Marshall Fire in 2021 devastated the state, destroying buildings and killing two people. Increasingly dry conditions feed into these fires, which will mean more impacts on humans, nature, and infrastructure.

McManamon nevertheless said he is optimistic about Aspen Gay Ski Week’s future due to the organization’s forward thinking. One such initiative is its involvement with Protect Our Winters, an organization that advocates for protecting the environment with the support of the outdoor sports community. 

“The cool part about being here in Aspen and having a great relationship with Aspen Skiing Company is that they are … on the leading edge of climate change,” said McManamon. 

Stronger storms threaten Fire Island

Fire Island Pines on New York’s Fire Island has been a safe haven for the LGBTQ community since the 1950s.

Fire Island Pines Property Owners’ Association President Henry Robin notes natural disasters cause more damage in the community as opposed to those that are across the Great South Bay on Long Island because Fire Island is a “barrier island.”

“When Superstorm Sandy hit, or when a Nor’easter hits, or a hurricane hits, the brunt of the storm is first taken by the Pines,” said Robin. 

Robin said “the Pines is thriving” just over 11 years since Sandy, but there is no climate change response. The federal government implemented a beach restoration project for Fire Island, and later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created an engineered beach for the Pines. 

Robin also formed three task forces — comprised of community members — to address local concerns, many of which were climate related, according to focus groups and a survey. Robin is also hoping to introduce recycling programs and solar energy to the Pines. 

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The White House

US announces additional sanctions for Ugandan officials

Anti-Homosexuality Act signed on May 29



LGBTQ and intersex activists protest in front of the Ugandan Embassy in D.C. on April 25, 2023. (Washington Blade photos by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced sanctions against current and former Ugandan officials who committed human rights abuses against LGBTQ people and other groups.

“After Uganda’s flawed 2021 presidential elections, I announced a visa restriction policy targeting those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda,” said Blinken in a statement. “At that time, I implored the government of Uganda to significantly improve its record and hold accountable those responsible for flawed electoral processes, violence and intimidation.”

Blinken announced “the expansion of the visa restriction policy to include current or former Ugandan officials or others who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda or for policies or actions aimed at repressing members of marginalized or vulnerable populations.” 

“These groups include, but are not limited to, environmental activists, human rights defenders, journalists, LGBTQI+ persons and civil society organizers,” he said. “The immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.”  

Blinken added the U.S. “stands by the Ugandan people and remains committed to working together to advance democracy, human rights, public health and mutual prosperity.”  

“I once again strongly encourage the government of Uganda to make concerted efforts to uphold democracy and to respect and protect human rights so that we may sustain the decades-long partnership between our countries that has benefited Americans and Ugandans alike,” he said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on May 29 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.” The State Department a few weeks later announced visa restrictions against unnamed Ugandan officials.

The Biden-Harris administration in October said it plans to remove Uganda from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The White House has also issued a business advisory for Uganda in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

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