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Log Cabin says Boehner helpful on ‘Don’t Ask’ vote

GOP election victories shine spotlight on gay Republican group

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Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is expected to become Speaker of the House in January, agreed to a request by the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans not to penalize House Republicans who voted in May for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” according to the group’s leader.

Log Cabin Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper said Boehner agreed to his request that the House minority leader not order a Republican whip count for an amendment to a defense authorization bill calling for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Whip counts are sometimes viewed as a means of pressuring members to vote the way party leaders want them to vote, and House GOP leaders, including Boehner, opposed the repeal amendment.

In what he called a conciliatory gesture, Cooper said Boehner agreed to his request to “no whip” the amendment during a conversation at a political event days before the House voted 234 to 194 on May 27 to approve it. Only five Republicans voted for the amendment, which was introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.).

“He did not do a whip count,” Cooper said. “And in the grand scheme of things it’s not the biggest deal on the planet. But I saw it as a positive indicator that he didn’t blow me off.”

The repeal measure died in a Senate filibuster. Senate Democratic leaders have promised to bring it up again later this month in a congressional “lame duck” session, but its prospects for passing are uncertain.

Meanwhile, with Republicans winning control of the House in Tuesday’s midterm elections, LGBT activists and Capitol Hill pundits will likely weigh Cooper’s interaction with Boehner as part of their assessment of whether gay Republicans will have access to and influence with House GOP leaders over pending LGBT legislation.

Although Democrats retained their control of the Senate, most political observers — including LGBT advocates — agree that major LGBT-related bills would have no chance of passing in Congress next year without the consent of Republican leaders like Boehner. And most observers believe House Republicans won’t allow gay bills to come to the House floor for a vote.

Cooper, however, said he and his Log Cabin team have a plan for persuading congressional Republican leaders to consider and agree to a vote on at least two gay bills. According to Cooper, one is an as yet to be unveiled tax reform bill that would address “tax inequities that affect the gay community.” The other is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which Democratic leaders declined to bring up for a vote during the past two years. The measure calls for banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Cooper said the tax bill would appeal to “the broader conservative community” while addressing inequities in the gay community.

“We would be attracting new or additional allies that we’ve not had in the past,” he said. “There are several members of Congress right now who don’t have a record, good or bad, or who are unknown to our community. And this gives them an opportunity to put a toe in the water on doing pro-equality measures.”

Cooper said the tax bill, the details of which would be released at the start of the new Congress in January, would help pave the way for more Republican support for ENDA.

Other LGBT organizations issued statements Tuesday night saying the Republican takeover of the House and the increased number of Republicans elected to the Senate would essentially eliminate any chance of passing LGBT bills for at least two years.

National Stonewall Democrats, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force each released statements describing the new crop of Republican leaders as “anti-equality.”

HRC noted that Boehner; Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the expected new House majority leader; and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the expected majority whip, each received an HRC scorecard rating of “0” on LGBT issues over the past two years.

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), who won election to another term on Tuesday, said his opinion of the Republican Party as an impediment to LGBT equality hasn’t changed since he left the party in 2004 over its support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

“If the question is what impact gay Republicans will have in a Republican-controlled Congress, the answer is none,” Catania said. “And if the last 10 years has demonstrated anything it’s that the Republican Party has no interest in a big tent, no interest in having gay Republicans at the table.”

“And the fact that gay Republicans continue to live in a fantasy land as if they mattered to the establishment in the GOP is mind blowing,” he said.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who will be replaced as speaker by Boehner in January, gave an equally harsh assessment of the influence of gay Republicans under the new Congress.

“They have got to be drinking some serious Kool-Aid over at Log Cabin Republicans’ headquarters,” said Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill. “To think that a Republican majority would do anything to advance equality for the LGBT community is simply delusional.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, which has been among the lead groups lobbying for ENDA, said she hopes Log Cabin does have access and influence over congressional GOP leaders.

But she noted that some of Log Cabin’s effort could be undercut by what appears to be a rival gay Republican group, GOProud.

Founded by conservative gay GOP activist Christopher Barron, who broke away from Log Cabin two years ago, GOProud received criticism from LGBT activists this fall for producing a campaign ad calling for the defeat of gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). The ad accused Frank of being responsible for “the financial meltdown that devastated our economy” in his role as chair of the House committee that approved government bailouts for banks.

Other activists note that Log Cabin had its own financial meltdown in 2008, when money problems resulted in the layoff of its entire Washington staff. The group’s board and state and local chapters remained active and kept the group going until funds were raised to hire a new executive director and a small Washington staff.

Cooper and other Log Cabin supporters strongly dispute claims that congressional GOP leaders will ignore the group. They note that unlike the last GOP takeover of Congress, virtually none of the current crop of Republican candidates ran on an anti-gay or anti-same-sex marriage platform. Economic issues and the Tea Party-led revolt this year against “big government” overshadowed social issues like gay marriage, Cooper and other Log Cabin members said.

Richard Tafel, who served as Log Cabin’s executive director in the 1990s, told the Blade Tuesday that he believes the new GOP-controlled House will be far more receptive to LGBT equality issues than the GOP Congress he contended with nearly a decade ago.

“I think the Republicans have learned a very harsh lesson from the ‘90s, when I was there, which is gay bashing didn’t work. It was fundamentally a flaw … the Tea Party is all about fiscal responsibility,” he said, adding that the new GOP leadership will likely follow that path rather than expend resources opposing gay equality issues.

Gay Republican activist Jim Driscoll, who served on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS during the Bush administration, said Log Cabin’s influence “will be heavily dependent” on its willingness to support Republicans on non-LGBT issues like the economy and GOP positions on AIDS programs.

“Regardless of how Log Cabin fares, I believe that most Republican offices will be more receptive to openly gay Republicans than any time before,” Driscoll said. “Republicans will realize that this election was not won on social issues or gay baiting. In fact, nearly all Republican strategists and consultants advised their candidates to keep quiet or tone down on this one.”

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Florida

Federal judge blocks Fla. trans health care ban and restrictions

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to appeal ruling

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The Florida Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

BY JACKIE LLANOS | Florida’s ban on puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for transgender minors and restrictions for adults are both unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who presided over the case in Tallahassee, sided with the plaintiffs in the class action — parents of trans minors and trans adults — who argued the measure violated the U.S. Constitution because it solely targeted trans people.

“The federal courts have a role to play in upholding the constitution and laws. The state of Florida can regulate as needed but cannot flatly deny transgender individuals safe and effective medical treatment — treatment with medications routinely provided to others with the state’s full approval so long as the purpose is not to support the patient’s transgender identity,” Hinkle wrote.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. (Florida Channel screenshot)

Those restrictions came into place following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approval of Senate Bill 254 in May 2023 and promulgation of rules from the Florida Board of Medicine and Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine enacting that law. Those boards and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo were named as defendants.

The measures banned minors’ use of puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, common treatments for gender dysphoria. Additionally, the law said only physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists could treat adults seeking gender-affirming care, with the added requirements of frequent in-person visits, tests, and authorization through a consent form that contained false information about the harms of hormone replacement therapy.

However, the law didn’t impose the same restrictions on cisgender women needing to take testosterone or cisgender men needing to take estrogen.

Appeal incoming

The state plans to appeal the ruling, said Jeremy Redfern, press secretary to DeSantis. An appeal would go to the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals.

“Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida acted to protect children in this state, and the court was wrong to override their wishes,” Redfern wrote in a statement to Florida Phoenix.

“We disagree with the court’s erroneous rulings on the law, on the facts, and on the science. As we’ve seen here in Florida, the United Kingdom, and across Europe, there is no quality evidence to support the chemical and physical mutilation of children. These procedures do permanent, life-altering damage to children, and history will look back on this fad in horror.”

Redfern wrote that the state would continue to “fight to ensure children are not chemically or physically mutilated in the name of radical, new age ‘gender ideology.’”

In his 105-page ruling, Hinkle noted that “there were no complaints from patients, no adverse results in Florida, just a political issue.”

However, the ruling does not lift the state ban on gender-affirming surgery for minors and restrictions on surgery for adults. That’s because the plaintiffs didn’t challenge the statutes relating to surgery for minors, and the adult plaintiff had not sought surgery and so lacked standing to challenge those restrictions.

Relief for plaintiffs

Plaintiff Gloria Goe (they used pseudonyms to protect the privacy of their children) is the mother of an 8-year-old (at the opening of the case) trans boy. During the opening day of the trial on Dec. 13, she testified that she feared her son would be swallowed by depression if forced to go through puberty without medical treatment.

“This ruling lifts a huge weight and worry from me and my family, knowing I can keep getting Gavin the care he needs, and he can keep being the big-hearted, smiling kid he is now. I’m so grateful the court saw how this law prevented parents like me from taking care of our children,” Goe wrote in a press release.

Attorneys with GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Southern Legal Counsel, and the Lowenstein Sandler law firm represented the plaintiffs.

Hinkle compared the discrimination trans people face nowadays to racism and misogyny.

“Some transgender opponents invoke religion to support their position, just as some once invoked religion to support their racism or misogyny,” Hinkle wrote. “Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs. But they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender. In time, discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished.”

Editor’s note:

In a statement made to the Los Angeles Blade after Tuesday’s rule, Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights said:

“This decision is important because is the first federal court to rule on a law restricting healthcare for transgender adults and because it finds that Florida’s laws are plainly based on anti-transgender bias, not science. This victory shows that we can and must keep fighting these dangerous laws, notwithstanding the deeply flawed rulings of some conservative appellate courts.

Judge Hinkle ruled in favor of the transgender plaintiffs in this case even after the negative 11th Circuit ruling that reversed our initially successful challenge to a similar ban in Alabama. He was able to do so because the evidence showing that these laws have no medical justification and are rooted in false stereotypes and bias was so strong. This is a huge victory, and one that shows that we can win these battles even in red states.”   

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Jackie Llanos is a recent graduate of the University of Richmond. She has interned at Nashville Public Radio, Virginia Public Media, and Virginia Mercury.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Florida Phoenix and is republished with permission.

The Phoenix is a nonprofit news site that’s free of advertising and free to readers. We cover state government and politics with a staff of five journalists located at the Florida Press Center in downtown Tallahassee.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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National

New poll: 60 percent of Americans oppose bending gender-affirming care for young people

Gallup researchers conducted poll.

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Upwards of 1,000 people took part in the March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy in D.C. on March 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A new Gallup poll out this week found that six in 10 U.S. adults oppose laws banning gender-affirming care for minors. The poll also found that a steady 51 percent of Americans think changing one’s gender is morally wrong, while 44 percent say it is morally acceptable.

According to the researchers at Gallup: There are significant demographic differences in Americans’ views of the morality of changing one’s gender. Majorities of political liberals (81 percent), Democrats (72 percent), those who do not identify with a religion (67 percent), those who do not attend religious services regularly (59 percent), young adults aged 18-29 (56 percent), and college graduates (53 percent) believe changing genders is morally acceptable. Less than half of their counterparts say the same.

While slightly less than half of women believe in the moral acceptability of changing genders, they are significantly more likely than men to think as much (48 percent vs. 39 percent, respectively.)

In data published by the Human Rights Campaign, as of May, 39 percent or 117,600 transgender youth aged 13-17 are living in the 25 states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care. This includes 18,500 youth living in the three states — Florida, Ohio, and Montana — where bans are currently on hold or blocked from enforcement through court orders.

In its survey, Gallup researchers gauged Americans’ support for laws banning such care for minors with two questions, each asked of half of the total sample. One question asks about bans in general terms, on “treatments and medical procedures,” while the other spells out some of the specific treatments that could be banned, such as “psychological support, hormonal treatments and medical surgeries” to help minors align with their gender identity.

Gallup researchers found that on both questions, Republicans are more supportive than Democrats and independents of bans on gender-affirming care for minors.

On the more specific question that includes psychological support, hormonal treatments and medical surgeries, a majority of Republicans (53 percent) but far fewer Democrats (25 percent) and Independents (34 percent) favor a ban.

On the more general question, Republicans are somewhat less likely to support a ban on treatments and medical procedures (45 percent), while Democrats’ and Independents’ responses remain unchanged from the more specific question.

Gallup researchers measured U.S. adults’ gender identity in all of its surveys; an average of 0.9 percent of U.S. adults in 2023 identified as trans. Trans identification among adults is highest (2.8 percent) for those in Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2005).

The Gallup polling data also revealed:

A slim majority of Americans believe that changing one’s gender is morally wrong. Yet, a majority also oppose laws banning gender-affirming care to help minors align with their gender identity.

This discrepancy could be because the questions about gender-affirming care specifically mention minors, while the question about the morality of changing one’s gender does not. In addition, the relatively low support for banning laws on gender-affirming care may be attributable to Americans’ general distaste for bans, a pattern that can be seen in Gallup trends on banning cigarette smoking and handguns.

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The White House

Advocacy groups condemn Biden immigration executive order

Directive ‘catastrophic’ for LGBTQ asylum seekers

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President Joe Biden (X screen capture)

President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued an executive order that prohibits migrants from asking for asylum in the U.S. if they “unlawfully” cross the Southern border.

Senior administration officials on Tuesday told reporters before Biden announced the directive that it will take effect “when high levels of encounters at the Southern border exceed our ability to deliver timely consequences, as is the case today.” The Associated Press reported this figure is 2,500 “border encounters between ports of entry” a day. 

“Today, I’m announcing actions to bar migrants who cross our Southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum,” said Biden at the White House. “Migrants will be restricted from receiving asylum at our southern border unless they seek it after entering through an established lawful process.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, U.S. Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), and Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) joined Biden at the White House alongside San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, El Paso (Texas) Mayor Oscar Leeser, Edinberg (Texas) Mayor Ramiro Garza, Harlingen (Texas) Mayor Norma Sepulveda, Laredo (Texas) Victor Treviño, Brownsville (Texas) Mayor John Cowen, Bexar County (Texas) Sheriff Javier Salazar, and Santa Cruz County (Ariz.) Supervisor Manuel Ruiz.

El Paso, Edinberg, Harlingen, Laredo, Brownsville, and Santa Cruz County border Mexico.

U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) in February unveiled an immigration overhaul bill they described as “the strongest border security package in decades to reassert control of the border, end catch and release, enhance security, fix the asylum system, and support border communities.” Senate Republicans blocked the measure.

“I’m moving past Republican obstruction and using the executive authorities available to me as president to do what I can on my own to address the border,” said Biden.

“Frankly, I would have preferred to address this issue through bipartisan legislation, because that’s the only way to actually get the kind of system we have now — that’s broken — fixed, to hire more Border Patrol agents, more asylum officers, more judges,” he added. “But Republicans have left me with no choice.” 

Biden stressed migrants who “come to the United States legally … by making an appointment and coming to a port of entry” will still be able to ask for asylum.

“If an individual chooses not to use our legal pathways, if they choose to come without permission and against the law, they’ll be restricted from receiving asylum and staying in the United States,” he said. 

“This action will help us to gain control of our border, restore order to the process,” Biden added. 

Biden further stressed the ban “will remain in place until the number of people trying to enter illegally is reduced to a level that our system can effectively manage.”

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) in a statement sharply criticized the executive order.

“By reviving Trump’s asylum ban, President Biden has undermined American values and abandoned our nation’s obligations to provide people fleeing persecution, violence, and authoritarianism with an opportunity to seek refuge in the U.S.,” said the California Democrat.

The Council for Global Equality said the executive order is “catastrophic for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and other asylum seekers from vulnerable populations — and it’s highly unlikely to help move the electoral needle.” Immigration Equality Director of Law and Policy Bridget Crawford reiterated this point.

“President Biden is playing craven political games with the lives of refugees, including LGBTQ people fleeing persecution, instead of implementing workable solutions,” she said.

The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration works with LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexicali and other Mexican cities that border the U.S. 

ORAM Executive Director Steve Roth in a statement to the Washington Blade said the executive order will harm “LGBTIQ asylum seekers and other vulnerable individuals seeking refuge from persecution.” He also said the directive “will put more LGBTIQ asylum seekers in harm’s way in dangerous Mexican border towns and puts added pressure on refugee-serving organizations throughout Mexico.”

The State Department currently advises Americans not to travel to Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, which borders Texas, because of “crime and kidnapping.” It also recommends Americans to reconsider travel to the country’s Baja California, Sonora, and Chihuahua states that border California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas respectively. 

“President Biden’s unlawful policy flies in the face of U.S. refugee law and removes the critical protections and paths to safety of these asylum seekers, leaving them vulnerable and with no resources,” Roth told the Blade.

Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Impact Officer Terra Russell-Slavin noted Biden issued the executive director days after he issued a Pride Month proclamation. Russell-Slavin, like other activists, also referenced the previous administration’s policies they said harmed LGBTQ migrants and asylums seekers.

“The Biden administration cannot have it both ways: They cannot ‘celebrate’ Pride Month while turning their backs on LGBTQ+ individuals who are seeking the rights our movement is based on,” said Russell-Slavin. “We strongly condemn this executive order, and urge the president to immediately reverse this harmful action.”

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