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Gays applaud Lieberman upon retirement announcement

Conn. senator credited with leading ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal effort

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Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) announced his plans to retire in 2012 on Wednesday (Blade photo by Michael Key).

Gay advocates are commending Sen. Joseph Lieberman for the work he’s done during his career on LGBT issues — particularly repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — in the wake of the lawmaker’s announcement that he’ll retire from the U.S. Senate next year.

Lieberman, who ran as a vice-presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket in 2000, announced he would not seek a fifth term as a U.S. senator on Wednesday during a speech at the Mariott hotel in Stanford, Conn.

“At the end of this term, I will have served 24 years in the U.S. Senate and 40 years in elective office,” Lieberman said. “By my count, I’ve run at least 15 full-fledged campaigns — and that’s just in Connecticut, not counting the national campaigns I was involved in. So for me, it is time for another season, another purpose under Heaven.”

Lieberman said he’ll continue to work as a public servant for the remainder of his term and said his planned retirement enables to devote his “full measure of [his] energy and attention to getting things done for Connecticut and our country.”

“I will keep doing everything in my power to keep building strong bridges across party lines, to keep our country safe to win the wars we are in and to make sure America’s leadership on the world stage is principled and strong,” Lieberman said.

While credited as an LGBT advocate, Lieberman is unpopular among voters in Connecticut, according to one poll, which possibly prompted his decision to retire.

A Public Policy Poll published in October found that he had a 57 percent disapproval rating and 66 percent of voters said they would vote against him in the 2012 election.

Lieberman invoked the ire of many in the liberal base for supporting Republican John McCain over now President Obama in the 2008 election and for opposing the public option and Medicare expansion as part of health care reform.

Despite the disappointment he inspired in many Democrats, the Connecticut senator leaves a legacy of being the champion of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal after his long fight to push a measure overturning the law through the Senate.

An opponent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since its passage in 1993, Lieberman in March introduced standalone legislation that would have repealed the military’s gay ban.

In May, Lieberman succeeded in attaching a repeal amendment in Senate Armed Services Committee to a major defense spending bill. After opposition successfully blocked the legislation from coming to the floor, Lieberman introduced new standalone repeal that found its way to the President Obama’s desk.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the importance of Lieberman’s contribution to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal effort is difficult to describe in words.

“There are few people that I can say ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ simply would not have happened if it weren’t for them, and he’s one of them,” Nicholson said. “So his contribution has been immeasurable, literally.”

Nicholson said Lieberman’s ability to “put a lot of personal, moderate capital” into the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal effort was responsible for bringing Republican support to the legislation.

“His staff really did work on this issue for hours and hours a day at senior levels on his staff,” Nicholson said. “I felt a huge commitment there that hasn’t been matched in any other office that I’ve seen.”

Former Congressman Patrick Murphy, the Democratic lawmaker who led “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the U.S. House, called Lieberman “a champion of equality” and said repeal of the military’s gay ban “would not have happened in the Senate without his effort.”

“His argument of why this policy was so wrong and the real need to do this now was instrumental in making repeal a reality,” Murphy said.

Lieberman’s role on LGBT issues wasn’t limited to LGBT issues. He was a co-sponsor of a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and in 1996 was among the 49 senators to vote in favor of the legislation.

The Connecticut senator also championed legislation known as the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act, which would provide health and pension benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. In 2009, the legislation was reported out of Senate committee, but never saw a vote on the Senate floor.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, called Lieberman “a longtime ally and advocate for the LGBT community,” particularly for his work on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“He was an amazing ally in pushing everyday to make sure that we got over the finish line,” Lieberman said. “His hard work was certainly critical to that success.”

But Lieberman isn’t entirely supportive of the advancements sought by many in the LGBT community. Like President Obama, Lieberman doesn’t support marriage rights for gay couples and in 1996 voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Still, Cole-Schwartz said Lieberman has been “consistently there” for LGBT activists in recent years.

“I think there is a long way for a number of our leaders to go in terms of recognizing our right to full and equal marriage, but his record aside from that has been stellar,” Cole-Schwartz said.

Despite Lieberman’s lack of support for same-sex marriage, Lieberman voted twice against the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have made a ban on same-sex marriage part of the U.S. Constitution.

According to the Huffington Post, Democrats who could replace Lieberman include Susan Bysiewicz, a former Connecticut secretary of state, as well as Reps. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). Linda McMahon, a former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO and 2010 candidate for U.S. Senate, is widely expected to run again as a Republican contender.

But what’s next for Lieberman? Speculation has already emerged that he could replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates when he retires from his position sometime this year.

According to Politico, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — a longtime friend of Lieberman, even though he opposed him on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal effort — said he would support Lieberman’s nomination as defense chief should Obama name him to the post.

“I really hope that the president would consider him,” McCain was quoted as saying. “I hadn’t thought about it but I sure hope, whatever happens, he will play a major role on national security issues.”
 
Nicholson said taking on the position as defense secretary would “certainly be fitting” for Lieberman because of his experience on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee.
 
“He has enormous experience being … a congressional diplomat of sorts — going on trips overseas for foreign policy reasons,” Nicholson said. “His defense credentials are just undisputed.”
 
Should Gates not issue certification for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal before he exits as defense secretary — as law the signed by Obama requires to implement open service — Nicholson said Lieberman would be a shoe-in for issuing certification.
 
“He was willing to introduce an immediate repeal bill,” Nicholson said. “So even before the certification option was a part of the legislation, he was willing to move forward with it.”
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National

GLAAD: Social media platforms continue to fail to protect LGBTQ users

Only TikTok received a passing grade

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(Public domain photo)

GLAAD released its fourth annual Social Media Safety Index on Tuesday, giving virtually every major social media company a failing grade as it surveyed LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression online.

According to GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, YouTube, X, and Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and Threads received failing F grades on the SMSI Platform Scorecard for the third consecutive year.

The only exception was Chinese company ByteDance, owned TikTok, which earned a D+.

Some platforms have shown improvements in their scores since last year. Others have fallen, and overall, the scores remain abysmal, with all platforms other than TikTok receiving F grades.

●     TikTok: D+ — 67 percent (+10 points from 2023)

●     Facebook: F — 58 percent (-3 points from 2023)

●     Instagram: F — 58 percent (-5 points from 2023)

●     YouTube: F — 58 percent (+4 points from 2023)

●     Threads: F — 51 percent (new 2024 rating)

●     X: F — 41 percent (+8 points from 2023)

This year’s report also illuminates the epidemic of anti-LGBTQ hate, harassment, and disinformation across major social media platforms, and especially makes note of high-follower hate accounts and right-wing figures who continue to manufacture and circulate most of this activity.

“In addition to these egregious levels of inadequately moderated anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation, we also see a corollary problem of over-moderation of legitimate LGBTQ expression — including wrongful takedowns of LGBTQ accounts and creators, shadowbanning, and similar suppression of LGBTQ content. Meta’s recent policy change limiting algorithmic eligibility of so-called ‘political content,’ which the company partly defines as: ‘social topics that affect a group of people and/or society large’ is especially concerning,” GLAAD Senior Director of Social Media Safety Jenni Olson said in the press release annoucing the report’s findings.

Specific LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression issues identified include:

●      Inadequate content moderation and problems with policy development and enforcement (including issues with both failure to mitigate anti-LGBTQ content and over-moderation/suppression of LGBTQ users);

●      Harmful algorithms and lack of algorithmic transparency; inadequate transparency and user controls around data privacy;

●      An overall lack of transparency and accountability across the industry, among many other issues — all of which disproportionately impact LGBTQ users and other marginalized communities who are uniquely vulnerable to hate, harassment, and discrimination.

Key conclusions:

●      Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and disinformation on social media translates to real-world offline harms.

●      Platforms are largely failing to successfully mitigate dangerous anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation and frequently do not adequately enforce their own policies regarding such content.

●      Platforms also disproportionately suppress LGBTQ content, including via removal, demonetization, and forms of shadowbanning.

●      There is a lack of effective, meaningful transparency reporting from social media companies with regard to content moderation, algorithms, data protection, and data privacy practices.

Core recommendations:

●      Strengthen and enforce existing policies that protect LGBTQ people and others from hate, harassment, and misinformation/disinformation, and also from suppression of legitimate LGBTQ expression.

●      Improve moderation including training moderators on the needs of LGBTQ users, and moderate across all languages, cultural contexts, and regions. This also means not being overly reliant on AI.

●      Be transparent with regard to content moderation, community guidelines, terms of service policy implementation, algorithm designs, and enforcement reports. Such transparency should be facilitated via working with independent researchers.

●      Stop violating privacy/respect data privacy. To protect LGBTQ users from surveillance and discrimination, platforms should reduce the amount of data they collect, infer, and retain. They should cease the practice of targeted surveillance advertising, including the use of algorithmic content recommendation. In addition, they should implement end-to-end encryption by default on all private messaging to protect LGBTQ people from persecution, stalking, and violence.

●      Promote civil discourse and proactively message expectations for user behavior, including respecting platform hate and harassment policies.

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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit against Montgomery County schools gender guidelines

4th Circuit last August dismissed parents’ case

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender nonconfirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district — none of whom have trans or gender nonconfirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

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Bill to support LGBTQ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

Advocates praise Elder Pride Act

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(Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Bonamici, chair of the Equality Caucus’s LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• Provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• Develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• Expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• Disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

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