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Gay Calif. mayor seeks U.S. House seat

GOP candidate would be first member of Congress in same-sex marriage

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Mike Gin (right) and his spouse Christopher Kreidel (Photo courtesy Gin for Congress)

A gay Republican from California could become the first person in a same-sex marriage elected to Congress if he wins a U.S. House seat in an upcoming special election.

Mike Gin, who’s served as mayor of Redondo Beach, Calif., since 2005, said economic and education issues would be his priorities if elected to Congress, but he would welcome any benefit that his visibility as a gay member of Congress in a same-sex marriage would impart to LGBT youth.

“Certainly, we all need role models, and being gay and being married is just a part of who I am,” Gin said. “If somehow my election would provide some inspiration or maybe help a young person that’s very conflicted about being gay, then I think that’s a wonderful thing.”

Gin, 48, married his spouse, Christopher Kreidel, 50, an animator, at the Redondo Beach Historic “Morrell House” three days before Proposition 8 passed in California, eliminating same-sex marriage rights in the state. The couple has been together 16 years.

The California mayor is pursuing a U.S. House seat to represent California’s 36th congressional district, which was vacated when former Rep. Jane Harman left Congress to become head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

In what is likely to be a difficult race for Gin, an all-party primary is set for May 17. If no candidate wins a majority, the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party, will participate in a run-off election on July 12 to determine who will represent the district in the U.S. House.

If elected, Gin would become the fifth sitting openly gay member of Congress, joining Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.). Gin would also be the first openly gay Republican to serve in Congress since former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe retired in 2007.

“I look at it just simply as part of who I am,” Gin said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be very open in my community and people have always treated me with tremendous respect and, even though they might agree with me on what they might consider to be a lifestyle, or the particular political positions that I have, I have always been very fortunate in being treated with a great amount of respect.”

Job creation would be the top priority for Gin. To stimulate the economy, Gin said Congress should sustain community block grants funds as well as the Workforce Investment Act, a 1998 law signed by then-President Clinton that created regional Workforce Investment Boards throughout the country to entice business. Gin said House Republicans had proposed to defund the law, but he wants it to continue.

“I view the budget not as a slash-and-burn approach as I think I’ve seen, especially over the past few months,” Gin said. “The Workforce Investment Act has created jobs, particularly in aerospace, and helped us sustain jobs here in the community.”

Another important issue for Gin is investment in education — particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A former computer technician for the aerospace and defense industries, Gin said science education forms the foundation of the talent needed in his district for the advanced technical industries and he wants to see federal education grants in these areas.

“We need more young people to get excited about careers in science, engineering and mathematics in order to sustain that base of talent that we need here in our local industries,” Gin said.

Gin’s emphasis on economic issues in his campaign is part of the reason he won an endorsement in his race from the Log Cabin Republicans.

R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s executive director, said Gin has already proven he’s an effective leader in the course of the time he’s been a public servant.

“It says a lot that Redondo Beach is one of California’s few debt-free cities under his leadership, and that Mike was able to raise more than $100,000 in the first three days of his campaign,” Cooper said. “He is ready and able to join the GOP majority in Congress fighting to create jobs and turn this economy around, and Log Cabin Republicans will work to send him to Washington this summer.”

Gin has also won the endorsement of 10 current or former mayors in the South Bay of California and the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Although he’s emphasizing economic issues, Gin said LGBT issues would also be on his agenda if elected to the House. Gin said upon taking his House seat he’d join the LGBT Equality Caucus, which is chaired by the openly gay members of Congress.

“To me, that’s really a non-issue because I strongly believe in the rights affecting our community and legislation affecting our community because it affects my family as well,” Gin said.

Among the bills that Gin said he’s support are the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar job discrimination against LGBT people, and the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States, as well as legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Gin also said he’d oppose a measure pending before the House that could disrupt the process for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal by expanding the certification requirement to include the four military service chiefs. In December, President Obama signed legislation allowing for an end to the military’s gay ban, but only after he, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the U.S. military is ready.

“Certainly, the [chair of the] Joint Chief [of Staff] represents all the service chiefs throughout our nation’s armed forces — and with the secretary of defense and the president, the commander-in-chief in particular — I believe those are the three appropriate people that need to certify and would be very competent and knowledgeable about certifying the readiness of our troops,” Gin said.

Mike Gin (photo courtesy Gin for Congress)

Gin’s work as an LGBT advocate has been limited, although he was involved in the fight against Prop 8 in 2008 by taking part and contributing money to a coalition of Republicans that were against the initiative. In 2000, Gin said he was also against Prop 22, which made a ban on same-sex marriage part of the state law.

“Those are issues that I’ve come out in front of because, again, it affects my family as well,” Gin said. “I don’t consider myself an activist, but I’ve certainly been an advocate for legislation that affects our community. Being an out mayor has allowed me to have that voice.”

In the course of his run for Congress, Gin said he hasn’t encountered any anti-gay campaign tactics from his opponents. Still, he said he has endured attacks on his sexual orientation in his previous runs for office as mayor.

“There was a very ultra-conservative social conservative group here in California called the California Republican Assembly, which did an independent expenditure campaign flier against me — a very subtle way with issues regarding the gay agenda,” Gin said. “Very frankly, many people in my community were put off by it, and I believe that actually backfired on them and helped me gain greater support for my election as mayor in 2005.”

Even though upon taking his House seat, Gin would be voting for Republican leadership and joining the Republican caucus — which most Capitol Hill observers agree wouldn’t be willing to advance pro-LGBT legislation — the California mayor said his presence among GOP lawmakers could change minds.

“I would not hesitate at all to tell them my personal story and how this type of legislation affects my family and many families throughout our nation to bring the conversation back to really what I feel Republicanism is about and how it started,” Gin said. “That’s how hearts and minds can change. Whether or not it will happen, I don’t know.”

Gin expressed mixed feelings about House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to take up legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act now that the Obama administration has declared it would no longer litigate on behalf of the statute. Gin said he’s personally against DOMA, but sees advantages to Boehner’s action.

“If you look at it from a constitutional level, sometimes the case, the judicial case, can be strengthened if you have some sort of opposition that’s mounted,” Gin said. “From a personal level, I don’t like the fact that that’s occurring, but also, the silver lining, if it occurs, is that clearly, I think, the courts have been in favor of us to this point. The very strong record should be built that further strengthens our case, if, in fact, counsel is appointed.”

Gin faces an uphill battle in his pursuit of a U.S. House seat as he runs in a Democratic district where two high-profile Democratic candidates are in the running: California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Los Angeles City Council member Janice Hahn.

Recent polls released from the campaigns of the Democratic challengers indicate the race is neck-and-neck between Bowen and Hahn — with Gin following behind. According to an internal poll published last month by the Bowen campaign, Bowen and Hahn are tied at 20 percent in the race while Gin comes in at 8 percent.

Additionally, Bowen and Hahn are better funded than Gin. According to most recent Federal Election Commission reports, Bowen has raised $195,000 and has $93,000 in cash on hand, while Hahn has raised $275,000 and has $171,000 in cash on hand. Meanwhile, Gin has raised $77,000 and has $42,000 in cash on hand.

At the same time, California’s state equality organization last month threw its support behind Bowen in the race. Jim Carroll, interim executive director for Equality California, cited Bowen’s long-term commitment to the LGBT community in the announcement of the endorsement’s from his organization’s political action committee.

“Equality California PAC only endorses candidates who support full equality for the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and Debra Bowen has a long track record of standing with our community when we’ve needed her most,” Carroll said. “We are confident that she will remain a vocal champion for equality in Congress and a committed leader that all Californians can count on.”

Gin said he’s pursuing an endorsement from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. Denis Dison, a Victory Fund spokesperson, said he couldn’t comment on candidates that his organization has yet to endorse. The Victory Fund has endorsed Gin in his previous runs for political office as mayor of Redondo Beach.

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The White House

Biden administration uses IDAHOBiT to highlight LGBTQ rights support

WHO on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as mental disorder

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Biden administration on Tuesday publicly acknowledged the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

“Jill and I stand in support and solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) people in the United States and around the world,” said President Biden in a statement the White House released. “We join with Americans across the country to reaffirm our commitment to the ongoing work of upholding human dignity for all people and advancing equality globally.”

Biden in his statement noted there “has been much progress” since the World Health Organization on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Biden also highlighted “we continue to witness disturbing setbacks and rising hate and violence targeting LGBTQI+ people in the United States and around the world.”

“This is wrong,” he said. “LGBTQI+ people are entitled to all the rights, opportunities, and protections that belong to every human on this planet. LGBTQI+ people are an essential part of families and communities—teachers, first responders, public officials, doctors, lawyers, front-line workers and friends who enrich and strengthen every single country.” 

“And make no mistake: Hateful legislative attacks against members of our own LGBTQI+ community cannot be tolerated in America or anywhere else,” added Biden. “They spur discrimination and can stoke violence. And they are rooted in the same ignorance and intolerance that we see around the world. Hate is hate—and all of us have a responsibility to speak out against hate wherever we find it.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday issued his own IDAHOBiT statement.

“The United States affirms today, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), that the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons are the same human rights to which all persons are entitled,” said Blinken. “As enshrined in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘[a]ll human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’”

Bliken further noted that “too many LGBTQI+ persons live under the shadow of discrimination, violence and fear.”

“Global data makes clear that the dehumanization of LGBTQI+ persons is systemic, pervasive, and often violent,” he said. “Homophobia, biphobia, interphobia and transphobia are deeply entrenched in societies across the world, including here in the United States. Countless persons are at extreme risk for being themselves.”

Biden shortly after he took office in 2021 issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

The administration last June appointed Jessica Stern as the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad.

The U.S. Senate earlier this year in a bipartisan vote confirmed Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank, as the first openly lesbian American ambassador. The State Department on April 11 began to issue passports with “X” gender markers.

The State Department on April 28 released a report that details the federal government’s implementation of Biden’s foreign policy memo.

“We remain committed to ending this intolerance. Everyone deserves to live with respect, dignity, and safety,” said Blinken in his IDAHOBiT statement. “The United States affirms that all LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, and their families are valid and valuable.”

Biden in his statement also referred to the report.

“By openly reporting on our own progress, the United States hopes to inspire other governments to take similar action to address the needs of their LGBTQI+ communities,” he said.

“To the LGBTQI+ community, my administration sees you,” added Biden. “We stand with you. And we will continue to defend human rights and dignity, at home and around the world.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović are among the other world leaders who have publicly acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ rights, and other U.N. human rights experts in a statement they released on Monday highlighted the plight of LGBTQ people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.

“With the number of forcibly displaced persons continuing to rise, States, businesses and humanitarian and civil society organizations must invest in developing human rights-based policies and programs that take into full account the intersectional dimensions of forced displacement and sexual orientation and gender identity, fostering stronger collaboration and coordination among all actors responsible for the protection of displaced LGBT individuals,” reads the statement.

Advocacy groups around the world also commemorated IDAHOBiT.

“Today I want to thank my incredible team of Insight public organization who still works for LGBTQI+ people in Ukraine, saving life’s (sic) of our community during the war,” tweeted Olena Shevchenko, chair of Insight, a Ukrainian LGBTQ rights group. “We are here for equality.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a tweet said IDAHOBiT “is a significant day for the LGBTIQ+ community because it serves as a reminder of the ongoing violence and prejudice that our communities face.”

“The struggle for equality still continues,” added SMUG.

Pride House Tokyo in Japan also acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

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The White House

WNBA players back petition for White House to ‘prioritize’ Brittney Griner’s release

Phoenix Mercury center detained in Russia in February

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Russian state TV has released a photo of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested on drug charges in the country after Russian officials say cannabis oil was found in her luggage. (Screenshot)

The Women’s National Basketball Players Association has endorsed a petition that urges the Biden administration to “prioritize” WNBA star Brittney Griner’s release.

“It is imperative that the U.S. government immediately address this human rights issue and do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home quickly and safely,” reads the Change.org petition that Tamryn Spruill, a freelance journalist and author, created.

“The WNBPA and its members proudly join Tamryn Spruill, the creator of this petition, in demanding that lawmakers prioritize Griner’s return,” it continues. “White House and Biden adminsitration, we ask that you take action today—doing whatever is necessary—to bring Brittney Griner home swiftly and safely.”

More than 135,000 people have signed the petition.

Spruill on Saturday in a tweet said the WNBPA, a union that represents WNBA players, partnered with them and Change.org “in demanding that our elected officials work urgently to gain BG’s swift and safe release.”

Griner — a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife — was taken into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. Russian officials said customs inspectors found hashish oil in her luggage.

The State Department earlier this month determined Russia “wrongfully detained” Griner. A Russian court on Friday extended her detention for another month.

“The Russian system wrongfully detained Ms. Griner,” then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday during her last White House briefing. “We take our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens seriously.  And we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for all U.S. citizens when they are subject to legal processes overseas.”
 
“Now, because the State Department recategorized her as wrongfully detained, it means that our Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs — it’s quite a title but a well-deserved one — is going to be overseeing this case and leading the effort,” added Psaki. “Because it’s a deliberative process and we know from experience of bringing other Americans home, we’re just not going to detail what those efforts look like at this point in time.”

Griner faces up to 10 years in prison.

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Wyoming

GOP Sen. Cynthia Lummis issues ‘apology’ after transphobic comments during graduation speech

“My reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times- times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate”

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Screenshot/University of Wyoming YouTube

During her speech delivered to the University of Wyoming’s College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education commencement Saturday afternoon, Republican U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis told graduates that “the existence of two sexes, male and female” was a “fundamental scientific truth.” 

The audience’s immediate reaction to her transphobic remarks were loud expressions of disapproval including jeering, boos, and demands she leave the podium.

The senator’s remarks came in the latter third of her twenty-minute address which had primarily focused on the critical need for teachers and in the fields of agriculture and other endeavors she noted were Wyoming hallmarks.

In a statement released by her office Sunday, a spokesperson noted that Lummis was apologizing to those who felt “un-welcomed or disrespected” by the comments.

“My reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times in which we find ourselves, times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate with potential implications for the shared Wyoming value of equality,” the statement read.

“I share the fundamental belief that women and men are equal, but also acknowledge that there are biological differences and circumstances in which these differences need to be recognized. That being said, it was never my intention to make anyone feel un-welcomed or disrespected, and for that I apologize. I have appreciated hearing from members of the University of Wyoming community on this issue, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue.” 

An Assistant Professor in the University of Wyoming’s Sociology Program in the College of Arts and Sciences tweeted pointing out the graduate’s reactions along with the fact that the UW campus community had recently lost a Trans student to suicide, making the senator’s remarks more hurtful.

The university’s president also issued a statement Sunday expressing support for all members of the UW campus and community:

May 15, 2022

To the UW community:

On Saturday, the university celebrated spring 2022 commencement with a series of events that showcased the best of what makes us special: our students, our staff, our faculty and our ability to openly embrace and debate complex issues. One of our speakers made remarks regarding biological sex that many on campus take issue with. While we respect the right of all to express their views, from students to elected officials, we unequivocally state that UW is an institution that supports and celebrates its diverse communities that collectively make us the wonderful place that we are.

Thank you to the many students and families who celebrated with us this weekend. We welcome the incredible individuality and intellect of all our dynamic and diverse students and never want you to feel otherwise.

Sincerely,

Ed Seidel, President

Senator Cynthia Lummis’ remarks are at the 50:11 time mark:

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