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Baldwin for Senate?

LGBT advocates push lesbian lawmaker to run

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Rep. Tammy Baldwin is reportedly considering a Senate run (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The opportunity for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to become a U.S. senator in the wake of an announcement that a Senate seat will be open in 2012 to represent Wisconsin has LGBT advocates pushing her to pursue higher office.

Baldwin, who has been serving in the U.S. House since 1999 as the only out lesbian in Congress, is likely to pursue a run for the seat, according to the Rothberg Political Report. The Wisconsin lawmaker’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on the reporting.

In a statement, Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said Baldwin’s run for U.S. Senate would be a “top priority” for his organization.

“This would be a remarkable milestone for LGBT Americans,” Wolfe said. “Congresswoman Baldwin is one of the most admired public officials I know. She would have the strong support of those who want to see our economy work for all Americans, and who believe that all voices deserve a place at the table.”

Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, said an official announcement from Baldwin that she’d pursue a Senate seat would be “an exciting day for Wisconsin.”

“Tammy has a few things,” Belanger said. “First of all, she is a tireless advocate for progressive values and she is a very, very strong leader who’s willing to stand up for what she believes in. At the same time, she’s also very willing to dialogue with people on both sides of the aisle and willing to come up with solutions that bring people together.”

The opportunity for Baldwin to become a U.S. senator — and the first person in the U.S. Senate to identify as LGBT — became apparent Friday when four-term Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Pursuing a run for Senate would be more challenging for Baldwin than previous runs because she’d no longer be an incumbent and she’d have to win majority support among the electorate in her entire state as opposed to her own Democratic-leaning House district.

The news of Kohl’s retirement prompted the Rothberg Political Report to move the Senate seat in the 2012 election temporarily from “Safe Democrat” to “Lean Democrat” until more potential candidates become known.

Despite the challenge that Baldwin could face, recent events in Wisconsin could tilt the odds of winning a Senate seat in her favor.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) agenda, which has included a restriction on collective bargaining rights of state workers, has energized Democrats in Wisconsin. Baldwin was vocal in her support for the union rights during the debate and could capitalize on her visibility during the often heated discussion in her pursuit of higher office.

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, said forecasting whether Baldwin could win in the race is difficult at this point because the 2012 election is still more than a year away.

“It is so early that it’s hard to handicap the race without knowing the nominees, or how well or poorly President Obama is running for reelection in the fall of 2012,” Sabato said. “This may be yet another Senate contest decided by the results of the presidential contest in the state.”

Still, Belanger said she thinks Baldwin would be an “incredibly viable” candidate in a race for a Senate seat because of the lawmaker’s history of success in her House district.

“It’s about a third urban, a third rural and a third suburban — and in the last election cycle, she won overwhelmingly in a year that was really difficult and tough for Democrats all across the country,” Belanger said. “I think that really demonstrates that she’s able to go into traditionally difficult parts of the state for Democrats and for progressives and really build a strong base of support.”

Exactly who Baldwin would face during her potential run remains in question. On the Democratic side, Russ Feingold, who lost his U.S. Senate seat in the 2010 election, has been named as a potential contender for the Democratic nomination.

Sabato said other potential Democratic candidates — including Baldwin — would yield if Feingold threw his hat in the race.

“The right of first refusal for the Democratic nomination almost certainly goes to Russ Feingold,” Sabato said. “It’s hard to imagine Tammy Baldwin or other major Democrats standing in the way of Feingold’s attempt to return to the Senate, should he choose to do so. Feingold retains great popularity among Democrats in Wisconsin and around the nation.”

Other potential Democratic candidates that have been named include Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Steve Kagan, a former House member who was ousted during the Republican wave in the 2010 election.

Republican contenders who could run include Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, who stated opposition to same-sex marriage in his bid to become head of the Republican Party before taking the position.

Another GOP contender is House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who gained notoriety after he introduced a controversial alternative budget to President Obama’s plan for fiscal year 2012. Ryan’s measure, which was approved by on the House floor last month, would have eliminated the stimulus package approved in 2009 and defunded Medicare.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jerry

    May 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Repugicans are now smelling blood in the water in Wisconsin. Ryan would not have given up his safe seat to challenge Kohl. Kohl was not sure he could win another term, or he really does have other reasons to retire now. I suspect Congresswoman Baldwin will make her assessment after the special election next week. If Democrats are unsuccessful at taking over the state senate, I think she will stay where she is.

  2. Kay Sieverding

    May 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Rep Baldwin helped me get some documents from USMS as to my being incarcerated for 5 months without a criminal charge, arraignment or bail hearing. Anyone can get a copy of USMS FOIPA 2011USMS17351 “the USMS has located no records responsive to” my request for “any and all records of authority for arrest or detention of litigants for engaging in noncriminal ‘contumacious’ litigation”. I was imprisoned because I filed a Rule 60b(3) petition in a non rendering U.S. Court without the permission of former federal judge Naughty Nottingham.

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Texas

Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-Trans youth sports bill

“Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids & adults- the emails to the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law”

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday H.B. 25, an anti-Transgender youth sports bill banning Trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year banning transgender youth from participating in school sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said.

“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s crisis services. The Trevor Project the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political debate — please know that you are valid, and you are deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said.

********************

Additional resources:

Research consistently demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth face unique mental health challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide risk compared to their peers.  

  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. 
  • A newly published research brief on “Bullying and Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming (65%).
  • A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.
  • Trevor’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) had never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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National

Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled

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Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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Utah

VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights

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(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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