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Baldwin for Senate?

LGBT advocates push lesbian lawmaker to run



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.


The White House

Biden’s Pride month proclamation: ‘Our nation faces another inflection point’

States across the country have passed anti-LGBTQ laws



The White House was lit in rainbow colors following the Respect for Marriage Act signing in December 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Just as the 1969 Stonewall riots marked a transformational time for LGBTQ civil rights in America, the country now faces another critical inflection point, President Joe Biden said in the White House’s proclamation Wednesday honoring Pride month.

This moment is precipitated by the wave of hateful anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through state and local legislatures across the country and amid the escalating violence and threats of violence against the community, the statement notes:

“In 2023 alone, state and local legislatures have already introduced over 600 hateful laws targeting the LGBTQI+ community. Books about LGBTQI+ people are being banned from libraries. Transgender youth in over a dozen states have had their medically necessary health care banned. Homophobic and transphobic vitriol spewed online has spilled over into real life, as armed hate groups intimidate people at Pride marches and drag performances, and threaten doctors’ offices and children’s hospitals that offer care to the LGBTQI+ community. Our hearts are heavy with grief for the loved ones we have lost to anti-LGBTQI+ violence.”

Biden drew parallels between the “LGBTQI+ protestors” who “bravely stood their ground” against the law enforcement dispatched to arrest them more than 50 years ago and the youth organizers leading walkouts in response to discriminatory education laws, along with the “young people and their parents [who] are demonstrating unimaginable courage by testifying in state capitols in defense of their basic rights.”

The statement reaffirms the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to standing “proudly with the LGBTQI+ community in the enduring struggle for freedom, justice and equality,” chronicling some of the major steps the administration has taken on this front.

Biden highlighted his issuance, on his first day in office, of an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination, along with his signage last year of the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified protects for the rights of same-sex couples that might otherwise be jeopardized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority.

The statement then noted the administration’s moves to protect LGBTQ youth by ordering federal agencies to: Combat conversion therapy, “end the crisis of homelessness among LGBTQI+ youth and adults,” and address anti-LGBTQ discrimination in foster care.

Meanwhile, Biden said, the Justice Department is fighting against discriminatory laws targeting transgender youth, while the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have drafted rules that would better protect anti-LGBTQ discrimination “in healthcare, at school and in sports” and the White House is developing ways to combat online harassment and abuse that “disproportionately target LGBTQ people.”

Finally, the White House noted: Its rollout last year of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for LGBTQ youth, who can now reach specially trained counselors by dialing 988 and then three; the administration’s appointment of historic numbers of LGBTQ appointees at all levels of the federal government; and its repeal of bans preventing trans people from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

From passing federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans via the Equality Act to addressing “the crisis of violence against transgender women and girls of color,” Biden acknowledged the work that lies ahead.

“This month and every month,” his proclamation concludes, “let us celebrate the pride that powers the movement for LGBTQI+ rights and commit to doing our part to help realize the promise of America, for all Americans.”

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Defense secretary orders cancellation of drag show at Nev. Air Force base

Event was to have taken place at Nellis AFB on Thursday



Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Public Affairs)

A previously scheduled drag show to kick off Pride month on the sprawling Nellis Air Force Base, an advanced combat aviation training facility for the U.S. Air Force northeast of Las Vegas, was cancelled Wednesday according to a Pentagon official, after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stepped in.

A Pentagon source familiar with the matter told the Washington Blade that Milley informed Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., that it is not Pentagon policy to fund drag shows on bases and the show needed to be canceled or moved off base. 

The issue over drag performances was a focus at a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this year on March 29, when anti-LGBTQ Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) demanded in an angry tone that Austin and Milley explain why drag queen story hours were being hosted on U.S. military installations. The Florida Republican mentioned bases in Montana, Nevada, Virginia and Germany.

In a highly publicized incident in May 2022, Stars and Stripes reported that the Commanding General of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany had a drag queen story time, that was to be held in honor of Pride month cancelled. 

According to Stars and Stripes, the 86th Air Wing’s public affairs sent a statement to a radical-right anti-LGBTQ news outlet in Canada, the Post Millennial, which had requested comment to its article about the event and also accused the Air Force of pushing a more “woke” agenda among servicemen. 

In a press release, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took partial credit for the cancellation.

Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall regarding the Air Force Library at Ramstein hosting a “Drag Queen Story Time” event for young children of servicemembers. 

Rubio urged him to cancel the event, discipline the staff involved in planning and hosting the event and respond to questions on whether other installations both at home and around the world have done similar events. Following receipt of Rubio’s letter, the Air Force canceled the event. 

“The last thing parents serving their nation overseas should be worried about, particularly in a theater with heightened geopolitical tensions, is whether their children are being exposed to sexually charged content simply because they visited their local library,” Rubio wrote.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, III, and Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meet with U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Carlos M. Vazquez, Department of Defense)

A Pentagon official referring to the drag show at Nellis said Milley was visibly angry about the decision to host the event on base after being informed about it earlier this week.

The drag show was scheduled for Thursday, but Maj. Gen. Case A. Cunningham, the commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis was informed in the past few days that it must either be canceled or moved off base. 

On May 23, Gaetz sent a letter to Austin and Milley, alleging that the “pervasive and persistent use of taxpayer dollars for drag events,” had a June 1 Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., event scheduled.

Gaetz went on to write that “Nellis Air Force Base has announced a so-called ‘family-friendly’ drag organized by the Nellis LGBTQ+ Pride Council for June 1, 2023. In this latest outright attack on children, this event is being advertised as having no minimum age requirement.” 

In his letter Gaetz also demanded to know: 

  • Does the DoD feel it’s appropriate for children to attend a sexualized drag performance?
  • Why are base commanders defying your intent and direction by facilitating drag events?
  • If this event goes forward, whether on June 1 or a later scheduled date, please provide an explanation regarding your justification for why you allowed the event to take place.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis, in June 2021 the base had hosted a Pride month drag show titled “Drag-u-Nellis.” The spokesperson noted the 2021 show was intended to promote inclusivity and diversity. 

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Ala. extends ban on transgender female athletes to universities

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed bill on Tuesday



Alabama Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday signed House Bill 261, which limits transgender students to playing sports in public colleges and universities only with “their biological sex assigned at birth.”

“Look, if you are a biological male, you are not going to be competing in women’s and girls’ sports in Alabama. It’s about fairness, plain and simple,”  said Ivey in a statement released by her office.

House Bill 261 was approved 26-4 in the Alabama Senate and 83-5 in the House of Representatives. In the vote in the House more than a dozen lawmakers abstained from the vote.

Ivey had previously signed legislation in 2021 banning trans female athletes from competing in K-12 girls sports. At the time she signed that bill the governor had noted that “Alabama remains committed to protecting female athletes at all levels and upholding the integrity of athletics.”

Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director of the Human Rights Campaign, said the legislation is part of a “systematic attack against LGBTQ+ people” in Alabama and elsewhere.

“In just two years, [Ivey] and extremist lawmakers in Alabama have passed four anti-LGBTQ+ bills. From dictating what bathrooms we can use to blatantly ignoring the actual problems in women’s sports, these politicians are making Alabama an increasingly hostile place for transgender people and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole,” Anderson-Harvey said.

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