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Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?

GOP frontrunner supports ‘equal rights in employment’

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has previously endorsed ENDA (Blade file photo by MIchael Key)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s recently stated support for “equal rights in employment” for gays is raising questions about whether he supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — as well as the extent to which he would back other LGBT rights issues.

The current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination said he backs employment protections last week during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan as he noted gay appointments made during his time as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.

Asked which gay rights he favors, Romney replied, “Well, equal rights in employment, equal rights in — for instance, as the governor, I had members of my team that were gay, I appointed a couple of judges, who, apparently, I find later, were gay.”

Romney didn’t say whether he thinks these protections should be instituted through legislation or some other manner.

A Romney campaign spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on whether the remarks mean that the the candidate supports ENDA, pending legislation that would bar job discrimination in most situations for LGBT Americans in the public and private workforce.

Romney’s support for employment rights  — through ENDA or otherwise — is unusual for Republican presidential candidates early on during the primary season. Candidates usually veer hard right to win support among social conservatives who participate in Republican primaries. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, for example, have said they would reinstitute “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if elected.

Still, support for ENDA from Romney would be consistent with a previously articulated position he held in 1994 when he was running against the late Sen. Edward Kennedy for his seat representing Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.

In a letter to the Log Cabin Republicans, Romney recalled earlier conversations he’s had with the group and said he would be a co-sponsor of ENDA and would seek to expand the provisions in the legislation.

Additionally, Romney pledged to “make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern” and said Kennedy, who was known as a champion of LGBT rights in the Senate, would be unable to make that promise to the LGBT community.

“We have discussed a number of important issues such as the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which I have agreed to co-sponsor, and if possible broaden to include housing and credit, and the bill to create a federal panel to find ways to reduce gay and lesbian youth suicide, which I also support,” Romney wrote.

It should be noted that the version of ENDA that was pending before Congress at the time offered protections based only on sexual orientation and didn’t include language protecting transgender people in employment.

Romney also said the then-recently enacted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law was the compromise that was a step in the right direction and “the first in a number of steps” that will ultimately lead to open service in the U.S. military.

According to a 1994 article from Bay Windows, Romney also articulated support for ENDA during a public meeting of the Massachusetts Log Cabin Club with his then-Republican opponent, John Lakian. The meeting between Republican candidates and the gay group was hailed as a milestone for LGBT rights in Massachusetts.

“I will fight against discrimination of any kind throughout our system,” Romney was quoted as saying. “I don’t know exactly where you legislate and where you don’t legislate or how you make that work and where you don’t. But I am not limiting my support of equal rights for all people just to [U.S. Rep.] Barney Frank’s legislation in the area of employment. I would be happy to continue the fight in other areas such as credit and housing.”

Romney reportedly touted that Bain & Company, a Boston-based management consulting firm whose board he chaired, had explicit directions regarding equal employment opportunity in hiring and promotions.

But Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality, said the support that Romney expressed for ENDA in 1994 doesn’t square with his later actions as governor and predicted he wouldn’t keep his promise to support the legislation.

“That’s all the same stuff that he said when he ran for governor in 2002, and then once he was governor, I mean, do a Google search, and you’ll find out how quickly he positioned himself as anti-LGBT in order to benefit his own political career,” she said.

Suffredini predicted that Romney would be “pretty bad” for the LGBT community as a whole as president because of the inconsistency with which he addressed LGBT issues as governor.

“I would say based on his record as governor here that the only thing consistent about Romney’s relationship with the LGBT community is how inconsistent he is,” Suffredini said.

Suffredini said during his campaign as governor, Romney pledged to sign a civil rights bill for the LGBT community. However upon taking office, she said he took several anti-gay actions, such as abolishing a governor’s commission on LGBT youth, which the legislature later reinstated; rescinding an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation; and discouraging the Massachusetts Department of Public Health from releasing data on public health disparities.

Romney also struck a markedly different tone on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Monday during the Republican presidential debate compared to what he expressed in his 1994 letter to Log Cabin.

“I believe it should have been kept in place until conflict was over,” Romney said, invoking an argument that opponents of repeal employed when legislation that would end the military’s gay ban was pending before Congress.

Romney’s position on ENDA could become a more prominent issue as he advances through the Republican primaries.

Romney remains the front-runner in the Republican presidential field among potential participants in the early primaries. According to recent polls from Public Policy Polling, Romney leads by six points in Iowa, 23 in New Hampshire, nine in South Carolina and 15 in Nevada.

Further, Romney could be the Republican presidential candidate who has the strongest chance against President Obama in 2012. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published last week, Romney leads Obama in a head-to-head contest by a margin of 49-46.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said his organization would hold Romney to his promises on ENDA should he win the Republican nomination and go on to challenge President Obama in 2012.

“Gov. Romney recently stated on CNN he opposes discrimination and supports equal rights in employment,” Cooper said. “We hope he would stand by his pledge from 17 years ago to prevent discrimination in the workplace and support ENDA.”

While Romney’s position on most LGBT issues may have changed over the years, on one issue he has maintained consistent opposition: same-sex marriage.

During his interview on CNN last week, Romney reiterated his previously stated opposition to same-sex marriage.

“What happened was that the gay community changed as to what they wanted,” Romney said during the CNN interview. “When I ran for governor, one of the big issues was marriage, gay marriage. My opponent said she would sign a bill in favor of gay marriage. I said I would not, that I opposed same-sex marriage. At the same time, I would advance the — if you will — the efforts not to discriminate against people who are gay.”

According to Bay WIndows, Romney stated his opposition to same-sex marriage at the Log Cabin forum 17 years ago when he was seeking the Republican nomination in the U.S Senate race.

“I stand with Gov. [Bill] Weld on that,” he was quoted as saying, “and say that in my view it is not appropriate to authorize legally same-sex marriages and I will continue to endorse that view.”

In 2003, After the Massachusetts State Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage rights for gay couples, Romney backed various state measures that would have rolled back marriage rights for gay couples in the Bay State. Romney also voiced support for a U.S. constitutional amendment known as the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would ban same-sex marriages throughout the country.

Additionally, Romney renewed enforcement of a 1913 law preventing out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts to prevent gay couples from coming into the Bay State to wed. The law has since been repealed by the state Legislature.

Suffredini recalled that as governor, Romney “positioned himself as a national leader” during this time when the first state in the nation was attempting to advance marriage rights for gay couples.

“He did everything he could here to prevent marriage equality — even going so far as to resurrect what we call here the 1913 law, basically an anti-miscegnation law, which hadn’t been enforced in decades,” Suffredini said. “He resurrected it specifically in his words to prevent the spread of same-sex marriage to other states, and what it did was it prevented gays and lesbians from other states from coming here and marrying.”

Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president of communications, said Romney’s frequent position changes on LGBT issues make it difficult to predict how friendly to the LGBT community he’d be as president.

“It’s hard to know which Mitt Romney will show up,” Sainz said. “He’s gone back and forth more on issues of equality than a revolving door at a hotel and appears willing to say whatever the audience in front of him will want to hear.”

Still, some remain hopeful that Romney will continue his support for ENDA. Sainz said the decision for Republican candidates on whether or not to support ENDA should be easy.

“It should be a no-brainer for Republican presidential candidates to support legislation that allows all Americans to work and support their families,” Sainz said.

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National

65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights: survey

Results show 40% have LGBTQ family member

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(Logo courtesy of the NBJC)

The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Club Q shooter sentenced to life in prison for federal hate crimes

Five people killed in 2022 mass shooting in Colo.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Justice Department YouTube screenshot)

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, formerly of Colorado Springs, Colo., was sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences to run consecutive to 190 years in prison after pleading guilty to 74 hate crimes and firearms charges related to the Nov. 19, 2022, mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ establishment in Colorado Springs.  

According to the plea agreement, Aldrich admitted to murdering five people, injuring 19, and attempting to murder 26 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated attack at Club Q. According to the plea, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded, privately manufactured assault weapon, and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until subdued by patrons of the club. As part of the plea, Aldrich admitted that this attack was in part motivated because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

“Fueled by hate, the defendant targeted members of the LGBTQIA+ community at a place that represented belonging, safety, and acceptance — stealing five people from their loved ones, injuring 19 others, and striking fear across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that the Justice Department is committed to protecting the right of every person in this country to live free from the fear that they will be targeted by hate-fueled violence or discrimination based on who they are or who they love. I am grateful to every agent, prosecutor, and staff member across the Department — from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, to the Civil Rights Division, the ATF, and FBI — for their work on this case. The Justice Department will never stop working to defend the safety and civil rights of all people in our country.”

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI and our partners have worked tirelessly towards this sentencing, but the true heroes are the patrons of the club who selflessly acted to subdue the defendant. This Pride Month and every month, the FBI stands with the survivors, victims, and families of homophobic violence and hate.”

“ATF will not rest until perpetrators like this defendant are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Steven Dettelbach, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “I hope today’s life sentence brings at least some peace to the victims and survivors of this senseless, horrific tragedy. That this sentence should come during Pride month reinforces how far we have left to go before all communities, including all LGBTQIA+ communities, are safe here. It also shows how far ATF and all our partners will go to ensure hatred does not win.”

“The defendant’s mass shooting and heinous targeting of Club Q is one of the most devastating assaults on the LGBTQIA+ community in our nation’s history. This sentence cannot reclaim the lives lost or undo the harms inflicted. But we hope that it provides the survivors, the victims’ families, and their communities a small measure of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our message today should be loud and clear. No one should have to fear for their life or their safety because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate hate-fueled, bias-driven attacks.”

“Hate has no place in our country and no place in Colorado” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado. “I hope that today’s sentence demonstrates to the victims and those connected to this horrific event that we do not tolerate these heinous acts of violence.”

The FBI Denver Field Office, Colorado Springs Police Department, and ATF investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Connaughty and Bryan Fields for the District of Colorado and, Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

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Federal Government

EXCLUSIVE: Robert Garcia urges US officials to protect LGBTQ people during Pride Month

Gay Calif. congressman sent letter to top authorities on June 12

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Participants of the Capital Pride Festival in D.C. on June 8, 2024. Gay U.S. Congressman Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) has urged U.S. officials to ensure LGBTQ people are safe during Pride Month. (Washington Blade photo by Emily Hanna)

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on June 12 sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray to work to ensure LGBTQ people during Pride events.

“Over the last several weeks, your respective agencies and departments have issued stark warnings, and travel advisories to the public over potential threats from foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), and their supporters during this year’s Pride Month,” said Garcia in his letter. “I understand that these steps have come after deeply concerning increases in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, calls for targeted violence, and foiled violent plots.”

The FBI on May 10 issued an advisory that warned of potential violence at Pride events and other LGBTQ-specific events. The State Department on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia — announced a similar warning.

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance,” wrote Garcia, a gay man who represents California’s 42nd Congressional District that includes Long Beach.

June 12 also marked eight years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, even though there is no evidence that suggests the extremist group ordered him to carry out the massacre. 

“This week marks the eight (sp) anniversary of the horrific Pulse nightclub Orlando shooting — during which the attacker deliberately and viciously targeted the LGBTQ+ community,” wrote Garcia in his letter. “It is important to put the recent escalation of extremist anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda and messaging in the context the Pulse nightclub shooter who was influenced by these same forces of extremism.”

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