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GOP presidential hopefuls sign anti-gay marriage pledge

Romney, Bachmann, Santorum pen their names to document

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Mitt Romney was among the GOP candidates who signed the marriage pledge (Blade file photo by MIchael Key)

A trio of Republican presidential candidates have signed a pledge promising to oppose same-sex marriage if elected to the White House and to establish a presidential commission to “investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters.”

The three GOP candidates — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum — each penned their names to the pledge, which was written by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, praised the three Republican presidential candidates in a statement for signing the pledge.

“Many candidates say they support traditional marriage (like President Obama!) but three GOP presidential candidates today stand head and shoulders above the crowd as marriage champions, for their willingness to go beyond words to commit to concrete actions,” Brown said. “We are grateful to Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for their courage and their leadership in standing up for marriage, and so are millions of Americans who care about protecting marriage.”

According to a NOM statement, an opportunity to sign the marriage pledge will be extended to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’s widely expected to enter the race for the White House, as well as other major candidates if they enter the race.

Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said the Republican candidates who signed the pledge are getting “nothing but bad press” because it has “detracted from our party’s commitment to addressing issues that matter to all Americans.”

“The last thing Republicans need or want is another group pushing the same outdated social agenda under new branding,” Berle said.

By signing the document, the three presidential candidates pledge to:

* support and send to the states a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country;

* defend in court the Defense of Marriage of Act, a 1996 law that prohibit federal recognition of same-sex marriage;

* appoint judges and a U.S. attorney general who “will respect the original meaning” of the U.S. Constitution;

* support legislation that allowing D.C. resident to vote on whether to abrogate the district’s same-sex marriage law;

* and appoint a presidential commission to “investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters.”

The persecution faced by those who speak out against same-sex marriage has been a frequent claim from those who oppose gay nuptials.

Last month, during a Senate hearing on DOMA, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asserted Republicans wanted to invite a witness to testify against in favor of the anti-gay law. Grassley didn’t name the potential witness, but said she declined to appear because of “the threats and intimidation that have been leveled not only against her but her friends and family as a result of her support of DOMA.”

Following the passage of Proposition 8, which ended same-sex marriage in California, several Mormon churches were vandalized and white powder resembling anthrax was sent to Mormon leaders. The Mormon Church was seen as having a lead role in the campaign to pass the marriage ban. However, no incidents of physical violence against supporters of Prop 8 were reported.

Romney’s decision to sign the pledge is noteworthy because he earlier declined to sign a similar anti-gay marriage pledge pushed by Iowa activist Bob Vander Plaats. At the time, Romney said he wouldn’t sign the pledge — which was signed by Pawlenty and Bachmann — because he believed it would be “undignified and inappropriate.”

The Romney campaign couldn’t be reached to comment on why he would sign one pledge opposing same-sex marriage, but not another.

The former Massachusetts governor has consistently opposed same-sex marriage. When marriage rights for gay couples were legalized in the Bay State, Romney called for a state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Romney has also called for a Federal Marriage Amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country.

In a statement to the Washington Blade, Berle took particular exception with Romney’s decision to pen his name to the pledge.

“As Republicans who want to see Barack Obama out of the White House, it is unfortunate that Gov. Romney has chosen to relegate himself to a position that’s out of step with America,” Berle said. “Our country needs candidates who will offer serious solutions on issues like runaway government spending, the debt ceiling, not inserting government into citizen’s personal lives.”

The absent signature of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who’s also pursuing the Republican nomination, is also noteworthy. Like Romney, Pawlenty also declined to sign the marriage pledge pushed by Vander Plaats. However, Pawlenty said he opposes same-sex marriage and has called for a state and federal constitutional amendments banning gay nuptials.

In an e-mail to the Blade, Maggie Gallagher, NOM’s co-founder and chair, said a Pawlenty spokesperson called her and confirmed Pawlenty wouldn’t sign the pledge. The Pawlenty campaign couldn’t be reached to comment on the matter.

Bachmann and Santorum have repeatedly spoken out against same-sex marriage. Since the start of her presidential campaign, Bachmann has said she’s fine with New York’s recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage, but also has said she’d back a Federal Marriage Amendment, which would rescind marriage rights there.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Last week, Santorum, who’s also consistently backed a Federal Marriage Amendment, said during a Denver, Colo., speech that New York has “destroyed marriage” by legalizing gay nuptials.

“It is not fine with me that New York has destroyed marriage,” Santorum said. “It is not fine with me that New York has set a template that can cause great division in this country. There is not 50 definitions of marriage.”

UPDATE: On Friday, Brown announced in an appearance on MSNBC that Pawlenty would, in fact, sign the pledge. The NOM president said marriage is “an important issue on the federal level and we’re very excited that not only three, but now a fourth candidate has signed on — Tim Pawlenty we got word last night is signing on.”

Watch the video of Brown’s remarks (via Think Progress):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B97gJo1h7ik&feature=player_embedded

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State Department

State Department hosts intersex activists from around the world

Group met with policy makers, health officials, NGOs

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The State Department last week hosted a group of intersex activists from around the world. (Courtesy photo)

The State Department last week hosted five intersex activists from around the world.

Kimberly Zieselman, a prominent intersex activist who advises Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad, brought the activists to D.C.

• Morgan Carpenter, co-founder and executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia

• Natasha Jiménez, an intersex activist from Costa Rica who is the general coordinator of Mulabi, the Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights

• Julius Kaggwa, founder of the Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development Uganda

• Magda Rakita, co-founder and executive director of Fujdacja Interakcja in Poland and co-founder of Interconnected UK

• Esan Regmi, co-founder and executive director of the Campaign for Change in Nepal.

Special U.S. Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine are among the officials with whom the activists met.

Zieselman told the Washington Blade on Sept. 21 the activists offered State Department officials an “intersex 101” overview during a virtual briefing.

More than 60 Save the Children staffers from around the world participated in another virtual briefing. Zieselman noted the activists also met with Stern, U.N. and Organization of American States officials, funders and NGO representatives while in D.C.

“The people we met were genuinely interested,” Rakita told the Blade.

Stern in an exclusive statement to the Blade said “the visiting intersex activists clearly had an impact here at State, sharing their expertise and lived experience highlighting the urgency to end human rights abuses, including those involving harmful medical practices against intersex persons globally.” Andrew Gleason, senior director for gender equality and social justice at Save the Children US, in a LinkedIn post he wrote after attending his organization’s meeting with the activists echoed Stern.

“There are many learnings to recount from today’s discussion, but one thing is clear, this is unequivocally a child rights issue, and one that demands attention and action at the intersection of LGBTQI+ rights, reproductive rights and justice, disability justice and more,” wrote Gleason. “Gratitude to the panelists for sharing such poignant testimonies and providing insights into what organizations like ours can do to contribute to the broader intersex movement; and thank you to Kimberly for your leadership and bringing this group together.”

The activists’ trip to D.C. coincided with efforts to end so-called sex “normalization” surgeries on intersex children.

Greek lawmakers in July passed a law that bans such procedures on children under 15 unless they offer their consent or a court allows them to happen. Doctors who violate the statute face fines and prison.

Germany Iceland, Malta, Portugal and Spain have also enacted laws that seek to protect intersex youth. 

A law that grants equal rights and legal recognition to intersex people in Kenya took effect in July 2022. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory earlier this year passed the Variation in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023.

Intersex Human Rights Australia notes the law implements “mechanisms to regulate non-urgent medical care to encourage child participation in medical decisions, establish groundbreaking oversight mechanisms and provide transparency on medical practices and decision making.” It further points out the statute “will criminalize some deferrable procedures that permanently alter the sex characteristics of children” and provides “funding for necessary psychosocial supports for families and children.”

“It’s amazing,” Carpenter told the Blade when discussing the law and resistance to it. “It’s not perfect. There was some big gaps, but physicians are resisting every step of the way.”

The State Department in April 2022 began to issue passports with an “X” gender marker.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. Zzyym in October 2021 received the first gender-neutral American passport.

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Federal Government

Federal government prepares for looming shutdown

White House warns of ‘damaging impacts across the country’

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U.S. Capitol Building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

However remote they were on Monday, odds of avoiding a government shutdown were narrowed by Thursday evening as House Republicans continued debate over their hyper-partisan appropriations bills that stand no chance of passage by the Upper Chamber.

As lawmakers in the Democratic controlled Senate forged ahead with a bipartisan stop-gap spending measure that House GOP leadership had vowed to reject, the federal government began bracing for operations to grind to a halt on October 1.

This would mean hundreds of thousands of workers are furloughed as more than 100 agencies from the State Department to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation roll out contingency plans maintained by the White House Office of Management and Budget. On Thursday the Office of Personnel Management sent out memos to all agencies instructing them to ready for a shutdown on Sunday.

Before 1980, operations would continue per usual in cases where Congress failed to break an impasse over spending, as lapses in funding tended to last only a few days before lawmakers brokered a deal.

Since then, the government has shut down more than a dozen times and the duration has tended to become longer and longer.

“Across the United States, local news outlets are reporting on the harmful impacts a potential government shutdown would have on American families,” the White House wrote in a release on Thursday featuring a roundup of reporting on how the public might be affected.

“With just days left before the end of the fiscal year, extreme House Republicans are playing partisan games with peoples’ lives and marching our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country,” the White House said.

The nature and extent of that damage will depend on factors including how long the impasse lasts, but the Biden-Harris administration has warned of some consequences the American public is likely to face.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for example, warned: “There is no good time for a government shutdown, but this is a particularly bad time for a government shutdown, especially when it comes to transportation.”

Amid the shortage of air traffic controllers and efforts to modernize aviation technology to mitigate flight delays and cancellations, a government shutdown threatens to “make air travel even worse,” as Business Insider wrote in a headline Thursday.

Democratic lawmakers including California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, meanwhile, have sounded the alarm in recent weeks over the consequences for the global fight against AIDS amid the looming expiration, on Oct. 1, of funding for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

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Federal Government

QAnon follower pleads guilty to threatening member of Congress

Conspiracy movement claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world

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QAnon banner at a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Va., in 2020. (YouTube screenshot from Anthony Crider)

A New Mexico man has entered a plea deal after being charged with a federal criminal complaint of making threats through interstate communications directed at a member of Congress.

Federal prosecutors charged Michael David Fox, a resident of Doña Ana County, for calling the Houston district office of an unnamed member of Congress on or about May 18, 2023, and uttering threats that included knowingly threatening to kill an active member of Congress.

The plea agreement was brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Damian L. Martinez of U.S. District Court in New Mexico in the Las Cruces by Fox’s attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office in August.

According to the criminal complaint as outlined by a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal investigator for the Albuquerque Field Office, Las Cruces Resident Agency, on May 18 at approximately 9:04 p.m. Fox called the office of a congresswoman for the District of Texas, U.S. House of Representatives (Victim One/”V1″), who is from Houston. The call was received by V1’s office.

In the phone call Fox stated “Hey [Vl], you’re a man. It’s official. You’re literally a tranny and a pedophile, and I’m going to put a bullet in your fucking face. You mother fucking satanic cock smoking son of a whore. You understand me you fucker?” 

Law enforcement was able to trace the call back to Las Cruces, N.M., and it was believed that Fox was the user of cell phone account used to make the call. According to the FBI agents who interviewed Fox, he admitted to making the call.

Fox acknowledged that the threat was direct but claimed that he did not own any guns. Fox
claimed to be a member of the Q2 Truth Movement, the Q Movement. Fox explained these
movements believe all over the world there were transgender individuals running
governments, kingdoms and corporations. 

Fox told the FBI that there is a plan called “Q the Plan to Save the World” which he learned about from an online video. Fox claimed that he believed Q was going to engage in the “eradication” of the people who were causing all the world’s misery. He believed that part of the eradication had already happened.

Fox explained that he had run Vl’s skull features through forensic analysis and determined
that Vl was born male and is now trans. Fox discussed his military service with the
U.S. Air Force, “Q the Plan to Save the World,” and how God communicates using
numbers. 

Fox continued to reiterate several different types of conspiracy theories indicating
extreme far right ideologies as his explanation for why he conducted the phone call to
threaten V1.

According to the FBI, Fox rescinded his threat against Vl and apologized. Fox claimed he was not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs when he made the call. Fox stated he understood how Vl would feel threatened by his phone call, and he acknowledged that anyone he knew or cared about would also be concerned with such a threat.

The charge of interstate threatening communications carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

QAnon began in 2017, when a mysterious figure named “Q” started posting on the online message board 4chan, claiming to have inside access to government secrets. Since then, QAnon has grown into a conspiracy movement that claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world. It is claimed by QAnon adherents that former President Donald Trump is the only person who can defeat them. 

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based journalist Ana Valens, a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship and sex workers’ rights noted that Fox appears to be a “transvestigator.” Valens noted that the transvestigation conspiracy theory is a fringe movement within QAnon that claims the world is primarily run by trans people. Phrenological analysis is common among transvestigators, with a prominent focus on analyzing celebrities for proof that they are trans.

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