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Perry shakes up GOP presidential race

Texas guv — subject of gay rumors — opposes marriage equality

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Bachmann

Rep. Michele Bachmann won an Iowa straw poll, barely edging out Rep. Ron Paul. She was later grilled on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ but evaded a question about whether she would hire an openly gay member to her administration. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Since he officially announced his candidacy for president on Aug. 13, Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) has reminded Republican voters of his support for a U.S. constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Perry, who has emerged as one of the three leading GOP presidential contenders, has also reminded conservative party activists that he played a lead role in helping to pass a 2005 Texas constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Political observers have said Perry appears to be pushing his credentials as a same-sex marriage opponent following criticism he received from social conservative leaders last month, when he said the New York State Legislature’s approval of a same-sex marriage bill could be defended on the principle of states’ rights.

“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex,” Perry told an audience in Aspen, Colo. “And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” he said.

“That is their call,” he added. “If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”

Perry’s comments about the New York marriage bill drew an immediate outcry from anti-gay groups, including the Family Research Council. But in a subsequent interview with Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins, Perry noted that among his core beliefs is the view that marriage can only be between one man and one woman.

While he remains a strong supporter of states’ rights, Perry told Perkins that the approval of same-sex marriage laws in states like New York could eventually lead to a situation where all states would have to recognize those marriages.

“Indeed to not pass the federal marriage amendment would impinge on Texas and other states not to have marriage forced upon us by these activist judges and special interest groups,” he said.

Rumors that have surfaced in Texas over the past decade about Perry having an affair with a male member of his administration, and his concern over the unconfirmed reports, may explain why Perry hasn’t been as outspoken against LGBT issues as the other GOP candidates in the race, according to Michael Mitchell, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats.

The weekly Austin Chronicle, along with various state blogs, have reported on the rumors, some of which have questioned Perry’s sexual orientation. Perry’s supporters have called the rumors scurrilous, saying no evidence has ever surfaced to give them any credibility.

Perry announced his candidacy on the same day that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) won the Iowa straw poll among GOP presidential contenders, elevating her position in the eyes of most political pundits as one of the three “top tier” Republican presidential candidates based on polling numbers, fundraising capability and other factors.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who didn’t compete in the Iowa straw poll, remains at the head of the pack of GOP presidential candidates, according to the pundits and polls. Perry is considered the other member of the top three.

Romney and Bachman have each come out strongly for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Bachmann, whose husband operates a discredited “ex-gay” counseling practice, captured 29 percent of the nearly 17,000 votes cast in the Ames, Iowa, straw poll.

Libertarian U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), came in second with 28 percent of the vote. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty came in third with 14 percent, prompting him to drop out of the presidential race.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum finished fourth with 10 percent, while businessman Herman Cain came in fifth with 9 percent.

Bachmann, Paul, Santorum, Cain, and Pawlenty have each expressed opposition to same-sex marriage. Pawlenty came under fire from conservative activists when he said he supported civil unions for same-sex couples.

Dennis Coleman, executive director of the statewide LGBT group Equality Texas, said LGBT leaders in the state have yet to meet with Perry during his nearly 11 years as governor.

Perry won election as lieutenant governor in 1998 and assumed office as governor in 2000 when then-Gov. George W. Bush resigned after winning election as president. Perry won election to full terms as governor in 2002, 2006, and 2010.

Coleman said Perry this year signed two bills considered to be beneficial to the LGBT community, an anti-bullying measure and a suicide prevention measure. But Coleman noted that both bills enjoyed strong bipartisan support and did not include specific language mentioning LGBT people, even though the bills benefit LGBT youth who are subjected to bullying and susceptible to suicide.

According to Coleman and Mitchell, Perry has opposed nearly all LGBT-related bills introduced into the state legislature during his time as governor, including legislation to ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mitchell said Perry nevertheless has not been as outspoken in his opposition to LGBT-related issues as many of the other GOP presidential candidates, especially Bachmann and Santorum.

Christian Berle, deputy executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, a national LGBT group, praised Perry’s record in Texas on economic issues and his support for the anti-bullying and suicide prevention bills.

“We look forward to seeing Gov. Perry keep his commitment to states’ rights and the 10th Amendment when it comes to respecting the decisions of states to recognize relationships,” Berle said.

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U.S. Supreme Court

LGBTQ groups commemorate 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Equality Florida staffers attended vice president’s speech in Fla.

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The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that had been issued on Jan. 22, 1973. LGBTQ advocacy groups this week commemorated the 50th anniversary of the landmark decision. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 1973, issued its Roe v. Wade ruling that ensured the constitutional right to an abortion for all American citizens. The Supreme Court last June overruled this landmark decision.

Fifty years later, LGBTQ activists are among those who have commemorated Roe, despite the fact the Supreme Court has overturned it. The decision, which has since caused tension between liberal and conservative groups, prompted federal and state lawmakers to act upon the sudden revocation of what many consider to be a fundamental right. 

Roe’s legal premise relied heavily upon the right to privacy that the 14th Amendment provided; however, legal experts argued that it was a vague interpretation of the amendment.

Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday delivered remarks on Roe’s anniversary in Tallahassee, Fla., saying how most “Americans relied on the rights that Roe protected.” 

“The consequences of the Supreme Court’s ruling are not only limited to those who need reproductive care,” said Harris. “Other basic healthcare is at risk.”

The overruling of Roe put into question the security of other long-held precedents, such as Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriages, and Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision that legalized interracial marriages, because they rely on the same right to privacy that upheld Roe.

In that same speech, Harris announced President Joe Biden would issue a presidential memorandum to direct all government departments to ensure access to abortion pills at pharmacies.

“Members of our Cabinet and our administration are now directed, as of the president’s order, to identify barriers to access to prescription medication and to recommend actions to make sure that doctors can legally prescribe, that pharmacies can dispense, and that women can secure safe and effective medication,” Harris affirmed. 

LGBTQ organizations and other human rights groups continue to work to protect reproductive rights.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said she found it intolerable that “an extremist set of judges” had taken away an important right not only for women, but also nonbinary people, trans men, and the entire LGBTQ+ community.

“Because we know that reproductive rights are LGBTQ+ rights, and that so many in our community rely on access to abortion care and other reproductive health services,” said Robinson in regards to Roe’s 50th anniversary. “The ripple effects of this decision will impact the most marginalized among us the most, and we cannot stand for that.”

“Overturning Roe v. Wade was the first time in history that the Supreme Court has taken away rights, and we know that they will not stop there,” added Robinson. “This is a dangerous turning point for our country, and we have to affirmatively defend against this assault.” 

Robinson said HRC is working with coalition partners to fight the roll-back of abortion rights at the state and federal level. 

Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, a statewide LGBTQ rights group in New Jersey, said his organization is “laser-focused on ensuring that people with trans and nonbinary experiences are experiencing lived equality, which includes bodily autonomy.” 

Equality Florida showed its support of Roe by standing alongside Harris during her Tallahassee speech with several other lawmakers and activists. They also denounced Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ antiabortion policies, as well as the Florida legislature. 

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Virginia

Va. Senate approves marriage equality affirmation bill

State Sen. Adam Ebbin sponsored SB 1096

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would affirm marriage equality in state law.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s Senate Bill 1096 passed by a 25-12 vote margin. 

“My bill ensuring that Virginians have the right to marry who they love regardless of their sex, has passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote,” tweeted the openly gay Alexandria Democrat.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia also noted SB 1096 passed with bipartisan support.

“Virginia is for all lovers,” tweeted the ACLU of Virginia. “Our law should reflect our values.”

Ebbin has also reintroduced a resolution to begin the process of repealing a Virginia constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The resolution is currently before a Senate subcommittee.

SB 1096 now goes to the Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates.

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Washington

Federal court upholds Wash. conversion therapy ban

State lawmakers in 2018 prohibited debunked practice for minors

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The William Kenzo Nakamura U.S. Courthouse for the 9th Circuit in Seattle. (Photo by Joe Mabel)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Monday rejected a therapist’s request for the court to reconsider its previous decision upholding Washington State’s law protecting minors from so-called conversion therapy by licensed health professionals.

Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that attempts to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Washington prohibited licensed mental health professionals from subjecting minors to conversion therapy in 2018, as more than 20 other states have also done.

Last September, the 9th Circuit wrote: “In relying on the body of evidence before it as well as the medical recommendations of expert organizations, the Washington Legislature rationally acted by amending its regulatory scheme for licensed health care providers to add ‘performing conversion therapy on a patient under age eighteen’ to the list of unprofessional conduct for the health professions.”

“The 9th Circuit has affirmed that states can require licensed mental health providers to comply with ethical and professional standards prohibiting the use of unnecessary, ineffective, and harmful treatments on their minor patients,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter. “These are common sense protections that unfortunately are necessary to prevent unethical therapists from defrauding parents and causing severe harm to LGBTQ youth. Every major medical and mental health organization in the country supports these laws, which are supported by decades of research and clear standards of care.”

“We applaud the 9th Circuit for permitting states to protect survivors like myself from the unethical practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ which has wreaked havoc on thousands of LGBTQ youth and their families,” said Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and co-founder of Born Perfect. 

In 2018, Washington passed a law prohibiting state-licensed therapists from engaging in conversion therapy with a patient under 18-years-old. Every leading medical and mental health organization in the country has warned that these practices do not work and put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression, substance abuse and suicide. Twenty-five states and more than 100 localities have laws or administrative policies protecting youth from these practices or preventing the expenditure of state funds on conversion therapy.

In 2021, an anti-LGBTQ legal group filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new law on behalf of Brian Tingley, a therapist and advocate of conversion therapy.

Tingley, who is represented by the Scottsdale, Ariz.,-based anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, identifies himself as a “Christian licensed marriage and family therapist” and alleges in the court filings that the provided definition of “conversion therapy” is “vague, content-biased and biased against one perspective or point of view.”

NCLR successfully moved to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Equal Rights Washington, the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization and a primary supporter of the law during the legislative process. ERW and Washington State urged the court to uphold the law in light of the overwhelming consensus of medical and mental health professionals that conversion therapy poses a serious risk to the health and well-being of Washington’s youth. In August 2021, the federal district court for the Western District of Washington upheld the law and rejected Tingley’s challenge.

In September 2022, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, ruling that state laws protecting minors from conversion therapy by licensed health professionals are constitutional. Tingley then asked the full 9th Circuit to order the September decision to be reconsidered by a larger panel of 9th Circuit judges. Today, the court rejected that request. 

The court’s order means that the September 2022 panel decision upholding the Washington law will be the 9th Circuit’s final decision in the case.

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