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Perry signs anti-gay marriage pledge

NOM praises Texas guv as ‘marriage champion’

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry (Photo credit Sandy Wassenmiller)

The newest entry in the field of Republican presidential hopefuls — and current front-runner in the GOP field — has signed his name to an anti-gay pledge to oppose same-sex marriage if elected to the White House.

On Friday, the National Organization for Marriage announced Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who earlier this month officially declared his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, had penned his name to a document committing himself to various initiatives in opposition to same-sex marriage.

In a statement, Brian Brown, NOM’s president, praised Perry and called the thrice-elected Texas governor a “marriage champion” for signing the pledge.

“By doing so, Perry makes crystal clear that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, gay marriage is going to be a bigger issue in 2012 than it was in 2008, because the difference between the GOP nominee and President Obama is going to be large and clear,” Brown said. “We look forward to demonstrating that being for marriage is a winning position for a presidential candidate.”

The Perry campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the candidate’s signing of the pledge.

Other Republican presidential candidates signed the pledge prior to Perry’s entry into the race: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). NOM asserted that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty had also agreed to sign his name to the pledge, but he has since exited the race.

By signing the document, Perry commits upon election as president to undertake several initiatives against same-sex marriage:

* supporting congressional passage and sending to the states a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country;

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

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

* supporting legislation allowing D.C. residents to vote on whether or not to abrogate the district’s same-sex marriage law;

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

Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said Perry’s signature on the anti-gay pledge demonstrates his presidency would be bad news for LGBT Americans.

“Rick Perry’s alignment with NOM and their McCarthy-esque pledge is yet further evidence that a President Perry would be terrible for LGBT equality,” Cole-Schwartz said.

Perry has long been opponent of same-sex marriage. In 2005, he helped pass a state constitutional amendment in Texas banning gay nuptials and civil unions. This year, after initially saying he was “fine” with New York legalizing same-sex marriage, Perry later reiterated support for a Federal Marriage Amendment, which would rescind the Empire State’s marriage law and prohibit same-sex marriage throughout the country.

Since officially entering the race, Perry has become leader in the polls among the Republican presidential candidates. Several polls have shown him with double-digit leads.

According to a Gallup poll published on Wednesday, Perry is 11 points ahead of other prospective Republican presidential candidates. Twenty-nine percent of responders said they’re most likely to support Perry, with Romney next, at 17 percent.

Similarly, according to data published Wednesday from Public Policy Polling, Perry has a full-third of responders’ support among Republican voters. Romney trailed behind with 13 points and Bachmann had 16 percent.

Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a statement Perry’s lead could be temporary because he’s just entered the race, but added the significant lead he has over other candidates may indicate he’ll stay on top longer.

“There have been a lot of flavors of the month in the Republican Presidential race and it’s possible that Rick Perry is just another of those,” Debnam said. “But his support right now is stronger than Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain or Donald Trump or Mike Huckabee’s ever was which suggests he should have more staying power.”

Sean Theriault, who’s gay and a political scientist at University of Texas, Austin, said LGBT people should be “fearful” of Perry’s lead in the polls because the Texas governor on marriage is “at least two steps to the right on this issue than [former President] George W. Bush.”

“If LGBT folks are disappointed in [President] Obama’s lack of progress on LGBT issues, they just don’t understand how politics works,” Theriault said. “To have a friend, who isn’t willing to go all the way to marriage, yet, in the White House is much, much, much better than having an opponent. I’m not certain that Perry would prioritize our issues as much as a President Bachmann, but I think the difference between them on the issues would be marginal at best.”

LGBT people have expressed disappointment with Obama for not being in favor of same-sex marriage — although he once voiced support for gay nuptials in 1996 questionnaire response and suggested his views on marriage could “evolve.” Obama has opposed a Federal Marriage Amendment and, starting this year, has litigated with LGBT advocates against DOMA in court.

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Pennsylvania

Pa. House passes bill to repeal state’s same-sex marriage ban

Measure now goes to Republican-controlled state Senate

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Pennsylvania Capitol Building (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Democratic-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives on July 2 passed a bill that would repeal the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The marriage bill passed by a 133-68 vote margin, with all but one Democrat voting for it. Thirty-two Republicans backed the measure.

The bill’s next hurdle is to pass in the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), a gay man who is running for state auditor, noted to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the bill would eliminate a clause in Pennsylvania’s marriage law that defines marriage as “between one man and one woman.” The measure would also change the legal definition of marriage in the state to “a civil contract between two individuals.”

Kenyatta did not return the Washington Blade’s requests for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country. 

Justice Clarence Thomas in the 2022 decision that struck down Roe v. Wade said the Supreme Court should reconsider the Obergefell decision and the Lawrence v. Texas ruling that said laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations are unconstitutional. President Joe Biden at the end of that year signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government and all U.S. states and territories to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages.

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year signed a bill that codified marriage rights for same-sex couples in state law. Pennsylvania lawmakers say the marriage codification bill is necessary in case the Supreme Court overturns marriage rights for same-sex couples in their state and across the country.

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Pennsylvania

Western Pa. transgender girl killed, dismembered

Pauly Likens, 14, brutally murdered last month

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(Photo courtesy of the LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley)

Editor’s note: The Philadelphia Gay News originally published this story.

BY TIM CWIEK | Prosecutors are pledging justice for Pauly Likens, a 14-year-old transgender girl from Sharon, Pa., who was brutally killed last month. Her remains were scattered in and around a park lake in western Pennsylvania.

“The bottom line is that we have a 14-year-old, brutally murdered and dismembered,” said Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker in an email. “Pauly Likens deserves justice, her family deserves justice, and we seek to deliver that justice.”

On June 23, DaShawn Watkins allegedly met Likens in the vicinity of Budd Street Public Park and Canoe Launch in Sharon, Pa., and killed her. Watkins subsequently dismembered Likens’s corpse with a saw and scattered her remains in and around Shenango River Lake in Clark Borough.

On July 2, Watkins was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He’s being held without bail in the Mercer County jail.

The coroner’s office said the cause of death was sharp force trauma to the head and ruled the manner of death as homicide.

Cell phone records, social media and surveillance video link Watkins to the crime. Additionally, traces of Likens’s blood were found in and around Watkins’s apartment in Sharon, Pa., authorities say.

A candlelight vigil is being held Saturday, July 13, in remembrance of Likens. It’s being hosted by LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley. The vigil begins at 7 p.m. at 87 Stambaugh Ave. in Sharon, Pa.

Pamela Ladner, president of the Alliance, mourned Likens’s death. 

“Pauly’s aunt described her as a sweet soul, inside and out,” Ladner said in an email. “She was a selfless child who loved nature and wanted to be a park ranger like her aunt.”

Acker, the prosecutor, said Likens’s death is one of the worst crimes he’s seen in 46 years as an attorney. But he cautioned against calling it a hate crime. “PSP [Pennsylvania State Police] does not believe it in fact is one [hate crime] because the defendant admitted to being a homosexual and the victim was reportedly a trans girl,” Acker asserted.

Acker praised the criminal justice agencies who worked on the case, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Hermitage Police Department, the Sharon Police Department, park rangers from the Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County Coroner John Libonati, and cadaver dog search units.

“The amount of hours dedicated to the identification of the victim and the filing of charges against the defendant is a huge number,” Acker added. “We take the murder of any individual very seriously, expressly when they are young and brutally killed and dismembered.”

Acker also noted that all criminal defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This is a developing story.

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National

TransTech Social removing barriers to trans success

‘Technology was the key to my freedom’

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From left, TransTech members B Hawk Snipes, E.C. Pizarro III, Ang R Bennett, and Adrian Elim. (Photo by Lexi Webster Photography)

It is common knowledge that women earn 84% of the average worker. Less common knowledge? Trans women earn 60% of the average worker. Trans men and non-binary people come in at around 70%, while 16% of all trans people make less than $10,000 annually. 

E.C. Pizarro III was lucky, and he knew it. He had a BFA in graphic design and had taught himself how to code. As a stealth trans man in a corporate job, he had access to a stable wage and good benefits. “People that do not have experiences in corporate America or with equitable employment don’t realize [these things] are privileges that a lot of people don’t have access to.” 

He wanted to give back and was gearing up to bring more volunteer work into his life by participating in a fraternity for trans men. When he went to a TransTech event and learned about the educational and career resources for trans people who face barriers to entering the workforce, he knew he had found his place. 

At the event he met, Angelica Ross. Yes, that Angelica Ross, of “Pose” and “American Horror Story.”

Before she was Candy, Ross was a self-taught coder. She went from posing for an adult website to doing its back-end coding to teaching her trans siblings how to succeed in tech. 

“Technology was the key to my freedom,” Ross said in an interview with The Plug. “Technology took me from being exploited on someone’s website to building my own websites and to building websites for other people and getting paid to do so.”

Pizarro was impressed and wanted to help. “I went up to Angelica and I was like ‘Hey, I’m a trans man. These are my skills. I’m down to volunteer and do any type of work—the one caveat is that I’m stealth. You can’t tell anybody that I’m trans.’”

For four years, Pizarro helped from mostly behind the scenes, sometimes getting side-eyed since people thought he was a cis man in trans spaces. “I was still stealth as the Director of Social Media and Communications for the National Trans Visibility March in 2019,” Pizarro says, chuckling a little.

But by that point, Ross — who headlined the 2019 march — was overextended trying to balance being a world-famous actress, advocate, and businesswoman. 

She needed someone to step in as executive director of TransTech and looked to the group of dedicated volunteers. Pizarro was elected by his peers to take the reins of the organization. 

This was a turning point for Pizarro. “I’m very passionate about tech and for me a small sacrifice of being open with my trans experience to liberate other trans people,” he said. “I felt like if that’s something I got to do, then I’m gonna do it.”

And he did it. The infrastructure Ross put together worked: with mentorship, education, community, and networking with trans-accepting employers, trans people were gaining financial security and independence. 

So, Pizarro focused on expanding TransTech as widely as possible. “We have grown exponentially over the last three years,” he says. “When I took over in 2021, we had about 800 members based in the United States. Now we support over 6,700 members across 50 countries.”

TransTech is filling a demonstrated need within specifically the trans community. New research from LGBT Tech found that 68% of transgender adults use the internet to find LGBTQ-friendly employment (compared to 38% of cisgender LGBTQ+ adults). More than 70% of all LGBTQ adults use the Internet to access educational content.

Accessibility is central to the TransTech programming. Despite the growth, everything remains free. “There’s no membership fee. All of our programming is free. All of the certifications and educational resources are free,” Pizarro says. 

They know the financial burden the trans community faces — 29% of trans adults live in poverty. “If we’re asking anyone to up-skill [for a cost] and these are the things they are going through, we are asking them to invest in their future versus their meal today.” 

Pizarro believes that accessibility is more than just making the training free. He wants the community to understand that tech work is something they are innately capable of doing. 

“TransTech was built on the foundation of nontraditional tech. It’s not always coding. It’s graphic design. It’s social media. It’s video editing. It’s anything that uses a piece of technology and nowadays almost everything uses a piece of technology,” says Pizarro.

He emphasizes to participants: “You’re in tech and you don’t even know it,” pointing out how many already utilize tech skills like marketing and monetization with their social media accounts.

Some people involved in the programming are nervous about entering the “tech world” because of headlines about tech layoffs. He makes sure to emphasize that unlike in some other jobs, tech companies often pay generous severance packages, which gives employees “breathing room.” Pizzaro explains that “once you have experience with one tech company, you can go someplace else and make a substantial amount of money as well.” 

While TransTech is designed for the gender-diverse community, the programming is open to everyone Pizarro explains. “We just ask that you don’t be transphobic.” (Or any of the other -phobics too, he says, listing them off.) He also emphasizes that this allows trans members who are not out to comfortably participate. 

Pizarro wants everyone to understand that they don’t just belong in tech, but they make tech better. “Tech is most profitable when you have diverse people building the tech and using the tech,” Pizarro says. “There is an intentional funding as well as support to diversity tech because they understand how that impacts the product.”

He also reminds participants that they have developed transferrable skills in every part of their lives. “I like to tell people if you can manage your life as a trans person in the United States or anywhere you can manage a project.”

Angelica Ross was a self-taught coder before she hit it big with ‘Pose.’ (Washington Blade file photo by Linus Berggren)
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