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Ron Paul’s heartless stance on health care

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Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul apparently learned nothing from the death of his 2008 campaign chairman, a gay man named Kent Snyder.

Snyder, 49, died of pneumonia in 2008. He was uninsured and left about $400,000 in unpaid medical bills to his surviving mother. Paul was criticized at the time for failing to offer his campaign staffers medical insurance. The Blade covered the story extensively back then and interviewed Paul about it. His lame defense was that no campaign offered health insurance, a false claim — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain’s campaigns all offered health insurance to staff.

At last week’s Tea Party debate, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Paul what should happen to an uninsured 30-year-old man who needed six months of hospitalization.

“In a society that you accept socialism and welfarism, he expects the government to take care of him … he should assume responsibility for himself,” came Paul’s heartless response.

Blitzer replied, “Are you saying society should just let him die?”

In response, the bloodthirsty, unsympathetic crowd yelled, “Yeah!”

You’d think that the death of a trusted campaign aide — who Paul said was instrumental in helping him decide to run in 2008 — would prompt some soul-searching and deeper thinking about the state of America’s health care system. But obviously that’s not the case for Paul, who happens to be a medical doctor.

The full 2008 Blade story is re-posted below:

 

Ron Paul supporters mourn death of gay campaign chair

With no health insurance, Snyder leaves $400K in hospital bills

 

By LOU CHIBBARO JR.

Activists belonging to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party continue to mourn the loss of Kent Snyder, a 49-year-old gay political operative credited with propelling the presidential campaign of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) into a national, grassroots movement that raised more than $35 million.

Snyder, who served as Paul’s campaign chair, died of pneumonia on June 26 after being hospitalized for about two months and after running up medical bills exceeding $400,000, according to friends and family members, who said he did not have health insurance.

Gay staffers from the Paul campaign, some speaking on condition that they not be identified, said they learned about Snyder’s unpaid medical bills from a web site created by his friends that calls on Paul supporters to contribute to a special fund to help Snyder’s family pay the bills, which come mostly from a two-month hospitalization. So far, the site (kentsnyder.com) has raised about $32,000.

“I can’t believe he didn’t have health insurance,” said one political activist who read about Snyder’s unpaid medical bills in a story published last month in the Wall Street Journal. “I can’t believe that Ron Paul didn’t give him health insurance,” said the activist, who asked not to be identified.

The Journal story did not identify Snyder as gay; a Washington Post obituary reported Snyder died of viral pneumonia but did not mention his sexual orientation.

Craig Max, a D.C. gay Republican activist who sought to become a Ron Paul delegate to the Republican National Convention, said news of Snyder’s death and his lack of health insurance has triggered a behind-the-scenes debate among Paul supporters and libertarian activists over whether or not the Paul campaign should have provided health insurance to its staff.

Among the points raised, according to Max and others involved in the Paul campaign, is the fact that Paul is a practicing physician. Some of the Paul supporters are asking why a medical doctor, whose campaign raised $35 million in contributions, chose not to offer health insurance for his staff.

When asked at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday about concerns raised by critics that his presidential campaign did not provide employee health insurance, Paul said only that he doesn’t believe any political campaigns offer health insurance.

“I don’t know of any campaign that has health insurance for temporary and other employees,” he said. “I’ve never had it and I’ve been in this business for 30 years. I don’t know any campaign that does.”

At least three gay Paul supporters said it was well known among Paul campaign insiders that Snyder was gay. Although Snyder shunned the public spotlight, activists and political operatives working on the campaigns of rival GOP presidential candidates, including officials with the McCain campaign, recognized Snyder’s efforts in building a major campaign operation for Paul, Paul’s gay supporters said.

“As far as his being out, I don’t think that he was ever in or anything like that,” said Jesse Benton, who served as communications director for the Paul presidential campaign. “But his romantic life was just not something that was discussed. He was the boss and that was that.”

Benton said Snyder confided in him that he had a chronic blood disorder. He said that Snyder told him the name of the disorder but Benton said he does not remember it.

“To my knowledge, Kent did not have HIV,” Benton said. “He expressed to me a couple of times what his blood disorder was, but I believe [the HIV speculation] to just be a rumor.”

Benton said it was Snyder himself who made the decision not to provide health insurance to the campaign staff.

“Kent Snyder as the chairman of the campaign ran the business operation,” Benton said. “So it was his decision as to what would be offered to employees.”

Benton said Snyder’s decision was not unusual in the realm of political campaigns.

“As a general practice, virtually no political campaigns offer health insurance,” Benton said. “It’s just not done. A campaign is a temporary organization that could disband at any minute.”

But gay Democratic activist and political consultant Steve Elmendorf disputes Benton’s assessment, saying that in recent years, a growing number of campaigns have begun providing health insurance to paid staffers, with the campaigns of Democratic candidates offering medical coverage in greater numbers than Republican candidates.

Jordan Lieberman, publisher of Campaigns and Elections’ Politics Magazine, which is considered an authority on American political campaigns, said that in the recent past, health insurance was almost never offered by campaigns operated by either Republicans or Democrats. Now, Lieberman said, the trend among larger campaigns, especially presidential campaigns, is to offer health insurance benefits.

Spokespersons for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain said both campaigns provide full health insurance coverage to their paid staff. A spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign said Clinton also provided health insurance coverage to campaign staffers before she ended her campaign in early June.

On his own web site, Paul called Snyder’s death a “great loss” to the libertarian movement.

“Kent poured every ounce of his being into our fight for freedom,” Paul said. “He will always hold a place in my heart and in the hearts of my family. We deeply mourn his loss.”

Paul praised Snyder for playing a key role in advancing libertarian causes and noted that Snyder began his association with him in 1987, when he worked on Paul’s first run for president.

“Over the next 20 years, we worked together on countless projects in the name of freedom,” Paul said. “It was Kent, more than anyone else, who urged me to run again for president” in 2008.

Gay libertarian activists have praised Paul for his longstanding views calling for all Americans to be free from government intrusion into their private lives through laws and regulations. Paul voted against a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

But according to a scorecard on the voting records of members of Congress on gay-related issues, Paul voted against the interests of gays on all issues other than the marriage amendment. In the Human Rights Campaign scorecard for the 109th Congress (2005-2006), the latest scorecard that the group has issued, Paul received a score of 38 on a scale from 0 to 100. According to HRC, Paul received a score of 25 for the 108th Congress (2003-2004) and a 0 in the 107th Congress (2000-2002).

Similar to most libertarians, Paul opposed bills like the Employment Non- Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and a hate crimes bill, which would authorize the federal government to prosecute anti-gay hate crimes, on grounds that such legislation improperly expands government powers.

Liberal blogger Rob Kall, in a July 5 posting on Opednews.com, called Kent Snyder’s death and his unpaid medical bills an ironic twist to Snyder’s libertarian philosophy.

“What a testament to the libertarian creed, which abhors the idea of universal health care,” Kall wrote. “This loyal, passionate man who died too young left his family a debt of $400,000 in medical bills,” he said. “Sadly, the libertarian heart apparently does not include health care.”

Benton and others who knew Snyder said he gave up a lucrative career as a telecommunications industry executive to work for one of Paul’s libertarian organizations before becoming the head of the Paul for president campaign. Benton said Snyder’s friends and associates from the campaign are now especially concerned that Snyder’s unpaid medical bills could adversely impact Snyder’s mother.

“I do know that Kent was an extremely proud man and he was basically financially supporting his mother and allowing her to live in a property he owned,” Benton said. “As someone who respected him very much — he had a lot of people who respected him a lot — we all know that he would turn over in his grave if his mother has to leave that property.

“So it was important for us to do what we could,” Benton said. “And I’m not a wealthy man but I made a small contribution, Dr. Paul has made a personal contribution, and a lot of the campaign staff have given what they could,” he said, referring to the special fund to help pay off Snyder’s medical bills.

 

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Opinions

Joe Biden, our fiercest ally

Outgoing president leaves powerful legacy for LGBTQ equality

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President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Biden bowed out of the presidential race on Sunday after weeks of pressure following his debate performance in June. He leaves a long record of support for the LGBTQ community as a key part of his powerful legacy and he has raised the bar for future presidents when it comes to fighting for our community. 

We’ve never had a fiercer ally in the White House — a president who pledged to make LGBTQ rights his top legislative priority and described anti-transgender discrimination as the “civil rights issue of our time.” He has celebrated Pride month with us each year as well as the Trans Day of Visibility and taken criticism from the right for it. He includes us in the State of the Union Address and other high-profile speeches. 

Young voters mustn’t get complacent; such sentiments from a sitting president are not the norm. Biden’s leadership on LGBTQ equality means the next Democratic president has big shoes to fill. Vice President Kamala Harris would certainly continue Biden’s work toward equality, specifically by pushing for passage of the Equality Act, which Biden backed and which passed the House but died in a Senate filibuster in 2021.

Biden has changed the game in myriad ways, especially when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion in federal appointments. The country has never had a Senate-confirmed openly LGBTQ Cabinet member before (no, Ric Grenell doesn’t count as he was not confirmed). Pete Buttigieg’s tenure as Transportation Secretary has seen its challenges, but he has proven himself a capable, polished executive unafraid of taking on Fox News antagonists. As the Victory Fund noted this week, “LGBTQ+ people have received a record number of federal appointments, including Cabinet members, judges, and around 14% of the administration.” In addition to Buttigieg, he appointed Dr. Rachel Levine as the first out transgender person to hold an office that requires Senate confirmation. And Biden made more history, naming Karine Jean-Pierre, a Black lesbian, as his press secretary.

It’s outrageous that it took until 2021 for an out Cabinet secretary and thanks to Biden, we can look forward to many more.

Biden also led in advocating for marriage equality, endorsing the idea days before his boss President Obama in 2012 and just six months before the election. It was a bold and brave move that even LGBTQ advocates discouraged. As president, Biden fought successfully to preserve marriage equality in the increasingly likely event that the historic Obergefell ruling is overturned by our discredited MAGA Supreme Court. The Respect for Marriage Act ensures that the federal government and all U.S. states and territories must recognize same-sex and interracial marriages. Biden signed it and held a massive event on the White House lawn bringing together hundreds of LGBTQ advocates from around the country for a truly joyful celebration of the landmark legislation. 

In a historic move just last month for Pride, Biden pardoned veterans who were discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

“This is about dignity, decency, and ensuring the culture of our Armed Forces reflect the values that make us an exceptional nation,” he said.

Biden began his term on Jan. 20, 2021, and on that very day, issued an expansive executive order detailing workplace protections for LGBTQ Americans and prohibiting discrimination in education, credit, health care, and housing. And every month since, his administration has ushered in one pro-LGBTQ initiative after another, a list too long to fully recap here. Biden isn’t finished advocating for us. On Aug. 1, new Title IX rules go into effect protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination by expanding existing civil rights law.

It’s a staggering record of support and the LGBTQ community owes Biden and his team a tremendous debt of gratitude. Biden will be remembered fondly and revered by history for taking down Donald Trump, rebuilding our economy, leading us out of a pandemic, and for showing future presidents how to fully embrace and empower the LGBTQ community. He has more than earned our thanks — and a long, healthy retirement in Rehoboth Beach.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

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Thank you, President Biden, for putting the nation first

Now all decent Americans must unite to defeat Trump

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President Joe Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

We certainly owe a major debt of gratitude to President Joe Biden for putting the nation before himself. Not many politicians would do that. We must thank him for understanding that for the country, the imperative is to defeat Donald Trump and his MAGA vision for the United States. A vision we have seen in his first term, his attempt at staging a coup, and now in his platform, and Project 2025. It is so frightening I believe it is what got President Biden to step aside. I am also thankful President Biden endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris. She is ready, and will make a great president. 

This is a seismic moment for our nation — the first time since 1968 that a sitting president decided not to run for a second term. It is much later in the process than that was. But it is the right thing to do. Biden will continue to be our president for nearly six months. He has work to do. He already has a great legacy of 50 years of service to the nation, and he will only add to it before he leaves the presidency. He will work to end the Israel-Hamas war, and to see that Ukraine has what they need to beat back Putin. He will work to strengthen our ties with all our allies. 

I think Biden’s action will energize American voters, and take the focus away from Donald Trump while Democrats refocus the campaign and their message. The focus must be on the evil that is Trump, and those around him. While time is short, the American people do know Kamala Harris. They now will see more of a feisty former prosecutor, senator, and brilliant woman, who will be able to challenge all of Trump’s BS. 

Harris can proudly run on the successes of the Biden/Harris administration. Those include passing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package to increase investment in the national network of bridges and roads, airports, public transport and national broadband internet, as well as waterways and energy systems. Stopping a 30-year streak of federal inaction on gun violence by signing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Making a $369 billion investment in climate change, the largest in American history, through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Providing $10,000 to $20,000 in college debt relief to Americans with loans who make under $125,000 a year. Cutting child poverty in half through the American Rescue Plan. Capping prescription drug prices at $2,000 per year for seniors on Medicare through the Inflation Reduction Act. Passing the COVID-19 relief deal that provided payments of up to $1,400 to many struggling U.S. citizens while supporting renters and increasing unemployment benefits. Achieving historically low unemployment rates after the pandemic caused them to skyrocket. Imposing a 15% minimum corporate tax on some of the largest corporations in the country, ensuring that they pay their fair share, as part of the historic Inflation Reduction Act. Recommitting America to the global fight against climate change by rejoining the Paris Agreement. Strengthening the NATO alliance in support of Ukraine after the Russian invasion by endorsing the inclusion of world military powers Sweden and Finland. Authorizing the assassination of the Al Qaeda terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri, who became head of the organization after the death of Osama bin Laden. Giving Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug prices through the Inflation Reduction Act while also reducing government health spending. Holding Vladimir Putin accountable for his invasion of Ukraine by imposing stiff economic sanctions. Boosting the budget of the Internal Revenue Service by nearly $80 billion to reduce tax evasion and increase revenue. Creating more jobs in one year (6.6 million) than any other president in U.S. history. Reducing healthcare premiums under the Affordable Care Act by $800 a year as part of the American Rescue Plan. Signing the PACT Act to address service members’ exposure to burn pits and other toxins. Signing the CHIPS and Science Act to strengthen American manufacturing and innovation. Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act through 2027. And halting all federal executions after the previous administration reinstated them after a 17-year freeze. It’s a record to be proud of. 

It is now time for Democrats, independents, and all decent Americans, to unite to elect the Democratic ticket and a Democratic Congress. If we do, we can try to unite people, instead of dividing them like Trump and his acolytes are doing. We can win on Nov. 5 and then honor President Biden for his selfless act as the government transitions to our 47th President, Kamala Harris, at noon on Jan. 20, 2025.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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1970-1975: How gay liberation movement grew after Stonewall

Converging with civil rights, women’s liberation, anti-war movements

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Members of the Gay Liberation Front at their communal house, 1620 S St. N.W., Washington, D.C., circa 1971. From left to right: Kashi Rahman, Andy Hughes, Guy Charles, Reggie Haynes, Ronnie, David Aiken, Tim Corbett, unknown, Shima Rahman, unknown, Joseph Covert. (Photo courtesy of the Rainbow History Project, Inc./David Aiken Collection)

In conjunction with WorldPride 2025, Rainbow History Project is creating an exhibit on the evolution of Pride: “Pickets, Protests, and Parades: The History of Gay Pride in Washington.” This is the second of 10 articles that will share research themes for the exhibit. In “Gay and Proud,” we discuss the period between 1970-1975 and how the fledgling gay liberation movement burst on the scenes after the Stonewall Riots, converging with the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, and the anti-Vietnam movement.

Inspired by the Black civil rights movement’s affirmation “Black is Beautiful,” the Mattachine Society of Washington coined the phrase “Gay is Good.” From 1965-1969, the Mattachine Society of Washington coordinated some of the first public demonstrations for LGBTQ equality – pickets on Independence Day called the Annual Reminders. The Gay Liberation Front wanted the 1970 Annual Reminder to be held in New York on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Thus, the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March took place in New York City on June 28, 1970. Signs in this first CSLD March read “Gay and Proud,” a motto that would come to label the annual Stonewall celebrations. Gay Pride has evolved into what President Biden just proclaimed “LGBTQI+ Pride Month.”

Despite the power shift from D.C.’s pickets and Philadelphia’s reminders to New York’s march, Washingtonians remained central to planning the march and its political demands, while also fostering a sense of community among homosexuals, who were starting to call themselves gays. In October of 1969, Nancy Tucker and Lilli Vincenz created The Gay Blade as a newsletter to be distributed in bars. Now called the Washington Blade, Tucker said this about its founding in a 1998 oral history with Rainbow History Project:

“Sometime after that last Fourth of July picket, the people in Mattachine must have begun to talk about how Mattachine could reach out to the gay community, as a whole in Washington, which they had never done before.”

The Gay Liberation Front DC formed in August 1970 with a communal house at 1620 S St., N.W. Its purposes, laid out by David Aiken, were “to establish a sense of community among gay people, build gay self-awareness, and educate the straight community.” GLF-DC and another group, the Gay Activists Alliance, participated in the 1971 May Day protests, which were large-scale anti-Vietnam War civil disobedience actions.

The following year on May 2-7, 1972, to commemorate May Day, GLF-DC coordinated Washington’s first Gay Pride Week. “Across the country these past two years, gay people have been getting it on for a gala spring festival celebrating the fact that we’re gay, we’re proud and we’re together,” its Gay Pride Bulletin No. 1 said. “Parties, shows, rap sessions, platform speakers, gala public picnics — all designed around the theme of GAY TOGETHERNESS — are being staged to show that gay is good and gay is here to stay!”

The goal: “rich, poor, black, white, male, female, in business or in school, in leather or in drag, in ‘the movement’ or in the closet: Gay Pride will be a time when everybody who’s gay in Washington can come to meet on common ground.” Oral history recordings and documents in the Rainbow History Archives show the event was a success, however, it was the only one that GLF-DC planned. Another “Pride” in DC didn’t occur for several years.

Between 1970-1975, countless D.C. gay organizations formed, and they showed up gay and proud in other events: the Black Panthers Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention, the American Psychology Association’s annual meeting and the Iwo Jima Memorial. They also disrupted conferences at Catholic University and carried anti-Nixon banners at his second inaugural. Our WorldPride 2025 exhibit, “Pickets, Protests, and Parades: The History of Gay Pride in Washington,” centers the voices of the event organizers and includes the critics of Pride and the intersection of Pride and other movements for equal rights and liberation. But we need your help to do that: we are looking for images and input, so look around your attic and get involved.

Vincent Slatt volunteers as the director of archiving at the Rainbow History Project; Elinor Aspegren is a member of RHP. Visit rainbowhistory.org to get involved.

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