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GOProud calls Social Security a ‘Ponzi scheme’ for gays

Paying for benefits we’re ‘prevented from taking advantage of’

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In advance of last night’s GOP presidential debate, GOProud, a conservative LGBT group, repeated a charge by Texas Gov. Rick Perry characterizing Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” — at least for LGBT Americans.

“There will be plenty of lively discussion on the stage tonight about Social Security: its history, where it stands today, and its future,” said GOP executive director Jimmy LaSalvia in a statement. “One thing, however, is absolutely clear – for gay and lesbian Americans Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”

Calling for reform of the system that includes some standard Republican ideas such as private accounts, LaSalvia sounded a tone more like the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force than the Republican National Committee. The announcement appeared to mark a subtle shift in tone from previous press releases that shocked the community by, among other things, praising Ann Coulter after she made anti-gay remarks and criticizing the president’s jobs bill on the eve of the implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“Every Ponzi scheme has its winners and losers, and for gay people in this country we are the losers in the Social Security system,” the release continued.

Though many LGBT activists may not be on the same page with the specific reforms that GOProud advocates in the letter, most will likely agree with the stern condemnation of inequalities faced in federal programs like Social Security due to the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We don’t have any position on whether or not it’s a ‘Ponzi scheme’ in general, what is clear cut is it’s a ‘Ponzi scheme’ for gay people,” GOProud board chair Chris Barron told the Blade. “We’re paying in for benefits that we’re being prevented from taking advantage of.”

GOProud leaders believe the remedy to the inequities in Social Security lies in instituting optional individual personal savings accounts that allow the owner to choose any beneficiary they desire — same-sex or opposite sex spouse.

“If you’re Leona Helmsley and you want to leave it to your dog, you can,” Barron continued. “It’s your money.”

“The Social Security system, as structured today, is state sanctioned institutional discrimination against gay and lesbian people in this country,” Barron said. “Obviously, [GOProud is] a gay organization, and we bring a particular perspective to everything, and we think Social Security is an area where we can put aside our partisan differences and creating something like optional accounts would give gay people the same kind of opportunity and remove the inequities between gay couples and straight couples.”

“There are some things in there that we can agree with,” National Stonewall Democrats’ Michael Mitchell told the Blade. “There are some ways that the law can be tightened up so that Social Security can be available for everyone. But saying we need to do away with Social Security isn’t the right answer.”

“It’s a safety net, it’s not a Ponzi scheme, it looks like that because as gay people we don’t get back what straight people do because of [the Defense of Marriage Act better known as DOMA], but we do get something back,” Mitchell continued in response to GOProud. “Most of Social Security is tied to the marital contract and until we do away with DOMA that’s always going to be an issue.”

Mitchell said the tone of GOProud’s announcement was much different than previous statements from the sometimes provocative organization.

“Maybe they’re learning their lesson that just throwing bombs at the gay press doesn’t endear yourself to anyone,” Mitchell said. “Aligning yourself with Ann Coulter and Andrew Breitbart and people who are against the gay community doesn’t make you friends. They’ve been out and out combative, and you can see that by the comrades they’ve chosen. Coming to common ground entails some trust. I would need to know that they are coming from an honorable place in order to work on something, and they’d expect that from us. That’s not going to happen as long as the demagoguery is going on.”

“I would like to have a conversation about how to make Social Security equitable for gay and lesbian Americans,” Michell continued. “I think that we start with getting rid of DOMA. I don’t think that’s the only answer though because that sets up inequality between states that don’t have marriage and do have marriage.”

Despite seeing an opening for dialogue, Mitchell does not agree with GOProud’s private accounts plan.

“I know that sounds terrible from a ‘free market’ perspective, but this was set up to take care of seniors and other people who were not being taken care of, and I would prefer to err on the side of caution for something like that.”

“How many seniors would we see now that wouldn’t have any Social Security because they gambled it away in bad investments.”

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State Department

Blinken: PEPFAR ‘shows us what American diplomacy can do’

Secretary of state spoke at World AIDS Day event in D.C. on Friday

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a World AIDS Day event at the Hay-Adams Hotel in D.C. on Dec. 2, 2022. (Screen capture via U.S. Department of State YouTube)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday noted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has saved more than 25 million lives since its launch in 2003.

Blinken, who spoke at the Business Council for International Understanding’s World AIDS Day event at the Hay-Adams Hotel in D.C., said the more than $100 billion the U.S. has earmarked for PEPFAR over the last two decades has funded 70,000 new community health clinics, 3,000 new laboratories and the hiring of 340,000 health care workers.

“Entire public health systems formed, with over a dozen countries which have either reached their HIV-treatment goals or managed control of the virus altogether,” said Blinken.

Then-President George W. Bush in 2003 signed legislation that created PEPFAR. California Democrat Barbara Lee, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief White House medical advisor who is retiring at the end of this month, are among those who played a key role in PEPFAR’s creation.

“PEPFAR has benefitted from bipartisan support, as we’ve heard, across four presidencies, across ten Congresses,” said Blinken. “It’s resulted in an investment of more than $100 billion to the global HIV/AIDS response. This is the largest commitment by one country ever to address a single disease.”

Lee and Fauci were among those who attended the event alongside U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator John Nkengasong; Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine; Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House Coronavirus Response Director, and HIV and Hepatitis Policy Institute Executive Director Carl Schmid.

Blinken in his speech noted “the systems put in place by PEPFAR have become an integral part of the health security architecture of countries around the world.”

Blinken also said PEPFAR has bolstered responses to COVID-19, Ebola and the avian flu.

“We are continuing to build on PEPFAR’s many successes to create a stronger global health security architecture to prevent, to detect, to respond to future health emergencies. Doctor Fauci, you once said that PEPFAR ‘shows what the goodwill of a nation can do,’ and you were right,” said Blinken. “PEPFAR also shows us what American diplomacy can do: Bring together governments, bring together the public and private sectors, communities to tackle challenges that none of us can actually effectively deal with alone and that creates and has created a healthier, safer and ultimately more secure world.” 

Five-year PEPFAR strategy to target LGBTQ people

Blinken acknowledged there is still “very serious work still required for us to end the global HIV health epidemic by 2030,” noting HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately impact LGBTQ and intersex people and other marginalized groups.

“Too many countries still have fragile and insufficiently resourced public health systems, which makes it difficult to offer services beyond HIV/AIDS treatments, and that undercuts our capacity to respond to emerging threats,” he said.

Blinken noted the U.S. on Thursday announced a new PEPFAR strategy that will help “fill those gaps” over the next five years. It includes the following:

• Targeted programming to help reduce inequalities among LGBTQ and intersex people, women and girls and other marginalized groups

• Partnerships with local organizations to help reach “hard-to-reach” communities.

• Economic development and increased access to financial markets to allow countries to manufacture their own antiretroviral drugs, tests and personal protective gear to give them “the capacity to meet their own challenges so that they’re not dependent on anyone else.”

“This latest PEPFAR strategy will keep making advancements like that possible so that millions more people can live healthy lives and live lives to their full potential,” said Blinken. 

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Congress

Hakeem Jeffries makes history with appointment to lead House Democrats

Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, an LGBTQ ally, will become the first Black lawmaker of either party to serve in the top spot of either of the two chambers of Congress

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Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) (Photo public domain)

With his election on Wednesday to take over as House Democratic minority leader next year, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) became the first-ever Black lawmaker from either party who will serve in that role in either of the two chambers of Congress.

House Democrats also chose, for the second and third-highest ranking positions, Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Caif.). All ran unopposed and rather than by formal ballots were elected by voice vote for unanimous consent.

The moves signaled broad consensus among House Democrats in their decision to send the new slate of lawmakers, young and diverse with some progressive bona fides, to serve in the party’s senior leadership positions.

The three lawmakers are all members of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and longtime allies of the community. Jeffries, as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, introduced the Respect for Marriage Act in the House this summer.

The Caucus declined to comment on the House Democratic leadership elections.

When Aguilar succeeds Jeffries in that role next year, it will be the highest-ranking position in House leadership ever held by a Latino member. Clark, meanwhile, will become the second woman to serve as Democratic House Whip after Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the current House Speaker.

Pelosi announced on Nov. 18 her plans to step down from House Democratic leadership after the next Congress is seated. She made history in 2001 as the first woman elected to the second highest-ranking position in the chamber, and then again in 2007 when she took the top slot, becoming the first woman Speaker of the House.

Following her announcement, Pelosi was celebrated for her many legislative accomplishments at the top of her party’s caucus, where she served for two decades under four presidents. A Washington Post column called Pelosi the “best speaker in U.S. history.”

Considering that Pelosi also presided over some of the biggest legislative milestones in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, such as the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Jeffries has a high bar to clear when he’s handed the torch in January.

In addition to his leadership on the Respect for Marriage Act, Jeffries has been a major advocate in Congress for other pro-LGBTQ pieces of legislation like the Equality Act and, in 2014, the Hate Crime Reporting Act.

Jeffries has been a vocal champion of measures to make the U.S. Capitol more welcoming for transgender and gender nonconforming people – such as by calling for single-occupancy gender-neutral restrooms on the Hill and rules that would adopt gender-neutral language in the House.

He has also spoken out forcefully against anti-LGBTQ hate from some members of the House Republican caucus, such as the dangerous rhetoric from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who has repeatedly tried to link queer people to child sexual abuse.

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National

Homeland Security says more attacks against LGBTQ people are possible

Gunman killed five people at ClubQ in Colo. on Nov. 19

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(Public domain photo)

The Department of Homeland Security issued a terror threat bulletin Wednesday warning that domestic extremists have posted online praise for the fatal shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado earlier this month. and have called for copycat attacks.

In its bulletin, Homeland Security officials noted that several recent attacks, plots and threats of violence demonstrate the continued dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment in the U.S:

“Some domestic violent extremists who have conducted attacks have cited previous attacks and attackers as inspiration. Following the late November shooting at an LGBTQI+ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado — which remains under investigation — we have observed actors on forums known to post racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist content praising the alleged attacker. Similarly, some domestic violent extremists in the United States praised an October 2022 shooting at a LGBTQI+ bar in Slovakia and encouraged additional violence. The attacker in Slovakia posted a manifesto online espousing white supremacist beliefs and his admiration for prior attackers, including some within the United States,” Homeland Security warned.

Homeland Security also asked that Americans report potential threats:

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