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DNC open to funding fight against anti-gay amendments

N.C., Minnesota voters to decide on marriage bans

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DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The chair of the Democratic National Committee said Tuesday she would “certainly consider” spending money to combat anti-gay constitutional amendments next year in Minnesota and North Carolina.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz made the remarks about spending DNC funds to defeat marriage amendments in response to a question from the Washington Blade. She took questions from reporters following an Immigration Equality event she attended in D.C.

Wasserman Schultz, also U.S. House member representing a district in Florida, said state party groups are now focusing on defeating amendments banning same-sex marriage and the national Democratic Party would consider sending resources if asked to do so.

“I know that the party in each of those states will be combatting them,” Wasserman Schultz said. “And if they ask for our assistance, like any other state party request, we’ll certainly consider it.”

Wasserman Schultz added the Democratic Party has a lot to accomplish in the 2012 election and said the best way to defeat anti-gay initiatives at the polls will be “by turning out our Democratic voters who generally overwhelmingly oppose initiatives like that.”

Both Minnesota and North Carolina will vote on amending their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage in 2012. The North Carolina amendment will come before voters in May and the Minnesota measure will come before voters in November.

Activists have criticized the DNC for its lack of attention to anti-gay state measures in the past. In 2006, gay Democratic activist Paul Yandura stirred up controversy by distributing an open letter criticizing the party for not doing enough to defeat anti-gay measures in the states.

In 2009, John Aravosis, the gay editor of AMERICAblog, took aim at the DNC for asking Maine Democrats to assist with the New Jersey governor’s race while saying nothing about the marriage initiative on the ballot in the state at the time.

Whether Democrats will come to the polls to vote on the North Carolina amendment remains in question because it will be the only ballot question on which they can vote.

The issue will come before state voters in May at the same time as the Republican presidential primary, which is a modified closed primary. All North Carolinians can vote on the marriage amendment, but only registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters can vote in the primary.

In response to another question from the Blade, Wasserman Schultz wouldn’t venture to say whether the Democratic Party platform in 2012 would endorse same-sex marriage.

“I really don’t know,” Wasserman Schultz said. “We don’t dictate what’s included in our platform. The members of our platform committee will come up with that.”

Asked whether there would be any pro-LGBT changes in the platform, Wasserman Schultz said she couldn’t give specifics because the platform committee will make that decision, but she added, “I’m very confident and I believe strongly that we should have as inclusive as possible LGBT agenda as part of our platform.”

A transcript of the exchange between reporters and Wasserman Schultz follows:

Q: I’d like to ask you some questions about the Democratic Party platform for 2012. What kind of pro-LGBT changes are we going to see in the platform in 2012 compared to what we had in 2008?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: It’s a little bit early to tell. I feel confident that we will have an LGBT platform that will be part of our overall platform. We have a platform committee that gets put together to develop what will be in it for the convention. I can’t tell you specifically what’s likely to be in it because the members of the DNC and the participants who serve on the platform committee make that decision but I’m very confident and I believe strongly that we should have as inclusive as possible LGBT agenda as part of our platform.

Q: Do you think we’ll see an endorsement of same-sex marriage as part of that platform?

Wasserman Schultz: Like I said, I really don’t know. We don’t dictate what’s included in our platform. The members of our platform committee will come up with that.

Q: As a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, are you at all confident that it’s going to pass before the election next year?

Wasserman Schultz: Well, we have Republicans who are opposed to comprehensive immigration reform, and even more opposed to including same-sex bi-national couples in any kind of immigration reform, so, no. With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives I’m not confident, sadly, that it will become law before the end of this Congress.

Q: U.S. House John Boehner tripled the cost cap for the defense fund for the Defense of Marriage Act any reaction to that?

Wasserman Schultz: It’s just colossally insensitive, but it’s also outrageous that the person who’s second in line to the president would actually spend time and resource defending a blatantly unconstitutional law. It’s morally wrong and it’s legally wrong, and it’s unconscionable because the speaker, like myself and all the other 435 members of the House swear to uphold the constitution. It’s just unfathomable to me that he would pursue that path.

Q: Congresswoman Lofgren sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking U.S. Customs & Immigration Services to stop putting —

Wasserman Schultz: To put the [green card] applications [for bi-national same-sex couples] in abeyance —

Q: Is there a reason who didn’t sign the letter?

Wassserman Schultz: I’m not even sure I was asked to sign on to the letter.

Q: Is it something that you would have signed or would support?

Wasserman Schultz: I support them being put in abeyance, but I don’t know that I was asked to go on the letter. Given that I’m the chair of the DNC, it’s a little odd for me to be asking the administration to do specific things. So, I personally support it, but because I’m also the political voice of the president, asking the president to do things publicly can get a little awkward.

Q: Two battles that the LGBT community are concerned about in 2012 are going to be anti-gay marriage amendments in Minnesota and North Carolina. Do you think we’ll see DNC resources going to combat those amendments in those states?

Wasserman Schultz: I know that the party in each of those states will be combatting them. And if they ask for our assistance, like any other state party request, we’ll certainly consider it. We have a lot to accomplish in the next election. The best way we can benefit those causes in defeating amendments like that is by turning out our Democratic voters who generally overwhelmingly oppose initiatives like that. So, we spend resources in a state getting our voters to the polls and maximizing that opportunity will help do that.

Q: Do you have any comment on Herman Cain’s assertion on “The View” this morning that homosexuality is a choice?

Wasserman Schultz: Did he do that?

Q: He said that on The View this morning.

Wasserman Schultz: Yes, I totally disagree with Herman Cain. Homosexuality is not a choice. It is something that occurs through birth. It’s hereditary, and it’s shockingly out of touch and insensitive for him to suggest outdated, ancient — and sends a terrible message to gay kids, to gay Americans that somehow they should be treated differently and that we don’t recognize that sexuality is simply a matter of the way you were born.

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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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