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DNC open to funding fight against anti-gay amendments

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



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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  1. customartist

    October 6, 2011 at 8:31 am

    When the Democratic National Committee DECIDES to both Fund and Fight Anti-Gay initiatives then I will make my contributions to the DNC.

    We shall see what the DNC does, or does not do, in North Carolina. So far – no good, I am sorry to report.

    Contact the DNC here and ask them to step it up a bit:

  2. Jos. A. Mustich

    October 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Those snakes? Dont bet on it.
    Cheers, Joe Mustich, CT USA
    Justice of the Peace

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In a historic first, Colorado now has a 1st gentleman as Gov. Polis marries

The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date



Governor Jared Polis and 1st Gentleman Marlon Reis exchange vows (Screenshot via CBS News Denver)

DENVER – Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis married his longtime partner Marlon Reis in a ceremony that marked the first same-sex marriage of a sitting Out governor in the United States.

The couple was married Wednesday in a small traditional Jewish ceremony at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Reis had matriculated and graduated from. The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date.

“We met online and went out on a date and we went to the Boulder bookstore and then went to dinner,” Polis told KCFR-FM, Colorado Public Radio (CPR).

In addition to family and close friends in attendance, the couple’s two children participated with their 7-year-old daughter serving as the flower girl and their 9-year-old son as the ring bearer.

The governor joked that their daughter was probably more thrilled than anyone about the wedding. “She was all in on being a flower girl. She’s been prancing around. She got a great dress. She’s terrific,” he said CPR reported.

Their son was also happy, but more ambivalent about it all according to Reis. “Kids are so modern that their responses to things are sometimes funny. Our son honestly asked us, ‘Why do people get married?”

Colorado’s chief executive, sworn in as the 43rd governor of Colorado in January 2019, over the course of nearly 20 years as a political activist and following in public service as an elected official has had several ‘firsts’ to his credit.

In 2008 Polis is one of the few people to be openly Out when first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as well as being the first gay parent to serve in the Congress. Then on November 6, 2018, he was the first openly gay governor elected in Colorado and in the United States.


Gov. Jared Polis And First Gentleman Marlon Reis Are Newlyweds

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U.S. Catholic theologians call for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections

Joint statement says church teachings support equality



More than 750 of the nation’s leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, educators, and writers released a joint statement on Sept. 14 expressing strong support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The six-page theological statement, “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” was scheduled to be published along with the names of its 759 signatories as a four-page advertisement on Sept. 17 in the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper widely read by Catholic clergy and laypeople.

The statement was initiated by New Ways Ministry, a Mount Rainier, Md., based Catholic group that advocates for equality for LGBTQ people within the church and society at large.

“As Catholic theologians, scholars, church leaders, writers, and ministers, we affirm that Catholic teaching presents a positive case for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people,” the statement says. “We affirm the Second Vatican Council’s demand that ‘any kind of social or cultural discrimination…must be curbed and eradicated,’” it says.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” the statement adds.

The statement notes that its signers recognize that a “great debate” is currently taking place within the Catholic Church about whether same-gender relationships and transgender identities should be condoned or supported.

“That is a vital discussion for the future of Catholicism, and one to which we are whole-heartedly committed,” the statement continues. “What we are saying in this statement, however, is relatively independent of that debate, and the endorsers of this statement may hold varied, and even opposing, opinions on sexual and gender matters,” it says.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministries executive director, said his organization and the signers of the statement feel the issue of nondiscrimination for LGBTQ people can and should be supported by Catholic leaders and the church itself even if some are not yet ready to support same-sex marriage and sexual and gender identity matters.

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders,” DeBernardo said. “Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position,” he said. 

DeBernardo said those who helped draft the statement decided it would be best to limit it to a theological appeal and argument for LGBTQ equality and non-discrimination and not to call for passage of specific legislation such as the Equality Act, the national LGBTQ civil rights bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

The Equality Act calls for amending existing federal civil rights laws to add nondiscrimination language protecting LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. The U.S. House approved the legislation, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

“We wanted this to be a theological statement, not a political statement,” DeBernardo said.

He said organizers of the project to prepare the statement plan to send it, among other places, to the Vatican in Rome and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed opposition to the Equality Act.

Among the key signers of the statement were 242 administrators, faculty, and staff from Sacred Heart University, a Catholic college in Bridgeport, Conn. New Ways Ministries says the statement was circulated by the school’s administration and eight of its top leaders, including President John Petillo, are among the signers.

Some of the prominent writers who signed the statement include Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking;” Richard Rodriquez, author of “Hunger of Memory;” Gary Wills, author of “Lincoln at Gettysburg;” and Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked.”

The full text of the statement and its list of signatories can be accessed at the New Ways Ministry website.

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Activists reflect on Black Trans Lives Matter movement resurgence

Blade speaks with Alex Santiago, Jasmyne Cannick



An I Am Human Foundation billboard along Atlanta's Downtown Connector expressway on Feb. 22, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The world came to a standstill last year as a video surfaced online that showed then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd. The video went viral and sparked numerous protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S. and around the world as many people felt it a potent time to relay their frustrations with and to their governments.

For the LGBTQ community, these protests brought to light the need for human rights for transgender individuals as the murders of people like Tony McDade in Florida and Nina Pop in Missouri reawakened the flame within the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.

A tribute to Tony McDade in downtown Asheville, N.C., in June 2020. McDade was a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade more than a year later spoke with Alex Santiago, executive director of the I Am Human Foundation in Atlanta, and Jasmyne Cannick, a Democratic political strategist and journalist in Los Angeles, to reflect on last year’s Black Trans Lives Matter movement, how far it has come, and what’s in store for the future. 

Uplifting voices often silenced

Participating in the Black Lives Matter protests was an easy decision for Santiago. He is a member of the Legendary House of Garcon, a ballroom house headquartered in D.C. 

Although the house is composed mostly of LGBTQ members, Santiago still felt the need to center trans voices and experiences by visually representing them during Black Lives Matter marches. 

“[I decided that] when I go I’m going to have signs that say ‘Black Trans Lives Matter.’ After talking to a couple of the people in the house, they said it was a great idea. So, they got these t-shirts made that incorporated the trans colors [baby blue, baby pink and white],” says Santiago.

Out of the 250 people in the Legendary House of Garcon, 175 showed up to D.C. from other states to march in solidarity with Black trans people. Santiago says that from what he was told, his was the largest group of activists representing Black trans lives at protests. 

“At first I thought people were going to look at us crazy, like, ‘Why are you separating yourselves or being exclusive?’. But, we got a great response from the general population that was there that day. It was a good day,” says Santiago.

Cannick, who was in Los Angeles during the protests, lent her efforts to platforming pertinent issues. She identifies herself as an ally and a “friend” to the LGBTQ community. 

“I’m active in the LA community and everybody knows me. So, whenever something happens, someone is hurt, someone is killed or someone needs to get the word out about something that’s going on particularly as it relates to the trans community, I’m always asked to get involved, and I do,” says Cannick. 

Over the past year, she reported on multiple LGBTQ issues including the trial of Ed Buck, a Democratic political fundraiser who was convicted in the deaths of two gay Black men who he injected with methamphetamine in exchange for sex.

What happened to the BTLM movement and what needs to change?

The nature of many social movements is that as the intense emotion surrounding them fades, people’s fervor for change wanes as well. This is especially true with allies who are not directly linked to the cause.

“Fatigue and frustration at the relatively slow pace of change to a growing backlash on the right against efforts to call out systemic racism and white privilege — has led to a decline in white support for the Black Lives Matter movement since last spring, when white support for social justice was at its peak,” US News reports about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cannick believes this is the same for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. She says Americans allow the media to dictate how it behaves and responds to issues. Thus, when stories “fall out of our media cycles … they fall out of our memories.”

“I think that’s not going to change, and that’s a psychological thing, until we learn how to not let the media necessarily dictate our issues,” says Cannick. 

She suggests that individuals remain plugged into their communities by “doing anything to make sure they keep up with an issue” including following the “right people” on social media and setting up Google alerts for any breaking news. 

Jasmyne Cannick (Photo courtesy of Jasmyne Cannick)

Santiago also echoes Cannick’s sentiments. 

“We wait until something happens before we do something. And, I don’t want to be retroactive; I want to be proactive. I want people to see me when things are going well [and when they’re not going well],” says Santiago. 

Upon returning to his home in Atlanta after the D.C. protests, Santiago contacted a billboard installation company and paid for a billboard labelled, “Black Trans Lives Matter” to be displayed on University Avenue near downtown Atlanta. He says that the billboards got attention and helped to spread much-needed awareness. Following this success, he is now in the process of installing a new billboard labelled, “Black, Trans and Visible. My life Matters.”

“Unless you’re in people’s faces or something drastic happens, people forget. Unless you’re living it, people forget,” says Santiago.

As time progresses, both Santiago and Cannick nest hope for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. However, this hope can only persist when crucial steps are taken to ensure Black trans individuals around the country are protected, most importantly through legislation.

The New York Times reports there are close to 1,000 elected LGBTQ officials in the U.S., with at least one in each state except Mississippi. 

“We need to have more legislation. We need more voices in power like the council Biden has right now,” says Santiago. 

“You know that [Biden] has a lot of trans people and Black trans people [involved], and a part of that’s a positive step in the right direction, but we need that times 10,” says Santiago.

He believes that political representation should extend to local governance where ordinary Black trans individuals can be trained to assume leadership roles. 

Cannick’s focus is on the Black community. 

“[Trans women] are usually murdered by Black men. If we ever expect that to change, we need to start talking about that,” says Cannick.

She’s open to having conversations that put people, including her as a cis-identifying woman, in uncomfortable and awkward spaces. 

She hosts a podcast titled “Str8 No Chaser” and recently aired an episode, “Why Are Black Men Killing Trans Women,” where she discussed with three Black trans women about the gender and sexuality dynamics within the Black community and their perils. 

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