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Tempers flare over negative messages in Va., S.F.

Victory Fund defends ‘attack’ mailings amid criticism from Cleve Jones, other Dems



Negative campaign messages were unleashed on behalf of openly gay candidates in Virginia and San Francisco during the past two weeks, raising the ire of LGBT activists and their straight allies.

In both cases, the messages were issued by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a non-partisan group that raises money and campaigns to help elect openly LGBT candidates across the country.

One of the group’s messages, issued in the form of an email sent to the Victory Fund’s members and donors, targeted Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston), who is being challenged by gay Republican Patrick Forrest, an attorney and former senior official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The other message came in the form of a mailing that targeted San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is being challenged in his race for San Francisco mayor by gay former San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Both are Democrats and the two are among 16 candidates running in the hotly contested mayoral race.

Victory Fund spokesperson Denis Dison said the email in Virginia and the mailing in San Francisco were aimed at informing Victory Fund supporters in Virginia and mostly LGBT voters in San Francisco of the gay candidates’ qualifications and their opponents’ shortcomings as part of a widely used campaign practice in American politics.

But the messages angered some gay Democratic activists in Virginia as well as LGBT Democrats and independents in San Francisco who are backing Herrera. The messages were signed by Victory Fund president and CEO Chuck Wolfe.

In the Virginia email, Wolfe cited a Washington Blade story last month that reported Forrest and his supporters had accused the Howell campaign of using “gay baiting” tactics against Forrest. The Blade story reported that Forrest and his supporters learned that a Democratic Party volunteer approached voters and asked them if they knew that Forrest was gay and allegedly told them he would promote a “homosexual agenda” in the state’s public schools.

Without mentioning Howell by name, Wolfe stated in his email, “That kind of divisive campaigning has no place in politics, and it’s wrong no matter which party does it.

“We’re standing up for Patrick because openly gay voices in politics are far too rare in places like Virginia, and because he’ll be the only openly LGBT Republican state legislator in America if he wins his campaign,” Wolfe said in his email.

Howell told the Blade the Democratic campaign worker was not part of her campaign and acted without authorization and was quickly dismissed from any role in the party dealing with the Howell campaign.

Leaders of LGBT Democrats of Virginia, a statewide group, called Howell one of the LGBT community’s strongest straight allies in the Virginia Legislature. The group notes that Democrats are clinging to a razor-thin majority in the State Senate and a defeat for Howell and just one other Democrat would flip the Senate into the control of Republicans, opening the way for passage of anti-gay bills next year and the certain defeat of LGBT-supportive legislation.

“I get their interest in wanting to endorse a gay candidate,” said Terry Mansberger, chair of the Virginia Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus. “But I don’t think it was necessary to attack Janet Howell, a very supportive LGBT ally.”

Mansberger said Forrest’s support for LGBT equality, including same-sex marriage, would make him a welcome addition to the State Senate. But he called Forrest’s candidacy ill timed and the Victory Fund’s support for him irresponsible, saying the ouster of Howell and a GOP takeover of the Senate would be devastating to LGBT equality in Virginia for at least the next two years.

David Lampo, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Virginia, a gay group that has endorsed Forrest, disputes that assessment, saying Democrats would likely retain control of the Senate through wins in other races. He said Forrest would be a strong advocate for LGBT rights in the Senate and within the Senate’s GOP caucus regardless of whether Republicans gain control of the body.

Dison of the Victory Fund disputed claims by Howell and her gay supporters that the Victory Fund had attacked Howell or issued an “attack” ad, as some Howell backers have described it.

“Based on information published by the Washington Blade, the Fund asked its own supporters via email to donate to Patrick’s campaign in the face of gay-baiting reportedly employed by Democratic Party operatives,” Dison said. ”That email never mentioned the name of Patrick’s opponent, so charges that we have somehow “targeted” or “attacked” her are baseless.”

In a separate race, Democrat Adam Ebbin, a gay member of the Virginia House of Delegates, is considered the strong favorite to win a seat in the State Senate representing parts of Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax counties.

The Victory Fund has also endorsed Ebbin. Lampo said his group chose not to endorse Ebbin’s Republican opponent, political newcomer Tim McGhee. Lampo said McGhee declined to endorse proposed legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for state employees.

McGhee created a stir last month when he appeared before an election forum sponsored by the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance and recited biblical passages to stress his personal beliefs as a Christian and questioned whether most gays are comfortable reconciling their sexual orientation and religious upbringing.

Similar to Ebbin, Forrest has expressed strong support for legislation banning employment discrimination for Virginia state employees as well as other LGBT-supportive measures, including marriage equality for same-sex couples and the repeal of a state constitutional amendment approved by Virginia voters in 2006 that bans same-sex marriage in the state.

In a development that LGBT activists see as a positive sign, a third openly gay candidate in Virginia will be on the ballot in the Nov. 8 election. Michael Sutphin, 27, a public affairs coordinator at Virginia Tech University, is running for a seat on the Blacksburg, Va., Town Council.

Sutphin is a graduate of Virginia Tech University, which is located in Blacksburg, and served as president of the college’s LGBT Alliance. He currently serves on the board of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT group.

He’s among five candidates running for three seats up for election on the Blacksburg Council. Under the town’s election rules, the three candidates receiving the highest number of votes win election to the seats. Sutphin received the endorsement of the Roanoke Times, the region’s most prominent daily newspaper.

In San Francisco, the Victory Fund mailing outraged some LGBT activists who are supporting Herrera, a City Attorney who is considered one of the strongest LGBT-supportive politicians in California.

Both Herrera and Dufty, along with most of the other 14 candidates in the mayoral race, are Democrats.

Dufty is vying to become the first openly gay mayor in a city considered to be the nation’s epicenter of LGBT rights and equality. The Victory Fund, which endorsed him earlier this year, released its campaign mailing against Herrera last month at a time when Herrera was considered Dufty’s strongest competitor for LGBT votes.

The ad includes a brightly colored depiction of a fish impaled on a hook described as a fishing “lure,” which the ad says illustrates how powerful law firms in the city landed lucrative city contracts from the Office of the City Attorney, which Herrera headed. The ad, citing news media sources, says at least five law firms that donated to Herrera’s campaign for mayor have received a combined total of more than $1.2 million in city contracts.

“The donors are fishing and Dennis Herrera is taking the bait,” the ad says.

Victory Fund spokesperson Dison said his group produced the ad independently from the Dufty campaign without the approval of — or any interaction with — Dufty’s campaign. Dison noted that the practice is used widely by Democrats and Republicans in election campaigns as a means of informing voters of the shortcomings and potential problems of an opponent.

“There’s some criticism there, but it’s all coming from people who are involved in local politics and who have their own candidates and old rivalries,” Dison said. “It gets extremely complicated, but they’re essentially asking us to back off from our support for Bevan Dufty, and we’re not going to,” he said.

“He is an obviously viable and an experienced candidate,” Dison said of Dufty “He has been in government for more than 20 years. He has been elected twice to the Board of Supervisors. And the Bay Area Reporter, when they endorsed him, said he is as qualified as anybody in the field of candidates and it’s time we elected a gay person as mayor.”

The Bay Area Reporter is San Francisco’s LGBT community newspaper. The city’s two LGBT Democratic Clubs, the Harvey Milk and Alice P. Toklas clubs, endorsed Herrera over Dufty.

However, the Toklas Club endorsed Dufty for “second choice” in a first-of-its-kind mayoral voting system for San Francisco that allows every voter to select three candidates and designate them as their first, second and third choice for mayor.

San Francisco gay activist Cleve Jones, a collaborator with San Francisco’s famed gay leader Harvey Milk in the 1970s and the lead organizer of the 2009 LGBT Equality March on Washington, is supporting Herrera. He said he’s outraged over the Victory Fund’s attack ad targeting Herrera in an effort to boost Dufty’s candidacy.

Jones points to Dufty’s role as a lead supporter of the appointment of then San Francisco City Administrator Ed Lee as interim mayor in January of this year. At the time, Lee, who became the city’s first Asian-American mayor, promised he would not seek election for a full term. The Board of Supervisors appointed him mayor to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Gavin Newsom, who resigned after winning election as lieutenant governor.

Lee upset many of his fellow politicians and city officials when he announced he had changed his mind and would enter the mayoral race this year. Many in the Asian-American community along with other supporters urged him to run, saying, among other things, that his role as the city’s first Chinese mayor was historic and he should stay on as mayor beyond his interim appointment.

Jones told the Blade that he and other LGBT activists believe Dufty entered the race as Lee’s stalking horse, with the aim of taking gay votes away from Herrera, who has been viewed as a longstanding champion among gay voters.

“All of the polls show that Bevan is not placing at all,” Jones said.

Dufty, in a telephone interview with the Blade on Tuesday, called Jones’ claims “ridiculous.” He said that under the new voting system for mayor that gives voters three choices, he believes he has a strong chance of winning the race in the second round of “virtual” vote counting.

Under the new system, if no candidate receives at least 51 percent of the “first choice” vote, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the city counts the second choice votes of that candidate. The process is repeated until a candidate obtains a 51 percent majority.

Dufty, who said he’s convinced the vote count will go to at least one additional round, points out that he has raised $1.3 million for his campaign, the second highest amount raised after Lee, who raised just under $1.5 million. He said polls showing Lee far ahead of all the other candidates are wrong because the polls can’t accurately predict the outcome in the “ranked choice” voting system.


State Department

State Department hosts intersex activists from around the world

Group met with policy makers, health officials, NGOs



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’



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



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

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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