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Young, gay caucus-goers talk politics, support for GOP

Romney, Paul find support from some gay Iowans

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Several young gay Iowa caucus goers discuss which GOP candidates they will support today. (Washington Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

DES MOINES, Iowa — For some gay Iowa Republicans, the 2012 presidential election is about more than just LGBT issues.

Economic issues and a belief in limited government are trumping concerns that the GOP presidential contenders are hostile to LGBT rights.

The Washington Blade interviewed five young gay Des Moines residents who will be among the estimated 120,000 Iowa Republican caucus-goers about why they support the GOP this year.

C.J. Petersen, 21, a customer service representative for Nationwide Insurance, is backing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney because of the candidate’s business background.

Petersen said he became interested in Romney as a high school senior in 2007 when he saw him speak during his last presidential run.

“I think, this year, he’s been a 100 percent better candidate,” Petersen said. “If you compare the YouTube videos from ’08 to now, he seems a lot less robotic and choppy and nervous. I think he seems a lot more relaxed, and almost presidential, ready to be a leader.”

Two other gay Iowa residents interviewed by the Blade said they’re backing Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) because of the candidate’s libertarian views.

Dereck Plagmann, 21, said he’s in the Paul camp because of the candidate’s adherence to the U.S. Constitution.

“I think it’s something that we’ve definitely drifted away from,” Plagmann said. “We need to get back to it basically. Other presidents, everybody’s trying to make changes to it. They’ve lost focus on what really made this country, and what made us who we are.”

Zach Coffin, 22, a collector for Wells Fargo bank, also plans to back Paul.

“I think that’s basically what this country needs right now is someone that will defend the core values and the core principles of the Constitution of the United States,” Coffin said. “That’s one thing that Ron Paul is focusing on well.”

MORE IN THE BLADE: ROMNEY, SANTORUM SHOW NEW STRENGTH IN IOWA POLLS

Two other gay caucus participants interviewed by the Blade had yet to make a decision on a candidate, but intend to support a Republican.

Bryan Pulda, 21, a processor for Wells Fargo Bank, said he still needs to research each of the GOP candidates.

“I come from a farming family, so it’s conservative or Catholic,” Pulda said. “Our personal views are more reflected in the Republican candidates.”

Although he hasn’t made a final choice, Pulda said he’s leaning toward backing Paul because he believes the candidate’s politics “are consistent” and he “hasn’t been in the news with anything controversial.”

Ryan Schrader, 22, who works at a local Casey’s gas station, was also undecided but said he’s leaning toward Paul.

“I come from a very conservative background myself,” Schrader said. “My family is very conservative Baptists. So his views are more towards letting the people, which would be all of us, make the decisions to shape our country.”

The candidates chosen by the five caucus-goers — Romney and Paul — have adopted some anti-gay positions, though they have not been as extreme in their views as other Republican contenders.

Paul supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and twice voted against a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Romney backs such an amendment, but expressed doubts that there is enough momentum or interest to pass it. He’s also said he would leave open service in the military as it is.

MORE IN THE BLADE: ANTICIPATING THE WHIRLWIND YEAR AHEAD

Still, neither candidate has the track record or commitment that President Obama has demonstrated in advancing LGBT rights. But the gay Iowa caucus-goers say they’re backing a Republican candidate to address more mainstream issues affecting the country.

Coffin said social issues can motivate people because they’re easy to understand, but if voters take the time to learn about economic issues, they “usually wind up changing their mind and thinking about the big picture what’s really going on here.”

“I don’t know if it’s because I’ve always lived in Iowa, and Iowa is one of the states where you can be married,” Coffin said. “With the amount of rights that gay people have right now, I feel totally comfortable with what we have.”

While Iowa has achieved marriage equality, if a Republican administration succeeds in passing a Federal Marriage Amendment as many of the candidates have promised, the measure would abrogate the 2009 court ruling allowing gay couples to marry in the state.

Pulda similarly said issues like same-sex marriage are on the back burner in comparison to improving economic conditions in the country.

“I would find it almost selfish for me to go out and say, ‘I vote for this person simply because they want same-sex marriage,'” Pulda said. “There are so many more problems in this country affecting more people than just me.”

But there’s a limit to how much these caucus-goers are willing to look the other way. Candidates like former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry or Rep. Michele Bachmann, who make anti-gay rhetoric a foundation of their campaigns, are turn-offs as potential candidates.

Petersen said he wouldn’t support a candidate who would make social issues a “central tenet of their campaign.

“I’m a Republican, but I’m not stupid,” Petersen said. “If they want to use those issues as a wedge to get voters to support them, I’m not really attracted to that.”

A recent anti-gay ad by Rick Perry that has been widely circulated on the Internet was a bridge too far for these caucus-goers. In the ad, Perry accuses Obama of engaging in a war on religion and says, “There’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

Pulda said the ad made him think twice about Perry, but still isn’t ruling him out as a potential candidate to back during the caucuses.

“I liked Rick Perry, but the latest ad he put out — I think he used the wrong language,” Pulda said. “That wasn’t the ad to go out.”

Petersen took a dig at Obama, saying he’s been paying lip service to the LGBT community and that one of his major accomplishments — repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — “just kind of came to him.”

“It was basically Senators [Susan Collins] and Joe Lieberman who said they were getting this done at the end of the year,” Petersen said. “What ended up happening is a great victory for us in the sense that LGBT Americans can now serve their country in uniform. That’s a great thing, but I don’t really credit that to President Obama.”

The administration was seen by some as playing a passive role in the legislative effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before the Pentagon issued its report on implementing repeal. But after the Pentagon report came out, observers said the White House was active in engaging with senators to push through the legislation.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said support for the Republican Party among young voters will grow if the GOP steers clear of social issues.

“Younger conservative voters under 30 continue to increasingly poll disinterest over social issues and do not support perceived or real demonization of LGBT Americans,” Cooper said. “If social issues, however, remain a myopic priority for certain candidates, they will find as former [Republican National Committee] Chairman Haley Barbour stated in 2011, ‘Purity is the enemy of victory.'”

Peter Levine, director of Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, said involvement of young gays in the Iowa caucuses is reflective of the political energy among youth throughout the country.

“I think it’s sort of characteristic of this generation,” Levine said. “Even though the turnout in the end may not be that high, for various reasons, I think there is a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”

It’s not the first time that Petersen and Plagmann have participated in the Iowa caucuses. Petersen backed Romney in 2008, while Plagmann participated in the Democratic caucus and backed Obama’s candidacy.

Plagmann said he might vote for Obama during the general election if the Republican nominee isn’t to his liking, although he’s changing his party affiliation during the Iowa caucuses because he’s disappointed in the administration.

“Back then it was my first election,” Plagmann said. “I was 18. I didn’t really look a whole lot into it. I guess I could relate to him more. But surely now, I don’t think he’s been as effective as what America had hoped.”

Whatever the election results, at least one of the caucus-goers says he’ll keep gay rights in mind as he continues advocating for a Republican agenda.

“I personally would like to see same-sex marriage legalized in all the states, but I don’t think we have to leave the Republican Party in order to stand for most of our principles,” Petersen said. “I’m not going to base my entire vote on one part of my life. I have a financial future as well as a romantic future.”

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National

65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights: survey

Results show 40% have LGBTQ family member

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(Logo courtesy of the NBJC)

The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Club Q shooter sentenced to life in prison for federal hate crimes

Five people killed in 2022 mass shooting in Colo.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Justice Department YouTube screenshot)

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, formerly of Colorado Springs, Colo., was sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences to run consecutive to 190 years in prison after pleading guilty to 74 hate crimes and firearms charges related to the Nov. 19, 2022, mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ establishment in Colorado Springs.  

According to the plea agreement, Aldrich admitted to murdering five people, injuring 19, and attempting to murder 26 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated attack at Club Q. According to the plea, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded, privately manufactured assault weapon, and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until subdued by patrons of the club. As part of the plea, Aldrich admitted that this attack was in part motivated because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

“Fueled by hate, the defendant targeted members of the LGBTQIA+ community at a place that represented belonging, safety, and acceptance — stealing five people from their loved ones, injuring 19 others, and striking fear across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that the Justice Department is committed to protecting the right of every person in this country to live free from the fear that they will be targeted by hate-fueled violence or discrimination based on who they are or who they love. I am grateful to every agent, prosecutor, and staff member across the Department — from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, to the Civil Rights Division, the ATF, and FBI — for their work on this case. The Justice Department will never stop working to defend the safety and civil rights of all people in our country.”

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI and our partners have worked tirelessly towards this sentencing, but the true heroes are the patrons of the club who selflessly acted to subdue the defendant. This Pride Month and every month, the FBI stands with the survivors, victims, and families of homophobic violence and hate.”

“ATF will not rest until perpetrators like this defendant are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Steven Dettelbach, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “I hope today’s life sentence brings at least some peace to the victims and survivors of this senseless, horrific tragedy. That this sentence should come during Pride month reinforces how far we have left to go before all communities, including all LGBTQIA+ communities, are safe here. It also shows how far ATF and all our partners will go to ensure hatred does not win.”

“The defendant’s mass shooting and heinous targeting of Club Q is one of the most devastating assaults on the LGBTQIA+ community in our nation’s history. This sentence cannot reclaim the lives lost or undo the harms inflicted. But we hope that it provides the survivors, the victims’ families, and their communities a small measure of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our message today should be loud and clear. No one should have to fear for their life or their safety because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate hate-fueled, bias-driven attacks.”

“Hate has no place in our country and no place in Colorado” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado. “I hope that today’s sentence demonstrates to the victims and those connected to this horrific event that we do not tolerate these heinous acts of violence.”

The FBI Denver Field Office, Colorado Springs Police Department, and ATF investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Connaughty and Bryan Fields for the District of Colorado and, Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

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Federal Government

EXCLUSIVE: Robert Garcia urges US officials to protect LGBTQ people during Pride Month

Gay Calif. congressman sent letter to top authorities on June 12

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Participants of the Capital Pride Festival in D.C. on June 8, 2024. Gay U.S. Congressman Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) has urged U.S. officials to ensure LGBTQ people are safe during Pride Month. (Washington Blade photo by Emily Hanna)

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on June 12 sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray to work to ensure LGBTQ people during Pride events.

“Over the last several weeks, your respective agencies and departments have issued stark warnings, and travel advisories to the public over potential threats from foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), and their supporters during this year’s Pride Month,” said Garcia in his letter. “I understand that these steps have come after deeply concerning increases in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, calls for targeted violence, and foiled violent plots.”

The FBI on May 10 issued an advisory that warned of potential violence at Pride events and other LGBTQ-specific events. The State Department on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia — announced a similar warning.

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance,” wrote Garcia, a gay man who represents California’s 42nd Congressional District that includes Long Beach.

June 12 also marked eight years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, even though there is no evidence that suggests the extremist group ordered him to carry out the massacre. 

“This week marks the eight (sp) anniversary of the horrific Pulse nightclub Orlando shooting — during which the attacker deliberately and viciously targeted the LGBTQ+ community,” wrote Garcia in his letter. “It is important to put the recent escalation of extremist anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda and messaging in the context the Pulse nightclub shooter who was influenced by these same forces of extremism.”

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