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Romney edges Santorum to win Iowa caucuses

8 votes separate top two; Bachmann drops out

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Iowa Capitol Dome, gay news, gay politics DC

The Iowa Capitol dome.

DES MOINES, Iowa — In the closest outcome in the history of the Iowa caucuses, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney edged former Sen. Rick Santorum by just eight votes Tuesday to win the first contest of the 2012 election.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Romney had 30,015 votes while Santorum had 30,007, according to Matt Strawn, chair of the Iowa Republican party. In terms of percentages, both Santorum and Romney claimed 24.5 percent of the vote.

The virtual dead heat in the Iowa caucuses, in which a record 122,255 Iowa Republicans participated, raises questions about whether Romney can attract support from the party’s conservative base.

On Monday, Romney reportedly crowed that he was going to win the Iowa caucuses by telling a crowd of supporters, “We’re going to win this thing.” A Romney spokesperson later downplayed the remarks and said the candidate was referring to winning the Republican nomination.

MORE IN THE BLADE: DNC CHAIR: SANTORUM ANTI-GAY ATTACKS ‘UN-AMERICAN’

Libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who had enjoyed a lead in the polls just two weeks before the caucuses took place, finished in third place with 21.5 percent of the vote.

Troy Price, executive director of One Iowa, a statewide LGBT group, said the virtual tie demonstrates that social conservatives were unable to dominate the caucuses despite their efforts.

“This extremely close outcome shows that in spite of the millions of dollars and constant campaigning on the backs of loving, committed gay and lesbian couples in Iowa, the attempt by social conservatives to dominate the caucuses simply didn’t work,” Price said. “Rather, this tie between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney shows the deep divisions that exist between social conservatives who want to harm loving and committed couples, and fiscal conservatives who prioritize job creation and a smaller government.”

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, a gay conservative group, congratulated Romney and Paul in a statement for placing in the top three slots — but notably left out any mention of Santorum, who’s known for holding anti-gay views.

“Tonight, we congratulate Governor Romney and Congressman Paul on their strong showings in the Iowa caucuses,” LaSalvia said. “It is clear that the message of economic renewal and limited government is resonating with Republican voters.”

LaSalvia commended Romney and Paul for offering plans that he said contrasted with the “big government approach” of President Obama without resorting to anti-gay rhetoric.

“While there are certainly big differences between Governor Romney and Congressman Paul, especially when it comes to foreign policy, both chose to emphasize issues like the economy and the size of government over demonizing gay people,” LaSalvia said. “We are pleased to see that so many Republicans in Iowa are focused on the issues that unite us as conservatives, instead of the side show issues.”

MORE IN THE BLADE: YOUNG, GAY IOWA GOP CAUCUS GOERS DISCUSS CANDIDATES

Brian Brown, president of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, praised both Santorum and Romney over “their photo-finish” because of the candidates’ opposition to same-sex marriage.

“It’s especially satisfying to see Senator Santorum, a longtime friend and champion for the family, come from behind to mount such a successful campaign,” Brown added.

Santorum and Romney were among the candidates that signed NOM’s pledge to oppose same-sex marriage by backing a Federal Marriage Amendment and defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court if elected president.

“The strong showing by both Santorum and Romney shows that supporting marriage is not only the right thing to do, it is the politically smart thing to do,” Brown said.

But Brown criticized Paul, who twice voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment and isn’t among the candidates who signed NOM’s pledge.

“This is a lesson that Ron Paul may be learning the hard way,” Brown said. “Paul suffered a big loss by finishing third in Iowa, a state he was expecting to win.”

Brown said ads NOM aired against the candidate in Iowa in addition to grassroots work “were a factor in Ron Paul’s poor showing.”

The results triggered the end of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign. She won just 5 percent of the vote even though Iowa is her home state. Bachmann announced Wednesday she was leaving the race.

“I have decided to stand aside,” she told reporters in Des Moines on Wednesday morning.

MORE IN THE BLADE: LGBT REACTION TO BACHMANN’S IOWA EXIT

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who also enjoyed the status of GOP presidential frontrunners, had less than optimal finishes. Gingrich took fourth in the caucuses with 13.2 percent of the vote and Perry came in fifth with 10.3 percent.

In a speech after the contest, Perry said he was going to scrap plans to campaign in South Carolina and return to Texas to determine whether a path to victory remains.

The strong showing for Santorum comes on the heels of comments he made that raised the eyebrows of LGBT advocates in an interview Tuesday with ABC News’ Jake Tapper.

The candidate said he opposes the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws throughout the country. He also said he opposes a court decision preventing states from prohibiting the sale of contraceptives.

Santorum said he personally would have voted against the state law in Texas prohibiting consensual sex between two males, but still thinks states should be able to pass such laws.

“I wouldn’t have voted for the Texas sodomy law, but that doesn’t mean the state doesn’t have the right to do that,” Santorum said. “I just didn’t think they should do it. We shouldn’t create constitutional rights when states do dumb things. We should let the people decide. If the states are doing dumb things, get rid of the legislature and replace them as opposed to creating constitutional laws that have consequences beyond the specific case that was before them.”

As Republicans in Iowa were deciding on the best candidate to represent them, Democrats also held caucuses throughout the state, even though President Obama was the only candidate on the ticket. More than 25,000 Iowa Democrats were estimated to have participated.

Obama delivered a message to supporters attending the caucuses via video and took a couple questions from attendees pledging their support to him. Among the accomplishments that he touted during the video was repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Because of you, we’ve been able to end the policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ so that every American who want this country that they love can have that opportunity, regardless of who they love,” Obama said.

In a statement, Sue Dvorksy, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, said the Democratic Iowa caucus was “a great opportunity to test our campaign organization and expand our volunteer base as we move toward November.”

“In a strong show of support, more than 7,500 Iowans tonight pledged to volunteer for the campaign over the course of the next year, underscoring their commitment to continuing the change the country has seen under President Obama’s leadership,” Dvorsky said.

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The White House

Country’s first nonbinary state lawmaker participates in Gaza ceasefire hunger strike

Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner is Muslim

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Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner in front of the White House on Nov. 30, 2023, while taking part in a hunger strike for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The country’s first nonbinary state lawmaker last week participated in a hunger strike for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip that took place in front of the White House.

Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner took part in the 5-day action alongside actress Cynthia Nixon, Virginia state Del. Sam Rasoul, Delaware state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, Michigan state Rep. Abraham Aiyash, former New York Congressional candidate Rana Abdelhamid, Muslim Girl.com Founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Adalah Justice Project Director of Strategy and Communications Sumaya Awad and Linda Sarsour. The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, Democratic Socialists of America, IfNotNowMovement, Dream Defenders, the Institute for Middle East Understanding and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee are the organizations that either participated in the hunger strike or endorsed it. 

“This is the place where you should be,” Turner told the Washington Blade on Nov. 30 while they were standing in front of the White House.

Turner is from Ardmore, Okla., and has been a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives since 2021. They are the first Muslim person elected to the Oklahoma Legislature.

“Oklahoma is no stranger to genocide, displacement, uprooting communities — beautiful, vibrant, vulnerable communities — just because they could,” said Turner, referring to the treatment of Native Americans in what became Oklahoma during the 1800s and early 1900s. “Specifically as a Muslim and as an Oklahoman it is my duty to be here.”

The hunger strike took place nearly two months after Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from Gaza.

The Israeli government has said roughly 1,200 people have been killed, including at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in a kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli government also says more than 5,000 people have been injured in the country since the war began and Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 others.

Yarden Roman-Gat, whose gay brother, Gili Roman, spoke with the Washington Blade on Oct. 30 in D.C., is one of the 105 people who Hamas released during a truce with Israel that began on Nov. 24 and ended on Dec. 1.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 15,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began. Israel after Oct. 7 cut electricity and water to Gaza and stopped most food and fuel shipments.

“It’s absolutely wild to think about what is happening to the Palestinian people in Gaza and in the West Bank,” said Turner.

Turner noted the war began two days before Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“By October the 10th, when the world was really seeing what was happening in Gaza,” they said. “So many people who had celebrated specifically Indigenous Peoples’ Day had also sided with the Israeli government over the indigenous people of the land.”

‘The death of civilians is absolutely horrible’

Turner in response to the Blade’s question about the Israelis who militants killed on Oct. 7 emphatically said “the death of civilians is absolutely horrible.” Turner added they “cannot stress enough that when we back people into a corner, we don’t know what will happen.”

“The truth of the matter is our governments, our governmental officials do not have to put people in a corner,” said Turner.

Turner was particularly critical of the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza after Oct. 7.

“I don’t think there’s any place where a government has the power to shut off right water, food, healthcare supplies, things like that,” they said. “It’s just in doing so against a population that has 2 million people … that’s not anyone looking for equitability or justice. That is genocide against its people.”

Turner noted Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to publicly support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Turner told the Blade “when we oppress people over decades and decades … we cannot, we don’t get to cherry pick” or “we don’t get to tone police or however they are fighting back to be heard, to be, to live for vibrant lives.”

“We cannot tell oppressed people how to hurt out loud,” they said, specifically referring to Palestinian people. “We can create governments that care for people from a community standpoint who are thinking creatively about how we provide aid and support and we can ask our elected officials (members Congress, President Joe Biden, state and local officials) to teach truth. We can ask them to continuously make sure that we are providing the best care and understanding of the situations at hand. We can ask them to do a ceasefire to stop sending aid to the Israeli government and emboldening their military forces.”

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Climate change threatens LGBTQ resort communities

Provincetown, Cape Cod, other destinations face ‘existential’ challenge

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The beach in Fire Island Pines, N.Y., on New York's Fire Island has been the scene of extreme erosion in recent years. (Photo courtesy Actum Vice President Savannah Farrell)

As the world reckons with worsening impacts of climate change, some LGBTQ communities and destinations are grappling with the “existential” threat posed by the crisis.

The United Nations’ annual climate conference will take place in the United Arab Emirates through Dec. 12. LGBTQ climate activists, however, are concerned about representation at COP28 because the meeting is taking place in Dubai, which is in a country that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.

President Joe Biden on Nov. 14 delivered a statement on climate change policy during his administration. Biden spoke on the American Rescue Plan, the Fifth National Climate Assessment, new transparency about the state of the country’s climate and more. 

Biden emphasized “advancing environmental justice for disadvantaged communities, because they’re the ones always left behind.” Evidence of this trend can be found in LGBTQ destinations across the country.

Julian Cyr, a gay Massachusetts state senator who represents Provincetown and other towns on Cape Cod, recognizes the state’s importance to the LGBTQ community, stating that “according to the Census, it may be the highest per capita density of LGBTQ+ people certainly in the United States, and perhaps internationally.”

Provincetown, a popular gay destination located at the tip of Cape Cod, is facing worsening storms as climate change advances. These storms reshape the natural environment as well as damage the built environment. A series of Nor’easters in 2018 flooded Provincetown, damaging homes, businesses and the town hall. 

“The climate crisis is … already forcing us to do a lot of planning and reevaluation of coastal resilience of our built environment,” said Cyr. 

All hope isn’t lost yet for Massachusetts destinations. 

Then-Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, in 2022 introduced the Climate Roadmap, which aims for zero carbon emissions by 2050. The state also is building the country’s first offshore wind farm, Vineyard Wind. 

Cyr said citizens can push for climate change legislation by making the urgency known to their local elected officials.  

“This is truly existential for coastal, low-lying communities like those that I represent,” said Cyr. “It’s really important that constituents weigh in with their elected officials and make sure that they know that this issue is crucially important. I don’t know how we not solve this issue.”

Experts are seeing similar effects in nearby LGBTQ destinations, such as Cape Cod.

“One thing that we do see already is the effect of storms,” said Mark Adams, a retired Cape Cod National Seashore cartographer. “Those storms are the signal of sea level rise.”

Adams said that as a result of rising temperatures and new, intense storms, he is also starting to see damaged ecosystems, unnatural migration patterns of local wildlife, and planting-zones moving northward. Adams told the Washington Blade these changing ecological relationships may mean an uncertain future for life along the coast: the self-sustaining lifestyle and seafood could be at risk as ocean acidification puts shellfish in danger. 

“If you can’t get oysters and clams, that would really change life on Cape Cod,” he said. 

In addition to the damage caused by storms, Cape Cod’s natural environment is also facing the threat of littering and plastic pollution. While the area’s beaches keep tourism alive, fishing gear and marine debris washing up on the shore are growing concerns for the community. 

Adams said this is where the choices individuals make to avoid plastics will make a huge difference in the future of these communities. 

“There are little choices we can make to get off of the petroleum stream,” he said.

A car in floodwaters in Miami Beach, Fla., in July 2018. Climate change has made Miami Beach and other coastal cities more susceptible to flooding. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Aspen Gay Ski Week adapts to warmer winters

Aspen Gay Ski Week was the first gay ski week, and it is the largest such event in the world, and is the only non-profit gay ski week.

Rising temperatures and short winters are growing concerns for destinations like Aspen, Colo., that depend on snow, according to AspenOUT Executive Director Kevin McManamon.

“As our seasons get shorter … we have to plan for the future,” McManamon said.

Colorado has also faced increased forest fires in recent years.

The Marshall Fire in 2021 devastated the state, destroying buildings and killing two people. Increasingly dry conditions feed into these fires, which will mean more impacts on humans, nature, and infrastructure.

McManamon nevertheless said he is optimistic about Aspen Gay Ski Week’s future due to the organization’s forward thinking. One such initiative is its involvement with Protect Our Winters, an organization that advocates for protecting the environment with the support of the outdoor sports community. 

“The cool part about being here in Aspen and having a great relationship with Aspen Skiing Company is that they are … on the leading edge of climate change,” said McManamon. 

Stronger storms threaten Fire Island

Fire Island Pines on New York’s Fire Island has been a safe haven for the LGBTQ community since the 1950s.

Fire Island Pines Property Owners’ Association President Henry Robin notes natural disasters cause more damage in the community as opposed to those that are across the Great South Bay on Long Island because Fire Island is a “barrier island.”

“When Superstorm Sandy hit, or when a Nor’easter hits, or a hurricane hits, the brunt of the storm is first taken by the Pines,” said Robin. 

Robin said “the Pines is thriving” just over 11 years since Sandy, but there is no climate change response. The federal government implemented a beach restoration project for Fire Island, and later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created an engineered beach for the Pines. 

Robin also formed three task forces — comprised of community members — to address local concerns, many of which were climate related, according to focus groups and a survey. Robin is also hoping to introduce recycling programs and solar energy to the Pines. 

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The White House

US announces additional sanctions for Ugandan officials

Anti-Homosexuality Act signed on May 29

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LGBTQ and intersex activists protest in front of the Ugandan Embassy in D.C. on April 25, 2023. (Washington Blade photos by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced sanctions against current and former Ugandan officials who committed human rights abuses against LGBTQ people and other groups.

“After Uganda’s flawed 2021 presidential elections, I announced a visa restriction policy targeting those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda,” said Blinken in a statement. “At that time, I implored the government of Uganda to significantly improve its record and hold accountable those responsible for flawed electoral processes, violence and intimidation.”

Blinken announced “the expansion of the visa restriction policy to include current or former Ugandan officials or others who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda or for policies or actions aimed at repressing members of marginalized or vulnerable populations.” 

“These groups include, but are not limited to, environmental activists, human rights defenders, journalists, LGBTQI+ persons and civil society organizers,” he said. “The immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.”  

Blinken added the U.S. “stands by the Ugandan people and remains committed to working together to advance democracy, human rights, public health and mutual prosperity.”  

“I once again strongly encourage the government of Uganda to make concerted efforts to uphold democracy and to respect and protect human rights so that we may sustain the decades-long partnership between our countries that has benefited Americans and Ugandans alike,” he said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on May 29 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.” The State Department a few weeks later announced visa restrictions against unnamed Ugandan officials.

The Biden-Harris administration in October said it plans to remove Uganda from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The White House has also issued a business advisory for Uganda in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

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