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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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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

“LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased”

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Florida State Capitol building

TALLAHASSEE – A Republican majority Florida House Education & Employment Committee passed HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion Senate bill SB 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the Press Secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56% of transgender and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 47% felt nervous and/or scared, 45% felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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California mom claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Jessica Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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