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Gingrich: Media has anti-Christian bias on marriage

At N.H. debate, GOP candidates tout opposition to gay nuptials

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Newt Gingrich, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Republican presidential candidates stood firm in their opposition to same-sex marriage during a debate Saturday night as Newt Gingrich rebuked the media for what he said was asking the wrong question on the issue.

The former U.S. House speaker said he wanted to “raise a point about the news media bias” and accused the media of not asking about same-sex marriage in terms of what it means for religious groups.

“Should the Catholic Church be forced to closed its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples, which is exactly what the state has done?” Gingrich said. “Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won’t give in to secular bigotry? Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration in key delivery of services because of the bias of the bigotry of the administration?”

Gingrich added, “The bigotry question goes both ways and there’s a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is a concern of the other side, and none of it gets covered by the media.” The audience erupted in applause following Gingrich’s response.

The debate at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, N.H., took place just days before New Hampshire Republican voters go to the polls on Tuesday to decide on their preferred candidate to win the GOP nomination.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he agrees with Gingrich on his position, adding that the events in Massachusetts following the 2003 State Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage were “exactly as Speaker Gingrich indicated.”

“What happened was Catholic charities that placed almost half of all the adoptive children in our state was forced to step out of being able to provide adoptive services,” Romney said. “And the state tried to find other places to help children. We have to recognize that this decision about what we call marriage has consequences, goes far beyond a loving couple who want to form a loving relationship.”

But one LGBT advocate accused Gingrich and Romney of misstating the facts on the Catholic Church abandoning charitable services because the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said via e-mail the church voluntarily withdrew services in Massachusetts and wasn’t forced to do so.

“I was running MassEquality during the Catholic Charities debacle in Massachusetts, and I have to say it is extremely distressing that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich just repeated the lie that the freedom to marry in Massachusetts had ANYTHING to do with Catholic Charities ceasing to perform adoptions,” Solomon said. “That unfortunate result was because the Catholic hierarchy in [Massachusetts] wanted an exemption from civil rights laws.”

Solomon added the local board of Catholic Charities voted unanimously to continue performing adoptions and to comply with civil rights laws, but was overruled by the Catholic hierarchy.

“Romney was governor at the time — he KNOWS it’s not true,” Solomon said.

Gingrich made the comments after a debate moderator, ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, posed a question submitted via email by “Phil” of Virginia asking what candidates want same-sex couples to do if they want legal protections for their families.

“Given that you oppose gay marriage, what do you want gay people to do who want to form loving, committed long-term relationships,” the question read. “What is your solution?”

Despite his opposition to marriage equality, Gingrich said he wants to “make it possible to have those things that are most intimately human between friends occur.”

“For example, you’re in a hospital, if there are visitation hours should you be allowed to stay,” Gingrich said. “There ought to be ways to designate that. You want to have somebody in your will. There ought to ways to designate that.”

Still, Gingrich called it “a huge jump” going being understanding of same-sex couples “to saying we’re, therefore, going to institute of marriage as if it has no basis.”

“The sacrament of marriage was based on a man and a woman, has been for 3,000 years, is at the core of our civilization, and is something worth protecting and upholding,” Gingrich said. “And, I think, protecting and upholding that doesn’t mean you have to go out and make life miserable for others, but it does mean you make a distinction between a historic sacrament of enormous importance in our civilization and simply deciding it applies every way and is just a civil right.”

Romney expressed a similar sentiment in favor of relationship recognition while maintaing opposition to same-sex marriage, saying “there can be domestic partner benefits or a contractual relationship” between two people that can include hospital visitation rights.

“There’s every right in this country for people to form long-term committed relationship with one another,” Romney said. “That doesn’t mean that they have to call it marriage.”

Romney added recognizing same-sex marriage is a “mistake,” not because he wants to discriminate against people, but because the country “will be better off if children are raised in a setting where there’s a male and a female.”

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., was distinct among other candidates on state. The candidate stated his position in favor of civil unions, saying they’re “fair” and “there’s such a thing as equality under the law.” Still, he said he doesn’t support same-sex marriage.

“I don’t feel that my relationship is at threatened by civil unions,” Huntsman said. “On marriage, I’m a traditionalist. I think that ought to be saved for one man and one woman, but I believe that civil unions are fair and I believes it brings a level of dignity to relationships.”

Huntsman added “reciprocal beneficiary rights” should be part of civil unions and said states “should be able to talk about” the marriage issue.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry took the opportunity to reiterate his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment and his belief that the Obama administration is conducting a war against people of faith.

Among the policies changes to which Perry took exception was the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

“That is a war against religion, and it’s going to stop under a Perry administration,” the candidate said, receiving applause from the audience.

In response to a different question, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum revealed a distinction in his position on same-sex marriage, and that on adoption by same-sex couples.

Josh McElveen, a reporter for a local news affiliate WMUR, asked Santorum about adoption by same-sex parents, noting New Hampshire is one of the state where same-sex marriage is legal.

“Are you going to tell someone they belong as a ward of the state or in foster care rather than have two parents who want them?” McElveen asked.

Santorum responded that adoption by gay couples isn’t a federal issue and should be resolved by the states.

“I’m certainly not going to have a federal law that bans adoption for gay couples when there are only gay couples in certain states, so this is a state issue, not a federal issue,” Santorum said.

Contrary to Santorum’s assertion, the Williams Institute has found based on 2010 U.S. Census data that gay couples exist in every state in the country.

But Santorum said his position on adoption by same-sex marriage contrasts with his position on marriage.

“I believe the issue of marriage itself is a federal issue — that we can’t different laws with respect to marriage,” Santorum said. “We have to have one law. Marriage is, as Newt said, a foundational institution of our country, and we have to have a singular law with respect to that. We can’t have somebody married in one state, and not married in another.”

In response a follow-up question on what happens to existing same-sex couples if a Federal Marriage Amendment is passed, Santorum invoked his previously stated belief that such marriages would be invalid.

“If the Constitution says marriage is between a man and a woman, then marriage is between a man and a woman,” Santorum said. “And therefore, that’s what marriage is, and would be in this country, and those who are not men and women who are married would not be married. That’s what the Constitution would say.”

Wayne Besen, executive director of the pro-LGBT group Truth Wins Out, rebuked Santorum in a statement for advocating for the invalidation of existing same-sex marriages and predicted the position would end Santorum’s campaign.

“I think the radical idea of destroying families and invalidating their marriages is so preposterous that it will cost Rick Santorum any chance of ever becoming President of the United States,” Besen said. “Santorum is just too extreme and the cruel position he took on this issue will lead to the unraveling of his campaign.”

Libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was the only candidate on stage who didn’t respond to the marriage issue. He’s said government should get out of the marriage business, but he personally believe marriage is between one man, one woman.

The presidential primary comes to New Hampshire as the state is likely to vote this month on repeal of the same-sex marriage, which was signed into law by Gov. John Lynch (D) in 2009. Perry and Romney have expressed support for repeal of the marriage law there. Each of the candidates who support a Federal Marriage Amendment — Romney, Perry, Santorum, and Gingrich — implicitly support repeal of the state law because the federal measure would end same-sex marriages there.

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Puerto Rico

Two men charged with attacking trans Puerto Rican woman plead guilty to federal hate crimes charges

Alexa Negrón Luciano attacked with paintball gun before her murder

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(Bigstock photo)

Two men on Monday pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes charges in connection with attacking a transgender woman in Puerto Rico in 2020.

A Justice Department press release notes Jordany Laboy Garcia, Christian Rivera Otero and Anthony Lobos Ruiz “were out driving together” in Toa Baja, a municipality that is about 15 miles west of San Juan, early on Feb. 24, 2020, “when they saw” Alexa Negrón Luciano “standing under a tent near the side of the road.”

“The defendants recognized A.N.L. from social media posts concerning an incident that had occurred the day prior at a McDonald’s in Toa Baja,” reads the press release. “During that incident, A.N.L. had used a stall in the McDonald’s women’s restroom.”

“Upon recognizing A.N.L., Lobos-Ruiz used his iPhone to record a video of himself yelling, ‘la loca, la loca,’ (‘the crazy woman, the crazy woman’) as well as other disparaging and threatening comments to A.N.L. from inside the car,” it notes. “The defendants then decided to get a paintball gun to shoot A.N.L. and record another iPhone video. Within 30 minutes, they retrieved a paintball gun and returned to the location where they had last seen A.N.L., who was still at that location. Lobos-Ruiz then used his iPhone to record Laboy-Garcia shooting at A.N.L. multiple times with the paintball gun. After the assault ended, Lobos Ruiz shared the iPhone video recordings with others.”

Negrón was later killed in Toa Baja.

Laboy and Rivera pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a hate crime and obstruction of justice. El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, notes a federal judge sentenced Lobos to two years and nine months in prison after he pleaded guilty to hate crimes charges last November.

Laboy and Rivera are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 10.

They, along with Lobos, have not been charged with Negrón’s murder.

“To assault an innocent victim who posed no threat to the defendants for no other reason than her gender identity is reprehensible behavior that will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico in the Justice Department’s press release. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend the rights of all people, regardless of their gender identity, to be free from hate-fueled violence. Our community must stand together against acts of violence motivated by hate for any group of people — we remain steadfast in our commitment to prosecute civil rights violations and keep our communities safe and free from fear.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for Puerto Rico Para Todes, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, on Tuesday welcomed the guilty pleas. Serrano also urged authorities to bring those who killed Negrón to justice. 

“The time for total justice for Alexa is now,” said Serrano in a press release. “Her murder was a hate crime. Nobody doubts this. They falsely accused her, persecuted her, hunted her, insulted her with transphobic epithets, uploaded onto social media a video of them accosting her and they killed her. There are already three individuals who will serve time in federal prison for attacking her in a hate crime. That’s some justice, but not complete.” 

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Federal Government

Barbara Lee: PEPFAR is ‘more in peril’ than ever before

Congress has yet to reauthorize funding for Bush-era HIV/AIDS program

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U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) speaks about the future of PEPFAR at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference in D.C. on Sept. 22, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

California Congresswoman Barbara Lee on Sept. 22 said the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is “more in peril” now than at any point since its launch two decades ago.

“This program is reauthorized every five years, but it’s always on a bipartisan basis,” said Lee during a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference that took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. “As we approach the benchmark of an AIDS-free generation by 2023, it is unfortunately more in peril now than ever before.”

Then-President George W. Bush in 2003 signed legislation that created PEPFAR.

Lee noted PEPFAR as of 2020 has provided nearly $100 billion in “cumulative funding for HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and research.” She said PEPFAR is the largest global funding program for a single disease outside of COVID-19.

New PEPFAR strategy includes ‘targeted programming’ for marginalized groups

The panel took place amid the continued push for Congress to reauthorize PEPFAR for another five years. The federal government will shut down on Oct. 1 if Congress does not pass an appropriations bill.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken last December at a World AIDS Day event in D.C. acknowledged HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately impact LGBTQ and intersex people and other marginalized groups. A new PEPFAR strategy the Biden-Harris administration announced that seeks to “fill those gaps” over the next five years includes the following points:

• Targeted programming to help reduce inequalities among LGBTQ and intersex people, women and girls and other marginalized groups

• Partnerships with local organizations to help reach “hard-to-reach” communities.

• Economic development and increased access to financial markets to allow countries to manufacture their own antiretroviral drugs, tests and personal protective gear to give them “the capacity to meet their own challenges so that they’re not dependent on anyone else.”

The Family Research Council Action in an email to supporters urged them to tell Congress to “stop Biden from hijacking PEPFAR to promote its radical social policies overseas.” Family Watch International has said PEPFAR “has been hijacked to advance a radical sexual agenda.”

“Please sign the petition to tell the U.S. Congress to ensure that no U.S. funds go to organizations that promote abortion, LGBT ideology, or ‘comprehensive sexuality education,'” said the group in an email to its supporters. 

A group of lawmakers and religious leaders from Kenya and other African countries in a letter they wrote to members of Congress in June said PEPFAR, in their view, no longer serves its original purposes of fighting HIV/AIDS because it champions homosexuality and abortion.

“We wrote that letter to the U.S. Congress not to stop PEPFAR funding to Kenya, but to demand the initiative to revert to its original mission without conditioning it to also supporting LGBTQ as human rights,” it reads.

Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.

American officials earlier this year postponed a meeting on PEPFAR’s work in Uganda in order to assess the potential impact the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act will have on it. The law, which Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed on May 29, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

Biden in his U.N. General Assembly speech last week noted LGBTQ and intersex rights and highlighted PEPFAR. Family Watch International in its email to supporters included a link to the letter from the African lawmakers and religious leaders.  

The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated both the FRC and Family Watch International as anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

“[PEPFAR is] not about abortions,” said Lee.

HIV/AIDS activists protest inside house speaker kevin mccarthy (r-calif.)’s office in d.c. on sept. 11, 2023. (washington blade video by michael k. lavers)

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power during the panel referenced Bush’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post that urged lawmakers to reauthorize PEPFAR.

“The way he put it is no program is more pro-life [than] one that has saved more than 25 million lives,” said Power.

Power referenced the “manufactured controversy that is making it difficult to get this reauthorization.” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Dr. John Knengasong said a failure to reauthorize PEPFAR would weaken “our own foreign policy and diplomacy.”

“Once again the United States will be missing in action,” stressed Lee.

Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary for Legislation Melanie Egorin and Kenny Kamson, a Nigerian HIV/AIDS activist, also spoke on the panel that MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart moderated. 

From left: U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Dr. John Nkengasong and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power discuss the future of PEPFAR at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference in D.C. on Sept. 22, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
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The White House

Biden, Harris, deliver remarks for White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf among those who spoke

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris listen as U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates on Sept. 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wolf)

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

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