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Huntsman finishes 3rd, but loyalists party like they won

Candidate pledges to carry fight to South Carolina

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Exterior of the Huntsman campaign victory party (Blade photo by Michael Key)

MANCHESTER, N.H. — For Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr., and supporters at his election night party, a third-place showing in the New Hampshire primary felt like a victory.

The candidate’s backers — some who live in the area, some who came from afar to work on his campaign — packed The Black Brimmer American Bar & Grill on Tuesday to show solidarity with the former Utah governor in his presidential bid.

Polls had shown former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with a commanding lead in the GOP primary, but supporters had hopes that Huntsman would finish in second and have enough momentum to continue through the campaign.

The temperature was almost balmy for a New England winter, but party attendees were clad in sweaters, coats and scarves as they discussed the campaign and enjoyed drinks. Many wore black campaign buttons with a red “H” stamped in the center to showcase support for the candidate.

TVs in the restaurant were tuned to CNN, MSNBC and FOX News broadcasting election results, but the noise in the bar made comments from analysts inaudible.

Speaking to the Washington Blade as they awaited the results, Huntsman supporters at the party said his background as a chief executive of Utah as well as U.S. ambassador to China makes him the ideal candidate.

Shane Feifer, a 19-year-old straight student at George Washington University, said he was drawn to support Huntsman because of his character and foreign policy work.

“I feel like he’s a pragmatic, practical individual who actually thinks about his politics,” Feifer said. “Also, I’m a student of international affairs, so I have to love his international policy. I was in China in April when he was moving out. That’s my area of study, and I’m just very impressed with everything he’s done.”

Having traveled to New Hampshire to support Huntsman, Feifer said he arrived at the election night party after wearing himself out with campaign efforts.

“You can tell by my voice, I’m dying,” Feifer said. “We did rallies, phones, calls, walked the streets waving signs. You know, the whole shebang.”

Huntsman — a favorite among gay Republicans — stands out among other Republican candidates for expressing support for certain gay rights over his previous terms in public service and over the course of his campaign.

The candidate has endorsed civil unions and supported the general notion of moving toward equality. Unlike other candidates, Huntsman made no commitment to back a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country.

Josh Sacks, a 24-year-old straight IT consultant who’s volunteering for Huntsman, said the candidate’s position on gay rights was important in his decision to back him.

“I’m not a social conservative by any means,” Sacks said. “I support gay rights. I would even go so far as to say I support gay marriage. The fact that he is open to it, that he does not discriminate and supports civil unions, draws him even closer to that moderate center, and, I think, attracts a lot of independents.”

Don Khoury, a 40-year-old straight business consultant from Boston, said he values the candidate’s consistency on the issues.

“I think he appeals to everybody, whether it’s gender, sexual orientation, nationality, culture,” Khoury said. “He just inspires people, and I think part of the reason he inspires is because he’s honest and transparent. What you see is what you get. He’s not going to say one thing to one group, and something to another.”

Khoury said he’s confident that Huntsman will be able to move forward in the campaign — and could have enough momentum to become the GOP nominee — because of his gay support.

“Any campaign that I have worked on — in Canada, I haven’t worked on many here — where there’s a significant gay population working on the campaign: that guy wins,” Khoury said. “They know how to organize.”

Still, there’s a limit to how far Huntsman will go on gay rights. During a recent debate, Huntsman said he’s a “traditionalist” on marriage and thinks it “ought to be saved for one man and one woman.” Huntsman has also said he thinks the Defense of Marriage Act “serves a useful purpose.”

News outlets declared Romney the winner early in the evening, but the news barely seemed to register among the crowd. For a moment Huntsman shot up to second place, inspiring a cheer from one supporter watching the results. But that moment faded as news outlets declared libertarian Rep. Ron Paul would come in second place, leaving Huntsman with the bronze medal.

But those at the party didn’t lose their zeal. A young campaign worker distributed red signs reading, “Huntsman: Country First.” Supporters waived them in the air as they chanted the campaign slogan, “Country First! Country First!”

A voice from overhead speakers announced the Huntsman family before they went onstage, then, another message came announcing the candidate and his wife, Mary Kaye Cooper, prompting the crowd to cheer.

On stage, Huntsman said his campaign strategy in New Hampshire of directly engaging with state voters was responsible for his showing. The candidate touted at least 170 public events he made in the state and said no other candidate “even came close.”

“We’ve proved the point that this state wants its candidates to earn it the old-fashioned way,” Huntsman said. “That’s on the ground, handshake by handshake, conversation by conversation, vote by vote. We got it done, ladies and gentlemen!”

Huntsman took jibes at President Obama, criticizing the administration for the country’s $15 trillion in debt and continued military engagement overseas.

“Afghanistan is not our nation’s future, and Iraq is not this nation’s future,” Huntsman said. “Our nation’s future is how prepared we are to rise up as the American people and hit head on the competitive challenges of the 21st century.”

Making a reference to his service in China, Huntsman warned that the path the country is following will result in ending America’s role in world leadership.

“This is going to play out in the Pacific Ocean with countries that I have lived in before,” Huntsman said. “And … if we don’t get our act together at home, we will see the end of the American century by 2050, and we are not going to let that happen, are we?”

Huntsman also articulated points about his vision for the country, including term limits for federal lawmakers, prohibiting members of Congress from working as lobbyists right after their tenure and bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan.

Praising New Hampshire residents, Huntsman said they come to town halls, even though they aren’t required to do so, because “they believe in a better tomorrow for the United States of America.” An attendee in the audience responded with a shout, “And they believe in Jon Huntsman!” triggering applause from the audience.

But Huntsman concluded with the most important message to his followers that evening: he was going to continue his race onto the next contest in South Carolina.

“Here we sit tonight, ladies and gentlemen, with a ticket to ride and to move on,” Huntsman said. “Here we go to South Carolina!”

Huntsman joined hands with his wife as they both raised their arms overhead in a cheer. Streamers exploded from the ceiling, raining red and white confetti to the ground as Huntsman shook hands with supporters closest to the stage.

The third-place showing also was apparently satisfactory for Tim Miller, Huntsman’s communications director. Following the Huntsman speech, he declared to reporters in the media center, “On Friday, if you would have told me we’d be at 17 percent, I would have said you’re F-ing crazy! F-ing crazy!”

Victory next week for Huntsman there — or even a third place showing — will be a challenge. He’s ranking at the bottom of the pack in polls with less than 5 percent of support in the conservative state and is well behind Romney, who seems poised to take another win.

But that isn’t discouraging his supporters.

Joey Kalmin, a 20-year-old University of Maryland student from Island Park, Ill., said the strong showing in New Hampshire and speech fired him up enough to believe that victory in the primary season — and beyond — will happen for Huntsman.

“He’s going to go all the way to the White House,” Kalmin said. “He’s going to have his right hand raised to God on the west side of the Capitol Building on Jan. 20, 2013. Definitely. No doubt about it. He’s gonna win.”

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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court hears oral arguments in 303 Creative case

Dangerous implications for LGBTQ consumers

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday heard oral arguments in 303 Creative v. Elenis, a case that could carry broad implications for whether and in which circumstances states may enforce certain nondiscrimination rules against purveyors of goods and services.

The case was brought by website designer Lorie Smith, who sought to include a disclaimer that her company 303 Creative would not develop wedding announcement websites for LGBTQ couples, but discovered that such a notice would violate Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws, which include sexual orientation as a protected class.

Her lawsuit against the state of Colorado, argued by counsel from the anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), reaches the Supreme Court following the ruling against Smith from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which created a circuit split with decisions from the 8th Circuit and Arizona Supreme Court. A ruling is expected to come in June.

The fact pattern in 303 Creative closely mirrors the 2018 case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where the Supreme Court declined to rule on the broader legal questions because it found the Commission exhibited hostility toward the religious views of the bakery that refused to design a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The high court has since moved substantially to the right, with a 6-3 conservative supermajority. Colorado is one of 20 states that enforces laws prohibiting businesses from discrimination based on sexual orientation, and a ruling that would allow for broadly construed exemptions to be carved out for firms based on their First Amendment protections would carry implications well beyond the context of same-sex marriage.

Monday’s oral arguments focused on preexisting and hypothetical cases that were presented by counsel from both parties as well as by the justices, examples whose scope and fact patterns reinforced the breadth of the legal issues at play in 303 Creative.  

Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson and U.S. Principal Deputy Solicitor General Brian Fletcher pointed to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, 2006, which found that the federal government may withhold funding from universities that, based on their objections to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” refuse to grant military recruiters access to their resources.

ADF CEO, President and General Counsel Kristen Waggoner cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Hurley v. Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, 1995, which upheld the right of private organizations to exclude participation by certain groups without interference by the state, even if that intervention by the government was for the purpose of preventing discrimination.

Much of the discussion during Monday’s oral arguments centered on what kinds of goods and services may be considered public accommodations and which constitute artistic speech or expression by the business provider. Also at issue were questions such as whether their refusal to accommodate certain events – i.e., same-sex weddings – are tantamount to refusing goods and services to members of a protected class of people under the state’s non-discrimination laws.

LGBTQ rights groups fear the implications of a ruling in favor of 303 Creative  

ADF is designated an anti-LGBTQ extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. An amicus brief was filed in support of the government by the corporate law firm White & Case along with a coalition of LGBTQ rights groups and legal advocacy groups: the National LGBTQ Task Force, GLAD, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the Human Rights Campaign.

“Just two weeks after a shooter killed 5 people, injured 18, and traumatized so many others at Club Q in Colorado Springs, the United States Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in an anti-LGBTQ public accommodations discrimination case from Colorado,” wrote the National LGBTQ Task Force in a statement addressing Monday’s oral arguments.

Liz Seaton, the group’s policy director, highlighted the importance of public accommodations laws and condemned efforts by the opposition to legalize discrimination and segregation in the marketplace. “The brief’s most important argument lifts up the powerful amicus briefs of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law,” Seaton said. “Those two briefs by venerable civil rights organizations provide a detailed history of public accommodations discrimination against Black and Brown people in this country.”

HRC’s statement on Monday touched on similar themes:

“Granting the unprecedented ‘free speech exemption’ sought by petitioners in 303 Creative v. Elenis would be a dangerous change to long standing constitutional and civil rights law. It would inevitably lead to increased discrimination not only related to LGBTQ+ people or weddings, but also for other vulnerable populations including women, people with disabilities, and people of minority faiths. It’s crucial that justices of the Supreme Court reject discrimination and affirm the equal dignity of every American.”

Likewise, the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus released a statement exploring the broad implications that could result from the Court’s ruling on 303 Creative:

“…the Supreme Court could issue a broad ruling that not only implicates nondiscrimination laws’ applications to graphic designers but to a wide range of businesses providing goods and services that have an artistic component. A broad ruling for the graphic designer could not only provide a constitutional basis for discriminating against same-sex couples, but also for discriminating against all marginalized people currently protected by public accommodations nondiscrimination laws.”

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Congress

Jim Kolbe dies at 80

Former Ariz. congressman first openly gay Republican House member

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Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) speaks at a press conference on Feb. 28, 2013 for the filing of an amicus brief supporting the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former Republican Congressman James (Jim) Thomas Kolbe, who represented Southern Arizona in Congress for 22 years, died Saturday of a stroke at the age of 80 his husband Hector Alfonso confirmed to Arizona media outlets.

“He belongs to so many people,” his husband said through tears on Saturday. “He gave his life for this city. He loved Tucson, he loved Arizona.”

Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags at all state buildings be lowered to half-staff until sunset Sunday in honor of the former congressman. In a series of tweets the Arizona governor lauded Kolbe’s record of public service.

Kolbe was the first openly serving gay Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives having served from 1985 to 2007.  During his 22-year tenure he served as chair of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs of the House Appropriations Committee.

Former congressman Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In 1996, Kolbe held a press conference and outed himself after his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act. This, according to political journalist Jake Tapper, was owed to the fact that Kolbe was under the impression he was about to be outed by a gay publication.

Addressing a gathering of Log Cabin Republicans and other gay Republicans in 1997, he said he didn’t want to be a poster child for the gay movement.

“Being gay was not — and is not today — my defining persona,” Kolbe said during his first speech as an openly gay GOP lawmaker. He also sat on the national advisory board of the Log Cabin Republicans.

In 2013, however, Kolbe was a signatory to an amicus brief in support of overturning California’s Proposition 8.

In a private ceremony in 2013, after being together for eight years, Kolbe and Alfonso were married.

Alfonso, a Panamanian native who came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship to pursue studies in special education, had been a teacher for two decades. The couple’s nuptials were held at a private event at the Cosmos Club on Massachusetts Avenue.

“Two decades ago, I could not have imagined such an event as this would be possible,” Kolbe told the Washington Blade in an interview in May 2013. “A decade ago I could not imagine that I would find someone I could be so compatible with that I would want to spend the rest of my life with that person. So, this is a very joyous day for both of us.”

The couple had to endure a year-long separation when Alfonso returned to Panama while immigration issues were being sorted out, although he was granted U.S. residency, also known as a green card.

Kolbe also battled his friend and fellow Republican, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who opposed the repeal of the Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which barred military service by gay and lesbian Americans. He repeatedly co-sponsored a bill to scrap the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy at odds with others in his party over the issue.

After he left Congress he continued to be active in Republican politics in 2012 endorsing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in his race for the presidency against then incumbent President Barack Obama.

In an interview with the Blade at the time, Kolbe responded to the anti-gay language in the draft version of the Republican Party platform. In addition to endorsing a Federal Marriage Amendment, the platform criticized the Obama administration for dropping defense of DOMA in court and judges for “re-defining marriage” in favor of gay couples.

Kolbe predicted the 2012 Republican platform will be the last one to include such language.

“That’ll be the last time that will be in the Republican Party platform,” Kolbe said. “It won’t be there four years from now. It’s got its last gasp. I don’t believe it’ll be there four years from now; I wish it weren’t there now, but I don’t believe it will be four years from now.”

The issue over the rights of same-sex couples to marry ended with Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644, the landmark civil rights case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Just this week prior to his death, the Respect for Marriage Act passed the Senate by a vote of 61-36.

That legislation requires the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed and guarantee that valid marriages between two individuals are given full faith and credit, regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity or national origin. It is expected to pass the House again this week after which it heads to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Early in his career, Kolbe in 1976 ran for a seat in the Arizona Senate in the Tucson-Pima County district and defeated a one-term Democrat. In mid-1982, he resigned from the state Senate to run in the newly created Arizona’s 5th U.S. congressional district, but lost to Democrat Jim McNulty.

He ran again in 1984 winning the seat that he went to hold for over two decades.

According to his biography Kolbe was born in Evanston, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, but when he was five, his family moved to a ranch in rural Santa Cruz County, Arizona. It was there he attended Patagonia Elementary School and Patagonia Union High School, but graduated from the U.S. Capitol Page School in 1960 after serving for three years as a Senate Page for Arizona Republican U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater.

He matriculated first at Northwestern University and then at Stanford University earning a master’s degree in economics. During the Vietnam era from 1965 to 1969, he served in the U.S. Navy, including a tour in Vietnam as a member of the Navy’s “Swift Boat” force. 

After military service Kolbe served as a special assistant to Republican Illinois Gov. Richard B. Ogilvie. He then moved back to Arizona settling in Tucson where he worked in business.

Accolades for the former congressman included many from Arizona political and business fields of endeavor.

“Pima County and southern Arizona could always count on Jim Kolbe,” Pima County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson said in a statement.

Matt Gress, who was recently elected to the Arizona Legislature, called Kolbe a political pioneer.

“Today, because of Jim Kolbe, being a member of the LGBT community and serving in elected office has become irrelevant,” he said in a statement.

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District of Columbia

HHS secretary discusses federal overdose prevention efforts at Whitman-Walker

Officials held round table with clients, ‘community stakeholders’

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U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra (Public domain photo)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and four other high level federal health officials held a roundtable community meeting followed by a press conference at D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health headquarters on Friday to discuss what they said were “groundbreaking” efforts to address and end the nation’s epidemic of deaths from the overdose of opioid drugs.

A statement released by HHS says Becerra and the other officials, including Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, reached out to Whitman-Walker, which, among other things, operates one of the D.C. metro area’s preeminent substance abuse treatment programs, to commemorate the one-year anniversary HHS’s Overdoes Prevention Strategy program.

“Now, one year after the release of this strategy, our nation is in a much stronger position to treat addiction and save lives,” Becerra said. “We didn’t get here by accident. Thanks to decades of work by advocates, coupled with an unparalleled people-first strategy and unprecedented investment by the Biden-Harris administration, we have made a great deal of progress,” he said.

The officials, including Gupta, pointed out that the Overdose Prevention Strategy over the past year and an updated effort launched this month have focused on greatly expanding availability of the drug overdose antidote medication naloxone.

“Deaths caused by opioids like illicit fentanyl are preventable with naloxone, and today’s announcement means more life-saving naloxone will be in communities across the country,” Gupta said. “The latest data continue to show a hopeful trend of a decreases in overdose deaths, so we must remain focused on fully implementing President Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy that will save tens of thousands of lives by expanding care for substance use disorder, making naloxone more accessible, and dismantling drug trafficking operations,” he said. 

In addition to Gupta from the White House, Becerra was joined at the community meeting and press conference by Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is an arm of HHS; Dr. Debra Houry, acting principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Robert Califf, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Also participating in the roundtable session and press conference was U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the nation’s first out lesbian member of the Senate. 

Becerra said he invited Baldwin to participant in the day’s events, among other things, because of her record of advocacy and support for funding of federal substance abuse and overdose prevention programs. 

“One area I’ve championed in Congress is increasing access to overdose reversal medication like naloxone,” Baldwin said. “We know that when you increase access to this safe and effective treatment that you save lives,” she said. “And I’m thrilled to see the Biden administration and especially the Food and Drug Administration taking steps to increase access to naloxone.”

Califf told the gathering one of the FDA’s recently launched efforts is to work with drug manufacturers to arrange for naloxone to become an over-the-counter drug that would further expand its availability. 

From left, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Dr. Rahul Gupta, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Dr. Robert Calif (at podium) and Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon at Whitman-Walker Health in D.C. on Dec. 2, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

The roundtable discussion session, which included close to 50 participants, including Becerra and the other federal officials, was closed to the press, according to an HHS spokesperson, because among those participating were Whitman-Walker clients and others who receive services and support for what the officials called substance use disorder.

During the press conference that followed, Becerra spoke of how some of those participating in the roundtable discussion were part of Whitman-Walker’s success stories in helping people overcome substance use problems 

“We’re here because a year ago we decided to go in a different direction at the federal level,” he said at the press conference. “We decided that we’re not moving fast enough, we’re not moving close enough to where we need to be to try to help communities and those folks at Whitman-Walker who are trying to not just get folks into treatment but to save lives,” Becerra said. 

“And that was the great thing about the round table that we just had,” he said. “We heard about how people thrive,” he said, adding, “And one of the clients, Deborah, spoke about how she’s on the verge of getting her degree from college … That’s what we want to see … I want to thank the folks at Whitman-Walker for letting us come today to see how people can thrive and be part of that success.”

Whitman-Walker Health CEO Naseema Shafi told the Washington Blade after the press conference that Whitman-Walker has a long history of partnering with federal government agencies in addressing health issues, including Whitman-Walker’s role as a healthcare facility welcoming the LGBTQ community. 

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