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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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State Department

State Department releases annual human rights report

Antony Blinken reiterates criticism of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

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(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday once again reiterated his criticism of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act upon release of the State Department’s annual human rights report.

“This year’s report also captures human rights abuses against members of vulnerable communities,” he told reporters. “In Afghanistan, the Taliban have limited work opportunities for women, shuttered institutions found educating girls, and increasing floggings for women and men accused of, quote, ‘immoral behavior,’ end quote. Uganda passed a draconian and discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act, threatening LGBTQI+ individuals with life imprisonment, even death, simply for being with the person they loved.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court earlier this month refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” More than a dozen Ugandan LGBTQ activists have appealed the ruling.

Clare Byarugaba of Chapter Four Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTQ rights group, on Monday met with National Security Council Chief-of-Staff Curtis Ried. Jay Gilliam, the senior LGBTQI+ coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, in February traveled to Uganda and met with LGBTQ activists who discussed the Anti-Homosexuality Act’s impact. 

“LGBTQI+ activists reported police arrested numerous individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity and subjected many to forced anal exams, a medically discredited practice with no evidentiary value that was considered a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and could amount to torture,” reads the human rights report.

The report, among other things, also notes Ugandan human rights activists “reported numerous instances of state and non-state actor violence and harassment against LGBTQI+ persons and noted authorities did not adequately investigate the cases.”

Report highlights anti-LGBTQ crackdowns in Ghana, Hungary, Russia

Ghanaian lawmakers on Feb. 28 approved the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill. The country’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has said he will not sign the measure until the Ghanaian Supreme Court rules on whether it is constitutional or not.

The human rights report notes “laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults” and “crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex persons” are among the “significant human rights issues” in Ghana. 

The report documents Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and members of his right-wing Fidesz party’s continued rhetoric against “gender ideology.” It also notes Russia’s ongoing crackdown against LGBTQ people that includes reports of “state actors committed violence against LGBTQI+ individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly in Chechnya.”

The report specifically notes Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 24 signed a law that bans “legal gender recognition, medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person, and gender-affirming care.” It also points out Papua New Guinea is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The Hungarian Parliament on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his right-wing Fidesz party in 2023 continued their anti-LGBTQ crackdown. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Cook Islands and Mauritius in decriminalized homosexuality in 2023.

The report notes the Namibia Supreme Court last May ruled the country must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside the country. The report also highlights the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling against marriage equality that it issued last October. (It later announced it would consider an appeal of the decision.)

Congress requires the State Department to release a human rights report each year. 

The Biden-Harris administration in 2021 released a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad.

The full report can be read here.

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National

Same-sex couples vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change

Williams Institute report based on Census, federal agencies

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Beach erosion in Fire Island Pines, N.Y. (Photo courtesy of Savannah Farrell / Actum)

A new report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law finds that same-sex couples are at greater risk of experiencing the adverse effects of climate change compared to different-sex couples.

LGBTQ people in same-sex couple households disproportionately live in coastal areas and cities and areas with poorer infrastructure and less access to resources, making them more vulnerable to climate hazards.

Using U.S. Census data and climate risk assessment data from NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, researchers conducted a geographic analysis to assess the climate risk impacting same-sex couples. NASA’s risk assessment focuses on changes to meteorological patterns, infrastructure and built environment, and the presence of at-risk populations. FEMA’s assessment focuses on changes in the occurrence of severe weather events, accounting for at-risk populations, the availability of services, and access to resources.

Results show counties with a higher proportion of same-sex couples are, on average, at increased risk from environmental, infrastructure, and social vulnerabilities due to climate change.

“Given the disparate impact of climate change on LGBTQ populations, climate change policies, including disaster preparedness, response, and recovery plans, must address the specific needs and vulnerabilities facing LGBTQ people,” said study co-author Ari Shaw, senior fellow and director of international programs at the Williams Institute. “Policies should focus on mitigating discriminatory housing and urban development practices, making shelters safe spaces for LGBT people, and ensuring that relief aid reaches displaced LGBTQ individuals and families.”

“Factors underlying the geographic vulnerability are crucial to understanding why same-sex couples are threatened by climate change and whether the findings in our study apply to the broader LGBTQ population,” said study co-author Lindsay Mahowald, research data analyst at the Williams Institute. “More research is needed to examine how disparities in housing, employment, and health care among LGBT people compound the geographic vulnerabilities to climate change.”

Read the report

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Federal Government

Lambda Legal praises Biden-Harris administration’s finalized Title IX regulations

New rules to take effect Aug. 1

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U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (Screen capture: AP/YouTube)

The Biden-Harris administration’s revised Title IX policy “protects LGBTQ+ students from discrimination and other abuse,” Lambda Legal said in a statement praising the U.S. Department of Education’s issuance of the final rule on Friday.

Slated to take effect on Aug. 1, the new regulations constitute an expansion of the 1972 Title IX civil rights law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.

Pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County case, the department’s revised policy clarifies that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes sex-based discrimination as defined under the law.

“These regulations make it crystal clear that everyone can access schools that are safe, welcoming and that respect their rights,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said during a call with reporters on Thursday.

While the new rule does not provide guidance on whether schools must allow transgender students to play on sports teams corresponding with their gender identity to comply with Title IX, the question is addressed in a separate rule proposed by the agency in April.

The administration’s new policy also reverses some Trump-era Title IX rules governing how schools must respond to reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, which were widely seen as imbalanced in favor of the accused.

Jennifer Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said during Thursday’s call that the department sought to strike a balance with respect to these issues, “reaffirming our longstanding commitment to fundamental fairness.”

“We applaud the Biden administration’s action to rescind the legally unsound, cruel, and dangerous sexual harassment and assault rule of the previous administration,” Lambda Legal Nonbinary and Transgender Rights Project Director Sasha Buchert said in the group’s statement on Friday.

“Today’s rule instead appropriately underscores that Title IX’s civil rights protections clearly cover LGBTQ+ students, as well as survivors and pregnant and parenting students across race and gender identity,” she said. “Schools must be places where students can learn and thrive free of harassment, discrimination, and other abuse.”

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