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Anti-gay evangelical leaders back Santorum

Support reflects unease with Romney

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The anti-gay Family Research Council and a group of evangelical leaders are endorsing Republican Rick Santorum for president, reflecting the unease among some social conservatives with the prospect of Mitt Romney’s nomination.

On Saturday, Tony Perkins, FRC’s president, announced Santorum had won the backing of the nearly 170 conservative leaders who gathered in Brenham, Texas, to discuss the GOP primary race and top policy goals for a Republican administration.

“There is clearly a united group here that is committed to see … a true conservative elected to the White House,” Perkins said after the decision was made, according to Reuters.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has dubbed the Family Research Council a “hate group” in part because of its opposition to LGBT rights. Other anti-gay leaders who were present at the meeting — and backing Santorum — were Gary Bauer and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania won the endorsement on the third round of balloting, Politico reported. Of the 114 votes cast, Santorum won 85. Former U.S. House Speaker  Newt Gingrich took the remainder.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry didn’t even make it past the first round of balloting — even though the meeting was held in his home state and he’s heavily courted evangelicals since the beginning of his campaign.

While campaigning before the New Hampshire primary, Santorum said the legalization of same-sex marriage could lead to polygamy and said children would be better off with parents in prison rather than parents of the same gender. Santorum has also said he’d reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if elected president.

Meanwhile, Romney has said he supports “full rights” for gay people, although he opposes same-sex marriage. The former Massachusetts governor has said he’d leave open service for gays in the military as it is.

But both Santorum and Romney have signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage committing themselves to back a Federal Marriage Amendment, defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and establish a presidential commission on “religious liberty.”

LGBT groups on the right and left had mixed reactions to evangelical leaders’ decision to endorse Santorum.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he doesn’t think the endorsement will translate into much success for Santorum over the long term.

“For some voters, an endorsement from the FRC will help Rick Santorum but it will not translate into a long-term gain with the general electorate,” Cooper said. “If anything, the FRC endorsement will further isolate Rick Santorum from the general electorate.”

Log Cabin has been emphasizing that social issues won’t play out well for Republican presidential candidates in their campaigns and economic issues will help them win the White House.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said the endorsement reflects discontent with Romney, saying “the theocratic wing of the Republican Party has been driving the not-Romney bus since the beginning.”

Davis added Santorum “is the perfect candidate for notorious hate groups” because of what he described as the candidate’s extreme positions.

“He wants to ban contraceptives, forcibly divorce tens of thousands of legally married couples and believes every undocumented immigrant is a criminal,” Davis said. “I’m only surprised it took this long for them to decide.”

Despite the endorsement from evangelical leaders, Romney continues to enjoy support from Republicans nationwide following his narrow win in Iowa and significant victory in New Hampshire. The daily updated Gallup poll on Sunday found Romney had a 23-point lead among other candidates.

Whether the endorsement will build Santorum’s strength in South Carolina — a conservative state holding its primary on Saturday — remains to be seen.

The support for Santorum is akin to the support he received from Iowa anti-gay leader Bob Vander Plaats prior to the Iowa caucuses, where Santorum took second place and lost by only eight votes.

Romney leads others in the Republican pack in South Carolina by single digits, but Santorum and Gingrich have double-digit strength in the polls.

Sean Theriault, a gay political scientist at the University of Texas, Austin, said the evangelical leaders’ support for Santorum may help the candidate, but the field of Romney alternatives remains too crowded for any one to surge ahead of the frontrunner.

“If this were a two-person race, Romney might be in trouble, but the longer it takes the social conservatives and tea partiers to decide on which Romney alternative they like the most, the better it is for Romney,” Theriault said. “If they don’t decide soon, it’ll be too late, and Romney will be the nominee.”

 

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Florida

Miami hotel liquor license may be revoked over a drag show

State’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco targets business

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Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Miami. (Photo by dennizn/Bigstock)

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is in the process of revoking the Hyatt Regency Miami’s alcohol license after the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation determined that the hotel’s affiliated James L. Knight Center had hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas” performed Dec. 27 with minors present in the audience.

The Knight Center is a major South Florida venue and has previously hosted the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. The venue’s main room can seat 4,600 people.

This is the third time the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which operates under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, has targeted a business that hosted a drag show.

A popular restaurant and pub in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood is also under threat of losing its liquor license. The R House identifies itself on its Facebook page as “the proud home of South Florida’s most popular weekend drag brunches.”

The July 2022 complaint filed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation asks for a final order that the R House restaurant is a declared a public nuisance and has its liquor license revoked. 

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the complaint was issued after a video of a recent performance at the bar’s drag brunch went viral. A topless drag queen wearing lingerie stuffed with money can be seen in the video attempting to dance with a young girl, who the DPBR estimates is “between three and five years old.” Twitter account “Libs of Tik Tok” originally found the footage on Tik Tok, posted by a user who wrote, “Children belong at drag shows!!!! Children deserve to see fun and expression & freedom.”

In late December “A Drag Queen Christmas” was hosted by the Orlando non-profit Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation on Dec. 28, filing a complaint alleging that children under age 18 were allowed to attend.

The complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic alleged the foundation violated Florida law in allowing for a person to “commit lewd or lascivious exhibition” in the presence of an individual who is less than 16 years old.

In this latest targeting of the show, which is a holiday-themed drag show that tours in 36 different cities and features stars from the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Insider webzine journalist Kimberly Leonard reported that the DeSantis administration officials accused the Knight Center of several violations, including a prohibition of “lascivious exhibition” before people younger than 16, mirroring the December complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic.

The department’s complaint said performers engaged in “acts of simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays” that included:

  • Performers forcibly penetrating or rubbing exposed prosthetic female breasts against faces of audience members
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ prosthetic female breasts and genitalia to the audience
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ buttocks to the audience
  • Simulating masturbation through performers’ digitally penetrating prosthetic female genital
  • Graphic depictions of childbirth and/or abortion

Hyatt Regency Miami is allowed to keep selling alcohol until the department makes a final decision. The business has 21 days to request a hearing, Beth Pannell, spokeswoman for the department, told Insider.

Regulators had warned the facility to change how it marketed the show before it went live, according to a copy of the letter included in the complaint. The letter accused the marketers of putting on a performance that constitutes “public nuisances, lewd activity, and disorderly conduct” when minors are present.

News of this latest action was first reported by far-right conservative internet based outlet Florida’s Voice.

As more and more Republican states target drag shows, in just the past few weeks, Tennessee became the first to ban adult performances, including drag, from public spaces such as parks and schools. 

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

New VA mission statement recognizes commitment to all veterans

‘To fulfill [Lincoln’s] promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military & for their families, caregivers, & survivors’

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VA Secretary Denis McDonough. (Screenshot/YouTube)

In a speech delivered Thursday at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA), located at the main entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in suburban Virginia, VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued an updated version of its 1959 mission statement.

The new mission statement is: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”

As the VA secretary commenced his remarks, he honored several notable women in the audience including Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton, the assistant secretary of veterans affairs for public and intergovernmental affairs.

Fulton, is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., which was the Academy’s first class to admit women. She is an out lesbian and served as a founding board member of Knights Out, the organization of LGBTQ West Point graduates, and later worked with OutServe, the association of actively-serving LGBTQ military members and SPARTA, an LGBTQ military group advocating for transgender military service.

“Whenever any veteran, family member, caregiver, or survivor walks by a VA facility, we want them to see themselves in the mission statement on the outside of the building,” said Secretary McDonough. “We are here to serve all veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors — and now, our mission statement reflects exactly that.”

In crafting the new mission statement, VA surveyed roughly 30,000 Veterans. Among veterans surveyed, the new version of VA’s mission statement was chosen over the current version by every age group; by men and by women; by LGBTQ+ veterans; and by white, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native Veterans.

In addition to two rounds of surveys, VA conducted dozens of small-group engagements with veterans to understand what was most important to them in a VA mission statement, then incorporated that feedback into quantitative research. The new mission statement reflects that VA serves all of the heroes who have served our country, regardless of their race, gender, background, sexual orientation, religion, zip code or identity.

The previous mission statement was: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.” The previous mission statement is posted in roughly 50 percent of VA’s facilities. Over the coming months, VA’s new mission statement will replace the previous version.

VA announces new mission statement, recognizing sacred commitment to serve all who served:

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Michigan

Mich. governor signs statewide LGBTQ rights law

‘Bigotry is bad for business’

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 16, 2023, signed an LGBTQ rights bill into law. (Photo courtesy of Whitmer's office)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act on Thursday, which expands basic protections for the LGBTQ community.

The measure, Senate Bill 4, was sponsored by openly gay state Sen. Jeremy Moss who less than a year previously had been shot down by the Republican majority as he attempted to have a non-binding resolution to recognize “Pride Month” adopted by the Senate.

In her signing remarks, Whitmer noted: “In the words of Detroit native Lizzo, it’s about damn time! Bigotry is bad for business. Come to Michigan, you will be respected and protected under the law.”

“As Equality Michigan celebrates this historic step forward, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Generations of activists have inspired us to fight for justice and equality for all LGBTQ+ Michiganders, and our community has been working to update our state’s civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in every single legislative session since Elliott-Larsen was first adopted,” Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott said in a statement. “We applaud Gov. Whitmer for signing this bill into law, and are humbled by this pro-equality legislature that made amending ELCRA a top priority. Senator Jeremy Moss and Rep. Jason Hoskins introduced this legislation and championed it all the way through to the finish line.” 

“The victory we have today in Michigan is a great one, but it’s also one we don’t take lightly at this moment. Let it not be lost on us that this privilege, however hard-earned, is a unique one that exists amid a nationwide political assault on LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary youth, and their families,” added Knott. “There are over 400 anti-trans bills moving across state legislatures in the US, twice the amount introduced last year.”

“This bill being signed into law is a beacon of hope and sends a powerful message of acceptance to LGBTQ people across the nation. At the Trevor Project, we work every day to protect the lives of LGBTQ youth, and days like today prove that in generations to come, both their legal and lived equality will no longer be fodder for political debate,” said Troy Stevenson, director of state advocacy campaigns for the Trevor Project. “Our research shows that having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt among LGBTQ young people by 40 percent. We applaud the elected leaders, advocates and Gov. Whitmer for making this a reality, and affirming the dignity and rights of LGBTQ Michiganders by codifying these protections into law.”

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