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Will Romney seal the deal in S.C.?

GOP frontrunner enjoys 14-point lead heading into primary

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GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney appears to be headed for another win in the upcoming South Carolina primary as observers say a victory there would virtually seal the deal for him as the Republican presidential nominee.

Polls show Romney — who in national polls has a double-digit lead over other Republican contenders — also having a significant lead over his rivals in South Carolina, where state voters on Saturday will head to the polls in an open primary.

On Tuesday, Rasmussen Reports published a poll showing the former Massachusetts governor with a whopping 14-point lead over his challengers. He was favored by 35 percent of responders, despite speculation that his faith as a Mormon and his history as governor of a “blue” state would mean he wouldn’t fare well in the conservative state.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich was polling in second place with support from 21 percent of responders, while Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum were tied for third with 16 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry had support from only 5 percent.

Hastings Wyman, who’s gay and editor of the Southern Political Report, predicted that Romney would win Saturday, and the South Carolina victory after previous wins in Iowa and New Hampshire would cement the candidate as the GOP nominee.

“From what I can see, it looks like Romney is going to win,” Wyman said. “And I think, assuming he does, the nomination is pretty much his. You never know what’s going to happen, but that’s what it looks like to me.”

Romney’s strong support in the polls was boosted by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., dropping out of the race and endorsing Romney for president. Huntsman was polling in the single digits prior to his withdrawal, but his supporters likely went to Romney because of the endorsement and because both are seen as more moderate candidates in the Republican field.

GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia, who endorsed Romney, also said he expects Romney to win and the race for the Republican nomination will virtually be a done deal after South Carolina.

“South Carolina voters have a history of voting for the eventual nominee,” LaSalvia said. “Mitt Romney will win in South Carolina on Saturday. There may be one or two of the other candidates who go on after losing on Saturday, but this primary election season will be effectively over.”

While campaigning in the Palmetto State, Romney has endorsed anti-gay positions. During a stump speech in South Carolina on Saturday, Romney said President Obama’s decision to discontinue the government’s defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court would lead to the advancement of same-sex marriage throughout the country.

“This is a president also who is attempting to pave the way for same-sex marriage in our nation by refusing through his attorney general to defend the Defense of Marriage Act,” Romney said. “I will defend that act and I will also defend marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.”

Romney has said he supports “full rights” for gay people, although he says he’s always opposed same-sex marriage. He has signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage committing himself to back a Federal Marriage Amendment, defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and establish a presidential commission on “religious liberty.”

Even in a conservative state like South Carolina, Wyman said he doesn’t think opposition to gay rights will motivate voters to go to the polls because they’re more concerned about the economy.

“I don’t think it’s the leading issue,” Wyman said. “If one of the candidates were out-and-out pro-gay, then I think it would hurt him or her, but I don’t think it’s a big issue there.”

Fresh from his endorsement by evangelical leaders who threw their support behind him after a Texas meeting on Saturday, Santorum has also emphasized anti-gay views during his campaign, but has somewhat toned down his rhetoric.

“We need to encourage what is best for mothers and fathers and children, which is for them to be together and to give every child their birth right, which is to know and be loved by their mom and dad,” Santorum said. “If we don’t hold that up as something that society is for and encouraging and promoting, then we will get less of it and then we will be, in a sense, denying children what is best for them.”

Santorum was set to appear Thursday with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins at a Values Voters rally at East Cooper Baptist Church in Mt Pleasant, S.C.

Christine Johnson, executive director of South Carolina Equality, said LGBT people there have been watching the Republican presidential race as “day by day, the anti-gay rhetoric becomes increasingly part of the conversation.”

“It seems it’s not enough to campaign on foreign policy and the economy — the issues that affect us all — but necessary to include devisive language that not only contradicts their consensus building promises, but demonstrates an unapologetic view that the LGBT community should remain an undefined underclass of society,” Johnson said.

According to South Carolina Equality, more than 120,000 LGBT people are estimated to live in the state as well as more than 7,300 same-sex couples.

“This pandering to South Carolina, ultra-conservative voters, continues to disenfranchise the many LGBT Republicans that live in the Palmetto State and is creating both anger and resentment among the community at large,” Johnson said.

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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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