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Gingrich comes from behind to win S.C. primary

Win means three contests have gone to different candidates

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Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich pulled a surprise win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, throwing off expectations for the race for the GOP nomination.

Media outlets projected Gingrich would win the primary immediately upon close of the polls at 7 pm. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Gingrich captured 40.8 percent of the vote, or 243,153 of the total votes cases in the election. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came in a distant second with 27.8 percent.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum was in third place with 17 percent of the vote. Coming in fourth was Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) with 13 percent.

In victory speech in South Carolina, Gingrich said he was seeking broad support for his campaign as he took a dig at President Obama.

“We want to run not a Republican campaign; we want to run an American campaign,” Gingrich said. “This is the most important election of our lifetime. If Barack Obama can get re-elected after this disaster — right — just think of how radical he would be in a second term.”

Immediately following Gingrich’s remarks on Obama, an audience member shouted, “No more years!”

Gingrich also alluded to Romney’s campaign without mentioning the former Massachusetts governor, saying, “We don’t have the kind of money that at least one of the candidates has.” According to the latest reports, Romney has raised $32.2 million, while Gingrich has raised only $2.9 million.

“But we do have ideas, and we do have people,” Gingrich said. “And we proved here in South Carolina that people power with the right ideas beats big money, and with your help, we’re going to prove it again in Florida.”

In his speech following the results, Santorum said his campaign was about importance of families, marriage and mothers and fathers. The candidate has been vocal about his opposition to same-sex marriage.

“If we are not the party that stands up to the truth about the importance of marriage, the importance of families, the importance of fatherhood and motherhood, the importance of those values of instilling of virtues in the next generation of children with faith, then we a party that no longer has a heart, and we not a party that’s going to be a majority party in this country,” Santorum said.

Earlier this week, Romney was polling ahead of other Republicans in the Palmetto State by double-digits and observers predicted he’d win the primary. But polls on Friday began showing Gingrich was ahead, leading to the win for the candidate.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said Gingrich’s win in South Carolina demonstrates the Republican Party is reluctant to embrace Romney as their standard-bearer.

“The GOP base south of the Mason-Dixon line has never been all that fond of Mitt Romney, but the fact that South Carolina voters gave such a lopsided victory to an ethically challenged, twice divorced, serial philanderer who resigned his last position of power in disgrace is just breathtaking,” Davis said. “Republican voters are starting to see Romney for what he really is: a corporate raider who has no core values of his own and will say anything to get himself elected. The not-Romney wing of the Republican party hasn’t won yet, but they struck a major blow tonight in the Palmetto State.”

Gingrich won the primary after Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race Thursday and threw his support behind the former U.S. House speaker. Perry was only polling in the single digits in South Carolina, but the shifted support from Perry to Gingrich likely contributed to the outcome of the contest.

Chris Barron, chief strategist for the gay conservative group GOProud, congratulated Gingrich and attributed his win to the candidate steering clear of negative attacks on Romney’s business career.

“It is clear that Speaker Gingrich’s poll numbers improved dramatically once he ended his unnecessary and unproductive attacks on Governor Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital,” Barron said. “As conservatives we should make it clear that we are the champions of free enterprise.”

The Gingrich win is likely troubling for Romney, who earlier this week was seen as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. That mantle was taken from him after a recount of the Iowa caucus revealed this week that Santorum had actually won there by 34 votes.

Gingrich faces obstacles to clamping down the Republican nomination, including his admitted marital infidelities.Earlier this week, Marianne Gingrich, the candidate’s second wife, said during an ABC News interview Gingrich wanted an open relationship during the marriage. The candidate later divorced her and married his current and third wife, Callista Gingrich, with whom he was having affair while in his second marriage.

Additionally, although Gingrich has been seen as an alternative to the more moderate Romney, socially conservative, evangelical leaders threw their support behind Santorum during a meeting in Texas last week.

The thrice-married Gingrich is an opponent of same-sex marriage and signed a pledge from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage committing himself upon election as president to backing a Federal Marriage Amendment, defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court and establishing a presidential commission on “religious liberty.”

Brian Brown, NOM’s president, congratulated Gingrich for his victory and noted each of the winners so far in the Republican presidential primaries adhere to the organization’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Paul hasn’t signed NOM’s pledge.

“NOM congratulates Newt Gingrich on his impressive come-from-behind victory in South Carolina,” Brown said. “We have had three different victors in state contests thus far — Rick Santorum in Iowa, Mitt Romney in New Hampshire and now Newt Gingrich in South Carolina. What all these states have in common is that they have picked candidates who have signed NOM’s Marriage Pledge They are all winners and NOM supports each of them.”

Romney also continues to lead in the national polls. A Gallup poll published Friday gave him a 10-point lead over Gingrich. However, the lead Romney enjoys has been diminished from the standing he enjoyed earlier this week, when he had a 23-point lead over both Gingrich and Santorum.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said the Florida Republican primary — set to take place Jan. 31 — will be a “greater mark” of who Republicans want to rally around as their nominee.

“Like all Republicans during primary season, Log Cabin Republicans, including our members in the Palmetto state, have differing views of who should be our nominee,” Cooper said “Unlike South Carolina, the demographics of Florida provide an electorate closer to what the nominee will face in the November general election.”

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National

Texas to resume abuse investigations into families with trans children

“To be clear the Supreme Court has not directed Commissioner Masters & DFPS to continue investigating parents of trans youth for child abuse”

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In a statement issued Thursday, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) agency announced that it will resume abuse investigations into families with transgender kids.

“DFPS treats all reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation seriously and will continue to investigate each to the full extent of the law,” the statement read.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the DFPS statement, while not addressing the investigations into medical treatments for trans youth, indirectly indicated that these probes will now continue.

Current state law does not explicitly define gender affirming medical treatments, such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy as child abuse. A DFPS spokesman did not comment when asked if the agency plans to continue investigating such treatments as child abuse, the Dallas Morning News noted.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled last week that DFPS can continue to investigate families in the state who provide medically necessary care for their Trans children, excluding the parties in the litigation that brought the matter forward in a lawsuit filed in March.

In its decision, the court emphasized that neither Attorney General Paxton nor Governor Abbott has the power or authority to direct DFPS to investigate the provision of medically necessary lifesaving health care for transgender youth as child abuse. But the court limited the order blocking all investigations to the specific plaintiffs who filed suit.

Trans activist Landon Richie who has been deeply involved in the efforts to mitigate the anti-trans actions by Texas lawmakers and has led protests against the transphobic actions by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton told the Blade:

“To be clear, the Texas Supreme Court has not directed Commissioner Masters and DFPS to continue investigating parents of trans youth for child abuse. While the decision means now only the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit have protection, it reiterates that Attorney General Paxton’s opinion and Governor Abbott’s letter are not binding and not enforceable, meaning DFPS’s actions moving forward are at the discretion of Commissioner Masters only and not the state leadership’s directives. The Texas Supreme Court allowing for the district court to provide a temporary injunction is a good sign for people’s protection. 

It bears reminding families in Texas and around the country that today’s decision (and yesterday’s regarding gender-affirming care at UT Southwestern and Texas Children’s) reaffirms what we already know: opinions are only opinions and the people in power cannot abuse that power to abuse trans people. We know decisions can change at a moment’s notice and that this fight will take years, but to our families and communities under attack, please remain strong and take a moment to breathe. We’re in this together. “

An employee of DFPS who was a litigant in the lawsuit is represented by the ACLU of Texas.

Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas who is on the team representing that unnamed employee, said the state’s decision to reopen the cases is unfortunate and unlawful. He said his team believes that the high court’s decision removes any responsibility for Texans to report trans youth getting treatments, the Dallas Morning News reported.

“We are going to be closely monitoring what the agency does. We would encourage families that have any reason to believe that they have an investigation to seek legal help,” Klosterboer said.

“Abbott’s letter and Paxton’s opinion did not change Texas law,” he added. “Gender affirming health care is still legal in all 50 states.”

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Florida

“Don’t Say Gay” student leader says school stopping run for student leadership

Jack Petocz organized a state-wide student protest against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill & annoyed administrators suspended him

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Jack Petocz (Center) at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government earlier this Spring (Courtesy of Jack Petocz/Facebook)

Jack Petocz, a Flagler Palm Coast High School junior, organized a state-wide student protest against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill this past March, and at his school, annoyed administrators suspended him.

On Tuesday, Petocz said that the school’s disciplinary action is now preventing him from running for senior class president.

“When I returned, the administration assured me that no further disciplinary action would be taken. A month later, they broke this verbal agreement and placed a level 3 referral on my record. Now, due to this high level of discipline, I am being prevented from running for senior class president. I am continuing to be punished for standing up for my identity and against widespread hatred.”

The suspension over the student walkout became a viral moment that propelled the 17-year-old into the national spotlight and into the national discourse over a spate of harsh laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

17-year-old Cameron Driggers, a student LGBTQ+ activist-organizer of the group Recall Flagler County School Board and co-leader of the walk-out, his friend’s suspension inspired him to create a petition on Change.org to pressure Flagler Palm Coast High School Principal Greg Schwartz to rescind his seemingly arbitrary decision to suspend Petocz.

One protest at the school over its suspension of Petocz brought together a grizzled and proud Out gay U.S. Marine Corps veteran accompanied by his fellow vets, who alongside with Driggers and the other young adolescent activists protested in a rally in front of the school at the same time Petocz and his father were inside meeting with Flagler Palm Coast High School Principal Greg Schwartz, hoping to get him to rescind his seemingly arbitrary decision to suspend Petocz.

Jack Petocz (with bullhorn) leads Flagler Palm Coast High School protest against DSG bill (Photo by Alysa Vidal)

Later on during the day Driggers posted to the Change.org petition the news that Principal Schwartz had backed off.

“Recall FCSB is pleased to announce that Jack’s suspension has ended and he is back on-campus. We are grateful for the thousands of people around the globe that shared, tweeted and protested in support of Jack, the organizer behind the state-wide Don’t Say Gay Walkout. Over 7500 signatures were collected on a condemnation of Principal Greg Schwartz’ conduct last Thursday. With Jack back on campus, Recall FCSB will continue to empower student leaders in and out of school,” Driggers wrote.

Principal Schwartz also committed to removing the ‘disciplinary action’ from Petocz’s school record.

On Tuesday, Petocz announced that Principal Schwartz and other school officials are barring him from running for an elected student office.

In response to the news, PEN America issued the following statement from Jonathan Friedman, director of the Free Expression and Education program:

“By going back on their word and imposing a red mark on Jack Petocz’s disciplinary record, the Flagler Palm Coast High School administration appears bent on retaliating against him for organizing the walkout against the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. This is unconscionable. Jack exercised his right to protest as a citizen, and he led the walkout with the school’s approval. No student ought to be intimidated or punished by school authorities for their political speech, and the school already told him he would not be disciplined. This is especially troubling alongside news of other efforts to censor or intimidate students raising their voices for LGBTQ+ rights across Florida. The leaders of Flagler Palm Coast High School should remove this infraction from his record so that he can run for class president just like any other student.”

On Twitter, Petocz urged people to contact his school to get officials to reverse this latest decision.

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National

History making win- Out Lesbian could be Oregon’s next governor

“This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state, and this will be an election unlike anything any of us have ever seen”

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Courtesy of Tina Kotek

The Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday win by Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, who had announced her run for the governor’s seat to replace incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown, who is term limited last September 1st, 2021, positions her to become the first Out Lesbian governor in the nation should she win the general election in November.

Kotek’s win comes during an uptick in the elections nationwide as more candidates running for office identify as LGBTQ”. More than 600 LGBTQ candidates are on ballots this year, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

According to the Victory Fund, at least 101 people ran or are running for the U.S. Senate or U.S. House – with 96 still actively running as of February 21, 2022. That marks a 16.1 percent increase in LGBTQ Congressional candidates compared to the 2020 election cycle, when 87 people ran.

Speaking to her supporters after it became clear she had won over Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read, who was polling second among Oregonian progressives, “This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state, and this will be an election unlike anything any of us have ever seen,” Kotek said.

Republican state legislator Christine Drazan along with an independent candidate, Betsy Johnson are slated to be on the November ballot.

Last Fall when she announced her candidacy, she said, “I am running for Governor because I know that, together, we can reckon with the legacies of injustice and inequality to build a great future for Oregon.” She also noted, “Oregonians are living through a devastating pandemic, the intensifying impacts of climate change, and the economic disruptions that leave too many behind. We must get past the politics of division and focus on making real, meaningful progress for families across our state.” 

“A victory for Tina would shatter a lavender ceiling and be a milestone moment in LGBTQ political history, yet she is running not to make history, but because there are few people as prepared and qualified to serve as Oregon’s governor,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Under Tina’s leadership, Oregon has led in passing legislation to improve roads and education, raise the minimum wage and ensure all residents are treated fairly and equally. As governor, Tina will make Oregon a role model for the nation.”

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