MIAMI — Two days before the hotly contested GOP presidential primary in Florida, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney beat his three remaining rivals by a lopsided margin Saturday night in a straw poll of gay Republican activists in the Sunshine State.
The poll of just 34 Log Cabin officers and active members from the Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa areas was billed as an unscientific sample of LGBT Republicans in the state.
It took place at an informal “cocktail caucus” of Log Cabin members at a Miami restaurant. In secret balloting, Romney received 24 votes, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich received 6 votes, Texas Congressman Ron Paul received 4 votes, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania received no votes.
“It’s a reflection of some of our most active and politically informed members mostly from the Miami-Dade area,” said R. Clarke Cooper, president of the national Log Cabin Republicans organization.
Officials from the group’s Florida chapters said the outcome was consistent with anecdotal information they’ve received from club members and gay and lesbian Republicans across the state – that a majority of Florida’s LGBT Republicans, including those who initially backed former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, have shifted their support to Romney.
Huntsman has dropped out of the race and most political observers believe Paul has little chance of capturing the Republican nomination for president.
Shortly after Log Cabin’s cocktail caucus adjourned on Saturday evening, the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, and the Tampa Bay Times released the findings of a joint poll that showed a large majority of the state’s Republican voters were in agreement with the Log Cabin members.
The poll of 800 likely GOP voters showed Romney had a commanding lead of 42 percent, with Gingrich coming in second with 31 percent. Santorum came in third with 14 percent. Paul received 6 percent support from the GOP voter sample.
The Florida primary takes place on Tuesday. Thousands of GOP voters have already cast their bollots under the state’s early voting law.
Mimi Planas, co-director of Log Cabin Republicans of Miami, said her group organized the cocktail caucus in honor of members of the national Log Cabin Republicans board of directors, which met in Miami earlier in the day.
Planas, a Cuban American, was among several Hispanic Log Cabin members and officers that attended the caucus. The other co-director of the Miami chapter, Eddie Sierra, is also Cuban American.
Planas said her perception was that many LGBT Hispanic Republicans were in agreement with a majority of their straight counterparts in believing that Romney would be the best candidate to challenge President Obama in the general election in November.
“I can you tell that I, as a Republican gay voter, will be voting for Romney in the Republican primary and will support his campaign 100 percent,” said Planas, who works as an executive assistant to the president of a Miami company.
She acknowledges that Romney isn’t as supportive on LGBT issues as she would like, especially on the issue of same-sex marriage, which Romney opposes. But Planas and nearly all the others at the cocktail gathering who spoke with the Blade said their decision on which candidate to support for president was based on a wide range of issues in addition to LGBT issues.
“We see many of the LGBT Democrats as being one-issue voters,” said Planas. “We’re multi-issue voters who care a lot about a strong national defense, regulatory reform, and less, not more, government intrusion in the private sector.”
Jim Pease, president of the Tampa Bay Log Cabin Republicans chapter, said he’s developed a “sound bite” answer over the past ten years to the question by gay Democrats and others on why gay Republicans support a party or candidates that oppose LGBT rights.
“If you’re going to be a single-issue voter, than, yes, you’re going to have a problem,” he said. “But you’ve got to look at the whole picture. I’ve never found any candidate whose platform I agree with 100 percent.”
Pease added, “I have to look at what’s best for America. I want to keep America safe, I want a strong defense. I want a strong economy. I want to keep it so we have the liberties and the freedoms that we enjoy so we can be gay Republicans, so that we can be gay Democrats.”
Andy Eddy, president of the Log Cabin Chapter of Broward County, which includes the city of Fort Lauderdale, said he, too, is supporting Romney.
“I was originally supporting Huntsman and I was leaning toward Gingrich,” Eddy said. “But I was disappointed in a couple of things about Gingrich. I decided Romney would be the best person to win the Republican ticket in November 2012.”
Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum have each signed a pledge vowing to support a U.S. constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage sent the pledge to all Republican presidential candidates last year. Paul and Huntsman were the only two of the original ‘top tier’ candidates to decline to sign the pledge.
Cooper, who heads the national Log Cabin organization, and several officials with the group’s Florida chapters, including Eddy, said on Saturday that it would be unlikely that the national group would decline to support Romney in November should he win the nomination based on his position on gay marriage.
Cooper said Log Cabin traditionally waits to decide whether to endorse a Republican presidential candidate until the time of the GOP national convention.
In a controversial decision, the national Log Cabin Republicans group chose not to endorse President George W. Bush for re-election in 2004 based on Bush’s support for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would add a permanent ban on same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution.
Eddy noted that Log Cabin’s action in 2004 left it open for its chapters throughout the country to endorse Bush, enabling the chapters to avoid sanctions or expulsion from their local or state Republican committees. A number of Log Cabin chapters, including those in Miami-Dade and Broward County in Florida, have been accepted as official arms of the Republican Party Committees in their respective counties or cities.
Cooper said he and other Log Cabin officials believe Romney’s position on gay marriage is more nuanced than that of President Bush in 2004, who actively backed a constitutional ban. Cooper said that Romney, while signing the National Organization for Marriage pledge, refused to sign a “far more extreme” pledge against gay marriage sent to him and other candidates by the Iowa based Christian conservative group The Family Leader.
According to Cooper, Log Cabin’s decision not to endorse Bush in 2004 under group’s then president Patrick Guerriero was also based, in part, on the national Republican Party’s strong backing of referendums in several states seeking to ban gay marriage.
Cooper said the party was using gay marriage as a “wedge issue” to divide the electorate and increase the turnout of conservative voters at the polls.
“Romney has said doing a constitutional amendment is not realistic and that’s not something that’s going to happen,” Cooper said. “So when you have candidates like him and Ron Paul saying that’s not a realistic option, that’s far different than from saying I’m going to push for a federal marriage amendment.”
Eddy said he and other Log Cabin members planned to attend a Romney rally Sunday afternoon in Pompano Beach near Fort Lauderdale.
Jerame Davis, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats, an LGBT group aligned with the Democratic Party, disputes Cooper’s view that Romney’s statement that a federal constitutional amendment seeking to ban gay marriage is not likely to be seriously considered offsets Romney’s support for NOM’s federal marriage amendment pledge.
“It’s the height of hypocrisy that Log Cabin would try to excuse Mitt Romney’s adoption of NOM’s insidious hate pledge,” Davis said. “In 2004, LCR took a principled stand and refused to endorse George W. Bush for his misguided push for a federal marriage amendment.”
N.C. lieutenant governor compares gays to cow feces, maggots
“If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said
WINSTON-SALEM – Speaking to parishioners at the Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem last Sunday, November 14, North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson attacked the LGBTQ+ community in remarks caught on the church’s livestreaming video on YouTube.
Robinson said in his sermon that he questioned the “purpose” of being gay; said heterosexual couples are “superior” to gay couples; and that he didn’t want to explain to his grandchildren why two men are kissing if they see that on television the Charlotte Observer reported.
The state’s Republican Lt. Governor then went on to compare being gay to “what the cows leave behind” as well as maggots and flies, who he said all serve a purpose in God’s creation. “If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said.
Democratic lawmakers expressed their outrage on Twitter:
“This man’s theology and religious practices are not only flawed and a perversion of the Christian tenets; he places countless people at risk of violent attacks and even murder every time he opens his mouth.” #ncpol https://t.co/Uw8jeiqx7A— NC House Democrats (@NCHouseDems) November 20, 2021
According to the Observer, “The video was distributed Friday by a pastor at St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, the day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance. A protest rally was held Friday in front of Robinson’s office, but organizers also read the names of transgender people who have been killed.
“This man’s theology and religious practices are not only flawed and a perversion of the Christian tenets; he places countless people at risk of violent attacks and even murder every time he opens his mouth,” said Vance Haywood, senior pastor at St. John’s, in a statement.
Robinson is expected to run for the governor’s chair in 2024. In another video of the sermon captured the Lt. Governor ranting in transphobic terms his opinion of the Trans community:
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (Twitter Video)
Video of remarks made by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson courtesy of the Charlotte Observer.
LGBTQ elder care facilities open nationwide, but discrimination persists
Advocates say seniors face challenges despite groundbreaking advances
Marsha Wetzel, an out lesbian, shared her life with her partner of 30 years, Judith Kahn, at the couple’s home in Illinois until Kahn died in 2013 of colon cancer.
As is the case with some same-sex couples who never married, Kahn’s family took legal possession of the couple’s home several years later, forcing Wetzel, who suffered from severe arthritis, to move into the Glen St. Andrew Living Community, a retirement and assisted living facility in Niles, Ill.
According to a lawsuit filed on her behalf in 2016 by the LGBTQ litigation group Lambda Legal, when word got out that Wetzel was a lesbian after she disclosed her sexual orientation to a fellow resident, she was called homophobic slurs, spat on, and assaulted on several occasions by other residents of the facility. The lawsuit, which later resulted in a court ruling in Wetzel’s favor, charged that officials at the Glen St. Andrew facility illegally failed to take action to prevent Wetzel from being subjected to abuse and threats by fellow residents and retaliated against her when she complained.
Lambda Legal announced one year ago, on Nov. 20, 2020, that Wetzel passed away at the age of 73 of natural causes after a landmark 2018 appeals court ruling in her favor affirmed that residential facilities such as the one in which she lived are legally responsible for the safety of tenant residents.
“Marsha spent the rest of her days in a senior living community where she was out and affirmed,” said Lambda Legal attorney Karen Loewy, who represented Wetzel in the lawsuit.
Advocates for LGBTQ seniors were hopeful that the 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruling in the Wetzel case would speed up the gradual but steady advances in the rights of LGBTQ elders in long-term care facilities and in society in general.
A short time later, the New York City-based national LGBTQ elder advocacy group SAGE expanded its programs providing cultural competency training for the nation’s long-term care residential facilities. And in some cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, LGBTQ specific retirement and long-term care facilities began to open to provide LGBTQ elders with a wide range of “wrap around” services in addition to a safe place to live.
But LGBTQ elder advocates were taken aback in October of this year when news surfaced that transgender U.S. Army veteran Lisa Oakley, 68, was denied placement in more than two-dozen long-term care facilities in Colorado in 2020 and earlier this year.
“When they found out I was transgender, a lot of the facilities didn’t want me,” Oakley told USA Today. “A lot of transgender people, I’m sure, face the same thing,” she said. “We’re humans, just like everybody else.”
Oakley told other media outlets her ordeal in trying to gain admission to a residential care facility began in October 2020, when she became unable to care for herself due to complications from diabetes. Her first choice was a facility in her hometown in rural Craig, Colo., where she had lived for the previous 25 years. She believes that facility turned her down because of her gender identity.
A social worker who assisted in Oakley’s applications for long-term care facilities said the facility in Craig said Oakley would have to be placed in a private room, which was at the time unavailable, “because she still has her ‘boy parts’ and cannot be placed with a woman” in a shared room.
Many other Colorado facilities to which Oakley applied for admission, according to social worker Cori Martin-Crawford, cited the COVID pandemic as the reason for not accepting new residents. But as COVID related restrictions began to subside, other facilities continued to deny Oakley admission.
With Martin-Crawford’s help, Oakley finally found a facility that is LGBTQ supportive in Grand Junction, Colo., which is nearly three hours away from her hometown of Craig, where she had hoped to remain.
LGBTQ activists expressed concern that the discrimination that Oakley faced took place in the state of Colorado, which has a state law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Experts familiar with long-term care facilities for older adults have said many private elder care facilities can get around state LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws by claiming other reasons for turning down an LGBTQ person.
Michael Adams, the CEO of SAGE, told the Blade that the wide range of programs and initiatives put in place by SAGE and other groups advocating for LGBTQ elders in recent years have resulted in significant changes in support of LGBTQ seniors.
“It is the case now that in almost all states there are one or more elder care facilities that have been trained through our SAGECare program,” Adams said. “But it’s nowhere near what it needs to be,” he said. “It needs to be that there are welcoming elder care facilities in every single community in this country” for LGBTQ elders.
Adams was referring to the SAGE program started recently called SAGECare that arranges for employees and other officials at elder care facilities throughout the country to receive LGBTQ competency training. The facilities that participate in the program are designated “SAGECare credentialed,” and are included in SAGE database lists available to LGBTQ elders looking for a safe facility in which to reside.
SAGE spokesperson Christina Da Costa provided the Blade with data showing there have been 136,975 professionals trained at a total of 617 SAGECare credentialed organizations nationwide. Out of 617 organizations, 172 are residential communities. Also, out of the total of 617 are 167 Area Agencies on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Senior Centers, and senior Ombudsman offices.
Da Costa said 278 of the credentialed entities that have received the SAGECare training throughout the country are “other aging focused nonprofit and for-profit businesses.”
According to SAGE, there are 12 SAGECare credentialed elder care facilities or service providers operating in the D.C. metropolitan area, with two located in D.C. One of the D.C. facilities is Ingleside at Rock Creek, located in Northwest D.C., which is a residential facility. The other is Options for Senior America, a company that provides in-home care services for seniors, including seniors living in D.C.
A SAGE list of the D.C.-area SAGECare credentialed facilities shows that three are in Rockville, Md.; two are in Gaithersburg, Md.; and one each are in Bethesda, Md.; Arlington, Va.; and Alexandria, Va. The list shows that one of them that provides services to elders in the D.C. area is based in North Carolina.
SAGE has a separate list of the 15 elder care residential facilities in the U.S. created specifically to serve LGBTQ residents.
None are in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia. However, SAGE says it has been working in cooperation with Mary’s House for Older Adults, a D.C.-based LGBTQ organization that advocates for LGBTQ seniors and is in the process of opening LGBTQ elder residential facilities in D.C. and others in the surrounding suburbs.
Mary’s House founder and CEO Dr. Imani Woody couldn’t immediately be reached to determine when the organization expects to open its first residential facility.
While a residential LGBTQ elder facility has yet to open in the D.C. area, activists note that in addition to Mary’s House, services and amenities for LGBTQ elders in the area are currently being provided by the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and Whitman-Walker Health, the LGBTQ supportive health center, which also has a legal services branch.
Adams of SAGE said the Los Angeles LGBTQ Center opened the nation’s first LGBTQ elder residential facility over eight years ago called Triangle Square. He said the L.A. Center opened a second LGBTQ elder residential facility a short time later. And this week, the L.A. Center announced it has opened a third LGBTQ elder residential facility in Hollywood that is part of a larger “intergenerational campus” that will bring together LGBTQ seniors and LGBTQ youth.
SAGE, meanwhile, operates two LGBTQ elder long-term care residential facilities in New York City, one in Brooklyn called the Stonewall House and one in the Bronx called Pride House.
The other U.S. cities with LGBTQ elder residential facilities include: Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco (which has two such facilities), San Diego, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, and Islip, N.Y.
Adams said the LGBTQ elder residential facilities range in size, with the largest – New York’s Stonewall House – having 143 apartments that can accommodate 200 residents. He said others vary from 40 or 50 residential units to 120.
Advocates for LGBTQ elders point to what they consider another important breakthrough for LGBTQ elders this year in the release of a joint SAGE-Human Rights Campaign Long-Term Care Equality Index report for 2021. Adams said the report is the first of what could become an annual report and rating and scorecard for long-term care elder residential facilities and other elder facilities.
The 2021 report includes a self-reporting assessment of elder care facilities that the facilities themselves completed through a questionnaire in which many disclosed they have LGBTQ nondiscrimination policies for elders around admission to the facility and for practices by staff for those residing in their facilities.
The report includes a chart showing that 158 elder care facilities in 31 states responded positively to the outreach to them by organizers of the Long-Term Care Equality Index.
“We are thrilled to be working with SAGE and to be working with the Human Rights Campaign who are developing the Long-Term Care Equality Index,” said Nii-Quartelai Quartey, who serves as senior adviser and LGBTQ liaison for the American Association of Retired Persons or AARP.
“There is a great deal of work that we’re doing in the area of LGBTQ older adults nationwide,” Quartey told the Blade. “And AARP has been engaged with the LGBTQ community nationwide for many years now,” he said.
“In recent years, we’ve turned up the volume in working more closely with organizations like SAGE and Lambda Legal and the Victory Fund Institute, the Center for Black Equity, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, and the Hispanic Federation.”
According to Quartey, a recent AARP study of LGBTQ elders called Maintaining Dignity shows that longstanding concerns of discrimination remain despite the many advances in support for LGBTQ seniors in recent years.
He said a survey that was part of the study found that 67 percent of the LGBTQ elders who responded, “were concerned about neglect in a long-term care setting.” Over 60 percent feared verbal or physical harassment in a long-term care setting and over half “felt forced to hide or deny their identity” as an LGBTQ person, Quartey said.
Another recent survey of LGBTQ elders conducted by SAGE asking them how they feel about the use of the word “queer” in descriptions of LGBTQ people yielded findings that came as a surprise to some, according to Adams. A large majority of those surveyed from across the country said they are “comfortable at this point using that word and reclaiming that word, which is different from what we had heard historically,” Adams said.
He said in response to those findings SAGE will now as an organization gradually shift to using the term LGBTQ instead of its past practice of using LGBT.
Although Congress has yet to pass the Equality Act, last year under the Trump Administration, Congress acted in a rare bipartisan way to approve the required five-year reauthorization of the U.S. Older Americans Act with new language supportive of LGBTQ older adults. President Trump signed the legislation.
The language includes a mandate for outreach to and reporting about services provided to LGBTQ older adults in federally funded programs. It also opens the way for LGBTQ older adults to be designated in a category of “greatest social need.” Under that category, older adults receive a higher priority in the allocation of resources by the federal government.
“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go to get over the finish line,” said the AARP’s Quartey. “And aside from passing legislation federally and on the state and local level, we absolutely need to continue the hard work of changing hearts and minds,” he said.
Longtime gay activist and writer Brian McNaught, whose latest book, “On Being Gay and Gray – Our Stories, Gifts, and the Meaning of Our Lives,” was just released, says his own very informal survey of LGBTQ elders found there is a need for intimacy that may be too controversial for the establishment LGBTQ elder groups.
“I’m a SAGE volunteer and the 81-year-old man with whom I was working after his husband of 47 years died, said after his grieving process, ‘I want to be hugged and kissed. Does that make me a bad person?’”
McNaught told the Blade he assured the man those feelings do not make him a bad person. McNaught said the man’s comment prompted him to conduct further research, in which he found that some gay male elders in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area who often need assisted living support would like to patronize gay bathhouses or seek the services of an escort agency. He said he determined that any LGBTQ elder group providing such services would trigger “a huge uproar of protests” and most likely a loss of funding.
“We don’t want to talk about sexuality and aging,” McNaught said.
Former VOA director nominated to head U.S. Agency for Global Media
Previous CEO’s actions threatened LGBTQ internet freedom
President Biden on Monday nominated Amanda Bennett, the former head of Voice of America and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, investigative journalist and editor, to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
“I am honored by this nomination,” Bennett told Voice of America. “If confirmed, I will be so proud to work with all the dedicated journalists at USAGM who are doing the critical and difficult work around the world of upholding and demonstrating the value of a free press.”
The agency operates independently from the U.S. government and oversees five different entities that include Voice of America, broadcasting platforms and the Open Technology Fund. The fund is an independent non-profit organization that focuses on advancing global internet freedom by providing internet access, digital privacy tutorials, privacy enhancement and security tools like encryption.
These tools have been integral in preserving internet freedom for LGBTQ people abroad, especially in places where it’s unsafe or illegal to be LGBTQ.
Bennett, 69, was named VOA director in 2016 and resigned from her post in June 2020 after conservative documentary filmmaker Michael Pack was confirmed as the agency’s CEO during the Trump administration.
Under Pack’s tenure, several technology freedom experts said the former CEO thwarted the Open Technology Fund’s efforts abroad by freezing funds. Pack also ignored a House subpoena for an oversight hearing that was meant for him to address mass firings, withholding congressionally approved funds and other questionable activities.
Pack stepped down at Biden’s request in January, and the president named Kelu Chao, a VOA veteran journalist, as Pack’s replacement and interim CEO.
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