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Reporters grill Carney on marriage, Prop 8 ruling

No comment on court decision; no update on Obama’s marriage views

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney faced a flurry of questions Tuesday about President Obama’s evolving position on same-sex marriage and his reaction to the court decision that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

In response to the questioning, Carney said he didn’t have a comment on the decision, although he noted the president has “long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts that deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples.”

A total of six news outlets asked Carney about marriage and the Proposition 8 decision: Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, NBC News, the Huffington Post, American Urban Radio and the Washington Blade.

Under questioning from the Blade, Carney dodged an inquiry about whether Obama — who came out against Prop 8 when it was on the ballot in 2008 and called it “unnecessary” — also believes the measure is unconstitutional.

“I’m not going to comment on litigation particularly as here where we are not party to it, but the president’s positions on these issues writ large are well known, and he’s long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny right and benefits to same-sex couples,” Carney said.

Pressed by the Blade further on whether Obama’s lack of support for marriage equality but opposition to “divisive and discriminatory” efforts such as Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage, represents an inconsistency, Carney said he didn’t have an update on the president’s position on same-sex marriage, but explained the distinction.

“I can tell you that divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits is something this president has long opposed,” Carney said. “And I think that’s an important point to make. These are proactive and deliberate efforts to deny benefits and to be discriminatory.”

Asked by NBC News whether the Ninth Circuit court decision will inform Obama’s evolution on marriage, Carney said the ruling had come out too recently for him to provide an answer.

“The decision was made within the hour before I came out here, so I haven’t had that conversation,” Carney said.

American Urban Radio pressed Carney further about when Obama’s evolution would come to an end and whether that would take place before June or the general election. Carney, however, said he doesn’t “have a timetable.”

“As the president discussed when he answered this question a while back, this is a process that involves his faith and the way he views these issues,” Carney said.

Asked whether he’s had conversations with members of the LGBT community on this issue, Carney said he isn’t aware of any talks.

“The president has a lot of conversations with a lot of people, and I can’t say one way or the other whether or not he’s had that discussion with anybody,” Carney said. “He may have, but I’m not aware of it.”

Meanwhile, GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney condemned the Prop 8 court ruling.

“Today, unelected judges cast aside the will of the people of California who voted to protect traditional marriage,” Romney’s statement said. “This decision does not end this fight, and I expect it to go to the Supreme Court. That prospect underscores the vital importance of this election and the movement to preserve our values. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and, as president, I will protect traditional marriage and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written and not according to their own politics and prejudices.”

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said Romney was issuing a “kneejerk” reaction to the ruling.

“In a time when conservatives agree that the institution of marriage is in need of support, Republicans should celebrate gay and lesbian Americans embracing the ideals of marriage and creating families,” Cooper said. “Gov. Romney’s comments attacking the court for striking down Proposition 8 reflect an unfortunate kneejerk opposition to expanding liberty and a poorly calculated political effort to appeal to a shrinking base of primary voters opposed to marriage equality.”

A transcript of the exchange between reporters and Carney on the marriage issue follows:

Reuters: Does the White House have a reaction to the appeals court ruling on California’s gay marriage ban?

Jay Carney: I don’t have a comment on litigation in general, and this litigation, to which we are not a party. Beyond that, I can say that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts that deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples.

Washington Blade: I just want to follow up on the Prop 8 ruling. Back in 2008, candidate Obama came out against Proposition 8 when it was on the ballot, calling it “unnecessary.” I’m just wondering if the president shares the belief that the measure is also unconstitutional.

Carney: Well, again, I’m not going to comment on litigation particularly as here where we are not party to it, but the president’s positions on these issues writ large are well known, and he’s long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples. But I don’t have anything more for you on that.

Blade: I want to follow up really quickly on that, though. You said the president opposes “divisive and discriminatory” efforts against same-sex couples, but the effort here — the issue in question is marriage, so isn’t it inconsistent for the president to not support same-sex marriage and also to be against such measures?

Carney: Well, I don’t have any update for you on that particular issue in regards to the president’s views. I can tell you that divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits is something this president has long opposed. And I think that’s an important point to make. These are proactive and deliberate efforts to deny benefits and to be discriminatory.

Wall Street Journal: On Proposition 8, just in general, is it still the president’s view that same-sex marriage is an issue that should be decided by the states — each individual state?

Carney: However you might want to tease out an evolutionary position on this —

Journal: I’m just asking you what his position is. Has his position changed that states should make these decisions?

Carney: I have no announcement of any changes.

Journal: Given that that is his latest position that states should make the decision, why would he not be supportive of California making the decision through the vote of Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage?

Carney: Well, because he opposes divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples. Again, I’m not commenting on specific litigation. I’m talking about his general opposition.

Journal: All sorts of states have banned same-sex marriage. Are all of those divisive and discriminatory as well?

Carney: I can’t at this moment stand here and analyze each one. I can just tell you the president’s long opposition to divisive and discriminatory efforts — you know his position. You know where it stands now with the issue of same-sex marriage, so I really don’t have much to add on it.

Journal: But there’s a fundamental inconsistency. Correct me if I’m wrong. If he says on one hand, it’s up to the state to decide, but those states who decide that they’re against it are divisive and discriminatory. So, I just wanted you correct me if I’m missing something.

Carney: Well, again I’m not offering a blanket. I’m talking about general efforts that are divisive and discriminatory. I’m not making an assessment on specific states or state laws.

Journal: How is this not just complete hypocrisy if he’s saying that it’s up to states to decide, but he won’t back a state that does make the decision?

Carney: Laura, I’m not going to comment on specific litigation or a specific state. I can say the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny right and benefits to same-sex couples, and his overall record on the issue of LGBT rights is well known and is one that he’s very proud of.

NBC News: I want to try just one more on Proposition 8. How does today’s ruling on Proposition 8 inform the president’s view on same-sex marriage, which he said is evolving?

Carney: I just don’t have anything to add about that. The decision was made within the hour before I came out here, so I haven’t had that conversation.

NBC News: Without getting into the decision

Carney: I don’t know. You’re asking me how his view is changed by this decision. I don’t know.

Huffington Post: I’m just curious how the president can be proactively against divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny people civil rights and not proactively be for the concept of marriage equality?

Carney: Sam, I totally appreciate the question. But I’m not here to announce a new position.

Huffington Post: I want just to illuminate the current position a little bit better.

Carney: Again, I would refer you to the comments the president had made on this issue. I don’t have any changes to provide to you.

American Urban Radio: When will we have a firm decision on this evolution? You have strong groups, groups that have strong thoughts and convictions on this, LGBT groups, you have religious groups, you have civil rights groups and so many others. Will we see a decision by June or before the general election on his evolution and his mindset on this?

Carney: I just don’t have a timetable to provide to you, April. I appreciate the question. As the president discussed when he answered this question a while back, this is a process that involves his faith and the way he views these issues. And as he said, and I won’t go beyond that, his views are evolving. But I don’t have an end point to announce to you or a date certain to tell you that he’ll have to say about that issue.

American Urban Radio: He has strong support from the LGBT community. Is he in consultation with many members of the community about this evolving mindset? When is the last time

Carney: The president has a lot of conversations with a lot of people, and I can’t say one way or the other whether or not he’s had that discussion with anybody. He may have, but I’m not aware of it.

Watch the video of the Blade’s questioning with Carney here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFsxzw3-GfA

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National

Trans experiences with the internet range from ‘harrowing’ to ‘powerful’

New survey provides insights into the stakes of web use for LGBTQ adults

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(Image courtesy of LGBT Tech)

Alex, 29, would not have met their friends without the internet. While living in a small city surrounded by farmland, finding community was not always easy.

Alex tried out one of those apps for adults seeking to make friends. It turned out to be a remarkable success. “I’ve made my friend group as a direct result of using the internet,” they said, explaining that even though all the friends are trans, due to their diverse interests, “we would have been hard-pressed to have ever really run into each other by happenstance.”

Making friends online is also safer for Alex. Before they pursued HRT and surgery and looked more “visibly queer,” they were in scary situations. “I’ve had pickup trucks chase me while driving, people call out slurs while driving by me, and I’ve been shot at,” they said. 

Having the internet available for appointments, work, and social activities is fundamental to their life.

But the web was not always such a friendly place for Alex. “There’s so much hate and falsehoods out there about trans people,” they said. “It’s why it takes so long for some of us to learn about who we are.”

This dissonance is widespread within the LGBTQ community. A recent report—”ctrl+alt+lgbt: Digital Access, Usage, and Experiences of the LGBTQ+ Community”—by LGBT Tech and Data for Progress provides insight into that phenomenon. 

Shae Gardner, director of policy at LGBT Tech, explained that most of the research about the LGBTQ community’s internet use historically has focused on youth. The project aimed to fill the gap. From surveys with 1,300 people across the country, the report found that while the internet is a foundational space for LGBTQ community building and self-expression, it also comes with a high risk for bullying and harassment.  

These findings intensify when looking specifically at the data for underrepresented groups within the LGBTQ population like the transgender community, who are by far the group that faces the most harassment online, per the Anti-Defamation League. Gardner explained that the survey was over-sampled for transgender individuals intentionally. “We really wanted to understand that specific experience,” Gardner said.

The Blade interviewed five trans people about their experiences to gain insight into how different community members felt while navigating the web and specifically identified sources who do not have public platforms and therefore do not face heightened public scrutiny. Due to concern for backlash, all sources for this story spoke on condition of anonymity with gender-ambiguous names and they/them pronouns.

Four out of five of the people interviewed emphasized that the internet is a vital resource for accessing healthcare. 

Riley, 24, explained, “I have such immense dread about transitioning because I don’t want to have to interact with doctors around my identity. I feel like I don’t have access to providers who are able to understand me.”

The internet, for many, provides a safe location to access health information and care without the judgment of doctors. Kai, 23, and Cameron, 27, both shared that the internet was an important place for them to learn specifics around trans healthcare and seek out trans-friendly providers. Alex agreed and added that they have made it so all of their doctors’ appointments through tele-health.

These experiences are consistent with the larger trans community. LGBT Tech’s survey found that 70% of transgender adults use the internet to find LGBTQ-friendly healthcare. By comparison, only 41% of cisgender LGBTQ adults use the internet to find the same friendly care.

All the sources interviewed said they sought LGBTQ community online with varying degrees of success. 

Jordan, 24, said that not only is social media a good way to stay connected with people they know, but it also helps them find a broader community. “It’s nice to follow other trans and queer people whose experiences can inspire me or make me feel seen.”

Cameron emphasized that the internet provides connections to activities and communities around town. “Social media has facilitated my in-person queer and trans community,” they explained. “I learn a lot about what queer events are happening around town via social media. I have a wonderful community playing queer sports that I wouldn’t have found without the internet.”

Kai shared that it hasn’t been a successful pursuit for them: “I wish it did more than it does.” 

Per LGBT Tech’s survey, transgender adults “often” use social media to connect with existing LGBTQ friends and family 41% of the time (as opposed to “sometimes” “rarely” or “never”). This is 21% more than the LGBTQ community at large. The survey also reveals that transgender adults are 20% more likely to “often” use social media to connect with new LGBTQ community than the LGBTQ community at large.

Everyone but Cameron has experienced some form of direct bullying or harassment for being transgender, either online or in person. The survey found that 83% of transgender adults have faced bullying online. By comparison, 59% of the cisgender LGBTQ community faced bullying online. 

“Technology is only as good as its application. And this is the other side of the dual-edged sword,” said Gardner. 

Gardner explained that the online and in-person harassment was mirrored. “The experiences of anti-LGBTQ bullying were very high, both for LGBTQ+ individuals and especially for trans individuals, but those numbers were nearly equitable to the experiences that that they have in the real world with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying,” she said. The survey found that 82% of transgender adults faced bullying in person.

The survey found despite the comparable levels of harassment and high levels of misinformation (93% of transgender adults saw anti-LGBTQ misinformation online), respondents overwhelmingly felt safe online—67% of trans adults and 76% of cisgender LGBTQ adults. 

When she compared this phenomenon to her life, Gardner wasn’t surprised. “The harassment that I have faced online has certainly felt less immediately threatening than what I’ve faced in person. The mental toll it takes is significant, but I would argue individuals probably have an easier time getting away from it.”

That doesn’t stop Gardner from noting, “We need to be fighting [harassment] in both places.” 

She explained that, “when we are staring down the barrel of record-setting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation yet again, it is so integral to keep fighting for digital spaces to be as safe as possible.”

Regardless of its safety, it is a space that is a constant for many. “I use the internet constantly,” said Alex. “I use the internet a lot at work since I have a desk job,” said Jordan.

When reflecting on the internet, Riley summed up the tensions they experience. “It can be harrowing often but simultaneously it’s where I feel a sense of community and access.”

(This story is part of the Digital Equity Local Voices Fellowship lab through News is Out. The lab initiative is made possible with support from Comcast NBCUniversal.)

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Pennsylvania

Pa. House passes bill to repeal state’s same-sex marriage ban

Measure now goes to Republican-controlled state Senate

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Pennsylvania Capitol Building (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Democratic-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives on July 2 passed a bill that would repeal the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The marriage bill passed by a 133-68 vote margin, with all but one Democrat voting for it. Thirty-two Republicans backed the measure.

The bill’s next hurdle is to pass in the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), a gay man who is running for state auditor, noted to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the bill would eliminate a clause in Pennsylvania’s marriage law that defines marriage as “between one man and one woman.” The measure would also change the legal definition of marriage in the state to “a civil contract between two individuals.”

Kenyatta did not return the Washington Blade’s requests for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country. 

Justice Clarence Thomas in the 2022 decision that struck down Roe v. Wade said the Supreme Court should reconsider the Obergefell decision and the Lawrence v. Texas ruling that said laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations are unconstitutional. President Joe Biden at the end of that year signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government and all U.S. states and territories to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages.

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year signed a bill that codified marriage rights for same-sex couples in state law. Pennsylvania lawmakers say the marriage codification bill is necessary in case the Supreme Court overturns marriage rights for same-sex couples in their state and across the country.

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Pennsylvania

Western Pa. transgender girl killed, dismembered

Pauly Likens, 14, brutally murdered last month

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(Photo courtesy of the LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley)

Editor’s note: The Philadelphia Gay News originally published this story.

BY TIM CWIEK | Prosecutors are pledging justice for Pauly Likens, a 14-year-old transgender girl from Sharon, Pa., who was brutally killed last month. Her remains were scattered in and around a park lake in western Pennsylvania.

“The bottom line is that we have a 14-year-old, brutally murdered and dismembered,” said Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker in an email. “Pauly Likens deserves justice, her family deserves justice, and we seek to deliver that justice.”

On June 23, DaShawn Watkins allegedly met Likens in the vicinity of Budd Street Public Park and Canoe Launch in Sharon, Pa., and killed her. Watkins subsequently dismembered Likens’s corpse with a saw and scattered her remains in and around Shenango River Lake in Clark Borough.

On July 2, Watkins was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He’s being held without bail in the Mercer County jail.

The coroner’s office said the cause of death was sharp force trauma to the head and ruled the manner of death as homicide.

Cell phone records, social media and surveillance video link Watkins to the crime. Additionally, traces of Likens’s blood were found in and around Watkins’s apartment in Sharon, Pa., authorities say.

A candlelight vigil is being held Saturday, July 13, in remembrance of Likens. It’s being hosted by LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley. The vigil begins at 7 p.m. at 87 Stambaugh Ave. in Sharon, Pa.

Pamela Ladner, president of the Alliance, mourned Likens’s death. 

“Pauly’s aunt described her as a sweet soul, inside and out,” Ladner said in an email. “She was a selfless child who loved nature and wanted to be a park ranger like her aunt.”

Acker, the prosecutor, said Likens’s death is one of the worst crimes he’s seen in 46 years as an attorney. But he cautioned against calling it a hate crime. “PSP [Pennsylvania State Police] does not believe it in fact is one [hate crime] because the defendant admitted to being a homosexual and the victim was reportedly a trans girl,” Acker asserted.

Acker praised the criminal justice agencies who worked on the case, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Hermitage Police Department, the Sharon Police Department, park rangers from the Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County Coroner John Libonati, and cadaver dog search units.

“The amount of hours dedicated to the identification of the victim and the filing of charges against the defendant is a huge number,” Acker added. “We take the murder of any individual very seriously, expressly when they are young and brutally killed and dismembered.”

Acker also noted that all criminal defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This is a developing story.

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