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National news in brief: March 9

Pro hockey players fight against homophobia, Americans support marriage rights but don’t vote based on candidate’s stance, and more



Patrick Burke, Brian Burke, gay news, gay politics dc

‘You Can Play’ founder Patrick Burke and his father, Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, launched a PSA this week featuring eight NHL players encouraging inclusion for gay athletes. (Screen shot from You Can Play YouTube account)

Pro hockey players fight against homophobia

PHILADELPHIA — At least 35 players in the National Hockey League have joined together in a new initiative to fight homophobia and encourage inclusion, according to the New York Times.

“You Can Play” is the brainchild of Philadelphia Flyers’ scout Patrick Burke — the older brother of the late Brendan Burke, who came out while managing the Miami (Ohio) University hockey team — and encourages gay athletes to participate in sports. The initiative released a website and public service announcement featuring members of the New York Rangers, Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators franchises, which will air Sunday on NBC during the first intermission of the Bruins-Rangers game.

Over 80 percent of pro-hockey players told Sports Illustrated they would welcome a gay player in the locker room, but as of yet, no pro hockey player has come out of the closet. Burke and his father, Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, have been vocal proponents of LGBT inclusion in the sport after Brendan’s death in a 2010 car accident.

Poll: Most don’t vote based on candidate’s gay marriage stand

NEW YORK — While more Americans support extending marriage rights to same-sex couples than are opposed, their support does not compel voting for pro-marriage candidates, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

The poll found that 49 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage, compared with 40 percent opposed. Of those polled 32 percent were strongly in favor, while 31 percent were strongly opposed.

However, when asked if a candidate’s stance on the matter would affect whether the respondent would vote for them, only 25 percent said they would more likely vote for a candidate who supported same-sex marriage. Only 20 percent said they were more likely to vote for an opponent of same-sex marriage.

Episcopal bishop endorses Anchorage equal rights initiative

ANCHORAGE — Rev. Mark Lattime, the Episcopal bishop overseeing Alaska, has endorsed an April 5 ballot measure that would extend non-discrimination protections to people in Anchorage based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to the Alaska LGBT blog “Bent Alaska,” Lattime wrote his flock calling on them to “strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being.”

“Working and praying for the just and proper protection under the law of all human beings is certainly a faithful expression of the higher calling of the Baptismal Covenant,” Lattime wrote.

LGBT political action fund selects new director

DENVER — The Gill Action Fund has chosen Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation and a former staffer for Republican Rep. Mark Foley, as the organization’s new executive director, according to the Advocate.

Fordham, 44, acted as Foley’s Chief of Staff for 10 years prior to the congressional page scandal that caused the Florida moderate to come out as gay and end his political career in 2006. Fordham then headed the Everglades Foundation, which seeks to restore and protect the Florida Everglades ecosystem.

Gill Action was founded in 2005 by notable gay political funder Tim Gill, and houses the OutGiving program, which engages LGBT political donors and channels money toward electing pro-gay lawmakers while defeating anti-gay politicians.

Majority of New Jersey voters support same-sex marriage

TRENTON — A Quinnipiac University poll shows that New Jersey residents favor same-sex marriage 57 percent to 37 percent, easing the way for lawmakers on the fence on an override of Gov. Chris Christie’s veto last month of the marriage equality bill.

When given the option of marriage, civil unions, or no recognition for same-sex couples, a plurality still chose marriage at 47 percent, versus 34 percent who preferred civil unions and 13 percent who believe same-sex couples deserve no recognition.


The White House

Biden, Harris, deliver remarks for White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf among those who spoke



President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris listen as U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates on Sept. 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wolf)

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge: drag is ‘vulgar and lewd,’ ‘sexualized conduct’

Ruling ‘bristles with hostility toward LGBTQ people’



J. Marvin Jones Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas (Photo: Library of Congress)

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.

A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.

As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”

“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.

Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.

As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”

The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”

Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.

Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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The White House

Harris to oversee White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Goal is to implement and expand upon legislation, executive actions



U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
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