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Frank calls Romney ‘despicable’ for anti-gay views

Says GOP frontrunner lying about opposition to discrimination

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Rep. Barney Frank speaks at National Stonewall Democrats' 2012 Capital Champions event (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Barney Frank tore into Mitt Romney for his anti-gay positions Tuesday night, calling the presumptive Republican presidential nominee “despicable.”

The gay lawmaker, who late last year announced his retirement after serving 31 years in Congress, made the comments about Romney during an interview with the Washington Blade following his keynote speech at the National Stonewall Democrats’ Capital Champions reception in D.C.

Frank took issue with what he said was Romney’s “willingness … to switch and become very anti-gay” after pledging in 1994 to be better on LGBT issues than the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. He also criticized Romney for statements that Frank said “trivialize our marriages.” During a speech in February, Romney said he “fought hard and prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage.”

“That’s saying our marriages were a trick, were a sham,” Frank said. “He’s clearly prepared to embrace the most — oh, and supporting a constitutional amendment. What that says is that existing marriages are abolished. That’s just outrageous.”

Frank criticized Romney on the same night that the candidate swept five Republican primaries in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York. Following Romney’s wins, multiple media outlets reported that former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich would suspend his campaign next week. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Romney’s main challenger in the primary contests, exited the race earlier this month.

While widely viewed as more moderate than his primary opponents, Romney signed a pledge from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage committing himself to back a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and set up a commission on religious liberty to investigate the alleged harassment of same-sex marriage opponents. NOM has also endorsed Romney.

Although Romney has said he opposes discrimination, Frank claimed he’s being disingenuous because Romney hasn’t articulated any ways in which he would work to bar discrimination against LGBT people. In 1994, Romney said he supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but he has since disavowed that support, saying in 2006 that he sees no need for it, then in 2007 that employment non-discrimination should be a state issue.

“He’s lying,” Frank said. “What does that mean? How does he oppose discrimination? He’s not for any legislation that would make it illegal. So how does he oppose it? He is for a discrimination that would dissolve all the existing marriages. So what does that mean when he says that?”

Frank also said Romney doesn’t deserve credit from the LGBT community for last week hiring Richard Grenell, an openly gay man, as his spokesperson for national security and foreign affairs issues.

“He’s got one openly gay person,” Frank said. “How many people is he going to hire? He had some openly gay people work for him when he was in Massachusetts. We’re beyond giving people credit for not overtly discriminating.”

Frank refrained from criticizing President Obama for his decision not to issue an executive order at this time barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.

Asked if he was disappointed Obama chose not to issue the executive order, Frank replied, “Not a great deal.” Frank said he wanted the president to issue the directive, but “was mixed on that” and said “there are other more important things we could be doing.”

“I understand there’s a lot on the plate politically,” Frank said. “And there are concerns now — not about LGBT issues — but there’s a whole developing argument about his being too much unilateral. I don’t know if you saw the article in the New York Times about too much unilateral executive order, and I think that had more to do with it than the LGBT specifics.”

Frank is planning to marry his partner Jim Ready in the summer. Obama continues to say he could “evolve” on the issue of marriage equality without announcing support for it. Frank got angry when asked about Obama’s position on marriage and said he should be commended for no longer defending DOMA in court.

“I don’t need the president’s permission to get married,” Frank said. “He’s doing a great thing against DOMA. I think you make a great mistake by focusing only on negative things. … I think that’s a mistake politically. I think we ought to be celebrating the gains as well as pushing further. And I think focusing only on some of the concerns. The president did an enormous thing for us when he not only said that DOMA was unconstitutional but said that any gay and lesbian issues had to be decided with that higher standard. I’m very happy with that. I’m not going to criticize him for not going further on that.”

Frank also expressed support for the idea of including a marriage equality plank in the Democratic Party platform, saying he “would like it.” He noted that it would satisfy him more to see explicit language in the document reaffirming opposition to DOMA.

“The only federal question is DOMA,” Frank said. “The federal government doesn’t have a rule about marriage or not, so I would want there to be a plank that says, ‘We respect the right of states to make this decision.’ I think what’s important from the federal standpoint is to go out against DOMA.”

Frank also commented on the decision by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to protect transgender workers from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying he was “pleased” with the ruling, although he hasn’t fully read it.

He also pressed the need for ENDA passage, in part because the EEOC decision doesn’t cover gay or lesbian workers.

“I still want to see a transgender-inclusive ENDA because [the EEOC ruling] could be overturned in court,” Frank said. “That’ll be challenged, and they could take it back. On the other hand, it does mean, for now, transgender workers are more protected than gay, lesbian and bisexual workers. But we still need the bill.”

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Air Force base axes ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) welcomed the decision

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(Screenshot from U.S. Air Force's YouTube page)

A drag queen story hour scheduled to be held at the library in honor of Pride month at Ramstein Air Base in Germany was abruptly cancelled by the command staff of the 86th Airlift Wing on Thursday.

According to Stars and Stripes, the 86th Air Wing’s public affairs sent a statement to a radical-right anti-LGBTQ news outlet in Canada, The Post Millennial, which had requested comment to its article about the event and also accused the Air Force of pushing a more “woke” agenda among servicemen. 

“An advertisement was posted to the base library social media page before the event had completed Ramstein’s established processes for special observance coordination and approval.  The advertisement has been removed and the event will not take place. Ramstein leaders strive to foster a culture based on inclusion where all people are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their political views, color of their skin or sexual orientation. The base’s established processes will ensure all future special observance events are properly reviewed and approved prior to advertisement.”

The Post Millennial’s story framed its reporting using hard-line right terms and descriptions of the LGBTQ community; “Drag Queen Story Hour has become a phenomenon in recent years, with men dressing up in clownish, garish costumes of women to read to children. Many drag queens have sexualized names, like Penny Tration.”

The conservative outlet also reported that one mom of a toddler, whose husband is stationed at the base, told The Post Millennial that while she often takes her child to the library for story time, she was “shocked to see the Ramstein Air Force Base Library plans to hold an official drag queen story hour for children.”

“I find it wholly inappropriate that the MILITARY of all places will be using public funds to sexualize children,” she said.

According to Stars and Stripes, the cancellation of the drag queen book reading drew mixed opinions from the Kaiserslautern Military Community, which encompasses Ramstein. With tens of thousands of Defense Department personnel and their families, it is the largest U.S. military community overseas.

An opponent of the wing’s decision launched a petition at Change.org to try to get the event reinstated.

“Now more (than) ever we need to show our support to our enlisted members and spouses in the face of blatant discrimination,” wrote the petition organizer, named Natalie Oyer, who described herself as spouse to a transgender wife.

“I don’t know if anything can bring back the events though,” Oyer wrote. “Most of the queens are enlisted.”

Stars and Stripes also reported that the 86th Airlift Wing, axed a separate drag karaoke event scheduled to be held at the base enlisted club, according to community members posting on social media sites.

In a press release Friday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took partial credit for the cancellation.

Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall regarding the Air Force Library at Ramstein Air Force Base hosting a “Drag Queen Story Time” event for young children of servicemembers. Rubio urged him to cancel the event, discipline the staff involved in planning and hosting the event, and respond to questions on whether other installations both at home and around the world have done similar events. Following receipt of Rubio’s letter, the Air Force canceled the event. 

“The last thing parents serving their nation overseas should be worried about, particularly in a theater with heightened geopolitical tensions, is whether their children are being exposed to sexually charged content simply because they visited their local library,” Rubio wrote.

The 86th Airlift Wing’s publics affairs office at Ramstein and the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs office at the Pentagon have not responded to a request for comment.

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Pulse survivor ‘at a loss’ over Texas elementary school massacre

Brandon Wolf is Equality Florida’s press secretary

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Brandon Wolf was a Grand Marshal at the 2019 Capital Pride Parade on June 8, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Adam Hall)

A survivor of the Pulse nightclub massacre on Wednesday said he is “at a loss” over the massacre at a Texas elementary school that left 21 people dead.

“Twenty-one people were murdered,” said Equality Florida Press Secretary Brandon Wolf in a statement he sent to the Washington Blade a day after a gunman killed 21 people inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. “Nineteen of them were children — babies. That means 19 families sent their elementary age kids off to school only to get the worst news: That their babies would be leaving class in body bags.”

Wolf was inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016, when a gunman opened fire and killed 49 people. His two close friends — Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and his fiancé, Juan Guerrero — were among those killed.

Wolf in his statement noted “right wing politicians have spent the past year insisting that the greatest threats our children face are the potential they’ll learn that this nation was built on the backs of enslaved Black people or that their teacher uses they/them pronouns.”

“They’ve banned books, censored curriculum and bastardized history lessons,” said Wolf. “All the while, they haven’t lifted a finger to protect kids from what is killing them.”

Equality Florida echoed Wolf’s sentiments.

“I am heartbroken for the shattered families,” added Wolf. “Grief-stricken for these stolen lives. And enraged at the power-hungry leaders who have chosen time and again to serve up this country’s most vulnerable as sacrifices in exchange for a boost up the ladder of their own ambitions.”

Axel Rodríguez’s friend, Xavier Serrano Rosado, died inside the Pulse nightclub.

Rodríguez told the Blade that Tuesday was “such a dad day for us here” in Orlando.

“It is like going through the same emotions we had when the attack at Pulse happened, but it’s even worse because we are talking about children,” he said. “When will our government stop thinking about money and stop this madness? Everyone now can obtain a gun anywhere. I just cannot comprehend that at all.”

The Pulse nightclub massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history until a gunman on Oct. 1, 2017, killed 60 people at a concert in Las Vegas.

A gunman on Feb. 14, 2018, killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Twenty children and six adults died in the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.

The Robb Elementary School massacre took place less than three years after a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

“There are no words,” tweeted Pride Center San Antonio, which is roughly 90 minutes east of Robb Elementary School, on Wednesday.

“Our hearts are with the Uvalde community,” said Equality Texas on Tuesday. “Every child deserves to free safe at school.”

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Texas

Republican lawmaker claims Texas school gunman was transgender

Massacre victims were inside single classroom

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Families gather at a Uvalde, Texas, civic center to wait for news about their loved ones. (Photo courtesy of Niki Griswold/Twitter)

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that all of the 19 children and two adults were killed in single classroom at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday.

According to officials, 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, wearing body armor had barricaded himself inside a fourth-grade classroom, where all the fatalities and injuries occurred. Ramos, who attended the nearby high school, was killed on scene by a member of a federal U.S. Border Patrol tactical unit who had responded alongside local law enforcement.

Several other children were injured in the attack, including a 10-year-old who remained in critical condition in a Texas hospital. Law enforcement officials told reporters Ramos shot his grandmother before heading to the school with two military-style rifles he bought on his 18th birthday which was within the last two weeks.

Law enforcement has only released some of the victim’s identities and according to the Austin Statesman newspaper’s political reporter Niki Griswold, parents were gathered late into the night to give DNA samples to find out whether or not their children were among the dead. Griswold also tweeted, “The agonized screams of family members are audible from the parking lot,” as she also noted “A family has erupted into sobs outside the civic center.”

As Texas and the nation reeled in shock over yet another deadly mass shooting, Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar, who espouses radical right view points and former President Trump’s MAGA philosophy, took to Twitter and spread a false and transphobic claim that the suspected shooter was a “transsexual leftist illegal alien.”

Screenshot of now-deleted tweet by Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar

As of Tuesday evening, Gosar had not commented on his tweet, which was deleted about two hours after being published.

Gosar is an anti-immigration, anti-vaxxer, radical right hardliner who routinely cozies up to white nationalists. He was apparently promoting a false claim circulating on right-wing networks. Users shared images of a transgender person unrelated to the attack claiming they were the shooter.

President Biden addresses nation the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday evening.
(Screenshot/White House YouTube)

In Washington last night, President Biden, speaking to the nation said;

“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he asked. “Why do we keep letting this happen?  Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with it and stand up to the [gun] lobbies? 

Speaking from personal experience, as a father who has lost two children, Biden added: “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There’s a hollowness in your chest, and you feel like you’re being sucked into it and never going to be able to get out. It’s suffocating. And it’s never quite the same.”

Global reaction included sympathy from Ukraine’s leadership.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed condolences to the community of Uvalde where the 21 people — including the 19 students — were murdered in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

“Deeply saddened by the news of the murder of innocent children in Texas,” Zelenskyy wrote. “Sincere condolences to the families of the victims, the people of the U.S. and @POTUS over this tragedy. The people of Ukraine share the pain of the relatives and friends of the victims and all Americans.”

NPR reported Wednesday that Zelenskyy also referenced the shooting while speaking by video link at a conference on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which he drew a direct parallel between the shooting and the war in Ukraine.

“I feel it is my personal tragedy when children are killed in Texas, and now in my country Russian military is killing our children,” he said.

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