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Carney talks DOMA ruling, ExxonMobil vote

White House won’t issue EO in wake of failed shareholder resolution

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday the administration won’t revisit the idea of issuing an executive order barring anti-gay job bias in the wake of the failed vote among ExxonMobil shareholders to adopt a non-discrimination policy for LGBT workers.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney said the White House would continue to pursue legislation — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — to institute non-discrimination protections for LGBT workers as opposed to issuing an executive order that changes policies at U.S. contractors like ExxonMobil.

“We don’t expect that an EO of that nature will be issued at this time,” Carney said. “We are working, as I’ve said in the past, with Congress. We support legislation that has been introduced, and we will continue to work to build support for it. We believe that the legislative avenue here is the right avenue to pursue at this time.”

Congress is unlikely to pass ENDA while Republicans remain in the control of the House. Last month, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the Washington Blade in response to a question on ENDA that he hasn’t “thought much about it.”

Asked how the right avenue to pursue at this time can be legislation while Republicans are in control of the House, Carney replied, “Well, because it’s the right thing to do.”

On Wednesday, ExxonMobil stockholders voted down a resolution proposed by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to include LGBT protections as part of the company’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy. According to the company, 20.6 percent of shareholders approved the resolution. Still, the board can adopt the policy without action from the shareholders.

An executive order requiring federal contractors to institute LGBT non-discrimination policies would affect ExxonMobil. The company has won more than $1 billion in federal contractors in the past decade. In the last fiscal year, the company claimed $158 million in federal contracts.

But in April, the administration announced it won’t issue the executive order at this time — a line that Carney maintained during the Thursday news conference.

Carney said the day after during an April news conference that the administration is committed to “directly engaging with and educating all sectors of the business community — from major corporations to contractors to small business — and raising public awareness about the human and financial costs of discrimination in the work force.”

Asked by the Blade whether he would follow up on these words and call on ExxonMobil to adopt an LGBT-inclusive policy on its own accord, Carney reaffirmed his earlier position, but wouldn’t go into details about conversations.

“Well, that is certainly our position, and what I said in April holds true today,” Carney said. “And those kinds of conversations, broadly speaking, continue to take place — have taken place and will continue to take place. I don’t have anything specifically for you on this case and this vote, which just took place. But broadly, yes, that’s our position.”

Asked to clarify whether any conversations have taken place between the White House and ExxonMobil, Carney said that communications have taken place, but he wouldn’t go into details about talks with specific business leaders.

“I can tell you broadly that those kinds of conversations have [been] had,” Carney said. “Our position and views on this are well known. That’s why the president supports ENDA, a legislative solution to this discrimination. And those conversations will continue. I just don’t have anything to report to you on specific conversations with specific companies or business leaders.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said Carney’s remarks on ExxonMobil are “ambiguous,” but said he chooses to interpret them to mean the White House wants the company to adopt the non-discrimination policy — in addition to offering domestic partner benefits, which the company doesn’t provide.

“The question, then, is will the White House put some action behind Jay Carney’s words?” Almeida said. “Will President Obama use his bully pulpit to publicly call on ExxonMobil to ban discrimination and offer equal benefits to LGBT employees? … I urge White House staff to do more, especially during the upcoming Pride Month, to promote LGBT Americans’ freedom to work without discrimination.”

Almeida renewed his call for the administration to issue the executive order barring LGBT job bias so that all federal contractors like ExxonMobil will have to adopt non-discrimination policies.

“I urge the White House staff to do more to move the ball forward so that LGBT Americans will have the freedom to work without discrimination at ExxonMobil and all other companies that profit from taxpayer-funded contracts,” Almeida said. “The president should fulfill his campaign promise from four years ago and sign the executive order right away.”

Questions also came up during the news conference about the First Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act earlier in the day. The Associated Press asked Carney whether he wants to see the Supreme Court take up the case.

Carney explained the Obama administration’s belief that DOMA is unconstitutional and noted it is no longer defending the law in court, but deferred further questions to the Justice Department.

“That’s the position the president has held for some time now, and it has been enforced by the Department of Justice,” Carney said. “With regards to this ruling, which the DOJ was an active participant in, I would refer you to the Justice Department. But there’s no question that this is in concert with the president’s views.”

Carney noted that Justice Department attorneys have participated in litigation.

“The Department of Justice participated in this very litigation in the First Circuit, consistent with the position that the president and the Attorney General have articulated, which is that they do not believe that Section 3 of DOMA is constitutional,” Carney said. “But I wouldn’t necessarily call that passive.”

In a follow-up question from the Blade on whether the administration wants to see a vote to repeal DOMA in the Democratic-controlled Seante, Carney said he’s not aware of any talks of that nature.

“I haven’t heard that discussed,” Carney said. “The president’s position is clear. The actions taken as a result of that position are clear. Participation of the Department of Justice in the specific litigation is clear. But I don’t have anything for you on that proposal, which I have not heard.”

A partial transcript of the exchange between reporters and Carney on ExxonMobil and DOMA follows:

Associated Press: The First Circuit ruled this morning on the Defense of Marriage Act. Can you comment on the ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional? Would you like to see the Supreme Court take this case? And if so, would this administration be actively arguing for the overturning of a law signed by a previous Democratic President?

Jay Carney: Well, Anne, as you know, the President has concluded that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. So has his attorney general. And for that reason, the administration will no longer defend equal protection challenges against it in the courts. That’s the position the President has held for some time now, and it has been enforced by the Department of Justice.

With regards to this ruling, which the DOJ was an active participant in, I would refer you to the Justice Department.  But there’s no question that this is in concert with the President’s views.

Associated Press: But the question, though, is whether you would take your current somewhat passive position that you will not defend it and turn that around and actively argue for it — to overturn the law.

Carney: The Department of Justice participated in this very litigation in the First Circuit, consistent with the position that the president and the attorney general have articulated, which is that they do not believe that Section 3 of DOMA is constitutional. I can’t predict what the next steps will be in handling cases of this nature. I would refer you to the Department of Justice. But I wouldn’t necessarily call that passive. …

Washington Blade: Jay, I want to ask you about two topics. First of all, I want to follow up on the DOMA ruling from today. The president campaigned on the repeal of DOMA. He has endorsed legislation to meet that goal. He has stop defending the law in court. He has sent Justice Department attorneys to litigate against that law in court.

Carney: Well said. (Laughter.) Yes?

Blade: But does the administration see value in holding a vote in the Democratically controlled Senate on repealing the law as a symbolic stand against that statute?

Carney: Well, I haven’t heard that discussed. The president’s position is clear. The actions taken as a result of that position are clear. Participation of the Department of Justice in the specific litigation is clear. But I don’t have anything for you on that proposal, which I have not heard.

Blade: The other thing I want to ask you about is, there was a vote yesterday among Exxon Mobil shareholders to include LGBT non-discrimination protections for its more than 80,000 workers that work at the corporation. The shareholders voted down that proposal but it’s still possible for the board to accept it without the shareholders taking action. 

Back in April, when you talked about the executive order not happening at this time, you said that the administration was committed to “directly engaging with and educating all sectors of the business community from major corporations to contractors to small businesses, and raising public awareness about the human and financial cost of discrimination in the workforce.”

Following up with these words, will the administration call on Exxon Mobil to adopt that non-discrimination policy?

Carney: Well, that is certainly our position, and what I said in April holds true today.  And those kinds of conversations, broadly speaking, continue to take place — have taken place and will continue to take place. I don’t have anything specifically for you on this case and this vote, which just took place. But broadly, yes, that’s our position.

Blade: Has the administration communicated — any communications at all with Exxon Mobil?

Carney: Again, I can tell you broadly that those kinds of conversations have [been] had.  Our position and views on this are well known. That’s why the President supports ENDA, a legislative solution to this discrimination. And those conversations will continue. I just don’t have anything to report to you on specific conversations with specific companies or business leaders.

Blade: In the past decade, Exxon Mobil has taken more than $1 billion in federal contracts.  In the wake of this vote, will the administration revisit the idea of issuing that executive order, barring federal contractors from taking money if they don’t have non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

Carney: Well, we don’t expect that an EO of that nature will be issued at this time. We are working, as I’ve said in the past, with Congress. We support legislation that has been introduced, and we will continue to work to build support for it. We believe that the legislative avenue here is the right avenue to pursue at this time.

Blade: How can the legislative avenue be right at this time when Republicans control Congress?  How will that legislation get through the Republican-controlled Congress?

Carney: Well, because it’s the right thing to do.

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)

 

MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness

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Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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