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HRC pledges $1 million for same-sex marriage efforts

Campaigns in Maryland, Washington, Minnesota and Maine each received $250,000.

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HRC President Chad Griffin (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Human Rights Campaign on Monday announced it has given an additional $1 million to support same-sex marriage efforts in four states.

Campaigns in Maryland, Washington, Minnesota and Maine each received $250,000 to either defend their state’s same-sex marriage laws, defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman or allow nuptials for gays and lesbians. HRC has so far contributed $4.8 million to marriage-related efforts in this election cycle. This figure includes $853,000 to the legislative campaign to secure passage of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law earlier this year and $728,000 in cash and in-kind donations to Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group defending the statute ahead of the November referendum on it.

“This is a tipping point year in the fight for marriage equality that requires significant investment,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “We are committed to making sure this is the year that our opponents can no longer claim Americans will not support marriage equality at the ballot box.”

Recipients were quick to welcome the additional HRC funds.

“It’s a fantastic investment that they’re making in our work here,” Josh Levin, campaign director of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, told the Blade. “They’ve been a tremendous partner throughout the legislative fight and this has shown they are dedicated to winning here and confident that we have the resources to be successful.”

“It’s great to have their support,” added Matt McTighe, campaign manager of Mainers United for Marriage, which seeks marriage rights for gays and lesbians in the Pine Tree State.  “We’re thrilled to have it and it’s just a great validation of the work that we’re doing in Maine.”

Zach Silk, campaign manager of Washington United for Marriage, the group defending the Evergreen State’s same-sex marriage law, echoed McTighe and Levin.

“We are incredibly grateful for HRC’s contribution to the campaign,” he told the Blade. “They’ve played a sustained and continued role in our campaign since before the legislative battle. They’ve been on the ground here in Washington State since last fall, and [has] really stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us fighting the key moments of the campaign.”

 

Groups plan to use HRC money to fund ad buys, voter outreach

Levin declined to comment on either the amount of money his group has raised or the amount of money HRC has given to the campaign, but McTighe told the Blade that Mainers United for Marriage has raised slightly under $2 million. Washington United for Marriage said in a press release earlier this month that its budget is more than $5.4 million — including the $2.5 million that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie donated last month.

Minnesotans United for All Families, which opposes the proposed state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, has raised slightly more than $5.7 million as of July 23. Campaign spokesperson Kate Brickman told the Blade that 80 percent of this money has come from inside the state, while 91 percent of the 25,000 individual campaign donors are Minnesotans.

Brickman added the HRC funds will help the campaign respond to what she expects will be a flood of pro-amendment ads in the weeks leading up to the November vote.

“For us it’s a matter of us to be able to combat that late in the game and respond to the hurtful [and negative ads,]” she said.

McTighe also discussed how his campaign plans to use some of the HRC money it received.

“Media buys are a huge part of it because that’s something that’s really competitive in a presidential election year — there’s a lot of competition to buy up time from our opponents, from the other campaigns,” he said. “One thing we’ve been doing over the last two years in Maine is really trying to have as many one-on-one conversations as possible through our field and canvass operations. We’re going to continue to fund that work and try to do paid media as well.”

Like in Maine and Minnesota, Silk said the additional funds will go towards what he described as an “aggressive advertising campaign” in Washington ahead of the referendum.

“This will be an important part of it,” he said.

A CNN/ORC International poll in June that 54 percent of Americans support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

A survey that Hart Research Associates conducted late last month found that 54 percent of Maryland voters would vote for the state’s same-sex marriage law in November. A Public Policy Polling poll in June noted 51 percent of Washington voters back their state’s same-sex marriage law. A Critical Insights survey last month indicates that 57 percent of Maine voters support extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

A PPP survey in June found that only 43 percent of Minnesotans support their state’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban nuptials for same-sex couples, compared to 49 percent of voters who oppose it.

HRC spokesperson Fred Sainz conceded to the Blade that the presidential election, high-profile congressional races and other ballot initiatives are among the hurdles that same-sex marriage supporters will face in the coming weeks and months. He stressed, however, that momentum remains on their side.

“The good news for us, which is really, really, really good news, is the atmospherics are positive ones,” said Sainz. “The public opinion polls are continuing to head in the right directions — all the public opinion polls in these four states are headed in the right direction, the president’s support for marriage equality is good. Every single federal court that has expressed an opinion on this issue has expressed it in our favor, so the atmospherics are definitely very positive and are all trending in the right direction.”

 

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Federal Government

EXCLUSIVE: Robert Garcia urges US officials to protect LGBTQ people during Pride Month

Gay Calif. congressman sent letter to top authorities on June 12

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Participants of the Capital Pride Festival in D.C. on June 8, 2024. Gay U.S. Congressman Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) has urged U.S. officials to ensure LGBTQ people are safe during Pride Month. (Washington Blade photo by Emily Hanna)

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on June 12 sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray to work to ensure LGBTQ people during Pride events.

“Over the last several weeks, your respective agencies and departments have issued stark warnings, and travel advisories to the public over potential threats from foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), and their supporters during this year’s Pride Month,” said Garcia in his letter. “I understand that these steps have come after deeply concerning increases in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, calls for targeted violence, and foiled violent plots.”

The FBI on May 10 issued an advisory that warned of potential violence at Pride events and other LGBTQ-specific events. The State Department on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia — announced a similar warning.

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance,” wrote Garcia, a gay man who represents California’s 42nd Congressional District that includes Long Beach.

June 12 also marked eight years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, even though there is no evidence that suggests the extremist group ordered him to carry out the massacre. 

“This week marks the eight (sp) anniversary of the horrific Pulse nightclub Orlando shooting — during which the attacker deliberately and viciously targeted the LGBTQ+ community,” wrote Garcia in his letter. “It is important to put the recent escalation of extremist anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda and messaging in the context the Pulse nightclub shooter who was influenced by these same forces of extremism.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Title IX protections blocked in six more states

Ruling applies to Va.

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(Bigstock photo)

BY McKENNA HORSLEY | A federal judge has blocked new Title IX rules, including those aimed at protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination in K-12 schools, and sided with Republican attorneys general in several states — including Kentucky. 

Chief Judge Danny Reeves of the U.S. District Court in Eastern Kentucky on Monday issued a ruling siding with Republican Attorney General Russell Coleman and his counterparts in five other states. The ruling prevents the U.S. Department of Education from “implementing, enacting, enforcing, or taking any action to enforce the Final Rule, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance,” which was set to begin Aug. 1. 

Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman (Kentucky Lantern photo by Mathew Mueller)

Coleman and the GOP attorneys general filed the lawsuit in April. At the time, they argued the Department of Education “used rulemaking power to convert a law designed to equalize opportunities for both sexes into a far broader regime of its own making” with the new Title IX regulations. 

Reeves limited the injunction to the plaintiff states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Biden administration introduced the rules to “build on the legacy of Title IX by clarifying that all our nation’s students can access schools that are safe, welcoming, and respect their rights,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. The rules also would have rolled back Trump administration changes that narrowly defined sexual harassment and directed schools to conduct live hearings, allowing those who were accused of sexual harassment or assault to cross-examine their accusers.

President Joe Biden with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

In their complaint, the state attorneys general said that under the Biden rule, “Men who identify as women will, among other things, have the right to compete within programs and activities that Congress made available to women so they can fairly and fully pursue academic and athletic excellence — turning Title IX’s protections on their head … And anyone who expresses disagreement with this new status quo risks Title IX discipline for prohibited harassment.” 

Established in 1972, Title IX was created to prevent “discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance,” according to the Department of Education.

Reeves wrote in his opinion that “the Department of Education seeks to derail deeply rooted law” created by the implementation of Title IX. 

“At bottom, the department would turn Title IX on its head by redefining ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity.’ But ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity’ do not mean the same thing,” he wrote. “The department’s interpretation conflicts with the plain language of Title IX and therefore exceeds its authority to promulgate regulations under that statute.” 

In a press release, Coleman’s office said Monday that schools that would fail to comply with the new rules would risk losing federal funding. Citing the Department of Education, the office said Kentucky’s public and private schools received a total of $1.1 billion in federal funding last year.

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“As a parent and as attorney general, I joined this effort to protect our women and girls from harm. Today’s ruling recognized the 50-plus years of educational opportunities Title IX has created for students and athletes,” Coleman said in the press release. “We’re grateful for the court’s ruling, and we will continue to fight the Biden administration’s attempts to rip away protections to advance its political agenda.”

A spokesperson for the department said it was reviewing the ruling.

“Title IX guarantees that no person experience sex discrimination in a federally-funded educational environment,” the spokesperson added. “The department crafted the final Title IX regulations following a rigorous process to realize the Title IX statutory guarantee. The department stands by the final Title IX regulations released in April 2024, and we will continue to fight for every student.”

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McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, W.Va., and Frankfort, Ky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.

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The preceding story was previously published by the Kentucky Lantern and is republished with permission.

The Kentucky Lantern is an independent, nonpartisan, free news service based in Frankfort a short walk from the Capitol, but all of Kentucky is our beat.

We focus on how decisions made in the marble halls of power ripple through the lives of Kentuckians. We bring attention to injustices and hold institutions and officials accountable. We tell the stories of Kentuckians who are making a difference and shine a light on what’s working. Our journalism is aimed at building a fairer, healthier Kentucky for all. 

Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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The White House

Press secretary reaffirms the administration’s commitment to advancing LGBTQ rights

Karine Jean-Pierre also highlighted mental health efforts

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre began her briefing with reporters on Monday by honoring Pride Month as a time to “reflect on the progress we have made in pursuit of equality, justice, inclusion” and “recommit ourselves to do more to support LGBTQI+ rights at home and around the world.”

She said that while the Biden-Harris administration has taken “historic action” to expand freedoms and protections for the community “since day one,” state legislatures last year filed more than 600 anti-LGBTQ bills, which disproportionately target transgender youth.

Not only are conservative state lawmakers potentially on track to surpass that number in 2024, but Republican members of Congress along with the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, have pledged their support for at least a dozen anti-LGBTQ policies at the federal level.

Jean-Pierre said this administration “is going to continue to speak out and stand up against these attacks,” adding, “as President Biden says, these young [transgender and queer] people are some of the bravest people he knows, but no one should have to be brave just to be themselves.”

The press secretary concluded her opener by discussing the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which provides a “line dedicated to serving LGBTQI+ young people that can be reached by dialing nine eight and pressing three.”

Afterwards, when fielding questions from reporters, Jean-Pierre noted how many of the challenges facing LGBTQ youth have dovetailed with the ongoing mental health crisis in America.

She also addressed a ruling on Monday that blocked the administration’s newly passed LGBTQ-inclusive Title IX rules, which clarify that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is covered by the statute’s language barring sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal assistance.

A Trump-appointed judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana had issued an injunction against the regulations on Thursday, with a handful of Republican state attorneys general promising more legal challenges.

Declining to address specific legal questions that she noted are best directed to the Justice Department, Jean-Pierre stressed the need for students to feel safe and to be treated equally.

“That is why the protections are all about making sure students have equal rights restored,” she said.

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