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Log Cabin to have say in GOP platform process

Seeks to purge anti-gay language from Republican document

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LGBT political groups are preparing for the upcoming Democratic and Republican national conventions as one gay GOP organization announced its involvement in the party’s platform drafting process for the first time.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said Tuesday a team from his organization will be credentialed to attend the platform committee meeting, which will take place the week of Aug. 20 in Tampa, Fla., prior to the start of the convention.

“Just looking at the 2008 document, Log Cabin has gone through and we’ve noted language in there that’s either directly unhelpful, or seen as anti-gay, and have marked it for deletion,” Cooper said. “We’ve also found language that could be strengthened to be more inclusive. That said, there’s going to be a completely new document. It’s not as if they’re taking the ’08 document and just updating it.”

Cooper said the group has already identified language in the 2008 platform that it will push to remove in the 2012 document, including language related to marriage. Under the heading “Preserving Traditional Marriage,” the 2008 platform endorses the Federal Marriage Amendment and affirms passing same-sex marriage bans through state initiatives.

Gary Howard, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, confirmed Log Cabin’s involvement in the platform process, but also said other organizations, including social conservative groups, will take part.

“As has been the practice in previous years, the Platform Committee Staff maintains an open door policy and welcomes input and suggestions from outside groups,” Howard said. “This year the staff has heard from hundreds of different groups as they presented their views on the Platform, this includes suggestions submitted by the public at-large at the gopplatform2012.com website. The Log Cabin Republicans reached out to the RNC to share their ideas as well. Additionally, the Platform Staff hosted meetings with dozens of social conservative groups to emphasize the importance of keeping the GOP’s commitment to traditional marriage.”

Log Cabin’s four-member delegation to the platform committee consists of Cooper; Casey Pick, Log Cabin’s program director; James Abbott, a trustee for Log Cabin; and Kathryn Lehman, another Log Cabin trustee. Cooper said it’s the first time Log Cabin has been directly involved in the platform drafting process.

The organization’s team will likely have its work cut out for them. The Republican Party has longstanding ties to social conservative groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council, which will likely be advocating for anti-gay language as well as opposition to marriage equality.

Cooper’s announcement that Log Cabin will be involved in the platform drafting process comes on the heels of news — first reported by the Washington Blade — that the Democratic Party has adopted a marriage equality plank as part of its platform. The Democratic platform is still in a draft phase; the full platform drafting committee will meet this weekend in Detroit to hammer out a final version of the platform that will be sent to delegates at the Charlotte convention. The exact language of the marriage equality plank wasn’t immediately available.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said the language for the Democratic platform won’t likely be made public until after the meeting in Detroit.

“The reason they’re doing that is because the platform drafting committee vote wasn’t on specific language, as I understand it, it was on just the idea of having some certain language, then they would finalize the language and it would be approved in Detroit,” Davis said. “Once it’s approved in Detroit as the official draft of the platform, it will then be adopted by the full committee at the convention. So they’ll release it once it’s an official draft. We should see it shortly after the Detroit meeting.”

Davis said he was told the LGBT language will be “relatively strong, but relatively short” and the platform itself will be relatively short — possibly just a list of bullet points. A Democratic National Committee staffer had previously told the Blade the language not only endorses marriage equality, but rejects the Defense of Marriage Act and has positive words about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Cooper said the process for drafting the Republican platform is different from the Democrats’ process. There have already been early meetings in the past few weeks in which constituent groups, including Log Cabin, have talked with the drafting team. The actual process of resolutions, amendments and language consideration happens the week of the 20th with most work happening on Aug. 20 and 21.

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay conservative group GOProud, predicted he’ll “disagree” with elements of the Republican platform once it’s made public, but dismissed its significance.

“The truth of the matter is, the platform is a piece of paper,” LaSalvia said. “The platform conveys no rights and responsibilities, the platform does not have the force of law, and routinely the day after the platform is written candidates all over the country say they don’t agree with everything in the platform.”

Asked about his own political goals for the Republican convention, LaSalvia said his group has a singular focus that is shared with the other groups attending the convention: the election of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“We’re the national gay organization who’s endorsed Mitt Romney, and our goal is the goal of every organization who will be in Tampa, and that is to elect Mitt Romney as president: that’s our political goal,” LaSalvia said. “That’s the reason for this convention. The reason for this convention is nominate Mitt Romney and to help elect him president of the United States. There is no other goal.”

For the Democratic National Convention, which will take place in Charlotte, N.C., the expectations are significantly higher because the party has a tradition of LGBT-inclusivness, although some goals remain unrealized.

Jerame Davis Executive Director Stonewall Democrats, gay news, gay politics DC

National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Stonewall’s Davis said one of the goals is having the most openly LGBT delegates ever at the Democratic convention. His organization has identified more than 350 LGBT delegates to the convention, but said the DNC hasn’t released its final count. The official goal for the Democrats is 410. The Republicans don’t keep track of whether their delegates identify as LGBT.

“We’re expecting that goal to be exceeded,” Davis said. “Even if they only break the 410 mark that is the goal, it will still be a record number of delegates.”

In 2008, the total number of LGBT delegates at the convention was 277. At the time, Stonewall also counted other LGBT participants at the convention to reach an “LGBT participation” number of 359. In addition to the 277 delegates, the group counted 42 alternate delegates, 34 standing committee members and six convention pages.

This year, Stonewall is planning a presence at the two LGBT caucus meetings involving LGBT delegates on Sept. 4 and 6, but it’s not yet clear what the group’s involvement will be because the final details on the caucus meetings aren’t ironed out.

Having openly LGBT speakers is a goal that both Republicans and Democrats share, although none have been announced so far.

For the Democratic convention, Davis said he’s personally requested LGBT speakers and would like to see retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) be given a slot because “it’s his last year in office and I think it would be an excellent send off.”

Frank’s office said the lawmaker has no comment on whether he’d like to address the convention during his final year in office. Other announced speakers at the convention include San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who’ll deliver the keynote address. As a U.S. Senate candidate, President Obama’s 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic convention propelled him into the national spotlight.

Openly gay speakers were given slots at the 2008 convention, including Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who’s now a U.S. Senate candidate, and Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andy Tobias.

Cooper said he’d also like to see openly gay speakers at the Republican convention, suggesting as possibilities Mary Cheney, former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman and former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe. It’s not unprecedented for a gay speaker to address the Republicans; Kolbe addressed the 2000 convention, although many in the audience bowed their heads in prayer.

Already announced speakers at the Republican convention include former Sen. Rick Santorum, who continued his record of anti-gay hostility while campaigning unsuccessfully for president.

In addition to having political goals for the conventions, these groups are also hosting parties for LGBT attendees coming to rally with their respective parties.

Stonewall has two official events during the week of the Democratic convention: a luncheon with the Victory Fund and the Human Rights Campaign for LGBT delegates and elected officials on Sept. 5 and another reception with Netroots Nation for which a date hasn’t yet been set, but will likely be Sept. 4.

At the Republican convention, Log Cabin is hosting four events throughout the week along with other LGBT groups: a welcome reception with the local Log Cabin on Aug. 26; an event for openly LGBT Republicans seeking political office with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund on Aug. 27; a brunch for “Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry” with the organization Freedom to Marry on Aug. 29; and a closed press event honoring congressional Republican allies of the LGBT community on Aug. 30.

GOProud will host its annual “Homocon” party on Aug. 28 at The Honey Pot.

LaSalvia said Homocon “will be a ‘who’s who’ of the conservative movement,” including pundits and political figures, although he declined to announce any names. In 2010, GOProud made headlines when it announced conservative pundit Ann Coulter, who has sometimes expressed anti-gay views, would headline its inaugural Homocon event.

The Democratic National Committee didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on plans for making the conventions more LGBT inclusive by deadline.

 

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Biden administration to ban discrimination against LGBTQ patients

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The Biden administration announced on Monday it would enforce civil rights protections under Obamacare to prohibit discrimination in health care against patients for being LGBTQ, reversing policy during the Trump years excluding transgender status as a protected characteristic under the law.

The Department of Health & Human Services declared it would enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of sex, and begin to take up cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement the Supreme Court has “made clear that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

“Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” Becerra said. “It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”

The move is consistent with the executive order President Biden signed on his first day in office directing federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the furthest extent possible. Federal agencies were directed to comply within 100 days of the executive order, which is about now and a short time after Biden’s first 100 days in office.

The announcement with respect to Section 1557 comes on the same day as the hearing took place this morning in Bagly v. HHS, a case before a federal court in Massachusetts challenging Trump’s undoing of transgender protections under the law. An attorney with the U.S. Justice Department announced a new notice of proposed rule-making is coming with respect to Section 1557.

Sharita Gruberg, vice president for the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement the change “assures LGBTQ people that their rights will be upheld at the doctor’s office, vaccine sites, and everywhere else they seek health care and coverage.”

“The administration’s announcement that it will enforce these protections are a critical step toward addressing vaccine hesitancy among LGBTQ people, a population that has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and seriously harmed by the previous administration’s attempts to permit discrimination against LGBTQ patients, Gruberg added.

The past three administrations have instituted policy on LGBTQ protections based on their interpretation of Section 1557. Each move had varying implications and directions for LGBTQ patients.

The Obama administration issued a rule in 2016 interpreting Section 1557 to apply to cases of anti-transgender discrimination and discrimination against women who have had abortions, which was consistent with court rulings at the time. However, that move was enjoined by a nationwide court order in Texas as a result of litigation filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The Trump administration, shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock, made final a regulation proposed last year rescinding the Obama administration’s transgender protections under Section 1557. Faced with criticism, the Trump administration defended itself by saying its move was consistent with the court order in Texas, although it seemed to ignore the decision from the higher court.

The new rule from HHS goes above and the beyond the Obama administration by instituting protections based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the proposed rule would be a new regulation entirely, or seek to modify the changes that were made in the two previous administrations. The Blade has placed a request seeking comment with HHS.

Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement the new HHS rule is a welcome change after the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgender patients.

“It’s unfortunate that such an obvious step had to be taken; the AMA welcomes this common-sense understanding of the law,” Bailey said. “This move is a victory for health equity and ends a dismal chapter in which a federal agency sought to remove civil rights protections.”

Discrimination in health care is an experience transgender people commonly report. The U.S. Transgender Survey in 2015 found one-third of responders said they had at least one negative experience in health care related to being transgender. Further, 23 percent of responders said they didn’t seek health care because they feared being mistreated and one-third said they didn’t go to a provider because they couldn’t afford it.

A Center for American Progress survey from 2018 had similar findings with respect to transgender people and patients with being gay, lesbian and bisexual or queer. Eight percent of responders said a doctor refused to see them because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, while 28 percent of providers said a doctor refused to see them because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Hospitals, especially religiously affiliated providers, refusing to provide transition-related care, including gender assignment surgery, is another frequently reported incident for transgender patients. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, has filed litigation against hospitals under Section 1557 for refusing to perform the procedure.

Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to obtain Senate confirmation, hailed the HHS rule change in a statement.

“The mission of our Department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. All people need access to healthcare services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health, and screen for cancer risk,” Levine said. “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”

Although the Biden administration’s announcement is a welcome move for LGBTQ advocacy groups, the change is not without critics.

John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University who declares himself a supporter of transgender rights, said the policy could have unintended consequences, which he said has become evident in the British health system.

“[Transgender] individuals with a penis but no vagina are being asked to have medical tests on their non-existent cervices, while [transgender] persons with a vagina and cervix will not be asked, under new guidelines which appear to place lives at risk and encourage a physically impossible medical exam on organs which simply do not exist,” Banzhaf said. “And, carrying this absurdity to its totally illogical conclusion, a patient with a penis and a full beard was offered a cervical test because, despite his clearly masculine appearance and style of dress, he registered himself as being gender neutral.”

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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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