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Which Republican will Baldwin face in Wis. Senate race?

GOP competition comes to an end Tuesday



Wisconsin residents will cast their votes on Tuesday in an open primary for one of several contenders seeking the Republican nomination to run for a U.S. Senate seat. The winner will go on to challenge presumptive Democratic nominee Tammy Baldwin in her bid to become the first openly gay U.S. senator.

The four main contenders — former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, former congressman Mark Neumann and Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald — have almost uniformly adopted anti-LGBT positions, including support for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country.

The exception is Thompson, who stopped short of backing a Federal Marriage Amendment, but said he supports the Defense of Marriage Act. Thompson also said he opposes workplace discrimination, but hasn’t announced support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The latest polls give the lead to Hovde, a relative newcomer to the race who’s spent millions of his own money. According to a Public Policy Poll published Friday, Hovde leads with 27 percent support, followed by Thompson at 25, Neumann at 24 and Fitzgerald at 15.

The Wisconsin Senate primary isn’t the only race of interest in the state for the LGBT community. Wisconsin Assembly member Mark Pocan is in a contest with fellow Assembly member Kelda Helen Roys for the Democratic nomination to represent Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district in Congress. The Washington Blade will have updates Tuesday evening on both of these races.

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (photo public domain)

Tommy Thompson

Past positions: former Wisconsin governor, secretary of Health and Human Services under former President George W. Bush, candidate for Republican nomination for president in 2008 election

Polling with Baldwin: CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll, Baldwin ties Thompson, 47-47; Marquette University poll, Thompson leads Baldwin 48-43

Fundraising info: Net receipts: $2,467,185; net expenditures: $2,114,270; Self-financing: $132,500 (5%); cash on hand: $352,915

Positions on LGBT issues:

• In the 2008 presidential debate, Thompson said “yes” when asked if he thinks employers should be able to fire employees for being gay:
“I think that is left up to the individual business. I really sincerely believe that is an issue that business people have to got to make their own determination as to whether or not they should be.”

• Immediately afterward, Thompson retracted the statement in a clarification to CNN. He said he supports Wisconsin statewide law against sexual orientation discrimination, but stopped short of endorsing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:
“I made a mistake. I misinterpreted the question. I thought that I answered it yes when I should have answered it no. I didn’t hear, I didn’t hear the question properly and I apologize. It’s not my position. There should be no discrimination in the workplace and I have never believed that. And, in fact, Wisconsin has one of the first laws, which I supported.

• Headed former President George W. Bush’s domestic effort against HIV/AIDS as HHS secretary, renewing Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, announcing approval of rapid testing and directing funds to confront the epidemic.

• On Aug. 3, told CBS 58 in Wisconsin he opposes same-sex marriage and supports “the Defense of the Marriage Act,” but stopped short of supporting a Federal Marriage Amendment:
“I believe very strongly in the Defense of the Marriage Act. Marriage is one man and one woman. I support that. That’s the federal law. I’m a little gun shy of people saying, ‘We got to have constitutional amendments for this or that. I happen to like our Constitution, and, I think, you should not be going around amending constitutions. I am very much in favor of the Defense of the Marriage Act, the federal Defense of the Marriage Act, and that’s what should have, and gay marriage should be left up to the states. This is not a federal thing; this is a state thing. And so let’s leave the constitution out of it, let’s defend the federal law, one man, one woman for marriage, and allow the states to determine what they want to do on this subject.”


Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde (photo by via wikimedia)

Eric Hovde

Past positions: hedge fund manager, no previous public office

Polling with Baldwin: CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll, Baldwin leads Hovde 47-43; Marquette University poll, Baldwin leads Hovde 44-41

Fundraising info: Net receipts: $5,532,185; net expenditures: $4,945,880; Self-financing: $5,100,000 (92%); cash on hand: $586,304

Positions on LGBT issues:

• endorsed by the anti-gay group Wisconsin Family Action

• On Aug. 3, told Wisconsin’s CBS 58 he backs a Federal Marriage Amendment on the grounds of protecting religious liberties:
“Yes, I would. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. That is my belief. In fact, if you look at the history of marriage, it comes from the church, and I don’t think it’s the government’s position to come in and impose upon religion and tell them how they should believe or what they have to accept. I mean, that’s our First Amendment. It’s freedom of religion, it’s not freedom from religion, it’s freedom of religion. So, when people get married, they’ve always, through history, in front of God in a church. That is the church right to dictate and decide on what they feel is acceptable. So, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And saying that, I don’t believe in discriminating against anyone, whether you’re gay or whatever. I don’t believe in any form of discrimination. But I do fundamentally marriage is between a man and a woman.”


Former Rep. Mark Neumann (photo by StrongWisconson via wikimedia)

Mark Neumann

Past positions: former U.S. House member, former candidate for governor and U.S. Senate

Polling with Baldwin: CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll, Baldwin leads Neumann 48-45; Marquette University poll, Baldwin ties Neumann 44-44

Fundraising info: Net receipts: $2,728,227; net expenditures: $2,537,482 self-financing: $235,000 (9%); cash on hand: $198,235

Positions on LGBT issues:

• As a U.S. House member, Neumann voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996

• In 1996, told the New York Times he wouldn’t allow homosexuality if he were God:
“If I was elected God for a day, homosexuality wouldn’t be permitted, but nobody’s electing me God.”

• According to a 2007 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story, he’s suggested he wouldn’t hire an openly gay staffer:
“In response to a question at a meeting of the Christian Coalition, Neumann said that if a job applicant came into his office and said he or she was homosexual, ‘I would say that’s inappropriate, and they wouldn’t be hired, because that would mean they are promoting their agenda.”

• On Aug. 3, told Wisconsin’s CBS 58 he supports Federal Marriage Amendment and DOMA, also criticized President Obama for “ignoring” DOMA (Obama actually enforces the law, but doesn’t defend it in court):
“I would certainly support a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, the way it has been through the whole history of the United States of America. … When I was in Congress I was happy to work to pass the Defense of Marriage Act, which did exactly that, and it’s unfortunate that Barack Obama in his own actions has decided to simply ignore the law that is on the books called the Defense of Marriage Act. … Being president of the United States does not empower you to do as you see fit; there are still laws of the land and you’re sworn to uphold those laws of the land.


Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (photo by via wikimedia)

Jeff Fitzgerald

Past positions: speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly

Polling with Baldwin: CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll, Baldwin leads Fitzgerald 51-39; Marquette University poll, Baldwin leads Fitzgerald 45-40

Fundraising info: Net receipts: $159,021; net expenditures: $115,517; self-financing: $0 (0%); cash on hand: $39,368

Positions on LGBT issues:

• Voted for statute against same-sex marriage in 2003 as well as constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004 and 2006

• Voted to strip domestic partnerships — both the benefits and the registry in the same amendment — from the budget in 2009

• On Aug. 3, told Wisconsin’s CBS 58 that he ‘d back a Federal Marriage Amendment:
“Yeah, and I have in the state. We had a constitutional amendment here in the state. I believe marriage should between one man and one woman and I would stick by that on the federal level as well.”



The White House

Biden’s Pride month proclamation: ‘Our nation faces another inflection point’

States across the country have passed anti-LGBTQ laws



The White House was lit in rainbow colors following the Respect for Marriage Act signing in December 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Just as the 1969 Stonewall riots marked a transformational time for LGBTQ civil rights in America, the country now faces another critical inflection point, President Joe Biden said in the White House’s proclamation Wednesday honoring Pride month.

This moment is precipitated by the wave of hateful anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through state and local legislatures across the country and amid the escalating violence and threats of violence against the community, the statement notes:

“In 2023 alone, state and local legislatures have already introduced over 600 hateful laws targeting the LGBTQI+ community. Books about LGBTQI+ people are being banned from libraries. Transgender youth in over a dozen states have had their medically necessary health care banned. Homophobic and transphobic vitriol spewed online has spilled over into real life, as armed hate groups intimidate people at Pride marches and drag performances, and threaten doctors’ offices and children’s hospitals that offer care to the LGBTQI+ community. Our hearts are heavy with grief for the loved ones we have lost to anti-LGBTQI+ violence.”

Biden drew parallels between the “LGBTQI+ protestors” who “bravely stood their ground” against the law enforcement dispatched to arrest them more than 50 years ago and the youth organizers leading walkouts in response to discriminatory education laws, along with the “young people and their parents [who] are demonstrating unimaginable courage by testifying in state capitols in defense of their basic rights.”

The statement reaffirms the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to standing “proudly with the LGBTQI+ community in the enduring struggle for freedom, justice and equality,” chronicling some of the major steps the administration has taken on this front.

Biden highlighted his issuance, on his first day in office, of an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination, along with his signage last year of the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified protects for the rights of same-sex couples that might otherwise be jeopardized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority.

The statement then noted the administration’s moves to protect LGBTQ youth by ordering federal agencies to: Combat conversion therapy, “end the crisis of homelessness among LGBTQI+ youth and adults,” and address anti-LGBTQ discrimination in foster care.

Meanwhile, Biden said, the Justice Department is fighting against discriminatory laws targeting transgender youth, while the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have drafted rules that would better protect anti-LGBTQ discrimination “in healthcare, at school and in sports” and the White House is developing ways to combat online harassment and abuse that “disproportionately target LGBTQ people.”

Finally, the White House noted: Its rollout last year of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for LGBTQ youth, who can now reach specially trained counselors by dialing 988 and then three; the administration’s appointment of historic numbers of LGBTQ appointees at all levels of the federal government; and its repeal of bans preventing trans people from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

From passing federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans via the Equality Act to addressing “the crisis of violence against transgender women and girls of color,” Biden acknowledged the work that lies ahead.

“This month and every month,” his proclamation concludes, “let us celebrate the pride that powers the movement for LGBTQI+ rights and commit to doing our part to help realize the promise of America, for all Americans.”

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Defense secretary orders cancellation of drag show at Nev. Air Force base

Event was to have taken place at Nellis AFB on Thursday



Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Public Affairs)

A previously scheduled drag show to kick off Pride month on the sprawling Nellis Air Force Base, an advanced combat aviation training facility for the U.S. Air Force northeast of Las Vegas, was cancelled Wednesday according to a Pentagon official, after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stepped in.

A Pentagon source familiar with the matter told the Washington Blade that Milley informed Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., that it is not Pentagon policy to fund drag shows on bases and the show needed to be canceled or moved off base. 

The issue over drag performances was a focus at a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this year on March 29, when anti-LGBTQ Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) demanded in an angry tone that Austin and Milley explain why drag queen story hours were being hosted on U.S. military installations. The Florida Republican mentioned bases in Montana, Nevada, Virginia and Germany.

In a highly publicized incident in May 2022, Stars and Stripes reported that the Commanding General of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany had a drag queen story time, that was to be held in honor of Pride month cancelled. 

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. 

In a press release, 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 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.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, III, and Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meet with U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Carlos M. Vazquez, Department of Defense)

A Pentagon official referring to the drag show at Nellis said Milley was visibly angry about the decision to host the event on base after being informed about it earlier this week.

The drag show was scheduled for Thursday, but Maj. Gen. Case A. Cunningham, the commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis was informed in the past few days that it must either be canceled or moved off base. 

On May 23, Gaetz sent a letter to Austin and Milley, alleging that the “pervasive and persistent use of taxpayer dollars for drag events,” had a June 1 Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., event scheduled.

Gaetz went on to write that “Nellis Air Force Base has announced a so-called ‘family-friendly’ drag organized by the Nellis LGBTQ+ Pride Council for June 1, 2023. In this latest outright attack on children, this event is being advertised as having no minimum age requirement.” 

In his letter Gaetz also demanded to know: 

  • Does the DoD feel it’s appropriate for children to attend a sexualized drag performance?
  • Why are base commanders defying your intent and direction by facilitating drag events?
  • If this event goes forward, whether on June 1 or a later scheduled date, please provide an explanation regarding your justification for why you allowed the event to take place.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis, in June 2021 the base had hosted a Pride month drag show titled “Drag-u-Nellis.” The spokesperson noted the 2021 show was intended to promote inclusivity and diversity. 

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Ala. extends ban on transgender female athletes to universities

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed bill on Tuesday



Alabama Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday signed House Bill 261, which limits transgender students to playing sports in public colleges and universities only with “their biological sex assigned at birth.”

“Look, if you are a biological male, you are not going to be competing in women’s and girls’ sports in Alabama. It’s about fairness, plain and simple,”  said Ivey in a statement released by her office.

House Bill 261 was approved 26-4 in the Alabama Senate and 83-5 in the House of Representatives. In the vote in the House more than a dozen lawmakers abstained from the vote.

Ivey had previously signed legislation in 2021 banning trans female athletes from competing in K-12 girls sports. At the time she signed that bill the governor had noted that “Alabama remains committed to protecting female athletes at all levels and upholding the integrity of athletics.”

Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director of the Human Rights Campaign, said the legislation is part of a “systematic attack against LGBTQ+ people” in Alabama and elsewhere.

“In just two years, [Ivey] and extremist lawmakers in Alabama have passed four anti-LGBTQ+ bills. From dictating what bathrooms we can use to blatantly ignoring the actual problems in women’s sports, these politicians are making Alabama an increasingly hostile place for transgender people and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole,” Anderson-Harvey said.

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