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Veteran gay Dem to head LGBT caucus at convention

Stafford to attend 10th party confab

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Rick Stafford (photo courtesy of Stafford)

When nearly 500 LGBT delegates attending the Democratic National Convention hold their first caucus meeting in Charlotte, N.C., next Tuesday, veteran gay Democratic activist Rick Stafford of Minnesota will pound the gavel to call the meeting to order.

Stafford, 60, has been credited with playing a lead role in lobbying, cajoling, and nudging the Democratic Party to take a strong stand on LGBT rights and to change its delegate selection rules and policies to reach out to minorities, especially LGBT people, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of LGBT delegates.

“This will be my tenth convention,” he told the Blade. “I was out for nine of them.”

He said he kept his sexual orientation confidential during his first Democratic Convention in Miami in 1972, when the Democrats nominated George McGovern for president. He had been selected to attend as a page at a time when he lived in a small town in rural Minnesota.

“There were just a few openly gay delegates,” he said. “You could fit them all in a phone booth.”

Since that time, Stafford has played an increasingly prominent role in Democratic Party politics, both locally and nationally, according to party activists who know him.

With the exception of the 1976 convention, which nominated Jimmy Carter and his vice presidential running mate Walter Mondale of Minnesota, Stafford said he has attended every Democratic Convention since then.

In 1992, Minnesota Democrats elected Stafford as chair of the state party, making him the first out gay person to win election to chair either of the two major parties in a state.

Since the 1990s Stafford has served at various times as a member of the Democratic National Committee. He currently chairs the DNC’s LGBT Americans Caucus.

Gay Democratic activist Kurt Vorndran of D.C., who has worked with Stafford on LGBT party related issues since the 1980s, said Stafford worked “relentlessly” both behind the scenes and through official DNC channels to push the party into requiring the state parties to set goals for recruiting LGBT people, along with other minorities, to become delegates to the Democratic conventions.

“He has served as a member of the party and convention rules committees,” Vorndran said. “He made sure the rule had outreach policies for the LGBT community. Thanks to his hard work and the work of others, for the first time, every single state may have at least one gay or LGBT delegate.”

Stafford said one of the most memorable conventions he attended was in 1984 in San Francisco, when fellow Minnesotan Walter Mondale was nominated for president and selected U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-N.Y.) as the nation’s first female vice presidential candidate for a major political party.

Working with then gay Democratic activist Tom Chorton of D.C., who became the leader of the nation’s first national gay Democratic Party organization, Stafford said he used his Minnesota connections to arrange meetings and phone conversations shortly before the start of the convention with high-level Mondale campaign officials, including Joan Mondale, the candidate’s wife.

As a result of those efforts, according to Stafford, the Mondale campaign put out the word to the convention platform committee that the campaign would support proposed language in the platform calling for federal legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“This led to the first formal recognition of gays by the party,” Stafford said.

With the exception of what he calls a few setbacks and “bumps in the road” the strength of the party’s platform on LGBT issues and the presence of LGBT people increased in every Democratic convention since that time, Stafford said.

Asked what the main objective for the convention’s LGBT caucus will be at the 2012 convention in Charlotte, Stafford said it will be to pull out all the stops to facilitate the re-election of Barack Obama as president.

“The goal is to celebrate what this administration has given us and our community,” he said.

“And just look at the things we’ll be celebrating. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the Ryan White HIV Treatment Extension Act and a national AIDS strategy, the lifting of the HIV entry ban, the federal housing programs that ban discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity throughout the federal government.”

He fired off many other actions he considers “highly significant” LGBT-related accomplishments by the Obama administration, including the large number of LGBT people appointed to high-level administration jobs.

Stafford said that as a staunch adherent of the Democratic Party’s liberal-progressive wing, he sometimes finds himself playing the role of pragmatist. He said that role has already surfaced this week, when he counseled LGBT delegates not to engage in a floor protest against the controversial appearance at the convention of Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and former GOP Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is backing Obama’s re-election bid. Dolan is scheduled to give the closing prayer at both the GOP and Democratic conventions.

LGBT activists last year denounced Dolan for taking a lead role in opposing New York State’s same-sex marriage law, which the state legislature passed. Activists in Florida have criticized Crist for not being more supportive on LGBT rights.

“I was a rabble rouser,” said Stafford. “But we knew about timing, when it’s the best time to pick and choose your battles. It’s just sheer stupidity when we’re even thinking about a negative protest when we have so much to celebrate.”

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Federal Government

Trump indicted in classified document mishandling case

Former president to appear in federal court in Miami on Tuesday

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Former President Donald Trump (Photo by shganti1777 via Bigstock)

A federal grand jury has indicted former President Donald Trump on seven criminal counts in connection with his mishandling of more than 100 classified documents.

In a series of posts to his Truth Social account Thursday, Trump said that he has been indicted related to his mishandling of the classified documents taken to his estate at Mar-a-Lago after his term of office ended in January 2021.

The unprecedented decision comes after a more than yearlong investigation by special counsel Jack Smith into whether Trump knowingly retained classified and top secret government records when he left office and then disregarded a subpoena to return all classified documents in his possession and whether he and his staff obstructed Federal Bureau of Investigation efforts to ensure all documents had been returned.

A person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly said Trump’s lawyers were contacted by prosecutors shortly before he announced on his Truth Social platform that he had been indicted, the Associated Press reported.

In the first of a series of posts Trump wrote:

“Page 1: The corrupt Biden administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax, even though Joe Biden has 1850 boxes at the University of Delaware, additional Boxes in Chinatown, D.C., with even more boxes at the University of Pennsylvania, and documents strewn all over his garage floor where he parks his Corvette, and which is ‘secured’ by only a garage door that is paper thin, and open much of the time.”

“Page 2: I have been summoned to appear at the federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday at 3 p.m. I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former president of the United States, who received far more votes than any sitting president in the history of our country, and is currently leading, by far, all candidates, both Democrat and Republican, in Polls of the 2024 presidential election. I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!”

“Page 3: This is indeed a DARK DAY for the United States of America. We are a country in serious and rapid decline, but together we will Make America Great Again!”

The Justice Department didn’t respond to a request for a comment.

The AP also noted it remains unclear what the immediate and long-term political consequences will be for Trump. His first indictment spurred millions of dollars in contributions from angry supporters and didn’t damage Trump in the polls.

No matter what, the indictment — and the legal fight that follows — will throw Trump back into the spotlight, sucking attention away from the other candidates who are trying to build momentum in the 2024 presidential race, the AP pointed out.

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The White House

White House debuts new actions to protect the LGBTQ community

The administration is coordinating efforts across different federal agencies

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

White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden, during a call with reporters on Wednesday, announced a slate of new actions the administration will undertake to better protect the LGBTQ community.

These will focus on three major areas, she said: safety and security, issues for LGBTQ youth like mental health and housing insecurity, and combatting book bans.

President Joe Biden has “already developed a historic record of supporting the LGBTQ community,” Tanden said, noting that he and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden are also prepared to “host the largest Pride celebration in White House history” on Thursday evening.

At the same time, she said, LGBTQ Americans are now experiencing “a whole range of attacks” from “hateful, un-American legislation” to “a disturbing surge in violent threats.”

Administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the administration’s “community safety partnership” will “work hand in hand with LGBTQ community organizations” to provide safety training and resources, Tanden said.

For example, she said, “and it’s so unfortunate to have to say this,” but the partnership will help LGBTQ community centers “prepare for the worst” – including “bomb threats, active shooters, and cybersecurity threats – while also protecting “healthcare providers who serve the community by working with doctors and medical associations.”

Actions for LGBTQ kids that Tanden previewed on Wednesday include HHS’s development of a behavioral health care advisory for transgender and gender diverse youth, to help ensure young people are given the best evidence-based care.

On Thursday, she said, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will launch federal initiatives to combat LGBTQ youth homelessness and new regulations to “protect LGBTQ kids in foster care.”

Finally, Tanden said, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights “will appoint a new coordinator” to combat book bans, which disproportionately target, for exclusion, materials with LGBTQ characters or themes, or communities of color.

DoE’s coordinator will “offer trainings and resources to schools to help them understand that students have a right to learn free from discrimination, and that book bands may violate federal civil rights laws if they create a hostile environment for students,” Tanden said.

A senior administration official, responding to a question from the Washington Blade following Tanden’s remarks, elaborated on the scope of the community safety partnership.

Community organizations, they said, will include “health clinics, community centers, and organizations that are planning Pride celebrations, but it also includes small businesses like restaurants and bars that have been targeted because they’re run by LGBTQI+ Americans or because they host events that support that community.”

“We’ll be encouraging and reaching out directly to organizations that have been impacted by these violent threats to help make sure that they have the training and the resources they need to stay safe,” the official said.

They added that DHS and DoJ, in anticipation of the possibility that threats will increase in June, “have both been working proactively over many months leading up to Pride to communicate with state and local law enforcement about the threats that the community may face and to help local pride organizers get access to any federal safety resources they may need to help keep the community safe.”

Asked to explain how HHS’s healthcare focused initiatives will be reconciled with restrictions targeting medical interventions for trans youth in conservative states, the official noted ongoing efforts to fight back – including by federal rulemaking and litigated challenges of policies that violate Americans’ rights.

When it comes to the actions previewed by Tanden, the official said, “Almost half of LGBTQI+ youth say they seriously considered committing suicide in the past year, and that attacks on their rights have made their mental health worse. That’s a serious crisis that we want to take on and this advisory will help.”

Additionally, they said, “HHS is announcing that they’re going to release new guidance to states to help them use federal funds to offer dedicated mental health services to the LGBTQI+ community,” while “the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMSA, is releasing $1.7 million in new federal funding for programs that support the health and mental health of LGBTQI+ youth by investing in programs that are focused on family affirmation.”

Responding to other questions about anti-LGBTQ legislation and the rising transphobic and anti-LGBTQ sentiment in America, the official offered some insight into the Biden-Harris administration’s positions on these matters more broadly.

“Part of our role here is to lift up the stories of transgender kids and their families to help the American people understand what is happening to families who, as the President says aren’t hurting anyone but are being hurt by these laws,” said the official.

“These aren’t just attacks on the rights of LGBTQI+{ Americans, they are part and parcel of a coordinated attack on our democracy,” they said. “We’re not just talking about laws that target transgender kids. These are really laws that get at the heart of our basic freedoms and values: the right to free expression, the right to make decisions about your own body, the right to parent and raise your children.”

The official added, “Opponents of LGBTQI+ Americans are leading a pretty significant campaign of disinformation,” which have included “the same types of hateful lies and stereotypes that have been used against our community really for decades and for generations.”

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California

Calif. school district meeting over LGBTQ studies turns violent

Police officers and protestors clashed outside Glendale Unified School Board meeting

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(YouTube screenshot from KCAL)

Police officers and protestors clashed outside a meeting of the Glendale Unified School Board over LGBTQ studies and the GUSD polices on addressing LGBTQ related issues.

News footage from CBS Los Angeles KCAL showed approximately 50 Glendale police officers attempting to keep the two groups separated and then fists were thrown as both sides engaged in physical assaults. A Glendale police spokesperson confirmed that some arrests had been made but wouldn’t comment further.

Witnesses and news crews noted that many of those protesting against the LGBTQ community were from the same group that had protested at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood, angered over a Pride month assembly. Officers from the LAPD’s North Hollywood Community Station responded and there were physical assaults as well.

The situation in Glendale has become increasingly acrimonious. Last year during Pride month, a third grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Tammy Tiber, had enraged some parents after speaking to her students about LGBTQ topics on Zoom. The GUSD officials later transferred her because Tiber had told them she no longer felt safe.

A spokesperson for the district said that all materials are vetted by the GUSD, and are in full compliance with curriculum that deals with LGBTQ history, mandated under California’s FAIR Education Act, which was signed into law on July 14, 2011, and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

It amends the California Education Code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful reference to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community in history and social studies curriculum.

Last month on May 18, a man who is not the parent of a child in the district, accused GUSD school board vice president Jennifer Freemon of concealing consistent attempts to “indoctrinate” students on LGBTQ issues.

“They are saying boys can be girls and girls can be boys,” Henry said during the board meeting. “If you believe in that, that is your opinion, and if that is your official policy, Jennifer, that is indoctrination because it offends a lot of people’s actual doctrine.”

As an example of instructing students to “behave inappropriately,” Henry referenced an alleged recent incident involving a student with special needs. GUSD student Thelma Gonzalez, who spoke later in the meeting, was allegedly asked to provide the definition of “scissoring” during a health lesson, despite her mother requesting that she be excused.

“A violation of their doctrine, their Christian doctrine,” Henry said, referring to Gonzalez and her mother. “Regardless of what you think, what I think, what the community thinks about any faith, you violated that. And if you don’t condemn that today, Jennifer, you are a hypocrite and a liar.”

He then mounted an attack on district polices regarding its transgender students.

“If you think they value your children, you’re more than entitled to think that,” Henry said. “They will not lie to you about your child, they will lie to these parents. They will conceal that private information from parents. You have enshrined that into doctrine, into policy, which is a misinterpretation of the law.”

It is not immediately clear what policy Henry was referring to. However, GUSD’s anti-discrimination policy states the district will only disclose a student’s “transgender or gender-nonconforming status” with their consent. It also mandates that a district official may discuss with that same student “any need” to confide in their parents or guardians.

Inside the Tuesday GUSD board meeting, pro- and anti-LGBTQ protesters faced off over how schools teach gender and sexuality, attendees were suddenly told to shelter in place as the violence outside escalated. The interruption came after about an hour of public comments, most of them in defense of the LGBTQ community and the district’s handling of materials and policies.

Protesters fight outside Glendale school district meeting about LGBTQ studies:

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