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RNC 2012: Romney pledges to ‘honor the institution of marriage’

GOP candidate accepts party’s nomination in convention speech

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GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney accepts his party’s nomination at the Republican National Convention (Blade photo by Michael Key)

TAMPA, Fla. — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney officially accepted his party’s nomination for president Thursday evening while pledging to “honor the institution of marriage” if elected.

During his speech before the Republican National Convention, Romney alluded to marriage in a brief portion of his speech that apparently was intended as a broader signal of support to social conservatives.

“As president, I will protect the sanctity of life,” Romney said. “I will honor the institution of marriage, and I will guarantee America’s first liberty: the freedom of religion.”

As with references to marriage in speeches earlier in the week from GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Romney didn’t explicitly say that his vision for marriage excluded same-sex couples. But Romney’s opposition to marriage equality is well known, including his support for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country.

Romney’s reference to marriage could also be a knock against President Obama, who has come out in favor of marriage equality, dropped defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court and advanced an array of pro-LGBT policies while in office.

But for the most part, Romney’s speech consisted of narrating personal accounts of his family and business career, laying out a basic vision for where he wants to take the country and criticizing Obama for his decision-making over the past three-and-a-half years.

Romney articulated a five-step plan that he said would create 12 million new jobs — although he offered few details for each of these steps in his proposal.

The plan involved 1) making America energy independent by 2020 through expanding oil, coal and gas and renewable domestic energy production; 2) giving parents the option of school choice and every child a chance in the education system; 3) forging new trade agreements and punishing countries that cheat in trade; 4) cutting the deficit to put the country on track to a balanced budget; and 5) encouraging small business growth by reducing taxes and regulations as well as repealing health care reform.

Romney also called out to voters who supported Obama in the 2008 election but had become disaffected with his presidency because of the stagnant economy, saying, “I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division.”

“Tonight I’d ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama?” Romney said. “You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”

In an apparent attempt to reach out to women voters, Romney noted that women are now more likely to start their own businesses and devoted a significant portion of his speech to talking about the important role his wife Ann Romney played in raising their family as well as the bid of his mother, Lenore Romney, to become a U.S. senator in 1970.

“I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, ‘Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?’ Romney said. “I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like Gov. Mary Fallin, Gov. Nikki Haley, Gov. Susana Martinez, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”

Republican National Convention attendees cheer Mitt Romney. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Delegates to the Republican convention and others on the floor were exuberant. Before taking the stage, Romney came out from the wings of the forum and shook hands with attendees standing near the aisle as if he were preparing for a State of the Union address while the audience chanted “Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!” Those in the audience held up signs saying, “Believe!” and “We Believe in America!”

David Rappel, a gay Republican delegate from Los Angeles, said Romney “did an amazing job” with his speech and predicted the candidate would eventually change his position on same-sex marriage.

“His speech was wonderful,” Rappel said. “The Republican Party will evolve just like Obama seemed to do. Nothing is done over night.”

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay conservative group GOProud, also praised Romney for his speech while touting that his organization is the only national LGBT group to endorse the candidate.

“Tonight, [Romney] reminded us of exactly why this endorsement was such an easy one for our organization,” LaSalvia said. “Simply put, Mitt Romney has the experience and vision necessary to lead our country, especially in these difficult economic times.”

In contrast, Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, drew attention to Romney’s reference to marriage — in addition to anti-gay language in the Republican Party platform — as a reason why LGBT voters should be wary of his candidacy.

“Mitt Romney’s speech capped a bizarre and meandering GOP convention with shallow references to ‘defending’ or ‘honoring” marriage,” Davis said. “What they’re not saying in primetime is that this Romney-Ryan ticket comes with the most reactionary anti-LGBT platform in politics. Gay Republicans had to admit defeat in their attempts to moderate the GOP at this year’s convention; Democrats, however, have the most pro-LGBT platform and presidential candidate in history.”

But Romney’s wasn’t the only high-profile speech that was delivered on Thursday before the Republican National Convention. Other speakers included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who talked about the need for choice in the education system and holding teachers accountable.

Sen. Marco Rubio (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) had the distinction of introducing Romney to attendees at the convention while articulating his own vision for the country in remarks that didn’t shy from religion.

“We are special because we’ve been united not by a common race or ethnicity,” Rubio said. “We’re bound together by common values. That family is the most important institution in society. That almighty God is the source of all we have.”

One prepared video included footage of Romney with his children as they were growing up in addition to his family life. One portion lampooned his frugality at home as one of his sons showed how he covered up an oversized lightbulb in the kitchen with duct tape.

But what immediately followed were remarks by actor and director Clint Eastwood, who, in addition to being a surprise guest at the convention, spoke without the aid of a teleprompter. In an apparent ad-lib, Eastwood spoke to an imaginary Obama seated in a chair next to him while questioning and criticizing him. The exchange was widely panned and seen as the most bizarre moment of the evening.

Personal remarks came from Romney’s son, Craig Romney, as well as others who’d worked with him in setting up the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, running Bain Capital and administrating the Commonwealth of Massachusetts during his tenure as governor.

Craig Romney delivered a portion of his remarks in Spanish, and another video played touting Republican Latino public officials, including pro-LGBT Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) — an apparent outreach to Hispanic voters.

Former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who served with Romney while he was governor, said based on the experience of working with Romney, he “won’t just talk about family values, he will live them.”

As governor of Massachusetts, such adherence to family values included opposition to a court ruling in 2003 that made the Bay State the first in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. Romney called for a state constitutional amendment overturning the decision. Additionally, Romney abolished a commission for LGBT youth, prompting state lawmakers to create a replacement panel in its stead.

Whether Romney’s speech will encourage more voters to support him as Election Day grows closer remains to be seen, although polls currently show him in a close race with Obama.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll published Thursday suggests the convention has given Romney a slight lead. Polling at the start of the week had Obama leading Romney 46-42, but on Thursday it showed Romney ahead of Obama 44-42.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Mark

    August 31, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Traditional Mormon marriage maybe??

  2. jerry

    September 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Interesting point, Mark. Has anyone ever asked him if he has a few religious wives stashed away somewhere? Most people are pretty sure he’s hiding something in his tax returns,so maybe he doesn’t want to discuss his religion because he’s hiding something there as well.

  3. Matt

    September 1, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    We do too :)

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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‘Very familiar’: Mark Glaze’s story brings into focus mental health for gay men

Experts see common story as LGBTQ people enter middle age

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Mark Glaze's death by suicide is bringing into focus mental health issues faced by gay men.

The death by suicide at age 51 of Mark Glaze, a gun reform advocate who was close to many in D.C.’s LGBTQ community, is striking a chord with observers who see his struggles with mental health and alcoholism as reflective of issues facing many gay men as they enter middle age.

Glaze’s story resonates even though much of the attention on mental health issues in the LGBTQ community is devoted to LGBTQ youth going through the coming out process and transgender people who face disproportionate violence and discrimination within the LGBTQ community in addition to a growing focus on LGBTQ seniors entering later stages of life.

Randy Pumphrey, senior director of behavioral health for the D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Health, said Glaze’s story was “very familiar” as a tale of mental health issues facing gay men in the middle stage of life.

“You’re talking about a gay-identified man who is in his 50s, somebody who has struggled with alcohol misuse — or maybe abuse or dependence— and also depression,” Pumphrey said. “I think that there has always been a higher incidence of suicide for men in general in their middle age 50 and above, but this increases when you’re talking about gay men, and also if you’re talking about gay men who suffer with mental health issues, or substance use disorder issues.”

Several sources close to Glaze said his death did not come as a surprise. His family has been open about his death by suicide last month while he was in jail after allegedly fleeing the scene of a car accident in Pennsylvania and a long history of depression and alcoholism.

Pumphrey said Glaze’s situation coping with mental health issues as well as the consequences for his role in the accident, were reflective of someone who might “begin to perceive that this is an issue that they can’t get away from, or the consequences they can’t get away from exposure and that can lead somebody to a fatal outcome.”

“My experience is that there have been gay men that I have worked with over the years — particularly in their 50s and early 60s — it’s taken them a long time to recognize the severity of the problem, whether it’s their depression or their substance abuse, and then they find themselves in a very precarious situation because of shame, and so they may not necessarily seek help even though they need help.”

A 2017 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found the prevalence of depression among gay men is three times higher than the general adult population, which means they are a subgroup at high risk for suicide.

The study found “scant research exists about gay men’s health beyond sexual health issues,” most often with HIV, which means issues related to depression and suicidality “are poorly understood.”

“Gay men’s health has often been defined by sexual practices, and poorly understood are the intersections of gay men’s physical and mental health with social determinants of health including ethnicity, locale, education level and socioeconomic status,” the study says.

The study acknowledged being male itself is one factor incorporated in addressing mental health issues in this subgroup because “regardless of sexual orientation, men can be reluctant to seek help for mental health problems.” Another study quoted in the report found 23 percent, less than one quarter of gay men, who attempted suicide sought mental health or medical treatment.

In addition to mental health issues facing gay men in Glaze’s age group, others saw his situation as a common story in the culture of Washington, which is notorious for celebrating and prioritizing success with little tolerance for personal setbacks.

In the case of Glaze, who had sparred on Fox News with Tucker Carlson as executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the threat of exposure and threat to his career may have seemed overwhelmingly daunting.

Steven Fisher, who knew Glaze since the 1990s and worked with him at the D.C.-based Raben Group, said one factor that contributed to Glaze’s condition was “he could only see upward in terms of his career trajectory.”

“We saw that in him and it had me very concerned because I felt like he might end up in a place that wasn’t good once he left Everytown, and that’s tragically and sadly what happened,” Fisher said. “I think he just had trouble adjusting to what is usually a roller coaster ride, I think, in people’s careers, especially in the D.C. world.”

Along with Glaze, Fisher has worked on gun issues for Everytown, which has been a client of his since 2015 after he worked for them in 2012 after the Newtown shooting.

Compounding the challenges that Glaze faced is a culture among many gay men focused on sexuality, which prioritizes youth and appearance and presents problems as those qualities start fading when men enter middle age.

Fisher said another factor in Glaze’s condition was social media, pointing out public perception about his identity was important to him.

“If you look at his social media — I think this is instructive to the rest of us — a lot of the comments are about how Mark was so good looking and he was charming, and he was so smart and so funny,” Fisher said. “That’s all true, and that’s why he was very appealing to many people, but those qualities don’t really tell you everything about a person. In fact, one could argue they’re superficial in a way, and people have to remember people are more complicated than what you see on social media.”

One issue for gay men facing mental health issues as they enter middle age is they don’t have the same resources as those available to LGBTQ youth, who have been more of a focus in terms of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community.

Among the leading organizations for LGBTQ youth is the Trevor Project, which has resources and a hotline for LGBTQ youth facing mental health crises.

Kevin Wong, vice president of communications for the Trevor Project, said his organization would be receptive to an older LGBTQ person who calls the hotline, but ultimately would refer that person elsewhere.

“If an LGBTQ person above the age of 25 reaches out to The Trevor Project’s crisis services for support and expresses suicidal thoughts, our counselors will listen, actively and with empathy, and work with them to de-escalate and form a safety plan, like any other contact,” Wong said. “However, our organization has remained youth-centric since its founding and our volunteer crisis counselors are specifically trained with younger LGBTQ people in mind.”

Much attention is focused on the coming out process for LGBTQ people, a time that can upend close relationships — as well as reaffirm them — and a process more commonly associated with youth.

Ilan Meyer, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said data is scant about suicide rates among LGBTQ people, but information on suicide attempts shows they tend to be at a heightened rate for LGBTQ people as they go through the coming out process.

“What we do know is that there is a connection with the coming out period at whatever age coming out happens,” Meyer said. “And so, we see a proximity to coming out whatever age that happened, we see the suicide attempts proceeding and after that.”

Suicide attempts, Meyer said, are much higher for LGBTQ people than the population at large. The self-reported rate of suicide attempts in the U.S. population as a whole, Meyer said, is 2.4 percent, but that figure changes to 20 to 30 percent among LGBTQ youth, which about to 10 to 15 times greater.

Black and Latino people, Meyer said, have been less likely to make suicide attempts in their lifetimes, although he added that may be changing in recent years.

With the primary focus on mental health issues elsewhere in the LGBTQ community, Glaze’s death raises questions about whether sufficient resources are available to people in his demographic, or whether individuals are willing to seek out care options that are available.

Meyer said whether the resources for suicidal ideologies among LGBTQ people are sufficient and what more could be done “is the the million-dollar question.”

“It’s definitely not determined by just mental health,” Meyer said. “So many people have depression, but they don’t attempt suicide. And so, then the difficult thing is to find the right moment to intervene and what that intervention should be.”

Meyer said much of the focus on mental health is on a person’s last moments before making a suicide attempt, such as making suicide hotlines readily available, but some of the stressors he sees “are more chronic, ongoing things related to homophobia and the kind of experience that LGBT people have as they come to terms to realize their sexual identity.”

Pumphrey said another factor in mental health issues not to be underestimated for almost two years now is “dealing with the COVID and loneliness epidemic,” which appears to have no immediate end in sight with the emergence of the Omnicron variant.

“There was always this piece of sometimes the experience of being in your 50s and early 60s…we talk about the invisibility factor,” Pumphrey said. “But when there’s just this sense of being disconnected from community, especially in the early days of the pandemic, and kind of being locked down, I think that just raised the risk.”

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