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DNC 2012: LGBT delegates greeted by Jill Biden, Rep. Frank

Second Caucus meeting focuses on ‘energizing base’



Al Franken, gay news, Washington Blade

Minn. Sen. Al Franken addresses the LGBT delegates to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Democratic National Convention’s LGBT Caucus was courted by high-level Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and Democratic Party luminaries on Thursday in its second of two meetings during the week of the convention.

DNC LGBT Caucus, gay news, Washington Blade

DNC’s LGBT Caucus was courted by high-level Obama administration officials Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden; Jim Messina, chair of the Obama re-election campaign; Hilda Solis, the U.S. Secretary of Labor; and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic Party, urged caucus members to help energize the Obama base — voters who support the president but who may need some prodding and reminders to turn out to the polls in November.

“I want you to know how much Joe and I and Barack and Michelle appreciate all that you are doing for this campaign all across this country,” Biden told the more than 500 LGBT delegates, alternate delegates and convention committee members who make up the LGBT Caucus.

“So much is at stake in this election. You know that, and especially for the LGBT community,” she said. “We’ve got to make sure we keep moving forward on gay rights so that we can continue the progress we’ve made.”

She added, “We have the first president and vice president in history to affirm support for gay marriage. Joe and Barack believe that no matter who you love everyone should have the same rights in this country.”

Messina, who served as White House Chief of Staff for Operations from 2009 to 2011 before heading the Obama re-election campaign, noted that he and gay White House aide Brian Bond worked closely together to push for passage of a federal hate crime law that includes gays and transgender people and for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the law that prohibited gays from serving openly in the military.

“I’m so proud to be part of this effort,” he said. “You have a president who stands for justice, fairness and equality.”

In a gesture that drew laughter and applause, Messina told LGBT Caucus members, “I just need two things from you in the next 61 days — all your time and all your money.”

Hilda Solis, gay news, Washington Blade

Sec. of Labor Hilda Solis. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Solis disputed claims by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney that the U.S. economy remains stalled, saying large numbers of private sector jobs have been created during the president’s tenure in office.

Similar to Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services who spoke to the LGBT Caucus on Tuesday, Solis listed what she called the Obama administration’s unprecedented number of executive branch initiatives on LGBT rights, including a ban on employment discrimination against transgender people in the federal workforce.

Like Sebelius, she said a Romney presidency would likely roll back most if not all of those advances.

Gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who spoke before the full convention later in the day on Thursday, created a stir among leaders of the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans when he repeated to LGBT Caucus members a remark he made about Log Cabin in a radio interview earlier in the day with gay talk show host Michelangelo Signorile.

In the interview, Frank criticized Log Cabin for continuing to support Republican members of Congress who oppose LGBT rights legislation.

“For 20 years now I’ve heard Log Cabins say they were going to make Republicans better, but they’ve only gotten worse. I now realize why they call themselves Log Cabin: Their role model is Uncle Tom.”

Log Cabin President R. Clarke Cooper issued a statement denouncing Frank for hurling “bile” at gay Republicans in an effort to “demonize them.” Cooper noted that Log Cabin filed a lawsuit seeking to have “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” overturned by a court on constitutional grounds. He said the group worked with Republican members of Congress to line up Republican votes that made it possible to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“As far as Log Cabin Republicans are concerned, it’s a badge of honor to be attacked by a partisan hack like Barney Frank,” Cooper said.

Frank couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Cooper’s statement.

During his remarks before the LGBT Caucus, Frank said he understood and respected Log Cabin members who say they support the Republican Party and many of its leaders because they agree with them on non-LGBT issues like national defense and economic policy.

But Frank said the Republican Party’s overall positions on LGBT issues have gotten worse over recent years and he was troubled that Log Cabin members appear to be rationalizing assertions that the party’s stance on LGBT issues is improving.

Cory Booker, gay news, Washington Blade

Newark Mayor Cory Booker. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Other speakers at the Thursday’s LGBT Caucus meeting included Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker; Delaware Gov. Jack Markell; U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, both Democrats from Minnesota; and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Doug Wilson.

Wilson, who is gay, invited LGBT caucus members who are veterans or members of the military to join him on the stage where he spoke. More than 30 caucus members walked on stage, drawing a loud, prolonged applause from the audience.

He then told of his experience meeting U.S. troops at Fort Hood, an Army base, in an effort to determine how active duty military members would react if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were repealed.

According to Wilson, the head of the base arranged for him to meet and speak with five solders assigned to an Army tank, where some military officials believed it would be difficult for an out gay soldier to work “in close quarters” with straight soldiers.

Wilson said he asked the four men assigned to the tank how they would react if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed and they find out one of their compatriots assigned to the tank is gay.

“The first one said my brother is gay. And the second one said my cousin is gay,” Wilson told the caucus meeting. “The third one said I have all kinds of gay friends from high school and it doesn’t matter to me. And the fifth one said if this tank is burning I want someone to pull me out of there and I don’t care if they’re gay or straight.”

Wilson said stories like that were what convinced most U.S. military leaders and a majority of members of Congress to pass legislation repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He credited President Obama with setting in motion the chain of events that eventually led to the repeal.

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  1. Yolanda Soto Bernal

    September 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Dr. Biden,

    Thought that it was very commendable that you atteded the LGBT Caucus and showed your suppot!
    Love is love and the gays have the right to choose their partners and should not be treated as second class citizens. I have several family members who are “Gay” and they are first citzens and I’m so proud of each of them!
    God Bless You and LGBT!

    Thank you,
    Yoladna Soto Bernal

  2. Jayson

    September 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I am not so energized by these outward, yet hollow displays.

  3. Ted Bunsen

    September 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    There should be a lot more gay members of congress

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In a historic first, Colorado now has a 1st gentleman as Gov. Polis marries

The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date



Governor Jared Polis and 1st Gentleman Marlon Reis exchange vows (Screenshot via CBS News Denver)

DENVER – Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis married his longtime partner Marlon Reis in a ceremony that marked the first same-sex marriage of a sitting Out governor in the United States.

The couple was married Wednesday in a small traditional Jewish ceremony at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Reis had matriculated and graduated from. The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date.

“We met online and went out on a date and we went to the Boulder bookstore and then went to dinner,” Polis told KCFR-FM, Colorado Public Radio (CPR).

In addition to family and close friends in attendance, the couple’s two children participated with their 7-year-old daughter serving as the flower girl and their 9-year-old son as the ring bearer.

The governor joked that their daughter was probably more thrilled than anyone about the wedding. “She was all in on being a flower girl. She’s been prancing around. She got a great dress. She’s terrific,” he said CPR reported.

Their son was also happy, but more ambivalent about it all according to Reis. “Kids are so modern that their responses to things are sometimes funny. Our son honestly asked us, ‘Why do people get married?”

Colorado’s chief executive, sworn in as the 43rd governor of Colorado in January 2019, over the course of nearly 20 years as a political activist and following in public service as an elected official has had several ‘firsts’ to his credit.

In 2008 Polis is one of the few people to be openly Out when first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as well as being the first gay parent to serve in the Congress. Then on November 6, 2018, he was the first openly gay governor elected in Colorado and in the United States.


Gov. Jared Polis And First Gentleman Marlon Reis Are Newlyweds

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U.S. Catholic theologians call for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections

Joint statement says church teachings support equality



More than 750 of the nation’s leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, educators, and writers released a joint statement on Sept. 14 expressing strong support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The six-page theological statement, “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” was scheduled to be published along with the names of its 759 signatories as a four-page advertisement on Sept. 17 in the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper widely read by Catholic clergy and laypeople.

The statement was initiated by New Ways Ministry, a Mount Rainier, Md., based Catholic group that advocates for equality for LGBTQ people within the church and society at large.

“As Catholic theologians, scholars, church leaders, writers, and ministers, we affirm that Catholic teaching presents a positive case for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people,” the statement says. “We affirm the Second Vatican Council’s demand that ‘any kind of social or cultural discrimination…must be curbed and eradicated,’” it says.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” the statement adds.

The statement notes that its signers recognize that a “great debate” is currently taking place within the Catholic Church about whether same-gender relationships and transgender identities should be condoned or supported.

“That is a vital discussion for the future of Catholicism, and one to which we are whole-heartedly committed,” the statement continues. “What we are saying in this statement, however, is relatively independent of that debate, and the endorsers of this statement may hold varied, and even opposing, opinions on sexual and gender matters,” it says.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministries executive director, said his organization and the signers of the statement feel the issue of nondiscrimination for LGBTQ people can and should be supported by Catholic leaders and the church itself even if some are not yet ready to support same-sex marriage and sexual and gender identity matters.

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders,” DeBernardo said. “Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position,” he said. 

DeBernardo said those who helped draft the statement decided it would be best to limit it to a theological appeal and argument for LGBTQ equality and non-discrimination and not to call for passage of specific legislation such as the Equality Act, the national LGBTQ civil rights bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

The Equality Act calls for amending existing federal civil rights laws to add nondiscrimination language protecting LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. The U.S. House approved the legislation, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

“We wanted this to be a theological statement, not a political statement,” DeBernardo said.

He said organizers of the project to prepare the statement plan to send it, among other places, to the Vatican in Rome and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed opposition to the Equality Act.

Among the key signers of the statement were 242 administrators, faculty, and staff from Sacred Heart University, a Catholic college in Bridgeport, Conn. New Ways Ministries says the statement was circulated by the school’s administration and eight of its top leaders, including President John Petillo, are among the signers.

Some of the prominent writers who signed the statement include Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking;” Richard Rodriquez, author of “Hunger of Memory;” Gary Wills, author of “Lincoln at Gettysburg;” and Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked.”

The full text of the statement and its list of signatories can be accessed at the New Ways Ministry website.

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Activists reflect on Black Trans Lives Matter movement resurgence

Blade speaks with Alex Santiago, Jasmyne Cannick



An I Am Human Foundation billboard along Atlanta's Downtown Connector expressway on Feb. 22, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The world came to a standstill last year as a video surfaced online that showed then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd. The video went viral and sparked numerous protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S. and around the world as many people felt it a potent time to relay their frustrations with and to their governments.

For the LGBTQ community, these protests brought to light the need for human rights for transgender individuals as the murders of people like Tony McDade in Florida and Nina Pop in Missouri reawakened the flame within the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.

A tribute to Tony McDade in downtown Asheville, N.C., in June 2020. McDade was a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade more than a year later spoke with Alex Santiago, executive director of the I Am Human Foundation in Atlanta, and Jasmyne Cannick, a Democratic political strategist and journalist in Los Angeles, to reflect on last year’s Black Trans Lives Matter movement, how far it has come, and what’s in store for the future. 

Uplifting voices often silenced

Participating in the Black Lives Matter protests was an easy decision for Santiago. He is a member of the Legendary House of Garcon, a ballroom house headquartered in D.C. 

Although the house is composed mostly of LGBTQ members, Santiago still felt the need to center trans voices and experiences by visually representing them during Black Lives Matter marches. 

“[I decided that] when I go I’m going to have signs that say ‘Black Trans Lives Matter.’ After talking to a couple of the people in the house, they said it was a great idea. So, they got these t-shirts made that incorporated the trans colors [baby blue, baby pink and white],” says Santiago.

Out of the 250 people in the Legendary House of Garcon, 175 showed up to D.C. from other states to march in solidarity with Black trans people. Santiago says that from what he was told, his was the largest group of activists representing Black trans lives at protests. 

“At first I thought people were going to look at us crazy, like, ‘Why are you separating yourselves or being exclusive?’. But, we got a great response from the general population that was there that day. It was a good day,” says Santiago.

Cannick, who was in Los Angeles during the protests, lent her efforts to platforming pertinent issues. She identifies herself as an ally and a “friend” to the LGBTQ community. 

“I’m active in the LA community and everybody knows me. So, whenever something happens, someone is hurt, someone is killed or someone needs to get the word out about something that’s going on particularly as it relates to the trans community, I’m always asked to get involved, and I do,” says Cannick. 

Over the past year, she reported on multiple LGBTQ issues including the trial of Ed Buck, a Democratic political fundraiser who was convicted in the deaths of two gay Black men who he injected with methamphetamine in exchange for sex.

What happened to the BTLM movement and what needs to change?

The nature of many social movements is that as the intense emotion surrounding them fades, people’s fervor for change wanes as well. This is especially true with allies who are not directly linked to the cause.

“Fatigue and frustration at the relatively slow pace of change to a growing backlash on the right against efforts to call out systemic racism and white privilege — has led to a decline in white support for the Black Lives Matter movement since last spring, when white support for social justice was at its peak,” US News reports about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cannick believes this is the same for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. She says Americans allow the media to dictate how it behaves and responds to issues. Thus, when stories “fall out of our media cycles … they fall out of our memories.”

“I think that’s not going to change, and that’s a psychological thing, until we learn how to not let the media necessarily dictate our issues,” says Cannick. 

She suggests that individuals remain plugged into their communities by “doing anything to make sure they keep up with an issue” including following the “right people” on social media and setting up Google alerts for any breaking news. 

Jasmyne Cannick (Photo courtesy of Jasmyne Cannick)

Santiago also echoes Cannick’s sentiments. 

“We wait until something happens before we do something. And, I don’t want to be retroactive; I want to be proactive. I want people to see me when things are going well [and when they’re not going well],” says Santiago. 

Upon returning to his home in Atlanta after the D.C. protests, Santiago contacted a billboard installation company and paid for a billboard labelled, “Black Trans Lives Matter” to be displayed on University Avenue near downtown Atlanta. He says that the billboards got attention and helped to spread much-needed awareness. Following this success, he is now in the process of installing a new billboard labelled, “Black, Trans and Visible. My life Matters.”

“Unless you’re in people’s faces or something drastic happens, people forget. Unless you’re living it, people forget,” says Santiago.

As time progresses, both Santiago and Cannick nest hope for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. However, this hope can only persist when crucial steps are taken to ensure Black trans individuals around the country are protected, most importantly through legislation.

The New York Times reports there are close to 1,000 elected LGBTQ officials in the U.S., with at least one in each state except Mississippi. 

“We need to have more legislation. We need more voices in power like the council Biden has right now,” says Santiago. 

“You know that [Biden] has a lot of trans people and Black trans people [involved], and a part of that’s a positive step in the right direction, but we need that times 10,” says Santiago.

He believes that political representation should extend to local governance where ordinary Black trans individuals can be trained to assume leadership roles. 

Cannick’s focus is on the Black community. 

“[Trans women] are usually murdered by Black men. If we ever expect that to change, we need to start talking about that,” says Cannick.

She’s open to having conversations that put people, including her as a cis-identifying woman, in uncomfortable and awkward spaces. 

She hosts a podcast titled “Str8 No Chaser” and recently aired an episode, “Why Are Black Men Killing Trans Women,” where she discussed with three Black trans women about the gender and sexuality dynamics within the Black community and their perils. 

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