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LGBT issues again absent from prez debate

Invigorated Obama takes on Romney in spirited town hall

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President Obama (right) and Mitt Romney are set to square off on domestic issues at next week's debate in Denver (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Obama squared off in a town hall debate Tuesday. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The town hall presidential debate on Tuesday night included references to social issues, such as women’s rights, immigration and gun violence but as in the previous debate, there was no explicit mention of LGBT issues.

During the debate at Hofstra University, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney brought up his belief in marriage as a means to reduce the culture of violence in response to a question about banning assault weapons, saying “we need moms and dads helping raise kids” and espousing “the benefit of having two parents in the home.”

“A lot of great single moms, single dads,” Romney said. “But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone — that’s a great idea because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically.”

Romney never explicitly said he was excluding opposite-sex couples when touting the importance of a “two-parent family” as the correct way to raise children, but didn’t take the opportunity to say that marriage should be between one man, one woman.

He has previously stated that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry and supports a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country.

The Romney campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to clarify the marriage remarks, but LGBT rights groups on both sides of the aisle had differing interpretations of the candidate’s intended meaning.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said even though Romney didn’t mention same-sex couples in his remarks, the candidate’s past hostility toward LGBT people speaks for itself.

“Whether or not it was intentional, Mitt Romney has absolutely no respect for LGBT families,” Davis said. “His opposition to marriage equality and even civil unions makes clear that he really doesn’t believe our families are equal or deserving of the same status as other families.”

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he didn’t believe Romney’s remarks were exclusionary based on comments he’s made at other times.

“I don’t think that was intended to be an exclusionary statement because he has made comments in support on [same-sex parent] adoption, and later in his closing comments, he made a reference to all of us being children of God,” Cooper said.

Romney once articulated that same-sex parent adoption was a “right” over the course of the presidential campaign, but later clarified his position in May to state he merely acknowledges the right of states to enable adoption by same-sex parents if they choose.

President Obama made a reference to opposing discrimination during the presidential debate in response to a question on pay equity for women, though he said nothing explicit on LGBT issues.

“And we’ve also got to make sure that in every walk of life, we do not tolerate discrimination,” Obama said. “That’s been one of the hallmarks of my administration. I’m going to continue to push on this issue for the next four years.”

Obama supports marriage equality and pushed for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as president — although he hasn’t spelled out what he would do to further advance LGBT rights if re-elected.

But these were the only times that any discussion remotely related to LGBT issues took place at the debate in Hempstead, N.Y. It’s unlikely LGBT issues will come up during the final debate next week because it’ll focus on foreign policy.

But other social issues emerged during the debate. On immigration, Romney said he doesn’t support amnesty for undocumented immigrants or offering them legal driver’s licenses, but took Obama to task for not accomplishing immigration reform over the course of his first term. Obama criticized Romney for his hard-line views on the issue, noting the GOP candidate has said he’d veto the DREAM Act.

Speaking about the inclusion of women in his administration, Romney made a gaffe when he said he was brought “binders full of women” as governor of Massachusetts that he said led him to appoint more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

Heather Cronk, managing director of GetEQUAL, was disappointed by the lack of LGBT inclusion in the debate.

“In a debate that reduced marriage to a remedy for gun violence and workplace equality to women in a binder, it was hard for LGBT folks to see ourselves as part of a substantive and robust political conversation,” Cronk said. “The partisan folks will surely come out of the woodwork over the next few days to claim victory for one side or the other, but we still haven’t seen either candidate describe a path to victory for LGBT Americans — to be fully equal under the law.”

Most observers said Obama needed a win during the debate to come back after what was deemed a listless performance during the previous debate that preceded a drop for him in the polls. According to a CNN poll made public after the debate, 46 percent of respondents said Obama won the debate, compared with 39 percent for Romney.

But another poll of undecided voters showed mixed views. A CBS News/Knowledge networks poll of undecided voters who watched the debate found 37 percent said Obama won, 30 percent favored Mitt Romney and 33 percent called the debate a tie.

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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit against Montgomery County schools gender guidelines

4th Circuit last August dismissed parents’ case

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender nonconfirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district — none of whom have trans or gender nonconfirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

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National

Bill to support LGBTQ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

Advocates praise Elder Pride Act

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(Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Bonamici, chair of the Equality Caucus’s LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• Provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• Develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• Expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• Disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

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State Department

State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week

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(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The State Department on Friday issued a worldwide travel advisory that warns of potential violence against LGBTQ people and LGBTQ-specific events.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” reads the advisory. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”  

The advisory further urges U.S. citizens to:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Investigations earlier this week issued a similar advisory.

The advisory notes June 12 will mark eight years since the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

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