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Log Cabin issues ‘qualified endorsement’ of Romney

Move comes despite GOP support for Federal Marriage Amendment

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R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Log Cabin Republicans announced on Tuesday morning that it’s giving a “qualified endorsement” to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney after months of speculation over whether the gay GOP group would back the candidate despite his anti-gay views.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the organization, announced that Log Cabin’s board had elected to endorse Romney in a statement because supporting the candidate is the right decision “for our members, our community and for the nation as a whole.”

“Despite our disagreement with Gov. Romney on the issue of marriage, on balance it is clear that in today’s economic climate, concern for the future of our country must be the highest priority,” Cooper said. “We are Republicans, and we agree with Gov. Romney’s vision for America in which success is a virtue, equal opportunity is ensured, and leaders recognize that it is the American people, not government, that build our nation and fuel its prosperity. On issues of  particular concern to the LGBT community, we believe Governor Romney will move the ball forward compared to past Republican presidents. No matter who is in the White House, it is crucial our community always has a credible voice speaking out on behalf of LGBT Americans. Log Cabin Republicans will be that voice to President Mitt Romney.”

Log Cabin also sent a statement to supporters via email saying the organization is giving Romney a “qualified endorsement” and the organization will “be most active” in supporting previously endorsed House and Senate candidates — such as Richard Tisei in Massachusetts and Rep. Nan Haywoth (R-N.Y.), a member of LGBT Equality Caucus — as opposed to getting more involved in the presidential election.

Cooper told the Washington Blade that Log Cabin’s 15-member board made the decision to endorse Romney earlier this month by a vote of 14-1. Cooper declined to identify the dissenting member of the board and wouldn’t immediately offer the exact date for when the board made the decision.

The endorsement for Romney comes even though Romney has signed an agreement with the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage to back a Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and establish a presidential commission on religious liberty to investigate the harassment of opponents of same-sex marriage. In 2004, Log Cabin withheld the endorsement from then-President George W. Bush largely because of his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment.

Log Cabin’s email to supporters explains the decision to endorse Romney despite his decision to sign this pledge and back a Federal Marriage Amendment, saying “2012 is not 2004. The Federal Marriage Amendment has been voted on twice, and each time has failed with bipartisan opposition.”

“While even the suggestion of enshrining discrimination in our nation’s most precious document is deeply offensive, there is a significant difference between a valid threat and an empty promise made to a vocal but shrinking constituency,” the email states. “In our judgment, the NOM pledge is ultimately merely symbolic and thus should not be the basis of a decision to withhold an endorsement from an otherwise qualified candidate, particularly given the gravity of the economic and national security issues currently at stake.”

Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokesperson, thanked Log Cabin for its endorsement in response to an email inquiry from the Washington Blade.

“Gov. Romney is pleased to have the support of the Log Cabin Republicans and looks forward to working together for the future of our country,” Saul said.

Jamie Citron, the Obama campaign’s LGBT vote director, rebuked the gay GOP group for endorsing Romney based on the candidate’s previously articulated anti-gay positions.

“If the Log Cabin Republicans are interested in supporting a candidate who would have left ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ in place and has committed to enshrining discrimination into the constitution, then it is an endorsement that is best suited for Mitt Romney,” Citron said.

Individuals working to re-elect Obama to the White House expressed displeasure over the decision. Among them was Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, who slammed Log Cabin for endorsing Romney and called the organization a sell-out to the LGBT community.

“The Log Cabin Republicans have proven once and for all that they are not an organization aligned with the LGBT movement,” Davis said. “They are a Republican front group bumbling their way into fooling LGBT voters that it’s OK to support a party that would legislate us back into the closet.”

Davis added that the endorsement decision was a “disgrace” and motivating factors other than Romney’s record were in play.

“This is politics at its worst — when a community sells out its own people for the gain of a few individuals,” Davis said. “There is little doubt that Clarke Coooper’s position on the RNC finance committee played a major role in this decision. Of course, so did their blinding fear of GOProud nipping at their heels.”

Previously, Cooper told the Washington Blade that Log Cabin was seeking clarity on Romney’s position on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act before making an endorsement decision and was seeking to meet with the Romney campaign about the issue. Romney supported the legislation as a U.S. Senate candidate in 1994, but has since backed away from that support and hasn’t talked about the bill during the 2012 presidential campaign. In the email to supporters explaining the endorsement, Cooper said on the issue of workplace discrimination, “we are persuaded that we can work with a Romney administration to achieve a desirable outcome.”

The “qualified” endorsement is akin to the qualified endorsement for the candidate that gay former U.S. House Rep. Jim Kolbe gave to Romney in an interview with the Washington Blade during the Republican National Convention based on the candidate’s business background despite his opposition to same-sex marriage.

R. Clarke Cooper, Mitt Romney, Jim Kolbe, Republican Party, Election 2012, Log Cabin Republicans, gay news, Washington Blade

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (center) with Log Cabin’s R. Clarke Cooper (left) and former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe (photo courtesy Log Cabin)

The statement also includes a photo of Cooper with Romney and Kolbe. The file name for the photo denotes a meeting between Romney and Log Cabin on Oct. 17 in Leesburg, Va. It’s not immediately clear whether the photo was from a meeting in which Romney’s position on ENDA came up.

In the statement announcing the endorsement, Log Cabin also provided words from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who endorsed Romney during the primary, and Ted Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general who’s leading a lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8, but helped the Romney campaign with debate prep.

Ros-Lehtinen, a supporter of marriage equality who’s known as being one of the most pro-LGBT Republican lawmakers in Congress, praised the endorsement.

“Our nation needs common sense solutions to fixing our economy and creating private sector jobs and Gov. Romney will provide us with the strong leadership we need at this critical time,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Gov. Romney understands that businesses need less government regulation and lower taxes. Romney is the right man for our time. I am pleased that Log Cabin Republicans is endorsing Gov. Romney. I know that all of us together will fight for equality for all Americans, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.”

Olson emphasized that both he and Log Cabin support Romney for president and marriage equality at the same time.

“Like the Log Cabin Republicans, I am proud to support Governor Romney for president, and I am proud to be an advocate for the freedom to marry,” Cooper said. “This endorsement speaks to Log Cabin’s principled belief in equality for all Americans, and the pragmatic recognition that our nation is in need of new leadership. Getting our fiscal house in order is more than an economic imperative – it’s a moral imperative. Gay or straight, Americans deserve a president who will secure a future for our children that doesn’t leave them buried in debt.”

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Pennsylvania

Gay journalist murdered inside Philadelphia home

Josh Kruger’s death has left city ‘shocked and saddened’

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Josh Kruger with his cat Mason (Photo courtesy of Josh Kruger's Facebook page)

An openly gay journalist was shot to death in his Point Breeze neighborhood home in the 2300 block of Watkins Street in South Philadelphia early Monday morning.

According to Officer Shawn Ritchie, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, 39-year-old Josh Kruger was shot at about 1:30 a.m. and collapsed in the street after seeking help. Kruger was transported to Penn Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 2:13 a.m.

Police said that Kruger was shot seven times throughout the chest and abdomen and that no weapons were recovered nor have any arrests been made. Homicides investigators noted that there was no sign of forced entry and the motive remains unclear.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement:

“Josh Kruger lifted up the most vulnerable and stigmatized people in our communities — particularly unhoused people living with addiction. As an openly queer writer who wrote about his own journey surviving substance use disorder and homelessness, it was encouraging to see Josh join the Kenney administration as a spokesperson for the Office of Homeless Services.

Josh deserved to write the ending of his personal story. As with all homicides, we will be in close contact with the Philadelphia police as they work to identify the person or persons responsible so that they can be held to account in a court of law. I extend my deepest condolences to Josh’s loved ones and to all those mourning this loss.”

WHYY reported Kruger had written extensively with bylines in multiple publications, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, the Philadelphia Citizen, WHYY, and Billy Penn.

CBS News reported that Kruger overcame homelessness and addiction to work for five years in city government, handling Mayor Jim Kenney’s social media and serving as the communications director for the city’s Office of Homeless Services.

He left city government in 2021 to return to journalism, according to his website.

“He was more than just a journalist,” Kendall Stephens, who was a friend and neighbor of Kruger’s, told CBS News. “He was more than just a community member. He was somebody that fought that great fight so many of us are not able to fight that fight because we’re too busy sheltered in our own homes wondering if someone is going to knock down our doors and kill us the same way they killed him. The same way they tried to kill me. And we’re tired of it.”   

Kenney said in a statement that he is “shocked and saddened” by Kruger’s death.

“He cared deeply about our city and its residents, which was evident in his public service and writing. Our administration was fortunate to call him a colleague, and our prayers are with everyone who knew him.”

The District Attorney’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee issued the following statement:

“Many of us knew Josh Kruger as a comrade who never stopped advocating for queer Philadelphians living on the margins of society. His struggles mirrored so many of ours — from community rejection, to homelessness, to addiction, to living with HIV, to poverty — and his recovery, survival, and successes showed what’s possible when politicians and elected leaders reject bigotry and work affirmatively to uplift all people. Even while Josh worked for the mayor, he never stopped speaking out against police violence, politicized attacks on trans and queer people, or the societal discarding of homeless and addicted Philadelphians.

We are devastated that Josh’s life was ended so violently. We urge anyone who has information that could lead to an arrest and prosecution for Josh’s murder to contact the Philadelphia Police or the DA’s Office directly. LGBTQ+ Philadelphians experience violence of all kinds every day; few people used their platforms to remind powerful people in government of that reality as effectively as Josh Kruger did. Josh and the communities he advocated for every day of his life deserve nothing less than justice and accountability for this outrageous crime.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Lesbian mother from El Salvador released from ICE custody

Jessica Barahona-Martinez arrested on June 26, 2017

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(Bigstock photo)

A federal judge last week ordered the release of a lesbian mother from El Salvador who had been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since June 2017.

Jessica Patricia Barahona-Martinez and her three children entered the U.S. on May 31, 2016. A court filing notes she fled “persecution she faced in El Salvador as a lesbian, and because the government had falsely identified her as a gang member.”

Barahona-Martinez lived with her sister and other relatives in Woodbridge, Va., until ICE arrested and detained her on June 26, 2017. She was housed at two ICE detention centers in Virginia until her transfer to the South Louisiana ICE Processing Center, a privately-run facility the GEO Group, a Florida-based company, operates in Basile, La., in October 2020. 

An immigration judge in November 2019 granted Barahona-Martinez asylum for the second time. The government appealed the decision and the Board of Immigration Appeals, which the Justice Department oversees, ruled in their favor.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana last month filed a writ for habeas corpus petition in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana’s Lafayette Division that asked for Barahona-Martinez’s release. U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty on Sept. 27 ruled in her favor.  

“Petitioner (Barahona-Martinez) ultimately argues that her prolonged detention violates due process; she moves that this court issues a temporary restraining order, requests release, a bond hearing, an expedited hearing and costs and attorney fees,” wrote Doughty.

“This court finds that petitioner has plausibly alleged her prolonged detention violates due process,” added Doughty.

An ACLU spokesperson on Monday told the Blade that ICE has released Barahona-Martinez and she is once again in Virginia with her children and sister. 

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State Department

State Department hosts intersex activists from around the world

Group met with policy makers, health officials, NGOs

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The State Department last week hosted a group of intersex activists from around the world. (Courtesy photo)

The State Department last week hosted five intersex activists from around the world.

Kimberly Zieselman, a prominent intersex activist who advises Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad, brought the activists to D.C.

• Morgan Carpenter, co-founder and executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia

• Natasha Jiménez, an intersex activist from Costa Rica who is the general coordinator of Mulabi, the Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights

• Julius Kaggwa, founder of the Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development Uganda

• Magda Rakita, co-founder and executive director of Fujdacja Interakcja in Poland and co-founder of Interconnected UK

• Esan Regmi, co-founder and executive director of the Campaign for Change in Nepal.

Special U.S. Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine are among the officials with whom the activists met.

Zieselman told the Washington Blade on Sept. 21 the activists offered State Department officials an “intersex 101” overview during a virtual briefing.

More than 60 Save the Children staffers from around the world participated in another virtual briefing. Zieselman noted the activists also met with Stern, U.N. and Organization of American States officials, funders and NGO representatives while in D.C.

“The people we met were genuinely interested,” Rakita told the Blade.

Stern in an exclusive statement to the Blade said “the visiting intersex activists clearly had an impact here at State, sharing their expertise and lived experience highlighting the urgency to end human rights abuses, including those involving harmful medical practices against intersex persons globally.” Andrew Gleason, senior director for gender equality and social justice at Save the Children US, in a LinkedIn post he wrote after attending his organization’s meeting with the activists echoed Stern.

“There are many learnings to recount from today’s discussion, but one thing is clear, this is unequivocally a child rights issue, and one that demands attention and action at the intersection of LGBTQI+ rights, reproductive rights and justice, disability justice and more,” wrote Gleason. “Gratitude to the panelists for sharing such poignant testimonies and providing insights into what organizations like ours can do to contribute to the broader intersex movement; and thank you to Kimberly for your leadership and bringing this group together.”

The activists’ trip to D.C. coincided with efforts to end so-called sex “normalization” surgeries on intersex children.

Greek lawmakers in July passed a law that bans such procedures on children under 15 unless they offer their consent or a court allows them to happen. Doctors who violate the statute face fines and prison.

Germany Iceland, Malta, Portugal and Spain have also enacted laws that seek to protect intersex youth. 

A law that grants equal rights and legal recognition to intersex people in Kenya took effect in July 2022. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory earlier this year passed the Variation in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023.

Intersex Human Rights Australia notes the law implements “mechanisms to regulate non-urgent medical care to encourage child participation in medical decisions, establish groundbreaking oversight mechanisms and provide transparency on medical practices and decision making.” It further points out the statute “will criminalize some deferrable procedures that permanently alter the sex characteristics of children” and provides “funding for necessary psychosocial supports for families and children.”

“It’s amazing,” Carpenter told the Blade when discussing the law and resistance to it. “It’s not perfect. There was some big gaps, but physicians are resisting every step of the way.”

The State Department in April 2022 began to issue passports with an “X” gender marker.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. Zzyym in October 2021 received the first gender-neutral American passport.

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