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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

Pride Franklin County welcomes rural LGBTQ community

Pennsylvania organization planning October celebration

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When Pride Franklin County held its first Pride celebration in 2018, it sought to address a lack of LGBTQ programming in rural southern Pennsylvania. Greeted by more than 1,000 attendees at its inaugural event, Pride Franklin County’s leadership was reassured the event was something the area not only wanted, but needed. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the local organization has once again sought to address community needs — in new and broadened ways.

Pride Franklin County operates under the Franklin County Coalition for Progress, a local social justice nonprofit that formed in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. “We live in a very rural, conservative area, but that election was a turning point all across the country,” explained Noel Purdy, a founder of Pride Franklin County and founder and president of FCCP.

“People came out of the woodwork who were worried about the LGBTQ community … and other populations that had experienced different forms of oppression in our community,” Purdy explained. This interest in supporting the local LGBTQ community led to a group of LGBTQ community members and allies leading the 2018 Pride celebration.

“We just really wanted to create a space where people know that they’re accepted, no matter who they are,” said Nathan Strayer, vice president of FCCP and a founder of Pride Franklin County. “We want people to know that you fit in. There are a lot of people here that are going to love you.”

But in 2020, at the peak of the event’s popularity — Strayer noted that upwards of 3,000 people attended Pride the year prior — Pride Franklin County had to cancel its programming in light of public health concerns. 

With the “momentum” it has going, Strayer explained that the organization did not want the pandemic to limit its ability to serve the Franklin County community: “ That’s when we really decided to make the entire initiative something bigger,” he said. “We’re not just here to throw a party.”

In 2021, the organization began advocating for a local non-discrimination ordinance codifying inclusivity for all community members, regardless of their identity. The Borough of Chambersburg Council, which represents the largest borough in the county, adopted the ordinance that fall — a major win for LGBTQ activists and allies in a rural Pennsylvania county that leans conservative socially and politically.

Yet, just months after the organization celebrated its achievement, new council members were elected in the borough in January 2022, and soon thereafter a majority of the council decided to repeal the non-discrimination ordinance.

While the ordinance’s revocation greatly disappointed Pride Franklin County, it also reminded its leaders and activists how much work was left to be done.

“From the growth of Pride to the pushback we’ve gotten from some of our elected officials here locally, it’s definitely lit a fire in us to continue pushing ahead so that we can truly make Franklin County an inclusive place for everyone,” Strayer emphasized.

This year, the organization launched its Franklin County Welcoming Project, which spearheads public displays of support to the LGBTQ community. In June, the organization received a media grant to create billboard and radio advertisements throughout the county advocating for inclusivity within the Franklin County community.

The organization also reached out to local businesses, providing them with custom decals to put in their windows after signing a pledge stating that they are a “diverse, inclusive, accepting, welcoming, safe space for all,” Strayer said, adding that, despite some initial hesitation, more than 100 local businesses signed the pledge and displayed the logo in their storefronts.

Pride Franklin County has also looked to meet the local demand for LGBTQ programming throughout the year while maintaining public health precautions. More recent projects have included mental health LGBTQ programming, community picnics, drag shows and a Taste of Pride food event. Strayer added that there has been significant demand from the community for more programming centering LGBTQ youth.

Purdy added that voting rights advocacy has become a center point of current efforts from the organization, as it hopes to educate the local community on the importance of their political involvement. “Hopefully, we’re inspiring more people to learn to pay attention more to what’s going on, and trying to understand the connection between policy and voting,” Purdy explained

While the process of founding a grassroots organization has come with obstacles, Purdy and Strayer both noted that the community response has been rewarding.

 “One thing that I’ve been surprised about is how you have this cultural context of being in a conservative area, thinking that that’s going to be a barrier to doing an event that supports the LGBTQ community, and that it’s going to be super controversial,” but ultimately receiving a positive reception from many community members and resources needed to keep the organization running, Purdy explained.

Getting Pride Franklin County up and running has “definitely been very emotional,” Strayer noted. When Strayer decided to come out in 1999, he turned to leaders in his school — a guidance counselor and principal — for advice, but he recalled them “both sitting down and looking at (him) like, ‘We don’t really know what to do,’” making him feel alone in a particularly important part of his life. But with Pride Franklin County, Strayer is “seeing how things are growing and changing.”

“There’s help out there for youth that are struggling with the same things I was struggling with,” Strayer said. “When I look back at when I was coming out, I thought, ‘This is never going to happen here.’ Seeing now that it is happening here, it’s just such an amazing feeling and it just gives me so much pride in my community.”

Pride Franklin County will host its Pride Festival 2022 on Oct. 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information can be found on the organization’s website at pridefranklincounty.org

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Florida

Over 100 LGBTQ-themed books in a Florida school district labeled with advisory warning

They warn: “this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students.”

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Advisory Notice (via Twitter)

A southwest Florida district put parental “advisory notice” on over 100 books, many of which are race or LGBTQ-themed. 

A great number of books in Collier County Public Schools, either digital or physical, now have warning labels writing “Advisory notice to parents,” according to an NBC report,

The label, tweeted by nonprofit free-speech-promoting group PEN American, states, “This Advisory Notice shall serve to inform you that this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students. This book will also be identified in the Destiny system with the same notation. The decision as to whether this book is suitable or unsuitable shall be the decision of the parent(s) who has the right to oversee his/her child’s education consistent with state law.” 

Stephana Ferrell, co-founder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project, which means to fight book banning, told NBC that she had a call from Elizabeth Alves, the associate superintendent of teaching and learning for Collier County Public Schools. In the call, Alves told her that the district added the labels starting in February. 

These measures, which Alves described as a “compromise,” happened after the district’s legal representative talked with the Florida Citizens Alliance, a conservative group which initiated a “Porn in Schools Report” project last year. The report included a list of books that “promote gender self-identification and same-sex marriage” as well as titles that include “indecent and offensive material,” as the group explained. 

Chad Oliver, the Collier County Public Schools spokesperson, on the other hand offered a different story. 

Oliver sent an email to NBC News and said, “Based upon advice from the General Counsel, we placed advisory notices on books about which parents and community members had expressed concern and in accordance with the recently passed Parents’ Bill of Rights Law (HB 241).” 

The law referred by Oliver is also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

According to PEN America, there are 110 labeled books in total, and the list greatly overlaps with the one Florida Citizens Alliance inquired about with Collier County Public Schools. 

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National

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney introduces bill to make monkeypox testing free

Health insurers would be required to cover costs

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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has introduced legislation to make monkeypox testing free to the public. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), amid the ongoing monkeypox affecting gay and bisexual men, has introduced legislation in the U.S. House seeking to make testing for disease free to the public.

Maloney, one of seven openly gay members of Congress and chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement the measure, called the No Cost for Monkeypox Testing Act, would testing amid the monkeypox outbreak would be accessible to all.

“It is critical that we eliminate cost as a barrier to testing for monkeypox to ensure we can identify cases and prevent further spread,” Maloney said. “This legislation takes the lessons we learned from past public health emergencies and protects those at risk of contracting monkeypox by making tests accessible to everyone.”

The legislation would require private health insurers as well as Medicare and Medicaid to cover the costs of monkeypox testing at no expense to the patients, either through deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance.

The bill introduction comes the week after the Biden administration declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency and the same it has issued new guidance to enhance to the accessing of existing vaccines doses amid criticism federal officials were too slow in distributing shots.

The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the Centers for Disease Control seeking comment on the legislation. Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra said Tuesday the federal government has the capacity to conduct an estimated 80,000 tests each week.

Maloney has been representing New York’s 18th congressional district, but after redistricting is now seeking re-election in the 17th district. Amid controversy over a potential showdown between Maloney and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who’s Black, another openly gay member of Congress and the current representative of that district, Jones has since opted to run for re-election in the New York’s 10th congressional district. Maloney is now running unopposed in the 17th.

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