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ENDA was focus of Log Cabin meeting with Romney

No commitments on specific legislation

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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)

A meeting that took place at a Virginia farmhouse between officials from Log Cabin Republicans and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney included a discussion about workplace non-discrimination, but attendees who spoke to the Washington Blade wouldn’t enumerate any commitments made by Romney.

R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s executive director, said workplace non-discrimination protections were the focus of the meeting, which took place Oct. 17 at Greenwood Farm in Leesburg, Va., which was a precursor the organization’s endorsement of the candidate announced on Tuesday.

The Log Cabin chief was non-commital when asked if he gathered from the meeting that Romney would sign a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if it reached his desk.

“I can say with confidence that the Romney administration would work on desirable outcomes for workplace non-discrimination,” Cooper said. “I’m going to leave it broad like that because I think there’s room for administrative action as well as legislative. I also think it’s probably fair to say that legislation in a form of an ENDA or an ENDA-like legislation is certainly realistic.”

The Nation’s Ben Adler reported that Romney secretly promised Log Cabin he would sign ENDA, but doesn’t want to make that position public for fear of upsetting the religious right. Nowhere in the current version of The Nation’s piece does Cooper say he received a commitment on ENDA. In conversations with the Blade, Cooper insisted Romney never committed to signing any legislation.

Previously, the Washington Blade reported Log Cabin was seeking clarity on ENDA before making its endorsement decision. Romney supported the legislation as a U.S. Senate candidate in 1994, but in later years backed away from that support. The GOP nominee hasn’t addressed the legislation over the course of the 2012 presidential campaign.

During the meeting, Cooper said Romney was “very interested” in talking about different state laws on workplace discrimination for LGBT people. A total of 21 states have laws barring job discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual people; 16 states and D.C. protect all LGBT people from job bias.

“He is aware that there is a kind of patchwork or quilt of states that don’t, and that inequity was something of discussion,” Cooper said. “Some states have it, and some states don’t and this is where it gets confusing and problematic from an administrative standpoint as well.”

Cooper said he impressed upon Romney that ENDA would be consistent with his goals for economic stimulus and job growth because many major businesses have non-discrimination policies in place and discrimination may be preventing LGBT Americans from entering the workforce.

Asked if there was any portion of the current version of the legislation to which Romney objected, Cooper said Romney didn’t express concern about any particular language and did not object to protecting people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

According to Cooper, the Romney campaign took the lead in initiating the meeting — not Log Cabin — after a series of discussions between the group and the campaign. Those in attendance at the meeting, which lasted about 15 minutes, were Romney, gay former U.S. House Rep. Jim Kolbe and Log Cabin staffer Casey Pick and a Romney staffer. Neither Cooper nor Kolbe would identify the campaign staffer who accompanied Romney.

Kolbe, a Log Cabin member who’s also a trustee of the organization, stopped short of saying Romney offered any firm commitments on federal workplace non-discrimination protections, but said they were discussed during the meeting.

“He gave us a firm personal view of opposing workplace discrimination without endorsing ENDA specifically,” Kolbe said. “I think that it’s an area of opportunity where we have an opportunity to make a lot of headway with him.”

Kolbe said he also brought up immigration issues affecting same-sex couples — such as the inability of gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency. Kolbe faces that problem with his own partner, Hector Alfonso. Kolbe said Romney acknowledged him by nodding, but offered no further response.

According to Cooper, the meeting was a culmination of discussions that took place between between Log Cabin and the Romney campaign on issues of concern to the organization — including LGBT issues — over the course of the year.

Cooper said he’s previously spoken to Romney — notably during an exchange following the candidate’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee where the Log Cabin chief said he disagreed with him on the Defense of Marriage Act — but the exchange at the farmhouse was their most extensive meeting.

“That was the most substantive meeting that we had with them,” Cooper said. “That was the culmination from dialogue meetings and information exchanges with various personnel on the campaign.”

One option that the White House has said President Obama would not take at this time is an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. Both Cooper and Kolbe said that directive wasn’t discussed at the meeting, but Log Cabin has engaged with the Romney campaign previously on the issue.

Asked if the Romney campaign has offered any commitment on the executive order, Cooper replied that it would be in line with the candidate’s position that he opposes discrimination.

“I don’t want to get ahead of the governor on this, but I can tell you that was something on the table,” Cooper said.

While shying away from making any firm commitments on workplace protections, Cooper said Romney was firm deciding not to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal or hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples, which the Obama administration already mandated for hospitals receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds.

Both positions were articulated by Romney before, but Romney’s commitment to the latter came into question over the weekend when Romney adviser Bay Buchanan told Buzzfeed on Saturday Romney still supports a Federal Marriage Amendment, but believes hospital visitation should be determined by the states under the Tenth Amendment.

“There’s not going to be a retreat by President Romney on repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Cooper said. “There’s not going to be a retreat on hospital visitation.”

Cooper said he didn’t get a sense from Romney on how high a priority passing a Federal Marriage Amendment would be for the candidate, but said he impressed upon Romney the organization’s desire to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We were very, very clear not only to Gov. Romney, but to the campaign staff that were working to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act,” Cooper said. “That was part of our legislative portfolio. They clearly understood that.”

The Romney campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on the meeting.

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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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Federal Government

Federal government prepares for looming shutdown

White House warns of ‘damaging impacts across the country’

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U.S. Capitol Building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

However remote they were on Monday, odds of avoiding a government shutdown were narrowed by Thursday evening as House Republicans continued debate over their hyper-partisan appropriations bills that stand no chance of passage by the Upper Chamber.

As lawmakers in the Democratic controlled Senate forged ahead with a bipartisan stop-gap spending measure that House GOP leadership had vowed to reject, the federal government began bracing for operations to grind to a halt on October 1.

This would mean hundreds of thousands of workers are furloughed as more than 100 agencies from the State Department to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation roll out contingency plans maintained by the White House Office of Management and Budget. On Thursday the Office of Personnel Management sent out memos to all agencies instructing them to ready for a shutdown on Sunday.

Before 1980, operations would continue per usual in cases where Congress failed to break an impasse over spending, as lapses in funding tended to last only a few days before lawmakers brokered a deal.

Since then, the government has shut down more than a dozen times and the duration has tended to become longer and longer.

“Across the United States, local news outlets are reporting on the harmful impacts a potential government shutdown would have on American families,” the White House wrote in a release on Thursday featuring a roundup of reporting on how the public might be affected.

“With just days left before the end of the fiscal year, extreme House Republicans are playing partisan games with peoples’ lives and marching our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country,” the White House said.

The nature and extent of that damage will depend on factors including how long the impasse lasts, but the Biden-Harris administration has warned of some consequences the American public is likely to face.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for example, warned: “There is no good time for a government shutdown, but this is a particularly bad time for a government shutdown, especially when it comes to transportation.”

Amid the shortage of air traffic controllers and efforts to modernize aviation technology to mitigate flight delays and cancellations, a government shutdown threatens to “make air travel even worse,” as Business Insider wrote in a headline Thursday.

Democratic lawmakers including California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, meanwhile, have sounded the alarm in recent weeks over the consequences for the global fight against AIDS amid the looming expiration, on Oct. 1, of funding for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

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Federal Government

QAnon follower pleads guilty to threatening member of Congress

Conspiracy movement claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world

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QAnon banner at a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Va., in 2020. (YouTube screenshot from Anthony Crider)

A New Mexico man has entered a plea deal after being charged with a federal criminal complaint of making threats through interstate communications directed at a member of Congress.

Federal prosecutors charged Michael David Fox, a resident of Doña Ana County, for calling the Houston district office of an unnamed member of Congress on or about May 18, 2023, and uttering threats that included knowingly threatening to kill an active member of Congress.

The plea agreement was brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Damian L. Martinez of U.S. District Court in New Mexico in the Las Cruces by Fox’s attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office in August.

According to the criminal complaint as outlined by a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal investigator for the Albuquerque Field Office, Las Cruces Resident Agency, on May 18 at approximately 9:04 p.m. Fox called the office of a congresswoman for the District of Texas, U.S. House of Representatives (Victim One/”V1″), who is from Houston. The call was received by V1’s office.

In the phone call Fox stated “Hey [Vl], you’re a man. It’s official. You’re literally a tranny and a pedophile, and I’m going to put a bullet in your fucking face. You mother fucking satanic cock smoking son of a whore. You understand me you fucker?” 

Law enforcement was able to trace the call back to Las Cruces, N.M., and it was believed that Fox was the user of cell phone account used to make the call. According to the FBI agents who interviewed Fox, he admitted to making the call.

Fox acknowledged that the threat was direct but claimed that he did not own any guns. Fox
claimed to be a member of the Q2 Truth Movement, the Q Movement. Fox explained these
movements believe all over the world there were transgender individuals running
governments, kingdoms and corporations. 

Fox told the FBI that there is a plan called “Q the Plan to Save the World” which he learned about from an online video. Fox claimed that he believed Q was going to engage in the “eradication” of the people who were causing all the world’s misery. He believed that part of the eradication had already happened.

Fox explained that he had run Vl’s skull features through forensic analysis and determined
that Vl was born male and is now trans. Fox discussed his military service with the
U.S. Air Force, “Q the Plan to Save the World,” and how God communicates using
numbers. 

Fox continued to reiterate several different types of conspiracy theories indicating
extreme far right ideologies as his explanation for why he conducted the phone call to
threaten V1.

According to the FBI, Fox rescinded his threat against Vl and apologized. Fox claimed he was not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs when he made the call. Fox stated he understood how Vl would feel threatened by his phone call, and he acknowledged that anyone he knew or cared about would also be concerned with such a threat.

The charge of interstate threatening communications carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

QAnon began in 2017, when a mysterious figure named “Q” started posting on the online message board 4chan, claiming to have inside access to government secrets. Since then, QAnon has grown into a conspiracy movement that claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world. It is claimed by QAnon adherents that former President Donald Trump is the only person who can defeat them. 

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based journalist Ana Valens, a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship and sex workers’ rights noted that Fox appears to be a “transvestigator.” Valens noted that the transvestigation conspiracy theory is a fringe movement within QAnon that claims the world is primarily run by trans people. Phrenological analysis is common among transvestigators, with a prominent focus on analyzing celebrities for proof that they are trans.

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