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Gay N.H. lawmaker seeks to become first out candidate elected to state Senate

David Pierce in 2009 testified in support of New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage bill

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David Pierce, New Hampshire, gay news, Washington Blade
David Pierce, New Hampshire, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay N.H. state Senate candidate David Pierce (Photo courtesy of David Pierce)

HANOVER, N.H.—A New Hampshire lawmaker seeking to become the first gay state senator who ran as an out candidate said education, the economy and health care remain the top issues going into Election Day.

“I talk about the hypothetical student who works like hell to do the best she can: straight As, extracurricular activities, really good SAT scores or whatever, but then [colleges] see that she’s from a place that doesn’t have accreditation [from the] College Admissions Council and they can’t give her full consideration,” state Rep. David Pierce told the Washington Blade during an interview earlier this month as he referenced the possibility that Claremont’s struggling Stevens High School could lose its accreditation. “That’s just criminal. And so that’s got to change.”

Pierce, who has represented House District 9 that includes Dartmouth College since 2006, would represent the newly redistricted 5th Senate District that includes the cities of Lebanon and Claremont and Hanover and six other towns along the Connecticut River and in the state’s Upper Valley region if elected on Nov. 6.

He criticized the state’s Republican-controlled legislature for cutting the University of New Hampshire’s budget by nearly 50 percent last year.

“UNH students graduate with the highest debt load of in-state students of any students in the country,” he said. “UNH students pay the highest in-state tuition rate of any students in the country. And you’re destabilizing the family — middle class families — if they can’t send their kids to schools. If they can get them to school, it’s a huge chunk of their monthly income towards education. If they can’t send them to [get an] education, I talk about how we’re dooming our kids to be the ones to sell cigarettes and alcohol to Massachusetts because that’s how we’re going to raise revenue. And you can’t attract businesses to New Hampshire unless you have an educated and skilled workforce.”

Pierce further criticized GOP lawmakers for cutting the state’s budget by 11 percent in 201.

“Whether you agree or disagree that government should be spending money in a state’s economy is a philosophical argument that we can have, but the point is that it does happen and the state does contribute X percent to the state’s [Gross Domestic Product] GDP,” he said. “When you cut 11 percent of that contribution, you’re not expanding the economy. You’re shrinking it. This legislature came in with the promise to focus like a laser on rebuilding the economy and creating jobs. And the major policy they’ve passed in the budget shrinks the economy. That’s why you’ve seen the unemployment rate ticking up in New Hampshire.”

Pierce also accused New Hampshire Republicans of falling “right in line with the national Republican party about declaring a war on women’s health.” He criticized House Speaker Bill O’Brien and other GOP leaders for attaching an anti-choice bill that previously failed to a measure that would have given tax credits to high tech companies. Pierce also criticized GOP lawmakers for spearheading the passage of a bill in May that repealed a law mandating insurance coverage of contraceptives.

“What that means of course is fewer women, fewer families have access to contraception,” he said.

Pierce spoke to the Blade on the same day he and his partner of 20 years, Dr. Robert Duff, celebrated their 20th anniversary. The couple who live in Etna with their two young daughters Emma and Grace had their first date at the now closed Au Pied de Cochon restaurant in Georgetown on Oct. 5, 1992.

Pierce highlighted the couple’s children during in his 2009 speech in support of New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage bill just before the House narrowly approved it. He also spoke about his own struggle to come to terms with his sexual orientation as a child growing up in a religious family in Texas.

“I remember being that scared 12-year-old little boy coming to grips with the fact that I’m different than everybody else,” said Pierce, pointing out that he had even thought about potentially taking his own life. “Fortunately I didn’t do that, but I grew up very scared of who I was and what it meant for my life. And then to see myself giving the floor speech — the anchor floor speech — for marriage equality and seeing it pass was one of the most significant moments of my life. I would love for me to be able to go back and talk to that 12-year-old scared little kid and say ‘It’s going to be okay. You’re going to come through this in fact you’re going to do great things with this.’”

Pierce conceded he was nervous as he drove to Concord, the state capital, in March for the debate on the bill that sought to repeal the same-sex marriage law that took effect in 2010. The House rejected the proposal by a 211-119 margin with more than 100 Republicans opposing it.

“I had such an overbearing headache because everything was so clinched because I thought I knew what was coming,” he said, recalling how he felt as he entered the chamber. “I thought that the floor speeches were going to be disgusting and immoral and acidic and so I was prepared for it, but scared to death as to what was going to happen. And then it slowly — we were taking one procedural vote after another — and it just became clear. There was one vote in particular that was the tipping point. It was a vote on the prime sponsor’s amendment to his own bill. If that had passed then the entire measure would have passed. If it failed, then the whole measure would have failed and the interim measure failed by 22 votes. They continued trying to resurrect it and all this other stuff, but every vote was getting further and further and further and further away from the repeal.”

Pierce’s opponent, state Rep. Joe Osgood, has pointed out the fact the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund has endorsed his campaign in e-mails to supporters and during interviews with local media outlets.

“I want to talk about the economy and jobs, how we get the economy going again, how we can guarantee the fundamental right to an education and recognize that health care is a right and ensure access to preventative services, non-discrimination for women, equal pay for equal work,” said Pierce as he pointed to his response to a reporter’s question about Osgood highlighting the Victory Fund’s endorsement and his sexual orientation. “The things that the voters care about are the same things that I care about.”

Beyond politics, however, Pierce stressed his state Senate candidacy remains personal.

“It’s just an incredible journey; I feel incredibly blessed to have had these opportunities,” he said. “Another part of that that really impacts me spiritually is that that scared little 12-year-old kid who is today living in Durham, N.H., or Windham, N.H., can see that it’s okay. And that’s a big part of why I do it because I don’t want kids today going through what I had to go through.”

He added his election to the state Senate as an openly gay man would say “a lot about New Hampshire.”

“It says a lot about the live free or die attitude of New Hampshire,” said Pierce. “It’s nobody business. And where is it written that we should be able to control how people live their lives and make the most personal choices in their lives? And so to the extent that my candidacy and my service in the Senate will represent that, I think that’s wonderful.”

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White House mum on whether Biden raised LGBTQ rights with Putin

Geneva summit took place amid ongoing Chechnya crackdown

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President Biden on June 16, 2021, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

The White House on Wednesday did not say whether President Biden raised Russia’s LGBTQ rights record during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else; it’s for the American people: fighting COVID-19; rebuilding our economy; reestablishing our relationships around the world with our allies and friends; and protecting our people,” Biden told reporters during a press conference that took place after the summit, which took place in Geneva, ended. “That’s my responsibility as president. 
 
“I also told him that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view,” added Biden. “That’s just part of the DNA of our country.” 

Biden said he told Putin that “human rights is going to always be on the table, I told him.” 

“It’s not about just going after Russia when they violate human rights; it’s about who we are,” said Biden. “How could I be the president of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?”

Biden also told reporters the U.S. will continue to “raise our concerns about cases like Alexey Navalny,” a Russian opposition leader who remains in jail.

Navalny last August spent weeks in a coma after he was poisoned with Novichok in the Siberian city of Tomsk. Navalny underwent treatment in Germany before he returned to Russia in January.   

“I made it clear to President Putin that we’ll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights because that’s what we are, that’s who we are,” Biden told the reporters. “The idea is: ‘We hold these truths self-evident that all men and women … ‘ We haven’t lived up to it completely, but we’ve always widened the arc of commitment and included more and more people.”

Putin in 2013 sparked global outrage when he signed a law that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors. Putin in April signed a series of constitutional amendments that, among other things, formally defines marriage as between a man and a woman in Russia.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close Putin ally, and the Kremlin continue to downplay the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya.

The State Department in February expressed concern over the fate of two Chechen brothers who were arrested in Russia and returned to their homeland, even though they had fled its anti-LGBTQ crackdown.

The Russian LGBT Network, a Russian LGBTQ rights group, said authorities in Dagestan, a semi-autonomous Russian republic that borders Chechnya, on June 10 kidnapped a bisexual woman who had sought refuge at a shelter for domestic violence survivors. Reports indicate Chechen police officers forced her into a vehicle and drove her back to Chechnya.

The National Security Council before the summit did not respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment about whether Biden planned to raise Russia’s LGBTQ rights record with Putin. A State Department spokesperson referred the Blade to the White House for comment.

Chris Johnson contributed to this article.

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Lesbian, trans Defense nominees sail through confirmation hearings

Biden picks exemplify change after LGBTQ bans lifted

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Two nominees, one lesbian and one transgender, sailed though a breezy confirmation hearing on Wednesday for high-ranking positions at the Defense Department.

Among the five nominees questioned before the Senate Armed Services Committee were Shawn Skelly, who’s transgender and nominated to become assistant secretary of defense for readiness, and Gina Ortiz Jones, who’s a lesbian and nominated to become under secretary of the Air Force.

The LGBTQ nominees for the high-ranking posts stand out in the wake of the Biden administration enacting to reverse the transgender military ban enacted under President Trump, as well as the coming anniversary of the lifting of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Both Jones, a former Air Force pilot, and Skelly, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, served in the U.S. military at times when they would have been discharged due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Jones made a reference to serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as part of her opening statement for the confirmation hearing.

“My experience in the Air Force was hindered by the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, yet I to remain undeterred because of my desire to serve our country,” Jones said. “That experience cemented my resolve to ensure anyone ready and able to serve can do so to their full potential and accordingly our country’s fullest potential.”

Annise Parker, CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement the nominations of the LGBTQ individuals to high-ranking Defense roles is significant.
 
“These two trailblazing nominees demonstrated their deep military expertise and qualifications before the committee and we know their experiences as LGBTQ people will shape their leadership in these critical positions,” Parker said. “Their performance was a powerful testament to the progress our military and nation has made – just one decade after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – and is an important moment for LGBTQ service members who served or continue to serve in silence. Their confirmation will transform perceptions of LGBTQ people within the ranks of the U.S. military, but also among the leaders of militaries we work with around the world.”

No member of the committee objected to — or even pointed out — the sexual orientation or gender identity of the nominees. In fact, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who had openly called for codifying the transgender military ban into law as opposed to reversing it, notably recognized Skelly’s gender identity by referring to her as “Ms. Skelly” when addressing her.

Questions, instead, comprised issues related to the U.S. military, including rooting out “extremism” in the military, competition with China, access to care at medical facilities and the U.S. military being the biggest single consumer of fossil fuels.

Skelly, in her opening statement, said she was “simultaneously humbled and inspired” over being nominated for the role as assistant secretary of defense for readiness, which includes being responsible for recruitment, career development, pay and benefits, and oversight of the state of military readiness.

“As a retired Naval flight officer, the importance of the department safety and professional military education programs, and the manner in which they support the readiness of the total force are deeply ingrained in me, and if confirmed, I will ensure they receive the priority and focus they deserve,” Skelly said.

Jones and Skelly are two of three pending LGBTQ nominees for high-ranking Defense positions. The other is Brenda “Sue” Fulton, a lesbian who had advocated for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and was nominated to become assistant secretary of defense for manpower and readiness.

It wasn’t immediately clear why Fulton wasn’t among the nominees questioned on Wednesday even though she was nominated at the same time. The Senate Armed Services Committee didn’t respond Wednesday to the Washington Blade’s request for comment.

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House Republicans block LGBTQ small business credit measure

‘No attack is too low’

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New York Representative Ritchie Torres (Photo Credit: Office of NY Rep. Ritchie Torres)

WASHINGTON – A measure introduced by freshmen New York Representative Ritchie Torres (D15-Bronx) that would ensure that financial institutions are providing LGBTQ-owned small businesses equal access to credit was blocked by the Republican caucus this week.

TorresLGBTQ Business Equal Credit Enforcement and Investment Act, HR 1443, requiring financial institutions to collect data on credit applications by LGBTQ-owned businesses, was stopped from passing in a 248-177 vote Tuesday. The measure required a 2/3rds vote (284) to pass.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement after the vote noted, “House Republicans are using Pride Month to attack LGBTQ-owned small businesses. […] Passing this uncontroversial bill to help small businesses stay afloat during a pandemic should be a no-brainer.”

“Sadly, no attack is too low for this House Republican Conference, not even attacking LGBTQ-owned small businesses during Pride Month,” Pelosi added.

The openly gay Ritchie tweeted, “The Republicans in the House voted down my legislation, HR 1443, which would protect LGBTQ-owned businesses from discrimination. A slap in the face to the LGBTQ community right in the heart of Pride Month.”

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