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Marriage equality at stake in N.H. gubernatorial race

Hassan, Lamontagne in close battle

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Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Marriage, Charlie Bass

Republican N.H. gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne (left) and Democratic N.H. candidate Maggie Hassan (right) (Photo courtesy wikimedia)

The outcome of the gubernatorial race in New Hampshire could be crucial in determining the fate of marriage equality in the state, which was the first to have a governor sign it without it being taken away through referendum.

A victory for the GOP candidate, attorney Ovide Lamontagne, would likely mean Republicans in the state legislature would only need a majority vote to repeal marriage rights for gay couples. Previously, they needed a supermajority to override the veto of Democrat Gov. John Lynch as they would if the Democrat seeking to replace him, former State Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan, wins the governor’s race.

Ray Buckley, who’s gay and chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said the gubernatorial contest is the prime focus in New Hampshire for Democrats because they’re unlikely to regain a majority in the legislature after Republicans won a supermajority following the 2010 election.

“Simply put, marriage is at stake,” Buckley said. “The priority here really has to be the governor’s office, and if there’s one candidate in New Hampshire that is more extreme than Ovide Lamontagne when it comes to social issues — whether reproductive issues or marriage equality — I’ve never heard of him. He is a far-right zealot and he would actively work towards repealing the law. All they would need is a one-vote victory in both chambers.”

At the start of this year, LGBT advocates feared that the Republican supermajority would muster enough votes to override a veto of a measure to repeal the same-sex marriage law, which was signed by Gov. John Lynch in 2009. But lawmakers didn’t even send the bill to the governor. In March, the New Hampshire House rejected a measure to repeal marriage equality by a vote of 211-116. Still, many political observers say lawmakers did so because they didn’t believe they had enough have votes to overcome the governor’s veto and would revisit the issue if they only needed a bare majority to repeal it.

The gubernatorial candidates have offered distinct views on marriage equality over the course of their campaigns, although the degree to which Lamontagne would push for repeal of same-sex marriage remains uncertain.

Hassan’s support for marriage equality can be found on her website, where she touts her leadership in passing the legislation in 2009 before she ultimately lost her seat to a Republican in 2010. Marc Goldberg, a Hassan spokesperson, assured the Blade via email she would veto any measure to repeal same-sex marriage.

“Maggie believes in the rights of all citizens to participate fully in the civic and economic life of our communities,” the website states. “In the State Senate, she was instrumental in passing marriage equality in New Hampshire. The Concord Monitor reported ‘Hassan helped gay marriage pass the Senate by crafting an amendment that won over hesitant senators. Former state representative Jim Splaine, who sponsored the legislation, said Hassan was able to find a consensus among Democratic senators that the existing civil union law was not sufficient.'”

Lamontagne’s views on marriage equality aren’t found on his website, but his public statements on the issue have been recorded by news outlets. His campaign wouldn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on marriage.

Asked about marriage equality by students at Central High School in May, Lamontagne reportedly said he opposes same-sex marriage, but suggested it wasn’t a priority for him. According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, Lamontagne said at the time, “I am a social conservative, and I believe in traditional marriage, but I’m not running to deal with that issue.”

But that differed from what Lamontagne declared at a Tea Party rally in March, when he positioned himself as a strong opponent of marriage equality. According to the Nashua Telegraph, Lamontagne told the crowd, “If Gov. Lynch prevents a return to traditional marriage, you can count on me to aggressively work to make this happen once I’m governor.”

Polls show a tight race, although Hassan seems to enjoy a slight lead in the days prior to Election Day. An NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll published Wednesday gave Hassan a five-point lead over Lamontagne. But a New England College poll published Monday found the race was a dead heat with Hassan and Lamontagne both winning 45 percent of support.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, emphasized the importance of electing Hassan to ensure marriage equality remains the law in New Hampshire.

“New Hampshire’s marriage equality law remains very popular in the state but some leaders are determined to reverse progress,” Cole-Schwartz said. “It’s essential that we elect Maggie Hassan as governor to ensure that the state continues to respect all loving and committed couples.”

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Florida

Miami hotel liquor license may be revoked over a drag show

State’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco targets business

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Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Miami. (Photo by dennizn/Bigstock)

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is in the process of revoking the Hyatt Regency Miami’s alcohol license after the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation determined that the hotel’s affiliated James L. Knight Center had hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas” performed Dec. 27 with minors present in the audience.

The Knight Center is a major South Florida venue and has previously hosted the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. The venue’s main room can seat 4,600 people.

This is the third time the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which operates under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, has targeted a business that hosted a drag show.

A popular restaurant and pub in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood is also under threat of losing its liquor license. The R House identifies itself on its Facebook page as “the proud home of South Florida’s most popular weekend drag brunches.”

The July 2022 complaint filed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation asks for a final order that the R House restaurant is a declared a public nuisance and has its liquor license revoked. 

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the complaint was issued after a video of a recent performance at the bar’s drag brunch went viral. A topless drag queen wearing lingerie stuffed with money can be seen in the video attempting to dance with a young girl, who the DPBR estimates is “between three and five years old.” Twitter account “Libs of Tik Tok” originally found the footage on Tik Tok, posted by a user who wrote, “Children belong at drag shows!!!! Children deserve to see fun and expression & freedom.”

In late December “A Drag Queen Christmas” was hosted by the Orlando non-profit Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation on Dec. 28, filing a complaint alleging that children under age 18 were allowed to attend.

The complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic alleged the foundation violated Florida law in allowing for a person to “commit lewd or lascivious exhibition” in the presence of an individual who is less than 16 years old.

In this latest targeting of the show, which is a holiday-themed drag show that tours in 36 different cities and features stars from the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Insider webzine journalist Kimberly Leonard reported that the DeSantis administration officials accused the Knight Center of several violations, including a prohibition of “lascivious exhibition” before people younger than 16, mirroring the December complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic.

The department’s complaint said performers engaged in “acts of simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays” that included:

  • Performers forcibly penetrating or rubbing exposed prosthetic female breasts against faces of audience members
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ prosthetic female breasts and genitalia to the audience
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ buttocks to the audience
  • Simulating masturbation through performers’ digitally penetrating prosthetic female genital
  • Graphic depictions of childbirth and/or abortion

Hyatt Regency Miami is allowed to keep selling alcohol until the department makes a final decision. The business has 21 days to request a hearing, Beth Pannell, spokeswoman for the department, told Insider.

Regulators had warned the facility to change how it marketed the show before it went live, according to a copy of the letter included in the complaint. The letter accused the marketers of putting on a performance that constitutes “public nuisances, lewd activity, and disorderly conduct” when minors are present.

News of this latest action was first reported by far-right conservative internet based outlet Florida’s Voice.

As more and more Republican states target drag shows, in just the past few weeks, Tennessee became the first to ban adult performances, including drag, from public spaces such as parks and schools. 

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

New VA mission statement recognizes commitment to all veterans

‘To fulfill [Lincoln’s] promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military & for their families, caregivers, & survivors’

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VA Secretary Denis McDonough. (Screenshot/YouTube)

In a speech delivered Thursday at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA), located at the main entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in suburban Virginia, VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued an updated version of its 1959 mission statement.

The new mission statement is: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”

As the VA secretary commenced his remarks, he honored several notable women in the audience including Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton, the assistant secretary of veterans affairs for public and intergovernmental affairs.

Fulton, is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., which was the Academy’s first class to admit women. She is an out lesbian and served as a founding board member of Knights Out, the organization of LGBTQ West Point graduates, and later worked with OutServe, the association of actively-serving LGBTQ military members and SPARTA, an LGBTQ military group advocating for transgender military service.

“Whenever any veteran, family member, caregiver, or survivor walks by a VA facility, we want them to see themselves in the mission statement on the outside of the building,” said Secretary McDonough. “We are here to serve all veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors — and now, our mission statement reflects exactly that.”

In crafting the new mission statement, VA surveyed roughly 30,000 Veterans. Among veterans surveyed, the new version of VA’s mission statement was chosen over the current version by every age group; by men and by women; by LGBTQ+ veterans; and by white, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native Veterans.

In addition to two rounds of surveys, VA conducted dozens of small-group engagements with veterans to understand what was most important to them in a VA mission statement, then incorporated that feedback into quantitative research. The new mission statement reflects that VA serves all of the heroes who have served our country, regardless of their race, gender, background, sexual orientation, religion, zip code or identity.

The previous mission statement was: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.” The previous mission statement is posted in roughly 50 percent of VA’s facilities. Over the coming months, VA’s new mission statement will replace the previous version.

VA announces new mission statement, recognizing sacred commitment to serve all who served:

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Michigan

Mich. governor signs statewide LGBTQ rights law

‘Bigotry is bad for business’

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 16, 2023, signed an LGBTQ rights bill into law. (Photo courtesy of Whitmer's office)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act on Thursday, which expands basic protections for the LGBTQ community.

The measure, Senate Bill 4, was sponsored by openly gay state Sen. Jeremy Moss who less than a year previously had been shot down by the Republican majority as he attempted to have a non-binding resolution to recognize “Pride Month” adopted by the Senate.

In her signing remarks, Whitmer noted: “In the words of Detroit native Lizzo, it’s about damn time! Bigotry is bad for business. Come to Michigan, you will be respected and protected under the law.”

“As Equality Michigan celebrates this historic step forward, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Generations of activists have inspired us to fight for justice and equality for all LGBTQ+ Michiganders, and our community has been working to update our state’s civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in every single legislative session since Elliott-Larsen was first adopted,” Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott said in a statement. “We applaud Gov. Whitmer for signing this bill into law, and are humbled by this pro-equality legislature that made amending ELCRA a top priority. Senator Jeremy Moss and Rep. Jason Hoskins introduced this legislation and championed it all the way through to the finish line.” 

“The victory we have today in Michigan is a great one, but it’s also one we don’t take lightly at this moment. Let it not be lost on us that this privilege, however hard-earned, is a unique one that exists amid a nationwide political assault on LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary youth, and their families,” added Knott. “There are over 400 anti-trans bills moving across state legislatures in the US, twice the amount introduced last year.”

“This bill being signed into law is a beacon of hope and sends a powerful message of acceptance to LGBTQ people across the nation. At the Trevor Project, we work every day to protect the lives of LGBTQ youth, and days like today prove that in generations to come, both their legal and lived equality will no longer be fodder for political debate,” said Troy Stevenson, director of state advocacy campaigns for the Trevor Project. “Our research shows that having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt among LGBTQ young people by 40 percent. We applaud the elected leaders, advocates and Gov. Whitmer for making this a reality, and affirming the dignity and rights of LGBTQ Michiganders by codifying these protections into law.”

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