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Election Day brings more out gays to Congress

But balance of power will likely prevent action on LGBT bills

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U.S. House candidate Sean Patrick Maloney

Sean Patrick Maloney was among the openly gay people elected to Congress (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The results on Election Day were hailed as a milestone as a record number of openly LGBT people were elected to Congress, although prospects for the passage of pro-LGBT legislation next year don’t look promising.

In addition to re-electing President Obama and approving the marriage equality side on ballot initiatives in four states, voters elected at least six openly LGB lawmakers to Congress in addition to electing pro-LGBT lawmakers like Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown in Ohio.

Tammy Baldwin made history by becoming the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate (see related story) as incumbent Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) were re-elected. Joining them will be Sean Patrick Maloney, who’ll be the first openly gay congressman from New York; Mark Pocan, who’ll occupy the seat Baldwin held in the House; and Mark Takano, a California Democrat who’ll be the first openly gay person of color elected to Congresss.

As of press time, the race to represent Arizona’s 9th congressional district between bisexual Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Vernon Parker wasn’t yet called. However, Sinema maintained a slim lead in the votes that were already tabulated. If elected, Sinema would be the first bisexual member of Congress.

Chuck Wolfe, CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, acknowledged the night resulted in historic wins in terms of LGBT representation at the federal level of U.S. government.

“It’s without a doubt historic,” Wolfe said. “I think you can talk about the fact that it was history-making, and those that won will be making history for years to come.”

The election results means Congress will look very different in terms of LGBT representation in the wake of Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-Mass.) retirement and Baldwin leaving the House for the Senate. The results also mean that number of openly gay House members will go from four to at least six.

Gay candidates who didn’t win were Republican Richard Tisei, who lost his bid to unseat pro-LGBT Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), and lesbian Democrat Nicole LaFavour, who lost her bid to unseat Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). LaFavour wasn’t endorsed by the Victory Fund.

Despite the excitement, the Election Day results in some respects resulted in the status quo for the legislative and executive branch of the U.S. government from what existed after the 2010 election when no pro-LGBT legislation passed Congress. Democrats retained control of the White House and the Senate, while Republican remain in control of the House.

As of press time, the Senate was poised to have 54 senators caucus with the Democrats and 45 senators caucus with the Republicans, although the Senate race in North Dakota remained too close to call. That would mean a net gain of one Democrat in the Senate. In the House, Republicans retained control of the chamber, but had a slimmer majority of 232 seats while Democrats claimed 191 seats — with 12 races being too close to call.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, acknowledged in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that these results still mean a pro-LGBT majority doesn’t exist in Congress, making the passage of favorable legislation difficult.

On the issue of federal workplace non-discrimination protections, which remain an outstanding issue for the LGBT community, Griffin said in response to a question from the Washington Blade the votes won’t be there to pass legislation known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

“We need to acknowledge that although we certainly made some gains in the Senate, and potentially some gains in the House, we are still short of having a vote for an inclusive ENDA in the House,” Griffin said. “We need to be realistic about that.”

Griffin said “more successes could be seen” on the state and local level and called on the White House to revisit the idea of an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people, which it said in April it wouldn’t issue at the time.

“It is my hope and belief that we can get an executive order out of this White House,” Griffin said. “It is something that should be done and we will continue to urge our newly re-elected president to do. That would not be the full solution, but it would be a step toward the end goal.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work and one of the leading advocates of the executive order, also said it’s time for the White House to reconsider to its decision in the wake of the Election Day results.

“Yesterday was a turning point for our LGBT movement and President Obama has proven that elected officials can stand strongly on the side of LGBT fairness without fear of voter backlash,” Almeida said. “We will continue to push for the president to sign the executive order as soon as possible because every day that passes is another day in which taxpayer money can be squandered on anti-LGBT workplace harassment and discrimination.”

Asked whether the White House would revisit this idea, Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson said, “I have no updates for you on that issue.”

Almeida also said action could be seen in the Senate to pass ENDA and called for a hearing, mark-up, and full Senate vote  in 2013 when lawmakers convene at the start of the next Congress.

“One lesson from recent LGBT advocacy efforts is that we should not wait until the second year of a congressional session to move legislation forward because that’s when some elected officials start getting nervous about the upcoming election and the legislative clock starts to run out of legislative days,” Almeida said.

In the addition to workplace non-discrimination protections, action could be done at the federal level to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Griffin said during the conference call HRC would “continue to push forward” in Congress, but expressed skepticism about passage of any legislation.

“We do have to remember the leadership in the House of Representatives is not a pro-equality set of leaders, so we still have a lot of work to do there, but I can believe we can continue this momentum,” Griffin said.

Griffin placed greater emphasis action from the Supreme Court, which on Nov. 2o will determine whether it will take up litigation challenging California’s Proposition 8 and Section 3 of DOMA. If the court declines to hear the Prop 8 case, it would mean same-sex marriage would almost immediately return to California.

Another question is which states will advance pro-LGBT legislation or relationship recognition bills in the wake of the Election Day results. Griffin said he expects progress there, but said it’s “very early” to determine which states will see action.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Bill Perdue

    November 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    We won partial but very welcome victories in 4 states, but we lost in 50 states. his election was a failure. At a time of deep economic crisis it produced no mandates, no solutions and no winning party.

    About 206 million Americans were eligible to vote. http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/
    Of the eligible voters a total of 146 million Americans, or about 75%, actually registered to vote. That’s an unusually high ratio that reflects mounting rage about the depression and insistent demands for positive action by voters. Of those registered voters Obama got roughly 54.5 million votes or a bit under 50% of the total final vote (as distinguished from both the eligible and registered votes). Romney got about 53.5 votes or just under 49% of the total vote. Approximately one quarter didn’t register and among registered voters about one third didn’t vote. Obama and Romney split half of the eligible vote and non voters comprised the other half of eligible voters. http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/elections/voting-age_population_and_voter_participation.html

    It was clear throughout the campaign that working people were desperate for solutions to unemployment, the Depression and for an end to wars of aggression and high GI causalities. It was clear that workers wanted socialized medicine. They were offered no solutions. Obama said he was for excellence in education, which we know from their actions in Chicago means busting teachers unions. As for the rest Obama and Romney engaged in personal attacks and little else. Romney correctly accused Obama for forgetting the unemployed but conveniently omitted the fact that many of them are victims of his own corporate piracy. Obama was telling the truth when he accused Romney of having a callous attitude towards workers but declined to say why he’s done nothing real or substantial to reduce the nearly 15%, four year long run of the violence of unemployment, poverty and homelessness.

    Both ignored their insurance reform plans because there are so few differences. Romney because he wanted to attract Teaparty voters and Obama because he didn’t want it known that he and Romney agreed on making insurance companies, HMOs and big Pharma richer at the expense of workers, especially poorer workers and seniors. During the next four years Democrats will do anything and everything to please the rich and so will Republicans.

    Both pretended to have differences about the prosecution of mad dog wars of aggression against Arabs and muslims and out did each other in promising to supply more bullets and phosphorous bombs for the mad dog zionist ethnic cleansers.

    Both promised to increase the level of forced austerity and continue attacks on the last shreds of the Bill of Rights. They aim to gut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.
    Both agreed to continue to attack teachers unions under the guise of ‘excellence’ in education. Neither will let up on their attack on unions because it’s the key to driving down workers wages and engorging the rich at the expense of workers.

    Working people are out in the cold with gutless union leaders and another failed elections with not solutions in sight. We have no choice but to build workers parties and create a workers government.

  2. RCS

    November 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Obtaining an executive order quickly to ban discrimination in federal contracting should be a top order of business for the gay community now that this election has been decided.

  3. Michael Bedwell

    November 9, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    WHERE is the demand that the President and Commander-in-Chief finally clean up the mess he helped create despite the repeal of DADT? Individual LGB service members are still arbitrarily denied the protections against harassment and discrimination automatically given other minorities under the Military Equal Opportunity Program, and gay military couples continue to be arbitrarily denied benefits NOT banned by DOMA. Mr. Obama could erase this premeditated discrimination by recalcitrant bigots in the Pentagon with the proverbial stroke of a pen—which he was asked MORE THAN A YEAR AGO to do.

  4. Dave Tierney

    November 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    great news.

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Texas

Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-Trans youth sports bill

“Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids & adults- the emails to the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law”

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday H.B. 25, an anti-Transgender youth sports bill banning Trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year banning transgender youth from participating in school sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said.

“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s crisis services. The Trevor Project the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political debate — please know that you are valid, and you are deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said.

********************

Additional resources:

Research consistently demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth face unique mental health challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide risk compared to their peers.  

  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. 
  • A newly published research brief on “Bullying and Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming (65%).
  • A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.
  • Trevor’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) had never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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National

Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled

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Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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Utah

VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights

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(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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