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N.H. voters elect country’s first out transgender statewide candidate

Stacie Laughton will represent Nashua in the state House of Representatives; gay men also elected to state Senate and Executive Council.

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Gay News, Washington Blade, Transgender New Hampshire, Stacie Laughton

Stacie Laughton

A New Hampshire Democrat on Tuesday became the first openly transgender person elected to state office in the country.

Stacie Laughton, a Nashua selectman, will represent portions of the state’s second largest city located on the Massachusetts border in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. She and two other Democrats defeated two Republicans who had also ran.

The N.H. House has 400 members from 103 districts. Each lawmaker has an average of 3,300 constituents, but the most populated districts can have up to 13 representatives.

Laughton did not immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment, but she said in a campaign video she would “always fight for the rights of the LGBT community.” New Hampshire lawmakers in 2009 rejected a bill that would have added gender identity and expression to the state’s non-discrimination law.

Laughton told the [Nashua] Telegraph newspaper she hopes her election will inspire other LGBT people to seek political office.

“I believe that at this point, the LGBT community will hopefully be inspired,” Laughton told the newspaper on Nov. 8. “My hope is that now maybe we’ll see more people in the community running, maybe for alderman. Maybe in the next election, we’ll have a senator.”

Gay former state Rep. Ray Buckley, who chairs the New Hampshire Democratic Party, welcomed Laughton’s election.

“Serving in the N.H. House is an extraordinary experience because it brings together 400 citizens from all walks of life to work together,” he told the Blade. “Having a transgendered person as a member of the House will bring a unique experience and perspective to the challenges facing the state.”

Joelle Ruby Ryan, a transgender activist who is also a professor at the University of New Hampshire, agreed.

“Words cannot express how excited I am about the election of Ms. Stacie Laughton to the N.H. House of Representative,” she told the Blade. “As a transgender activist in N.H. for 20 years now, I can honestly state that this is a pivotal milestone in our long struggle for full equality and civil rights.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, also described Laughton’s election as “historic.”

“We’re thrilled she was elected,” said Keisling. “She did it the grassroots way you have to do it in New Hampshire. She’s part of the community and clearly did it right, so it’s pretty impressive she got elected.”

Nashua voters elected Laughton on the same night former state Sen. Maggie Hassan defeated Republican Ovide Lamontagne to become New Hampshire’s next governor. The state’s next congressional delegation will be all women after former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster defeated incumbent U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass respectively.

House Minority Leader Terie Norelli (D-Portsmouth) could also potentially become the next speaker of the N.H. House after Democrats regained control of the chamber.

Gay candidates elected to state Senate, Executive Council

State Rep. David Pierce (D-Etna) on Tuesday became the first openly gay state Senate candidate elected to the chamber. He defeated state Rep. Joe Osgood (R-Claremont) by a 17,719-9,940 vote margin to represent the 5th Senate District that includes the town of Hanover in which Dartmouth College is located.

Pierce, who testified in support of New Hampshire’s marriage equality bill in 2009 and against a measure earlier this year that would have repealed it, told the Blade during an interview last month Osgood pointed out to his supporters and local reporters the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed his campaign.

He said after his election that his sexual orientation never became an issue for voters.

“Thankfully, my Tea Party opponent was cowed into not raising the gay issue in this campaign,” said Pierce. “That’s because [New Hampshire] has led the nation in the marriage equality fight; we’re the ‘Life Free or Die’ state. The issues that matter most to the voters — jobs, economy, equality, health care, education, environment — are why they cast their ballots for me by a 28-point margin. I’m proud to be the first out candidate elected to the N.H. Senate, and will never forget my roots. My husband [and] our two daughters deserve nothing less.”

Gay former state Rep. Chris Pappas will represent Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, and surrounding towns in the Merrimack Valley on the Executive Council after defeating Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns by 63,641-50,907 vote margin. Pappas will succeed former Manchester Mayor Ray Wieczorek who did not seek another term on the five-member gubernatorial advisory and oversight body.

“Most Americans realize that your ability to do a job is not determined by your gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Jerame Davis, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats. “And that reality is starting to show up at the ballot box.”

Ryan agreed.

“I am excited about the coming years and the possibilities for genuine progress in our slate of agenda items for transgender rights,” she said, referring to Laughton’s election.  “In particular, I hope to see N.H. pass a bill banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity/expression, which currently exists in the rest of New England, as well as work on other policy issues.  The elections were inspiring for progressives and minority groups in general.  Stacie Laughton’s election is amazing evidence that times really are a-changing, and our hard work for justice and liberation for all gender-variant people is finally bearing fruit.”

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Politics

Trump’s CPAC speech did not target trans community

The former president has led an anti-trans campaign

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at CPAC on Feb. 24 2024 (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — When he took the stage before a packed ballroom at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, it seemed inevitable that former President Donald Trump would target the transgender community with insults, ridicule and hostile policy pronouncements.

After all, this kind of rhetoric had become a through-line at this year’s convening of Republican lawmakers, pundits, media personalities, electoral candidates, attorneys, activists and government officials — a feature of virtually every speech and panel discussion from Wednesday to Saturday.

And for his part, Trump kicked off his presidential campaign by pledging, in February 2023, to weaponize the federal government against the trans community if he returns to the White House. This came after he unveiled a “Plan to Protect Children from Left-Wing Gender Insanity” and was followed by similar pronouncements from Trump in the months since, as documented by GLAAD.

On Saturday, though, the former president’s speech included scant mention of LGBTQ issues, apart, perhaps, from some oblique references to “woke” public education and attacks on Christianity.

Trump instead addressed a variety of topics over an hour and a half, from attacks on President Joe Biden and the prosecutors who have targeted him with 91 felony counts to diatribes on overseas conflicts and immigration.

The Independent noted several instances in which Trump made untrue or misleading claims onstage, which concerned the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan during his presidency and a supposed electoral fraud scheme in which Californians are being sent multiple ballots.

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Politics

Harris, other political leaders issue statements on Nex Benedict’s death

Nonbinary Okla. teenager died earlier this month

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Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma, died on Feb. 8 after a fight at their high school. (Family photo)

Vice President Kamala Harris, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt are among the political leaders who have issued statements in recent days about the death of nonbinary teenager Nex Benedict after they were allegedly assaulted in a school bathroom after enduring months of bullying.

The 16-year-old’s death on Feb. 8 sparked outrage and questions about the high school’s response to the altercation, which had occurred the previous day. LGBTQ leaders who include Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson have called for federal investigations by the Justice and Education Departments.

Advocates pointed to the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies, particularly targeting transgender and gender-diverse communities, that have escalated in Oklahoma over the past few years, noting that they tend to increase the incidence of bias-motivated hate violence.

In their statements on X, which offered condolences to those mourning Benedict’s death, the vice president and White House press secretary also pledged solidarity with the LGBTQ community, while Pelosi took aim at “the anti-trans fervor fueled by extreme Republicans” and Pocan — who is gay and chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus — promised to keep fighting for “the dignity that nonbinary and trans Americans deserve. ”

Stitt, who in 2022 signed an anti-trans bill prohibiting students from using public school restrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificates, wrote in his statement that “our hearts go out to Nex’s family, classmates, and the Owasso community. The death of any child in an Oklahoma school is a tragedy — and bullies must be held accountable.”

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Politics

Michael Knowles targets trans people and LGBTQ families in CPAC address

Pundit defended his infamous anti-trans remarks at last year’s event

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Michael Knowles speaks at CPAC on Feb. 22, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Right-wing commentator Michael Knowles began his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday by briefly addressing the “kerfuffle” over his proclamation during last year’s event that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”

Widely interpreted as a call for violence against transgender people or the trans community, the remarks were denounced at the time by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who called them “shameful, hateful and dangerous.”

Looking back at the incident, Knowles told the crowd “I stand by the observation that men can’t become women.” The controversy, he said, is evidence that the country “is having an identity crisis” — primarily as a consequence of the “decline of religion in America.”

While “true freedom is a national policy based on what we know in our hearts as morally right,” as ordained by God, Knowles said a worldview that makes space for the recognition of LGBTQ people and their families is based on a “false” notion of freedom that privileges, instead, “liberation from all limits.”

He pointed to same-sex marriage as an example, arguing that marriage does not and cannot include unions between “a couple of men, or a couple of women, or three men and a billy goat, for that matter.”

Additionally, Knowles said, one may not claim the “right” to have a child, because “children are people and no one has a right to another person.” He then veered into criticizing the practice of purchasing “designer babies” on the “open market of the surrogacy industry.”

Medically assisted family planning is a symptom of America’s moral decline that is akin to abortion, Knowles said. “If we have the right to kill babies, surely we have the right to buy and sell them too.”

Knowles argued there are “trade-offs” to understanding freedom as a permission structure to identify oneself outside the cisgender male-female binary, or to build relationships and families that are not centered around heterosexual, procreative unions.

Allowing trans women to use women’s restrooms — or, as he put it, giving “men” the “freedom to use the women’s bathroom,” means that “women lose the freedom to have their own bathrooms.”

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