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Obama ‘looking carefully’ at Hochberg for commerce secretary

Export-Import chief would be first openly gay Cabinet member

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Fred Hochberg, Export-Import Bank, Human Rights Campaign, Washington Blade, gay news
Fred Hochberg, Export-Import Bank, Human Rights Campaign, Washington Blade, gay news

Chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States Fred Hochberg is being considered as Commerce Secretary (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Obama is actively considering the nomination of U.S. Export-Import Bank Chair Fred Hochberg as commerce secretary and potentially the first openly gay Cabinet member in history, according to an administration official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Blade that Hochberg is under consideration for various positions within the administration, although commerce secretary is the role for which he’s seen as most fit.

“What I’ve been told is Fred is very well regarded, he’s done a great job at the bank, and he’s one of the folks that they are looking at carefully for Commerce,” the official said.

But the official said Hochberg hasn’t been involved as of Monday in direct talks with the White House about the position, nor could the official offer any timeline for when the administration would make an announcement.

Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Hochberg is well-qualified for a position as a Cabinet member or a senior administration official.

“There are a number of highly qualified candidates for cabinet and senior administration positions and Fred is definitely among them,” Sainz said. “We have every confidence that the president will select individuals that reflect the great diversity of our country and that includes LGBT individuals with sterling credentials.”

In a follow-up email, Sainz clarified that his words are not a confirmation that he’s aware Hochberg is under consideration for any particular new role within the administration.

White House spokesperson Shin Inouye said in response to a request for comment that he has no personnel announcements to make.

The commerce secretary post has been vacant since June when former Commerce Secretary John Bryson resigned for medical tests after suffering a seizure while driving his car.

Advocates have called on Obama to appoint the first openly gay Cabinet member as he transitions into his second term. In addition to Hochberg, there has been speculation that John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, might be considered for the role of secretary of the interior. But the White House hasn’t publicly stated whether Obama would in fact nominate these individuals.

During the Clinton administration, Hochberg served as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration and later became its acting administrator. His experience in business includes managing the mail order business Lillian Vernon Corp. and being a director of Fusion Telecommunications International.

Gay White House official departs for role at AIDS foundation

In other LGBT personnel news at the White House, Brad Kiley, assistant to the president for management and administration, is leaving to pursue a role as chief operating officer with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation starting Jan. 28.

In a statement, Obama praised Kiley for his role at the White House, which involved directing day-to-day management and operations within the White House complex. Kiley, who’s gay, was responsible for finance, budgeting, information technology, facilities management, human resources operations, and strategic planning for the Executive Office of the President.

“Since the early days of the Transition Project, Brad Kiley has been an integral part of our team,” Obama said. “For the past four years, he managed the nuts-and-bolts of the Executive Office of the President seamlessly. His dedication and stewardship helped us streamline our operations, and provide coordination and strategic planning throughout the Executive Office of the President. He had a knack for bringing out the best in the men and women who work here and his professionalism will be missed.”

Chip Lyons, CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, said his organization is “absolutely delighted” to have Kiley join the organization.

“He has tremendous experience in operations and the development of business models that are fit for the rapidly changing environment in which we work to eliminate pediatric AIDS,” Lyons said. “He complements this knowledge with a longstanding commitment to achieving the end of AIDS.”

 

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. John M Eschenbaum

    December 6, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Again, it is demonstrated that Obama was and is the right choice for our nation.

  2. Charger Stone

    December 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Glad they changed the title… "Obama mulls openly gay" sounded to close to "Obama mauls openly gay". Sounded a little negative at first. Glad I kept reading past the title. This would be awesome to see!

  3. Jack Ade

    December 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I am a solid Democrat and I heartily approve. IT IS TIME!

  4. J Benoit Rosley

    December 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Napolitano.

  5. Andrew Hartman

    December 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Out of the closet and into the cabinet!

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National

Activists demand ICE release transgender, HIV-positive detainees

Protest took place outside agency’s D.C. headquarters on Wednesday

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Jessycka Ckatallea Letona, an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who spent nearly two years in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, participated in a protest in front of ICE's headquarters in Southwest D.C. on Oct. 27, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Jessycka Ckatallea Letona is an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who fled persecution in her homeland because of her gender identity.

She asked for asylum in the U.S. in 2016 when she entered the country in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Ckatallea on Wednesday told the Washington Blade that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials placed her in a pod with 70 men at a privately-run detention center in Florence, Ariz. She also said personnel at another ICE detention center in Santa Ana, Calif., ridiculed her because of her gender identity and forced her to strip naked before she attended hearings in her asylum case.

Ckatallea spent a year and eight months in ICE custody before her release. She won her asylum case and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“It was a very traumatic experience,” said Ckatallea as she spoke with the Blade in front of ICE’s headquarters in Southwest D.C. “I came to a country thinking that it would take care of me, that it would protect me because of my gender identity.”

Ckatallea is one of the more than a dozen immigrant rights activists who participated in a protest in front of ICE’s headquarters that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention campaign organized. Ckatallea, Immigration Equality Executive Director Aaron Morris and other protest participants demanded ICE immediately release trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from their custody.

The groups placed on the sidewalk in front of the building a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” to honor three trans women—Victoria Orellano, Roxsana Hernández and Johana “Joa” Medina León—who died in ICE custody or immediately after their release. The “ofrenda” also paid tribute to Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, a Venezuelan man with AIDS who died in ICE custody on Oct. 1.

Immigrant rights activists on Oct. 27, 2021, placed a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Southwest D.C. that honored three transgender women and a man with AIDS who died while in ICE custody or immediately upon their release. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ckatallea, Morris and the other protesters approached the building’s entrance and presented security personnel with a petition that calls upon President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “immediately release all transgender people, people living with HIV, and people with medical conditions from ICE custody.”

ICE has repeatedly defended its treatment of trans people and people with HIV/AIDS who are in their custody.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center, the same privately-run facility in which Gotopo was held until his hospitalization. The person with whom the Blade spoke described conditions inside the detention center as “not safe” because personnel were not doing enough to protect them and other detainees from COVID-19.

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is among the dozens of lawmakers who have called for the release of all trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from ICE custody. The Illinois Democrat on Tuesday reiterated this call during a virtual briefing that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention Campaign organized.

“ICE’s clear inability to do better leads me to seek to end of ICE’s detention of all trans migrants,” said Quigley. “During both the Trump and Biden administration I led dozens of my colleagues to demand that ICE release transgender detainees and end its practice of holding trans migrants in custody. We had hoped that things would change with the new administration, so far I’m disappointed.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) also participated in the briefing alongside Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford and Sharita Gruberg of the Center for American Progress and others.

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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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