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White House still withholding ENDA executive order

Carney says administration will leave issue to Congress

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that President Obama is not currently planning to revisit the idea of issuing an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers at the start of his second term.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney reiterated that the administration prefers a legislative solution to the problem — passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — similar to the process that led to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Our position on that hasn’t changed,” Carney said. “We point to, as you and I have discussed, the process that led to the effective repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a model for the way to approach these issues. I don’t have any updates for you on our approach.”

Carney reiterated Obama’s support for ENDA while noting that the proposed executive order does not provide expansive protections that would be afforded under the legislation.

“The president supports an inclusive ENDA that would provide lasting and comprehensive protections for LGBT people across the country regardless of whether they happen to work for a government contractor, and we look forward to continuing to support that process and that legislation,” Carney said.

In April, the White House announced it wouldn’t issue an executive order at this time requiring federal contractors to have non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. Amid the speculation President Obama was holding off on the order until after the election, LGBT advocacy groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Work renewed calls for the directive. Over the weekend, prominent gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elemendorf was quoted by lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb as saying Obama “needs to do it in the first six months of the year.”

Asked whether his remarks rule out the possibility of the order within the first six months of next year, Carney said he isn’t “speculating on a hypothetical situation.”

“I would simply point to what our position has been and the avenue that we believe is the best to pursue broad-based protections for LGBT people,” Carney added.

Pressed on the difficulties of passing ENDA in a Republican-controlled House, Carney replied, “Many people said just that, even though it was in the prior Congress, about repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We believe that the country has moved dramatically on issues like this, and that this president is committed to civil rights and to building on protections that are necessary for LGBT people as he is for all Americans.”

Under further questioning, Carney had no comment on whether Obama has met with victims of anti-LGBT workplace discrimination. Obama has met with Kylar Broadus, a transgender advocate who testified before the Senate about the workplace discrimination he faced at a major financial institution.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, issued a statement to the Blade in response to the exchange with Carney and expressed continued optimism that Obama would issue the order.

“I share Steve Elmendorf’s optimism that the president will sign the executive order during the first part of 2013 because the Obama administration has built such a strong record of taking executive actions for LGBT fairness,” Almeida said. “Freedom to Work is among the organizations that believe the president should sign the order right away, and we’re optimistic he will sign it very soon.”

Almeida reiterated his call for a Senate vote on ENDA regardless of whether it’s short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and made a new call for Obama to enumerate the need to pass the legislation as part of the upcoming State of the Union Address.

“The State of the Union Address would be a great opportunity for such a call to action, and it would give Majority Leader Reid the opportunity to demonstrate through his actions that he can provide stronger leadership than Speaker Boehner,” Almeida said.

A transcript of the exchange between the Washington Blade and Carney follows:

Washington Blade: Jay, I want to go back to something we haven’t talked about for a while. There’s been a renewed call for President Obama to issue that executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. Over the weekend, Steve Elemendorf, one of the president’s supporters during the election, said it needs to happen within the first six months of next year. Will President Obama revisit this idea as he begins his second term?

Jay Carney: Our position on that hasn’t changed. We point to, as you and I have discussed, the process that led to the effective repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a model for the way to approach these issues. I don’t have any updates for you on our approach. The president supports an inclusive-ENDA that would provide lasting and comprehensive protections for LGBT people across the country regardless of whether they happen to work for a government contractor, and we look forward to continuing to support that process and that legislation.

Blade: So that rules out the possibility of the order within the first six months of next year?

Carney: Again, I’m not speculating on a hypothetical situation. I would simply point to what our position has been and the avenue that we believe is the best to pursue broad-based protections for LGBT people.

Blade: Given that Republicans still control Congress after Election Day, isn’t leaving this up to the legislative process condemn LGBT people to lack of workplace non-discrimination protections for at least two years?

Carney: Many people said just that, even though it was in the prior Congress, about repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We believe that the country has moved dramatically on issues like this, and that this president is committed to civil rights and to building on protections that are necessary for LGBT people as he is for all Americans.

Blade: One last question.

Carney: I’ve given about all I can give.

Blade: President Obama said in May when he endorsed marriage equality that he spoken with service members who were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and with same-sex couples looking to be married. Has he ever spoken to a victim of LGBT workplace discrimination?

Carney: I don’t know that he has or hasn’t. I just don’t have a conversation to read out to you.

Blade: Can you get back to me on that?

Carney: I’m not going to ask him about every conversation he’s had.

 

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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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