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Log Cabin chief to step down

Cooper planned departure months ago

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R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade
R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

R. Clarke Cooper will step down as Log Cabin chief at the month’s end (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The head of National Log Cabin Republicans is set to step down from his position on Monday and will be temporarily replaced by an interim executive director until a more permanent replacement is found.

The organization’s board announced in a statement Friday that Gregory Angelo, who’s chair of Log Cabin Republicans of New York State, will serve as interim chief starting Wednesday after current executive director R. Clarke Cooper departs.

Speaking to the Washington Blade, Cooper said his decision to leave Log Cabin wasn’t a recent one, although it wasn’t publicly announced before Friday.

Cooper said he informed the board he would depart the organization at the year’s end during an Oct. 20 meeting at the California Republican Party headquarters in Burback. Cooper said his announcement kept in line with earlier stated plans to leave Log Cabin in that time frame.

“Back then, I said, verbatim, ‘Win, lose or draw, I want to leave at the end of the year,'” Cooper said. “A lot of that was just predicated on I promised to work two cycles. So, going back to when I came on in 2010, I said, ‘You get me for the mid-term, and you get me for the general.'”

Sources familiar with Log Cabin, who spoke on agreement on anonymity, affirmed that Cooper had indicated on the Oct. 20 meeting that he would leave Log Cabin at the end of the year and that it was consistent with earlier plans for him to leave the organization at that time.

Cooper, an Army Reserve officer and Iraq War veteran, took on the role as executive director of Log Cabin Republicans as the legislative effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was underway and a lawsuit from the group resulted in a federal court instituting a 10-day temporary stay in enforcing the military’s gay ban. Cooper said he worked full-time as Log Cabin chief as he occasionally took leave for training and other Army Reserve duties.

Under Cooper’s tenure, Log Cabin gave a “qualified endorsement” to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and was credentialed to participate in the drafting process for the 2012 Republican Party platform, although the document ended up including anti-gay language that endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment.

The Oct. 20 meeting at which Cooper indicated he would leave took place just three days before Log Cabin announced its board had voted to endorse Romney in the presidential election. Cooper said the decision to endorse Romney actually took place over a teleconference earlier in the month — not at the Burbank meeting — and his decision to leave was unrelated to the Romney endorsement.

Cooper wouldn’t publicly announce his plan for what he occupy himself with upon his departure from Log Cabin, although he said he has several potential courses of action. Cooper said he intends to maintain his role in the finance committee for the Republican National Committee and remain active in the D.C. Republican Party.

“As far as from that perspective, I have built in or allowed capacity to have time and freedom to do political engagement, but this is not going to be my work-work,” Cooper said.

Angelo, who’s already executive director of Log Cabin’s educational 501(c)(3) arm known as Liberty Education Forum, said in a statement he’s “humbled and thrilled” to follow Cooper as head of Log Cabin.

“It has never been more critical to advocate for equality to Republicans, as Republicans,” Angelo said. “As the Interim Executive Director of this esteemed organization, I will do everything I can to work for Republican victories that return the party to its roots of freedom, fairness, and liberty for all.”

Cooper said the recruitment process for selecting a new executive director could change from what happened previously, but his selection was done by a formal committee search. One of the anonymous sources familiar with Log Cabin said the issue will come up at the next board meeting in January.

Charles Moran, chair of the California Log Cabin Republicans, said new leadership at Log Cabin presents the opportunity for a more centralized approach to the operation that would harken back to years past.

“When Patrick Guerriero centralized it in the 2000s, he really ramped up a lot of field staff, a lot of money and the organization was very centralized in Washington D.C.,” Moran said. “They’ve been kind of parsing that out over the years and returning us to more of a confederation model, but the problem is how do you maintain brand identity … when you don’t have anyone who’s setting that messaging? It’s a challenge. I think the next six months are going to be pretty critical. Like with the GOP, I think Log Cabin is going to have to figure out where it is and where we fit into the greater conversation.”

Log Cabin runs full-page ad against Hagel

The announcement comes the day after Log Cabin published a full-page in opposition to former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, whom Obama is reportedly considering for the role as defense secretary. The ad states, “Chuck Hagel: Wrong on Gay Rights, Wrong on Iran, Wrong on Israel.”

The ad also includes an anti-gay quote attributed to Hagel from 1998 in which refers to James Hormel, who went on to become the first openly gay U.S. ambassador, as “openly aggressively gay.” In a statement last week, Hagel apologized for the statement and said he supports open service and LGBT military families. Afterwards, Hormel questioned the sincerity of the apology in interviews with the Washington Post and the Washington Blade, but seemed to retract his doubt in a Facebook posting hours afterward.

As with the Romney endorsement, Cooper said the ad was unrelated to the announcement on Friday that he would step down as the Log Cabin’s leader.

“That ad was teed up way before Christmas; we had that lined up for a while,” Cooper said. “It’s no different than us having [new Republican DOMA repeal co-sponsors] Richard Hanna and Charlie Bass teed up for Election Day.”

Questions persist about the ad — particularly how a small organization such as Log Cabin with a relatively limited budget could afford to run a full-page in the New York Times.

Cooper said he couldn’t immediately recall the cost of the ad, but said it was done over the holiday week at a special rate and was financed by Log Cabin donors who are also organization members.

During the week of the Republican National Convention, Log Cabin ran a similar full-page ad in the Tampa Tribune in favor of marriage equality. Cooper said the Hagel advertisement was financed in the same manner.

Notably, Log Cabin is running an ad against Hagel even though he changed his position on the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment and didn’t vote on the measure in 2006. Just months before, the organization endorsed Romney even though he campaigned on the Federal Marriage Amendment during the Republican presidential primary.

The ad is somewhat in opposition to a quote from Cooper in a Gay City News article published on Dec. 14 in which he has favorable words for Hagel. Cooper was quoted as recalling Hagel’s experience in the battlefield and saying, “Hagel voted with us most of the time and there was no question he was committed to advancing America’s interests abroad.”

Asked by the Blade to explain why the Gay City News comments were different from the content of the anti-Hagel ad, Cooper said at that time Log Cabin hadn’t yet reached a final decision on Hagel.

“What is consistent is where I’ve been on non-proliferation of nuclear capability in Iran, or Iran writ-large,” Cooper said. “When I talked with a reporter from Gay City News a while back, he said, ‘Where are you on this?’ I said, ‘We’re looking at a lot of things with our coalition partners, I worked with Chuck Hagel, but we’re going to be putting out something soon.'”

Cooper added he had an early version of the copy of what would appear in the New York Times at the time Gay City News interviewed him, but didn’t want to tip off the reporter.

“As you can appreciate, I’m not going to tell one of your peers about something that we’re ready to roll out,” Cooper said. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why would I tell Gay City News that we’re about to do a roll-out in the New York Times? It doesn’t make sense.”

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National

Trans experiences with the internet range from ‘harrowing’ to ‘powerful’

New survey provides insights into the stakes of web use for LGBTQ adults

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(Image courtesy of LGBT Tech)

Alex, 29, would not have met their friends without the internet. While living in a small city surrounded by farmland, finding community was not always easy.

Alex tried out one of those apps for adults seeking to make friends. It turned out to be a remarkable success. “I’ve made my friend group as a direct result of using the internet,” they said, explaining that even though all the friends are trans, due to their diverse interests, “we would have been hard-pressed to have ever really run into each other by happenstance.”

Making friends online is also safer for Alex. Before they pursued HRT and surgery and looked more “visibly queer,” they were in scary situations. “I’ve had pickup trucks chase me while driving, people call out slurs while driving by me, and I’ve been shot at,” they said. 

Having the internet available for appointments, work, and social activities is fundamental to their life.

But the web was not always such a friendly place for Alex. “There’s so much hate and falsehoods out there about trans people,” they said. “It’s why it takes so long for some of us to learn about who we are.”

This dissonance is widespread within the LGBTQ community. A recent report—”ctrl+alt+lgbt: Digital Access, Usage, and Experiences of the LGBTQ+ Community”—by LGBT Tech and Data for Progress provides insight into that phenomenon. 

Shae Gardner, director of policy at LGBT Tech, explained that most of the research about the LGBTQ community’s internet use historically has focused on youth. The project aimed to fill the gap. From surveys with 1,300 people across the country, the report found that while the internet is a foundational space for LGBTQ community building and self-expression, it also comes with a high risk for bullying and harassment.  

These findings intensify when looking specifically at the data for underrepresented groups within the LGBTQ population like the transgender community, who are by far the group that faces the most harassment online, per the Anti-Defamation League. Gardner explained that the survey was over-sampled for transgender individuals intentionally. “We really wanted to understand that specific experience,” Gardner said.

The Blade interviewed five trans people about their experiences to gain insight into how different community members felt while navigating the web and specifically identified sources who do not have public platforms and therefore do not face heightened public scrutiny. Due to concern for backlash, all sources for this story spoke on condition of anonymity with gender-ambiguous names and they/them pronouns.

Four out of five of the people interviewed emphasized that the internet is a vital resource for accessing healthcare. 

Riley, 24, explained, “I have such immense dread about transitioning because I don’t want to have to interact with doctors around my identity. I feel like I don’t have access to providers who are able to understand me.”

The internet, for many, provides a safe location to access health information and care without the judgment of doctors. Kai, 23, and Cameron, 27, both shared that the internet was an important place for them to learn specifics around trans healthcare and seek out trans-friendly providers. Alex agreed and added that they have made it so all of their doctors’ appointments through tele-health.

These experiences are consistent with the larger trans community. LGBT Tech’s survey found that 70% of transgender adults use the internet to find LGBTQ-friendly healthcare. By comparison, only 41% of cisgender LGBTQ adults use the internet to find the same friendly care.

All the sources interviewed said they sought LGBTQ community online with varying degrees of success. 

Jordan, 24, said that not only is social media a good way to stay connected with people they know, but it also helps them find a broader community. “It’s nice to follow other trans and queer people whose experiences can inspire me or make me feel seen.”

Cameron emphasized that the internet provides connections to activities and communities around town. “Social media has facilitated my in-person queer and trans community,” they explained. “I learn a lot about what queer events are happening around town via social media. I have a wonderful community playing queer sports that I wouldn’t have found without the internet.”

Kai shared that it hasn’t been a successful pursuit for them: “I wish it did more than it does.” 

Per LGBT Tech’s survey, transgender adults “often” use social media to connect with existing LGBTQ friends and family 41% of the time (as opposed to “sometimes” “rarely” or “never”). This is 21% more than the LGBTQ community at large. The survey also reveals that transgender adults are 20% more likely to “often” use social media to connect with new LGBTQ community than the LGBTQ community at large.

Everyone but Cameron has experienced some form of direct bullying or harassment for being transgender, either online or in person. The survey found that 83% of transgender adults have faced bullying online. By comparison, 59% of the cisgender LGBTQ community faced bullying online. 

“Technology is only as good as its application. And this is the other side of the dual-edged sword,” said Gardner. 

Gardner explained that the online and in-person harassment was mirrored. “The experiences of anti-LGBTQ bullying were very high, both for LGBTQ+ individuals and especially for trans individuals, but those numbers were nearly equitable to the experiences that that they have in the real world with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying,” she said. The survey found that 82% of transgender adults faced bullying in person.

The survey found despite the comparable levels of harassment and high levels of misinformation (93% of transgender adults saw anti-LGBTQ misinformation online), respondents overwhelmingly felt safe online—67% of trans adults and 76% of cisgender LGBTQ adults. 

When she compared this phenomenon to her life, Gardner wasn’t surprised. “The harassment that I have faced online has certainly felt less immediately threatening than what I’ve faced in person. The mental toll it takes is significant, but I would argue individuals probably have an easier time getting away from it.”

That doesn’t stop Gardner from noting, “We need to be fighting [harassment] in both places.” 

She explained that, “when we are staring down the barrel of record-setting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation yet again, it is so integral to keep fighting for digital spaces to be as safe as possible.”

Regardless of its safety, it is a space that is a constant for many. “I use the internet constantly,” said Alex. “I use the internet a lot at work since I have a desk job,” said Jordan.

When reflecting on the internet, Riley summed up the tensions they experience. “It can be harrowing often but simultaneously it’s where I feel a sense of community and access.”

(This story is part of the Digital Equity Local Voices Fellowship lab through News is Out. The lab initiative is made possible with support from Comcast NBCUniversal.)

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Pennsylvania

Pa. House passes bill to repeal state’s same-sex marriage ban

Measure now goes to Republican-controlled state Senate

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Pennsylvania Capitol Building (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Democratic-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives on July 2 passed a bill that would repeal the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The marriage bill passed by a 133-68 vote margin, with all but one Democrat voting for it. Thirty-two Republicans backed the measure.

The bill’s next hurdle is to pass in the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), a gay man who is running for state auditor, noted to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the bill would eliminate a clause in Pennsylvania’s marriage law that defines marriage as “between one man and one woman.” The measure would also change the legal definition of marriage in the state to “a civil contract between two individuals.”

Kenyatta did not return the Washington Blade’s requests for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country. 

Justice Clarence Thomas in the 2022 decision that struck down Roe v. Wade said the Supreme Court should reconsider the Obergefell decision and the Lawrence v. Texas ruling that said laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations are unconstitutional. President Joe Biden at the end of that year signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government and all U.S. states and territories to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages.

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year signed a bill that codified marriage rights for same-sex couples in state law. Pennsylvania lawmakers say the marriage codification bill is necessary in case the Supreme Court overturns marriage rights for same-sex couples in their state and across the country.

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Pennsylvania

Western Pa. transgender girl killed, dismembered

Pauly Likens, 14, brutally murdered last month

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(Photo courtesy of the LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley)

Editor’s note: The Philadelphia Gay News originally published this story.

BY TIM CWIEK | Prosecutors are pledging justice for Pauly Likens, a 14-year-old transgender girl from Sharon, Pa., who was brutally killed last month. Her remains were scattered in and around a park lake in western Pennsylvania.

“The bottom line is that we have a 14-year-old, brutally murdered and dismembered,” said Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker in an email. “Pauly Likens deserves justice, her family deserves justice, and we seek to deliver that justice.”

On June 23, DaShawn Watkins allegedly met Likens in the vicinity of Budd Street Public Park and Canoe Launch in Sharon, Pa., and killed her. Watkins subsequently dismembered Likens’s corpse with a saw and scattered her remains in and around Shenango River Lake in Clark Borough.

On July 2, Watkins was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He’s being held without bail in the Mercer County jail.

The coroner’s office said the cause of death was sharp force trauma to the head and ruled the manner of death as homicide.

Cell phone records, social media and surveillance video link Watkins to the crime. Additionally, traces of Likens’s blood were found in and around Watkins’s apartment in Sharon, Pa., authorities say.

A candlelight vigil is being held Saturday, July 13, in remembrance of Likens. It’s being hosted by LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley. The vigil begins at 7 p.m. at 87 Stambaugh Ave. in Sharon, Pa.

Pamela Ladner, president of the Alliance, mourned Likens’s death. 

“Pauly’s aunt described her as a sweet soul, inside and out,” Ladner said in an email. “She was a selfless child who loved nature and wanted to be a park ranger like her aunt.”

Acker, the prosecutor, said Likens’s death is one of the worst crimes he’s seen in 46 years as an attorney. But he cautioned against calling it a hate crime. “PSP [Pennsylvania State Police] does not believe it in fact is one [hate crime] because the defendant admitted to being a homosexual and the victim was reportedly a trans girl,” Acker asserted.

Acker praised the criminal justice agencies who worked on the case, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Hermitage Police Department, the Sharon Police Department, park rangers from the Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County Coroner John Libonati, and cadaver dog search units.

“The amount of hours dedicated to the identification of the victim and the filing of charges against the defendant is a huge number,” Acker added. “We take the murder of any individual very seriously, expressly when they are young and brutally killed and dismembered.”

Acker also noted that all criminal defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This is a developing story.

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