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Log Cabin chief to step down

Cooper planned departure months ago



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.”



Texas governor signs bill banning transgender youth healthcare

Senate Bill 14 to take effect on Sept. 1



Landon Richie, a 21-year-old political science major and a leading transgender activist, protesting at the Texas Capitol in May. (Photo courtesy of Landon Richie)

By Alex Nguyen and William Melhado | Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Friday a bill that bars transgender kids from getting puberty blockers and hormone therapies, though the new law could face legal challenges before it takes effect on Sept. 1.

Senate Bill 14’s passage brings to the finish line a legislative priority for the Republican Party of Texas, which opposes any efforts to validate transgender identities. Trans kids, their parents and LGBTQ advocacy groups fiercely oppose the law, and some have vowed to stop it from going into effect.

Texas — home to one of the largest trans communities in the U.S. — is now one of over a dozen states that restrict transition-related care for trans minors.

“Cruelty has always been the point,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas. “It’s not shocking that this governor would sign SB14 right at the beginning of Pride [month]; however this will not stop trans people from continuing to exist with authenticity — as we always have.”

Authored by New Braunfels Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell, the law bars trans kids from getting puberty blockers and hormone therapies, treatments many medical groups support. Children already receiving these treatments will have to be “weaned off” in a “medically appropriate” manner. The law also bans transition-related surgeries for kids, though those are rarely performed on minors.

Those who support the law claim that health care providers have capitalized on a “social contagion” to misguide parents and push life-altering treatments on kids who may later regret their decisions. SB 14’s supporters have also disputed the science and research behind transition-related care.

But trans kids, their parents and major medical groups say these medical treatments are important to protecting the mental health of an already vulnerable population, which faces a higher risk of depression and suicide than their cisgender peers. At the same time, doctors say cutting off these treatments — gradually or abruptly — could bring both physical discomfort and psychological distress to trans youth, some of whom have called it forced detransitioning.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal and the Transgender Law Center pledged on May 18 to fight SB 14 in court. They have yet to file a lawsuit.

“Transgender people have always been here and will always be here,” Ash Hall, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said Friday. “Our trans youth deserve a world where they can shine alongside their peers, and we will keep advocating for that world in and out of the courts.”

This legal threat is not new; some of these groups have sued several other states over their restrictions. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice also joined the legal fight against Tennessee’s ban.

While the lawsuits are tailored to each state, Sasha Buchert, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal and the director of its Nonbinary and Transgender Rights Project, told the Texas Tribune last month that a major common challenge to the laws hinges on the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the argument that these laws are stopping trans kids from accessing the same medical treatments that are still available to their cisgender peers.

Buchert added that the lawsuits’ immediate goal is generally to get a preliminary injunction to stop these laws from taking effect, a tactic that has seen some success.

“It’s one thing to see some of the things that state legislators do, but it’s a completely different thing when you’re under the white-hot spotlight of judicial scrutiny,” she said.

And prior to SB 14, the ACLU and Lambda Legal successfully sued Texas last year to halt state-ordered child abuse investigations of parents who provide their trans kids with access to transition-related care. Impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton later appealed the decision in March, but the 3rd Court of Appeals has yet to issue a ruling on it.

“It’s a privilege to be able to fight,” Buchert said about the ongoing court challenges that Lambda Legal is involved in.

Editor’s note:

In a late Friday evening phone call, Landon Richie, with the Transgender Education Network of Texas, told the Washington Blade:

“Today Governor Abbott signed cruelty into law. Legislation that purports to ‘protect youth’ while stripping them of the life-saving, life-giving care that they receive will cost lives, and that’s not an exaggeration. Trans kids deserve not only to exist, but to thrive as their authentic selves in every facet of their lives, and we will never stop fighting to to actualize a world where that is undisputed. Despite efforts by our state, trans people will always exist in Texas, as we always have, and we will continue to exist brilliantly and boldly, and with endless care for one another.”


The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. 

Disclosure: The ACLU of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge rules Tenn. drag ban is unconstitutional

Law was to have taken effect April 1



(Bigstock photo)

U. S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker of the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee declared Tennessee’s anti-drag Adult Entertainment Act to be unconstitutional.

Parker’s ruling comes after a two-day trial last month. A Shelby County-based LGBTQ theatre company, Friends of George’s, had sued the state of Tennessee, claiming the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

Parker ordered a temporary injunction halting the just enacted Tennessee law that criminalizes some drag performances, hours before it was set to take effect April 1. In his 15 page ruling ordering the temporary injunction Parker wrote:

“If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution. […] The court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this statute, it missed the mark.”

Attorneys for the theatre company had argued that drag performances were an artform and protected speech under the first amendment.

In his 70 page ruling Friday, Parker wrote:

“After considering the briefs and evidence presented at trial, the court finds that — despite
Tennessee’s compelling interest in protecting the psychological and physical wellbeing of
children — the Adult Entertainment Act (“AEA”) is an UNCONSTITUTIONAL restriction on
the freedom of speech.”

“The court concludes that the AEA is both unconstitutionally vague and substantially
overbroad. The AEA’s ‘harmful to minors’ standard applies to minors of all ages, so it fails to
provide fair notice of what is prohibited, and it encourages discriminatory enforcement. The
AEA is substantially overbroad because it applies to public property or ‘anywhere’ a minor
could be present.”

Read the entire ruling:

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LGBTQ literature advocacy org to host celebrity panel

Discussion to be moderated by writer Sa’iyda Shabazz, ‘Glee’ actor Chris Colfer



‘Glee’ actor Chris Colfer will be one of four panelists at a virtual event hosted by Pride and Less Prejudice on Saturday, June 3. (Photo by Kathclick/Bigstock)

Affectionately known by fans of the show as the “fashionable soprano,” Chris Colfer’s character in “Glee” came out as gay to his father in the fourth episode of the Golden Globe-winning musical drama series. Colfer paused in between fragments of sentences to catch his breath as his pupils, set atop his recognizable rosy cheeks, dilated.

“Being a part of…the glee club and football has really shown me that I can be anything,” he said. “And what I am is…I’m gay.”

Colfer, who is also author of young adult fiction series “The Land of Stories,” will be one of four panelists at a virtual event hosted by LGBTQ organization Pride and Less Prejudice (PLP) on Saturday, June 3. At the event, panelists will discuss queer visibility in authorship and the importance of queer people telling queer stories. 

“We selected [them] because we’re trying to look at the intersection between TV, film, podcasts, [and] books because it’s all media and it’s all really great avenues for queer people telling their own story,” said Rebecca Damante, co-founder and outreach coordinator of the organization.

PLP began in 2019 when Damante had conversations with her mother about her experiences as a queer person and how she came to terms with her sexuality in high school. Although she watched shows such as “Glee” and “Pretty Little Liars” that had great queer representation, she knew that “it would’ve made a huge difference” if she had seen this as a kid.

“I was a huge reader as a kid and my mom had a lot of great books in our library about interfaith families and adoption,” said Damante. “I come from an interfaith family and have family members who are adopted, so she had diverse books in that way but never really had LGBTQ inclusive books.”

This motivated the mother-daughter duo to start an organization that donates LGBTQ-inclusive books to classrooms from pre-K to third grade.

They posted a Google form to social media that was reposted by GLAAD, where Damante had interned, and amplified by LGBTQ activist Kristin Russo. Teachers would put in requests for books and this allowed PLP to start an email chain that they could also use to solicit donations. 

It wasn’t until Damante posted to Pantsuit Nation, a Facebook group that rallied Hillary Clinton supporters during her 2016 presidential run, that PLP garnered interest from hundreds of teachers. This led to a celebrity campaign video where actors Nicole Maines, Theo Germaine, and Darryl Stephens, among others, emphasized the importance of LGBTQ literature in classrooms. 

Since 2019, the organization has raised more than $140,000 in grants and donations and donated over 8,000 books. 

Dylan Moss, a kindergarten teacher in Albany, N.Y., is among those who have benefitted from PLP’s efforts. 

During a quest for more diverse and inclusive books for his classroom, he stumbled upon PLP’s website between 2020 and 2021 and reached out to the organization. Since then, he has been actively involved in PLP’s efforts and is now a member of the advisory committee that helps to create lesson plans that accompany the books.

“Biases start to get formed [in kindergarten], so I like to help [my students] create better narratives,” said Moss in a Zoom interview. “It’s easier to learn it now than to take away all the negative biases they have from everyday society, family, and just being around other humans.”

Moss also added, over email, that when discussing diverse topics in the classroom, conversations are aligned with social studies standards. 

“I’d rather [my students] understand that people are different and that there’s a reason we’re different and that we should love that we’re different,” he said on Zoom. “You don’t have to go deep into the ideas necessarily. You can just give them the basis of what you’re saying and kind of let them take it from there.” 

For Lisa Forman, Damante’s mom and co-founder and executive director of PLP, approaching education this way is not only a form of allyship and advocacy, it’s “standing up for what’s right.”

The first half of the 2022-2023 school year saw 1,477 attempts to ban 874 individual book titles, 26% of which had LGBTQ characters or themes, according to data from Pen America, an organization that advances human rights and literature causes in the United States and worldwide. 

In 2022, the Washington Blade reported that a Loudoun County, Va., school board voted to remove “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that Kobabe uses to tell the story of the journey and struggle in discovering the author’s gender identity.

“As much as these books are for the queer kids in the classroom, they’re for every kid,” said Forman. “We’re doing this not just for the queer kids…we want to normalize the idea of being queer in the classroom.”

Looking to the upcoming celebrity panel, Damante wants to leave attendees feeling inspired enough to own their narratives, whether they identify as queer or not. 

“If teachers are able to see the impact of these queer stories then they’ll understand why it’s important for them to share the books,” she said. 

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