Connect with us

National

Baldwin sworn in as first openly gay U.S. senator

Paul Ryan makes appearance at lesbian senator’s reception

Published

on

Tammy Baldwin, United States Senate, Wisconsin, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade
Tammy Baldwin, United States Senate, Wisconsin, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) speaks at a reception following her swearing-in ceremony. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a historic day at the start of the 113th Congress, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) was sworn into office on Thursday as the junior U.S. senator from Wisconsin, officially becoming the first openly gay senator.

At a reception that followed in the Russell Senate Office Building, Baldwin thanked more than 100 supporters and Democratic donors in attendance and called on them to continue the fight to enact change for the country.

“I am proud to have the honor to have been sworn in an hour or so ago as the first woman senator for the state of Wisconsin and as the first openly gay member to serve in the United States Senate in our nation’s history,” Baldwin said, eliciting applause from the audience.

Baldwin attended the reception after being sworn in on the Senate floor by Vice President Joseph Biden along with other freshman senators and colleagues who were re-elected. The room erupted in cheers and applause as she entered after being sworn in as a U.S. senator.

Also attending the reception was Baldwin’s mother, Pam Bin-Rella. As Baldwin began to speak, Bin-Rella was standing with a cane near the podium before Baldwin. The new senator said she had to address a “little logistical matter” before she continued, then positioned a wheelchair nearby for her mother to take a seat.

“I’m going to thank you the best way that any public official knows how to thank you: I’m going to ask you to do more,” she continued. “As I ran to make a difference, I intend to make a difference. Just like nobody wins a Senate seat alone, nobody moves a state or a country forward alone.”

Baldwin was sworn in on Thursday on the same day as the entire membership of the U.S. House for the 113th Congress. That includes openly gay Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).

United States Senate, Herb Kohl, Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Herb Kohl (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Introducing Baldwin at the reception was outgoing Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), whom Baldwin will replace in the U.S. Senate after his 24 years in Congress. Kohl said Baldwin has “all the qualities I, and I know, so many others look for in somebody to represent us all across the state of Wisconsin.”

“After I got elected, as a senator from Wisconsin, I got a phone call from my predecessor, Sen. [William] Proxmire,” Kohl said. “And he was effusive in his praise of me, and he predicted that I will be a model senator. He said that several times, and he was very careful in his use of words, so I couldn’t forget that he used the word ‘model,’ and I wondered why he used that word specifically. So, I went to the dictionary and looked up that word: ‘model — a model is a small replica of the real thing.’ So, I’m not going to tell Tammy that she’s going to be a ‘model’ senator.”

At the event, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told the Washington Blade that Baldwin’s swearing in as a U.S. senator marked “a real historic day.”

“Having Tammy Baldwin serve in the United States Senate is historic,” Griffin said. “To have one of us inside the chamber is meaningful for a number of reasons because we have a champion now that’s one of us in the Senate. But it also makes it more difficult for those who are against us to look at our colleague in the eye and to talk negatively about LGBT people, so I’m so excited to be able to work with Tammy as she begins today as a United States senator.”

Other LGBT notables at the event were Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force; Brian Bond, director of constituency outreach for the Democratic National Committee; and Peter Rosenstein, a D.C.-based Democratic activist. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillbrand (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also made appearances.

Baldwin’s staff said the senator wasn’t taking questions at the reception. She’s yet to participate in an interview with the Washington Blade since her election, despite numerous requests to her transition team.

Chad Griffin, Paul Ryan, Human Rights Campaign, HRC, Republican Party, Wisconsin, gay news, Washington Blade

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin speaking with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (Washington Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

Paul Ryan mingles with Baldwin supporters at reception

Another notable guest at the reception was fellow Wisconsinite and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, who was the Republican vice presidential nominee last year. He attended the reception early on and left before Baldwin made her appearance.

Ryan’s appearance at a reception largely attended by Baldwin supporters — many of whom are LGBT — is noteworthy because of his anti-gay voting record. Ryan was a keynote speaker during the annual Value Voters Summit last year, which was hosted by the anti-gay Family Research Council.

At the reception, Ryan declined to take questions from the Blade, saying he wasn’t speaking to the media at the occasion.

Griffin was seen talking briefly with Ryan at the reception. Later, Griffin told the Blade he wanted to speak with him because LGBT advocates can’t only engage with their allies.

“Look, it’s just as important that we talk to our friends as it is that we talk to those who are often against us,” Griffin said. “And so, I introduced myself and thanked him for being here at Tammy’s event and told them I hope we can find some things together to work together on.”

Asked for specifics on what they could find in common, Griffin replied, “It was a private conversation. So, I’ll leave it at that. But it was general conversation about my desire to find some common ground on things.”

Ryan, who’s still considered a rising star within the GOP, posed for photos with attendees. Among them was Jo Deutsch, the federal director for the New York-based LGBT group Freedom to Marry. At a point while taking photos, Ryan declared, “We’re all personal friends,” although it’s unclear to whom he was referring.

Kevin Seifert, a Ryan spokesperson, said in response to a request for comment that the congressman was “pleased to attend” the Baldwin reception.

“Congressman Ryan has served with Senator Baldwin for years and he wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate her as the next senator from the great state of Wisconsin,” Seifert added. “As to the conversation with Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, it was a private conversation and I do not have any further information about the nature of their discussion.”

The former vice presidential candidate voted against hate crimes protection and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and voted on two separate occasions for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Still, he was among a handful of Republicans who voted for a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007, although he previously voted in favor of a motion to recommit to scuttle the bill on the House floor.

CORRECTION: An initial version of this article mistakenly identified Jo Deutsch as a Republican. The Blade regrets the error.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

National

Survey shows 72% of Utah residents back same-sex marriage

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah said he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality

Published

on

The results of a poll run by the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Desert News found 72% of Utah’s residents agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as cis-gender marriages.

“For a state that less than 20 years ago passed laws and a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, there has been a seismic shift in opinion,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey also found that 23% of those surveyed disagreed, while 5% expressed that they don’t know.

The poll shows Utahns are aligned with the nation as a whole on the issue. A Gallup poll in May found 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage, a new high.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Desert News that he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality.

“Utah is a pro-family state, and we recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes. When we see loving, committed couples joining in matrimony, our natural impulse is to support and encourage that love. This gives me great hope for the future,” he said.

Continue Reading

Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

Published

on

The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Doctor, transgender spouse indicted for passing information to Russia

Jamie Lee Henry first active-duty Army officer to come out as trans

Published

on

Jamie Lee Henry and their spouse Anna Gabrielian (Photos from social media)

A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed down an indictment of a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, a doctor and major in the U.S. Army, with conspiracy and for the disclosure of individually identifiable health information related to their efforts to assist Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland in a press release stated Anna Gabrielian, 36, and her spouse, Jamie Lee Henry, 39, both of Rockville, Md., both of whom had secret clearances, were attempting to provide medical information about members of the military to the Russian government.

Gabrielian and Henry met with an individual they believed to be associated with the Russian government, but who was, in fact, an Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Agent.

Court documents indicate Gabrielian told the FBI agent posing as a Russian operative that she had previously reached out to the Russian Embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her spouses’ assistance.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Gabrielian told the FBI agent that, although Henry knew of Gabrielian’s interaction with the Russian Embassy, she never mentioned Henry’s name to the Russian Embassy.

In the narrative released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, on Aug. 17, 2022, Gabrielian met with the FBI at a hotel in Baltimore. During that meeting, Gabrielian told the FBI she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail. 

She proposed potential cover stories for her meeting with the “Russians” and stressed the need for “plausible deniability” in the event she was confronted by American authorities. Gabrielian also told the FBI that, as a military officer, Henry was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, because they had more helpful information, including how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and information about previous training provided by the U.S. military to Ukrainian military personnel. 

Henry identifies as a “transgender military physician” on their Twitter account.

Henry received public attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as trans.

Henry was at one point a member of SPARTA, the nation’s largest nonprofit representing actively-serving trans U.S. servicemembers. A spokesperson for SPARTA, in an emailed statement commenting on the announcement of the arrest and indictment of Henry and their spouse told the Washington Blade:

“Transgender people are as diverse as the societies to which they belong. One’s gender identity neither increases nor decreases a propensity towards alleged criminal activity.”

As stated in the indictment, Gabrielian is an anesthesiologist and worked at Medical Institution 1 in Baltimore.  

Henry, a major in the U.S. Army who held a secret-level security clearance, is Gabrielian’s spouse and a doctor. During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Womack Army Medical Center.

Gabrielian was scheduled to have initial appearance at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson. Henry is also expected to have an initial appearance today, although a time has not yet been set.

Full statement from SPARTA:

“SPARTA, a non-profit advocacy organization representing transgender Service members in the United States, is saddened to learn of the arrest and indictment of Jamie Lee Henry, an officer in the U.S. Army and a medical doctor.

SPARTA has long advocated for the inclusion and total equity for transgender persons throughout the United States uniformed services. Today, thousands are serving honorably and authentically at home stations worldwide.

The actions alleged in the indictment do not reflect Henry’s identity as transgender. Their alleged actions are those of an individual and should not be taken as a representation of transgender people broadly or transgender members of the military specifically.

All people in the United States are entitled to the same rights, including due process and the presumption of innocence in this case. SPARTA does not condone any actions alleged in the indictment and expects the process to play out fairly and equitably as it would for anyone accused of a crime.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular