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White House mum on inaugural pastor’s anti-gay sermon

Carney refers questions to inaugural committee

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answers questions at the White House daily briefing

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had no comment on Pastor Louie Giglio’s anti-gay sermon. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to answer questions Wednesday about a new report that the Georgia-based pastor selected to give the benediction for President Obama’s inaugural once held vehemently anti-gay views.

Asked by the Washington Blade whether the White House has a problem with the views reportedly expressed in a sermon by Louie Giglio — which include support for widely discredited “ex-gay” therapy and urging Christians to prevent the “homosexual lifestyle” from being accepted in society — Carney said he hasn’t seen the ThinkProgress report and deferred comment to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

“I haven’t seen that report,” Carney said. “I would refer you to the inaugural committee. I haven’t seen the report.”

Asked to clarify whether the administration was unaware of the sermon before the selection was made, Carney reiterated, “I’m saying that I haven’t seen the report.”

The inaugural committee didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request for comment on Giglio’s remarks.

The Blade’s questioning about Giglio came later in the briefing after ABC News’ Jonathan Karl — referencing new objections from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) — asked Carney about 1998 anti-gay remarks that defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel made that have stirred controversy in the LGBT community. Carney noted Hagel apologized for those remarks.

“I think Sen. Hagel was very clear about the fact that he thought those comments were not appropriate,” Carney said. “He regretted them, and they don’t represent the totality of his views. I would point to the statement he made.”

Carney added the Senate will have “the opportunity through the confirmation process as they do traditionally and repeatedly to ask him questions about his views on this” issue, and — touting Obama’s support for the LGBT community — said Hagel would execute Obama’s policy as directed. Outstanding LGBT issues that remain at the Pentagon include certain partner benefits, the lack of non-discrimination policies and prohibition of openly transgender service.

“The secretary of defense — Sen. Hagel, when he is confirmed as we hope he will be — carries out the president’s policies and, I think, the president’s policies on LGBT issues are both commendable, supported by the LGBT community and will continue to be the policies of this administration as long as President Obama is in office,” Carney said. “So, again, I think you’ve seen what Sen. Hagel said about this, and the president is very confident that Sen. Hagel will be confirmed and that he will be an excellent secretary of defense and will implement all of the president’s policies with regards to the Defense Department.

The Blade concluded its questioning by noting both Hagel’s 1998 anti-gay remarks and the anti-gay sermon from the 1990s from Pastor Giglio and asking whether the administration had a kind of statute of limitations for when someone can make such comments and still be deemed acceptable by the administration.

“I think I’ve addressed the question about Sen. Hagel,” Carney replied. “And I would simply point you to President Obama’s record on LGBT issues as representative of his beliefs, convictions and his policies, and where he believes this country is moving and where he hopes to lead it.

A partial transcript of the exchange between reporters and Carney on Hagel and Giglio follows:

ABC News: If I could just ask you about Chuck Hagel, who was criticized pretty strongly today by Ben Cardin, who’s not a exactly an arch-conservative here. Certainly, right in the mainstream of the Democratic Party, one of the things he raised was the comments that Hagel made against James Hormel, which had come under fire by gay groups. I’m wondering if you could help me understand, he made those comments 15 years ago, calling James Hormel aggressively and didn’t apologize for them until a month ago when it was clear that he was in the running to named secretary of defense. Why that kind of a delay and does he have to explain why 15 years of those comments —

Jay Carney: I think Sen. Hagel was very clear about the fact that he thought those comments were not appropriate. He regretted them, and they don’t represent the totality of his views. I would point the statement he made.

ABC News: But 15 years later —

Carney: Senators will have the opportunity through the confirmation process as they do traditionally and repeatedly to ask him questions about his views on this. The secretary of defense — Sen. Hagel, when he is confirmed as we hope he will be — carries out the President’s policies and, I think, the President’s policies on LGBT issues are both commendable, supported by the LGBT community and will continue to be the policies of this administration as long as President Obama is in office. So, again, I think you’ve seen what Sen. Hagel said about this, and the President is very confident that Sen. Hagel will be confirmed and that he will be an excellent secretary of defense and will implement all of the President’s policies with regards to the Defense Department.

Washington Blade: The website ThinkProgress is reporting that the Pastor Louie Giglio, whom President Obama selected to deliver his inaugural benediction, held vehemently anti-gay views in the 1990s. In a recording attributed to him from that time, Giglio advocates for widely discredited “ex-gay” therapy, references a biblical passage often attributed to require gay people to be executed and impels Christians to “firmly respond to the aggressive agenda” and prevent the homosexual lifestyle from becoming adopted in society. Does the White House have a problem with Obama’s inaugural pastor holding those views?

Jay Carney: I haven’t seen that report. I would refer you to the inaugural committee. I haven’t seen the report.

Blade: So it’s fair to say that the administration was not aware of this sermon before the selection was made?

Carney: I’m saying that I haven’t seen the report.

Blade: The news is breaking days after the President nominated Chuck Hagel, whom, as you acknowledged, made those 1998 anti-gay comments against Jim Hormel. Is there some kind of statute of limitations on when someone can make anti-gay remarks and still deemed acceptable by the administration, and if so, what is it?

Carney: I think I’ve addressed the question about Sen. Hagel, and I would simply point you to President Obama’s record on LGBT issues as representative of his beliefs, convictions and his policies, and where he believes this country is moving and where he hopes to lead it.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

“LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased”

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Florida State Capitol building

TALLAHASSEE – A Republican majority Florida House Education & Employment Committee passed HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion Senate bill SB 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the Press Secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56% of transgender and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 47% felt nervous and/or scared, 45% felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

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/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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California mom claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Jessica Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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