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Nearly 300 mayors join same-sex marriage campaign

Mayors for the Freedom to Marry launched last year.

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Mike McGinn, Washington, Seattle, Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, gay news, Washington Blade, marriage equality, gay marriage, marriage equality
Annise Parker, Houston, Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, gay news, Washington Blade, marriage equality, gay marriage, marriage equality

Houston Mayor Annise Parker (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mayors from across the country on Friday attended a reception during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual D.C. meeting to commemorate the first anniversary of a campaign that features city executives who support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker, gay Gainesville (Fla.) Mayor Craig Lowe and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn are among those who attended the reception at the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, who is the former mayor of Stamford in his state’s Fairfield County, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who sparked controversy last year when he refused to join the campaign, also made brief appearances.

“This has been an exceptionally monumental year for this cause — the cause of the freedom to marry,” Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said. He noted 294 mayors from 42 states have joined the campaign since his organization formally launched it last January. “One thing I’ve learned that instead of going to Capitol Hill, if you really want to get something done you go to a mayor. You all were a crucial part of the historic wins this year.”

Solomon specifically thanked Villaraigosa, who chaired the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and Nutter for their efforts in support of the addition of a same-sex marriage plank to the party’s platform. He also praised Parker’s decision to join the campaign in spite of backlash she received from socially conservative pastors and others in her city who sharply criticized her public support for marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“If you’re out from L.A. and represent Hollywood and you have to come with the experiences that I come with, it’s a lot different than when you live somewhere where maybe not everybody is quite on board,” Villaraigosa said. “She [Parker] was steadfast in her commitment to this issue.”

Parker further discussed the controversy.

“Talking about marriage strikes a visceral cord in people and it changes the entire debate,” she said. “That is precisely why we have to have that conversation. Domestic partner benefits and the ability to recognize the relationship through complicated legal processes is not the same thing as marriage, which is an institution that we all recognize, that we understand in our hearts and in our minds that speaks across generations… we deserve full equality.”

The reception took place less than three months after voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved same-sex marriage referenda and Minnesotans rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have banned nuptials for gays and lesbians.

The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a same-sex marriage bill. Lawmakers in Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Hawaii are expected to consider the issue in the coming weeks and months.

The U.S. Supreme Court in March will hear oral arguments in cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage in the Golden State in 2008. The justices are expected to issue their rulings in June.

“America would be a stronger place if folks were able to love who they want to love, be who they want to be with, ” Nutter said.

Des Moines (Iowa) Mayor Frank Cownie recalled the 2009 court ruling that struck down his state’s ban on nuptials for gays and lesbians. He described the recall of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who issued the decision as “shameful,” but stressed the fight for marriage rights for same-sex couples continues.

“It’s about equal rights,” Cownie said, noting gays and lesbians flocked to Iowa to tie the knot after the ruling took effect. “Here we are in the Heartland; conservative, really white Iowa and we had some judges that had the guts to stand up in front of everybody and say this ain’t right. Everybody has equal rights and you can’t separate those rights based on anybody’s decision on who they love and who they want to marry. So let’s keep up the right. We’ll keep it going in Iowa.”

St. Paul (Minn.) Mayor Chris Coleman noted to the Washington Blade during the reception that Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, which led the effort against his state’s proposed constitutional amendment, is a former staffer. He said he remains proud that Minnesota is the first state to reject a proposal that “would discriminate against way too many of our citizens.”

“No mayor in this country should allow their residents — their constituents — to be discriminated against,” Coleman said. “This is a seminal moment in this country where the tide has turned and I don’t think there’s any turning back on this one.”

Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, Antonio Villaraigosa, Annise Parker, Michael Nutter, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage

Mayors for the Freedom to Marry (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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The White House

Biden’s Pride month proclamation: ‘Our nation faces another inflection point’

States across the country have passed anti-LGBTQ laws

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The White House was lit in rainbow colors following the Respect for Marriage Act signing in December 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Just as the 1969 Stonewall riots marked a transformational time for LGBTQ civil rights in America, the country now faces another critical inflection point, President Joe Biden said in the White House’s proclamation Wednesday honoring Pride month.

This moment is precipitated by the wave of hateful anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through state and local legislatures across the country and amid the escalating violence and threats of violence against the community, the statement notes:

“In 2023 alone, state and local legislatures have already introduced over 600 hateful laws targeting the LGBTQI+ community. Books about LGBTQI+ people are being banned from libraries. Transgender youth in over a dozen states have had their medically necessary health care banned. Homophobic and transphobic vitriol spewed online has spilled over into real life, as armed hate groups intimidate people at Pride marches and drag performances, and threaten doctors’ offices and children’s hospitals that offer care to the LGBTQI+ community. Our hearts are heavy with grief for the loved ones we have lost to anti-LGBTQI+ violence.”

Biden drew parallels between the “LGBTQI+ protestors” who “bravely stood their ground” against the law enforcement dispatched to arrest them more than 50 years ago and the youth organizers leading walkouts in response to discriminatory education laws, along with the “young people and their parents [who] are demonstrating unimaginable courage by testifying in state capitols in defense of their basic rights.”

The statement reaffirms the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to standing “proudly with the LGBTQI+ community in the enduring struggle for freedom, justice and equality,” chronicling some of the major steps the administration has taken on this front.

Biden highlighted his issuance, on his first day in office, of an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination, along with his signage last year of the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified protects for the rights of same-sex couples that might otherwise be jeopardized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority.

The statement then noted the administration’s moves to protect LGBTQ youth by ordering federal agencies to: Combat conversion therapy, “end the crisis of homelessness among LGBTQI+ youth and adults,” and address anti-LGBTQ discrimination in foster care.

Meanwhile, Biden said, the Justice Department is fighting against discriminatory laws targeting transgender youth, while the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have drafted rules that would better protect anti-LGBTQ discrimination “in healthcare, at school and in sports” and the White House is developing ways to combat online harassment and abuse that “disproportionately target LGBTQ people.”

Finally, the White House noted: Its rollout last year of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for LGBTQ youth, who can now reach specially trained counselors by dialing 988 and then three; the administration’s appointment of historic numbers of LGBTQ appointees at all levels of the federal government; and its repeal of bans preventing trans people from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

From passing federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans via the Equality Act to addressing “the crisis of violence against transgender women and girls of color,” Biden acknowledged the work that lies ahead.

“This month and every month,” his proclamation concludes, “let us celebrate the pride that powers the movement for LGBTQI+ rights and commit to doing our part to help realize the promise of America, for all Americans.”

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Pentagon

Defense secretary orders cancellation of drag show at Nev. Air Force base

Event was to have taken place at Nellis AFB on Thursday

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Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Public Affairs)

A previously scheduled drag show to kick off Pride month on the sprawling Nellis Air Force Base, an advanced combat aviation training facility for the U.S. Air Force northeast of Las Vegas, was cancelled Wednesday according to a Pentagon official, after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stepped in.

A Pentagon source familiar with the matter told the Washington Blade that Milley informed Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., that it is not Pentagon policy to fund drag shows on bases and the show needed to be canceled or moved off base. 

The issue over drag performances was a focus at a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this year on March 29, when anti-LGBTQ Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) demanded in an angry tone that Austin and Milley explain why drag queen story hours were being hosted on U.S. military installations. The Florida Republican mentioned bases in Montana, Nevada, Virginia and Germany.

In a highly publicized incident in May 2022, Stars and Stripes reported that the Commanding General of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany had a drag queen story time, that was to be held in honor of Pride month cancelled. 

According to Stars and Stripes, the 86th Air Wing’s public affairs sent a statement to a radical-right anti-LGBTQ news outlet in Canada, the Post Millennial, which had requested comment to its article about the event and also accused the Air Force of pushing a more “woke” agenda among servicemen. 

In a press release, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took partial credit for the cancellation.

Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall regarding the Air Force Library at Ramstein hosting a “Drag Queen Story Time” event for young children of servicemembers. 

Rubio urged him to cancel the event, discipline the staff involved in planning and hosting the event and respond to questions on whether other installations both at home and around the world have done similar events. Following receipt of Rubio’s letter, the Air Force canceled the event. 

“The last thing parents serving their nation overseas should be worried about, particularly in a theater with heightened geopolitical tensions, is whether their children are being exposed to sexually charged content simply because they visited their local library,” Rubio wrote.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, III, and Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meet with U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Carlos M. Vazquez, Department of Defense)

A Pentagon official referring to the drag show at Nellis said Milley was visibly angry about the decision to host the event on base after being informed about it earlier this week.

The drag show was scheduled for Thursday, but Maj. Gen. Case A. Cunningham, the commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis was informed in the past few days that it must either be canceled or moved off base. 

On May 23, Gaetz sent a letter to Austin and Milley, alleging that the “pervasive and persistent use of taxpayer dollars for drag events,” had a June 1 Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., event scheduled.

Gaetz went on to write that “Nellis Air Force Base has announced a so-called ‘family-friendly’ drag organized by the Nellis LGBTQ+ Pride Council for June 1, 2023. In this latest outright attack on children, this event is being advertised as having no minimum age requirement.” 

In his letter Gaetz also demanded to know: 

  • Does the DoD feel it’s appropriate for children to attend a sexualized drag performance?
  • Why are base commanders defying your intent and direction by facilitating drag events?
  • If this event goes forward, whether on June 1 or a later scheduled date, please provide an explanation regarding your justification for why you allowed the event to take place.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis, in June 2021 the base had hosted a Pride month drag show titled “Drag-u-Nellis.” The spokesperson noted the 2021 show was intended to promote inclusivity and diversity. 

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Alabama

Ala. extends ban on transgender female athletes to universities

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed bill on Tuesday

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Alabama Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday signed House Bill 261, which limits transgender students to playing sports in public colleges and universities only with “their biological sex assigned at birth.”

“Look, if you are a biological male, you are not going to be competing in women’s and girls’ sports in Alabama. It’s about fairness, plain and simple,”  said Ivey in a statement released by her office.

House Bill 261 was approved 26-4 in the Alabama Senate and 83-5 in the House of Representatives. In the vote in the House more than a dozen lawmakers abstained from the vote.

Ivey had previously signed legislation in 2021 banning trans female athletes from competing in K-12 girls sports. At the time she signed that bill the governor had noted that “Alabama remains committed to protecting female athletes at all levels and upholding the integrity of athletics.”

Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director of the Human Rights Campaign, said the legislation is part of a “systematic attack against LGBTQ+ people” in Alabama and elsewhere.

“In just two years, [Ivey] and extremist lawmakers in Alabama have passed four anti-LGBTQ+ bills. From dictating what bathrooms we can use to blatantly ignoring the actual problems in women’s sports, these politicians are making Alabama an increasingly hostile place for transgender people and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole,” Anderson-Harvey said.

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