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Philadelphia mayor speaks to LGBT bloggers, journalists

Michael Nutter reaffirmed same-sex marriage support

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Michael Nutter, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, gay news, Washington Blade, marriage equality, gay marriage, marriage equality

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Saturday reaffirmed his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Love who you love, be with who you be with and generally it’s no one else’s business,” he said during the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association and Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr., Foundation’s annual gathering of LGBT journalists and bloggers at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. “People should be able to do whatever it is they want to do, be together.”

Nutter, who succeeded Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors last year, is among the more than 300 city executives who have joined Freedom to Marry’s Mayors for the Freedom to Marry initiative. He joined Villaraigosa, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and others at a D.C. reception last month that commemorated the campaign’s first anniversary.

Nutter described President Obama’s comments in support of same-sex marriage during his re-election campaign and in his second inaugural address as “very helpful.”

“You hear more and more electeds and others coming out for marriage equality or knocking down the discriminatory effects,” he said in response to gay New York journalist Andy Humm’s question about Pennsylvania state lawmakers’ reluctance to expand LGBT-specific protections in the commonwealth. “I don’t know what’s in the hearts and minds of all the legislators across Pennsylvania, but I’d like to think there’s a certain inevitability to all of this.”

Nutter again highlighted his support of nuptials for gays and lesbians as he continued to answer Humm’s question.

“It’s not like the heterosexual community has demonstrated that we’ve got it all together ourselves,” he said. “If folks want to be married, let people marry. What difference does it make?”

Nutter, who served on the Philadelphia City Council for more than a decade until his 2007 election, further stressed his administration recognizes the “economic vitality that the LGBT community brings” to the city.

Transgender blogger Becky Juro asked the mayor about Nizah Morris, a trans woman who died in Dec. 2002.

A Philadelphia police officer offered Morris a ride to her apartment after she collapsed outside a Center City bar because she had become intoxicated. The officer said Morris left her cruiser a few blocks away – a passing motorist later found her unconscious in the street

The city medical examiner determined Morris’ death was a homicide, but the Philadelphia Police Department rejected its finding.

“We haven’t maybe had the greatest level of cooperation from a bunch of folks, but it is a case that we are certainly paying attention to,” Nutter said. “We want to bring whoever needs to be brought to justice to justice.”

Nutter also described former Philadelphia City Councilman John C. Anderson, after whom a new Center City complex that will contain apartments for LGBT seniors is named, as a mentor. The mayor also responded to a question about the Boy Scouts of America’s Cradle of Liberty Council’s lawsuit against the city over its efforts to evict it from its city-owned building after it refused to change its policy to allow gay scouts and troop leaders.

A federal court jury in 2010 ruled against the city, but the case remains before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

“I want to get a resolution that ultimately entails us not supporting any discrimination in a city-owned building or a building on land we own,” he said. “I’m hopeful that there will be a resolution that gets to that stage where we’re not subsidizing that kind of activity in the relatively near future.”

Nutter also said he has no intentions of running for governor or Congress once his term expires in 2016.

“I have approximately three years on my term here as mayor of my hometown,” he said. “I’m going to serve out my term. I have no idea what I’m going to do next. And I’m not thinking about it right now.”

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The White House

Biden, Harris, deliver remarks for White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf among those who spoke

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris listen as U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates on Sept. 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wolf)

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge: drag is ‘vulgar and lewd,’ ‘sexualized conduct’

Ruling ‘bristles with hostility toward LGBTQ people’

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J. Marvin Jones Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas (Photo: Library of Congress)

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.

A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.

As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”

“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.

Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.

As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”

The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”

Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.

Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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The White House

Harris to oversee White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Goal is to implement and expand upon legislation, executive actions

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
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