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GOP senator Portman backs same-sex marriage

Ohio Republican grew to support marriage equality after learning son is gay

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Rob Portman, United States Senate, Ohio, gay news, Washington Blade
Rob Portman, United States Senate, Ohio, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has become to first Republican U.S. senator to support marriage equality (Photo public domain)

In a surprising and historical development, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on Thursday became the first sitting Republican senator to come out in favor of same-sex marriage.

Several media outlets reported this news late Thursday night. The Ohio Republican said he grew to support marriage equality after his son Will, a student at Yale University, came out as gay to his family two years ago and said he’d been that way as long as he can remember.

Explaining his “change of heart” in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Portman said his previous position, which was rooted in faith, changed after that “very personal experience.”

“That launched an interesting process, for me, which was kind of rethinking my position, talking to my pastor and other religious leaders, and going through a process of — at the end — changing my position on the issue,” Portman said.

Portman expressed a similar sentiment to reporters in his office, according to another report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Portman was quoted as saying.

Media outlets reported Portman said he later came to support marriage equality after he consulted former Vice President Dick Cheney, a marriage equality supporter whose daughter Mary Cheney is a lesbian.

Moreover, Portman reportedly said he believes part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, should be repealed. Section 3 of that law prohibits federal benefits from flowing to married same-sex couples.

Still, Portman reportedly emphasized he doesn’t want to force his views on others and religious institutions shouldn’t be forced to perform weddings or recognize marriages against their tenets. The Ohio Republican said he doesn’t know what the political fallout of his new position will be.

Portman’s new position marks a significant turnaround from his voting record as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2005. During his tenure in the lower chamber of Congress, Portman voted for DOMA and a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in 2004.

While no other Republican members of the U.S. Senate support marriage equality, two sitting GOP House Republicans do: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.). They both were among 131 prominent Republicans who signed a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn California’s Proposition 8.

Portman isn’t the first Republican U.S. senator to back marriage equality, although he’s the only current member of the Republican Senate caucus to hold that position. Lincoln Chafee is considered the first because he supported legalizing same-sex marriage as a Republican U.S. senator before becoming an Independent and being elected governor of Rhode Island.

One question is where Portman now stands on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Asked about the issue last year by ThinkProgress, Portman expressed caution over the legislation and withheld immediate support.

“What I’m concerned about in Paycheck Fairness and other legislation like that is the fact that it will spawn a lot of litigation the way the legislation is written,” Portman said at the time. “So you don’t want it to be a boon to lawyers, you want it to actually help people. But no one should discriminate.”

But in June, Shari Hutchinson, a lesbian Cleveland, Ohio, resident, and member of the LGBT group Freedom to Work’s Speakers Bureau, told the Washington Blade she met privately with Portman’s staff and left feeling optimistic the Ohio Republican would support ENDA.

“I am an Ohio voter and I met with Sen. Portman’s staff last month to tell them how I faced anti-lesbian slurs at work in Cleveland and how I was repeatedly denied promotions even when the heterosexual candidate they selected instead of me had failed the qualifying exam for that promotion,” Hutchinson said. “Mr. Portman’s staff was very attentive, respectful and concerned to hear that anti-LGBT workplace harassment and discrimination still goes on in Ohio. I urged them to support ENDA and I am hopeful Mr. Portman might do the right thing.”

Portman was on the short list of possible vice-presidential contenders for 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Among LGBT advocates, he was seen as a lackluster candidate at the time because of his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment and reluctance to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said in a statement Portman’s new position demonstrates the growing support for marriage equality among the GOP.

“If there was any doubt that the conservative logjam on the issue of civil marriage for committed gay and lesbian couples has broken, Sen. Portman’s support for the freedom to marry has erased it,” Angelo said. “Sen. Portman’s evolution on this issue highlights how personal it is for Americans — whether they’re the junior senator from Ohio or your next-door neighbor, all Americans have a gay friend, colleague or family member, and understand them to be as deserving as their straight counterparts of the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that are the promise of the United States.”

Angelo added Portman’s support for same-sex marriage demonstrates a person can support same-sex marriage while holding religious views.

“We also applaud and respect the Senator’s decision as a person of faith who recognizes that there is a Christian case as well as a conservative case for marriage equality,” Angelo said. “Log Cabin Republicans welcomes Senator Portman’s support, and encourages his GOP colleagues in the Senate to join him on the right side of history.”

CORRECTION: An initial version of this article incorrectly reported that Portman is the first GOP U.S. senator to back marriage equality. It also mischaracterized a quote from Gregory Angelo. The Blade regrets the errors.

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Pulse survivor ‘at a loss’ over Texas elementary school massacre

Brandon Wolf is Equality Florida’s press secretary

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Brandon Wolf was a Grand Marshal at the 2019 Capital Pride Parade on June 8, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Adam Hall)

A survivor of the Pulse nightclub massacre on Wednesday said he is “at a loss” over the massacre at a Texas elementary school that left 21 people dead.

“Twenty-one people were murdered,” said Equality Florida Press Secretary Brandon Wolf in a statement he sent to the Washington Blade a day after a gunman killed 21 people inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. “Nineteen of them were children — babies. That means 19 families sent their elementary age kids off to school only to get the worst news: That their babies would be leaving class in body bags.”

Wolf was inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016, when a gunman opened fire and killed 49 people. His two close friends — Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and his fiancé, Juan Guerrero — were among those killed.

Wolf in his statement noted “right wing politicians have spent the past year insisting that the greatest threats our children face are the potential they’ll learn that this nation was built on the backs of enslaved Black people or that their teacher uses they/them pronouns.”

“They’ve banned books, censored curriculum and bastardized history lessons,” said Wolf. “All the while, they haven’t lifted a finger to protect kids from what is killing them.”

Equality Florida echoed Wolf’s sentiments.

“I am heartbroken for the shattered families,” added Wolf. “Grief-stricken for these stolen lives. And enraged at the power-hungry leaders who have chosen time and again to serve up this country’s most vulnerable as sacrifices in exchange for a boost up the ladder of their own ambitions.”

Axel Rodríguez’s friend, Xavier Serrano Rosado, died inside the Pulse nightclub.

Rodríguez told the Blade that Tuesday was “such a dad day for us here” in Orlando.

“It is like going through the same emotions we had when the attack at Pulse happened, but it’s even worse because we are talking about children,” he said. “When will our government stop thinking about money and stop this madness? Everyone now can obtain a gun anywhere. I just cannot comprehend that at all.”

The Pulse nightclub massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history until a gunman on Oct. 1, 2017, killed 60 people at a concert in Las Vegas.

A gunman on Feb. 14, 2018, killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Twenty children and six adults died in the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.

The Robb Elementary School massacre took place less than three years after a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

“There are no words,” tweeted Pride Center San Antonio, which is roughly 90 minutes east of Robb Elementary School, on Wednesday.

“Our hearts are with the Uvalde community,” said Equality Texas on Tuesday. “Every child deserves to free safe at school.”

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Texas

Republican lawmaker claims Texas school gunman was transgender

Massacre victims were inside single classroom

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Families gather at a Uvalde, Texas, civic center to wait for news about their loved ones. (Photo courtesy of Niki Griswold/Twitter)

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that all of the 19 children and two adults were killed in single classroom at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday.

According to officials, 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, wearing body armor had barricaded himself inside a fourth-grade classroom, where all the fatalities and injuries occurred. Ramos, who attended the nearby high school, was killed on scene by a member of a federal U.S. Border Patrol tactical unit who had responded alongside local law enforcement.

Several other children were injured in the attack, including a 10-year-old who remained in critical condition in a Texas hospital. Law enforcement officials told reporters Ramos shot his grandmother before heading to the school with two military-style rifles he bought on his 18th birthday which was within the last two weeks.

Law enforcement has only released some of the victim’s identities and according to the Austin Statesman newspaper’s political reporter Niki Griswold, parents were gathered late into the night to give DNA samples to find out whether or not their children were among the dead. Griswold also tweeted, “The agonized screams of family members are audible from the parking lot,” as she also noted “A family has erupted into sobs outside the civic center.”

As Texas and the nation reeled in shock over yet another deadly mass shooting, Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar, who espouses radical right view points and former President Trump’s MAGA philosophy, took to Twitter and spread a false and transphobic claim that the suspected shooter was a “transsexual leftist illegal alien.”

Screenshot of now-deleted tweet by Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar

As of Tuesday evening, Gosar had not commented on his tweet, which was deleted about two hours after being published.

Gosar is an anti-immigration, anti-vaxxer, radical right hardliner who routinely cozies up to white nationalists. He was apparently promoting a false claim circulating on right-wing networks. Users shared images of a transgender person unrelated to the attack claiming they were the shooter.

President Biden addresses nation the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday evening.
(Screenshot/White House YouTube)

In Washington last night, President Biden, speaking to the nation said;

“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he asked. “Why do we keep letting this happen?  Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with it and stand up to the [gun] lobbies? 

Speaking from personal experience, as a father who has lost two children, Biden added: “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There’s a hollowness in your chest, and you feel like you’re being sucked into it and never going to be able to get out. It’s suffocating. And it’s never quite the same.”

Global reaction included sympathy from Ukraine’s leadership.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed condolences to the community of Uvalde where the 21 people — including the 19 students — were murdered in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

“Deeply saddened by the news of the murder of innocent children in Texas,” Zelenskyy wrote. “Sincere condolences to the families of the victims, the people of the U.S. and @POTUS over this tragedy. The people of Ukraine share the pain of the relatives and friends of the victims and all Americans.”

NPR reported Wednesday that Zelenskyy also referenced the shooting while speaking by video link at a conference on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which he drew a direct parallel between the shooting and the war in Ukraine.

“I feel it is my personal tragedy when children are killed in Texas, and now in my country Russian military is killing our children,” he said.

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Gay man shot to death on NYC subway train

Police say shooting was random and unprovoked

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Daniel Enriquez (Photo courtesy of the NYPD)

A gay man became the latest victim of a New York City subway shooting on Sunday when police say a male suspect shot Daniel Enriquez, 48, in the chest in an unprovoked random act inside a subway car traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Police on Tuesday arrested Andrew Abdullah, 25, who they identified as the sole suspect in the shooting, after attorneys representing him from the Legal Aid Society attempted to arrange for his surrender, according to a report by NBC 4 News in New York.

Police said the shooting occurred around 11:42 a.m. while the train was traveling over the Manhattan Bridge. The then unidentified suspect walked off the train and disappeared into a crowd of people when the train stopped at the Canal Street station minutes after Enriquez lay dying on the floor on the train car, police said.

Possibly based on the viewing of images from video surveillance cameras, police sources told the New York Times that investigators identified the suspect as Abdullah whose last known residence was in Manhattan, as a suspect in the fatal shooting. NYPD officials released two photos of Abdullah and appealed to the public for help in finding him.

Adam Pollack, Enriquez’s partner of 18 years, told both the Times and the New York Post that Enriquez took the subway to meet his brother for brunch. According to Pollack, Enriquez previously had taken Ubers into Manhattan, where he worked and socialized, from the couple’s home in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. But in recent weeks the cost of taking an Uber rose dramatically to more than $80 for the round-trip fare, prompting Enriquez to begin taking the subway, Pollack told the Times and Post.

“I don’t love the subway,” the Post quoted Pollack as saying. “I know how dangerous New York is. It took me two years to get back on the subway. I don’t feel safe on the subway,” he said.

The fatal shooting of Enriquez took place six weeks after another gunman identified as Frank R. James began shooting inside a crowded rush-hour subway car in Brooklyn, injuring at least 23 people.

Pollack told the Times his partner was a native New Yorker who worked as a researcher for the Goldman Sachs investment bank in Manhattan. Enriquez was the eldest of five children and a beloved uncle known for taking his nieces and nephews for ice cream in local parks and out to amusement parks when he visited them, Pollack told the Times.

When asked by the Washington Blade if any evidence has surfaced to indicate suspect Abdullah targeted Enriquez because he thought Enriquez was gay, a police public information officer said the investigation into the incident was continuing.

“There’s nothing on that now,” the officer said. “Everything, the motive, and all of that stuff, is part of the investigation and that is still ongoing. So, there’s no comment on that yet.”

The Times reports that court records show Abdullah, who is now in police custody, was charged along with others in 2017 in an 83-count indictment for alleged gang related activity. The following year he pleaded guilty to criminal possession of weapons and other charges in 2018 and was sentenced the following year to a prison term and released on parole several months later.

According to the Times, he faced new gun charges in 2020, was charged in 2021 with assault and endangering a child, and in April of this year was charged with possession of stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

“We are devastated by this senseless tragedy and our deepest sympathies are with Dan’s family at this difficult time,” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said in a statement.

Andrew Abdullah (Photo courtesy of the NYPD)
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