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Delaware approves marriage equality

Gov. Jack Markell signed HB 75 into law after it passed by 12-9 vote margin.

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Jack Markell, Delaware, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade
Jack Markell, Delaware, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Jack Markell on Tuesday signs Delaware’s same-sex marriage bill into law in Dover, Del. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Jackson)

The Delaware Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that will allow same-sex marriage in the First State.

The 12-9 vote came more than three hours after lawmakers began to hear testimony from House Bill 75 supporters and opponents.

Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere,) Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) and Senate Majority Leader David McBride (D-Hawk’s Nest) voted for HB 75 alongside state Sens. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover,) Catherine Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke,) Bethany A. Hall-Long (D-Middletown,) Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington,) Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington,) Karen Peterson (D-Stanton,) Nicole Poore (D-New Castle,) David Sokola (D-Newark) and Bryan Townsend. Senate Minority Whip Gregory Lavelle (R-Sharpley) and Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson (R-Milford) voted against the proposal along with state Sens. Colin Bonini (R-Dover,) Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna,) Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View,) David Lawson (R-Marydel,) Ernesto Lopez (R-Lewes,) Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) and Robert Venables (D-Laurel.)

“It is about treating couples the same under the law as all other couples,” Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman said. “It is about treating similarly situated people the same.”

Peterson came out as a lesbian while she spoke in support of House Bill 75.

“We are not seeking to redefine marriage,” she said, noting she and her partner of more than 20 years entered into a civil union once the state’s civil unions law took effect in Jan. 2012. “We are seeking to expand the definition of marriage just as the Supreme Court did in the Loving v. Virginia case.”

Venables noted “anatomy” means “a man should not be marrying a man” as he spoke against House Bill 75.

“This is a step to break [marriage] down,” he said.

Father Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington also testified against the proposal.

“Marriage exists obviously we believe by the will of God because the sexual orientation between men and women tends to create babies,” he said. “Because of this, every human culture has found some way to see to it that children conceived by the interaction by men and women are raised ideally by the people who brought them into the ages.”

Lopez, whose district includes Rehoboth Beach, said on the Senate floor he and his family experienced “hate” during the final weeks of his campaign against gay Realtor Andy Staton last fall because of the fliers the Delaware Liberty Fund, an independent LGBT PAC, distributed. He said they came from and were “paid for from individuals who now support marriage equality.”

The Victory Fund, which endorsed Staton, declined to comment on Lopez’s claims.

Staton described the fliers to the Washington Blade on Wednesday as “unfortunate.”

Lopez did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment, but Staton criticized his former opponent for voting against HB 75.

“He misrepresented his district,” Staton said. “This is a district that strongly favored marriage equality and it was unfortunate that he could not side with those people that were in favor for equality for all of us here in Delaware.”

Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can currently marry.

Gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot in Rhode Island on Aug. 1 after the state’s same-sex marriage law that Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed last week takes effect.

Gov. Jack Markell signed HB 75 into law shortly after the Senate approved it.

“Today, we wrote a new chapter in our history and proved, once again, justice and equality continue to move forward in Delaware,” he said. “By signing House Bill 75 into law, we are another step closer towards achieving that goal.”

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons is among those who also applauded HB 75’s passage.

“This is a truly historic day for our state,” he said. “The passage of HB 75 ushers in a new era of equality in our state and marks an important moment in our state’s history. I am incredibly proud.”

“In Delaware, we do what is right for our citizens,” state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear,) who introduced HB 75 in the Delaware House of Representatives last month, added. “This bill is about equality and treating all couples in a loving, committed relationship with equal respect and dignity.”

Victory Fund CEO Chuck Wolfe also praised Peterson for coming out as he applauded the measure’s approval.

“We congratulate Sen. Peterson for telling her colleagues what marriage equality means to her and her partner and for standing up for freedom and fairness for everyone in Delaware,” he said.

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

Air Force base axes ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) welcomed the decision

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(Screenshot from U.S. Air Force's YouTube page)

A drag queen story hour scheduled to be held at the library in honor of Pride month at Ramstein Air Base in Germany was abruptly cancelled by the command staff of the 86th Airlift Wing on Thursday.

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. 

“An advertisement was posted to the base library social media page before the event had completed Ramstein’s established processes for special observance coordination and approval.  The advertisement has been removed and the event will not take place. Ramstein leaders strive to foster a culture based on inclusion where all people are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their political views, color of their skin or sexual orientation. The base’s established processes will ensure all future special observance events are properly reviewed and approved prior to advertisement.”

The Post Millennial’s story framed its reporting using hard-line right terms and descriptions of the LGBTQ community; “Drag Queen Story Hour has become a phenomenon in recent years, with men dressing up in clownish, garish costumes of women to read to children. Many drag queens have sexualized names, like Penny Tration.”

The conservative outlet also reported that one mom of a toddler, whose husband is stationed at the base, told The Post Millennial that while she often takes her child to the library for story time, she was “shocked to see the Ramstein Air Force Base Library plans to hold an official drag queen story hour for children.”

“I find it wholly inappropriate that the MILITARY of all places will be using public funds to sexualize children,” she said.

According to Stars and Stripes, the cancellation of the drag queen book reading drew mixed opinions from the Kaiserslautern Military Community, which encompasses Ramstein. With tens of thousands of Defense Department personnel and their families, it is the largest U.S. military community overseas.

An opponent of the wing’s decision launched a petition at Change.org to try to get the event reinstated.

“Now more (than) ever we need to show our support to our enlisted members and spouses in the face of blatant discrimination,” wrote the petition organizer, named Natalie Oyer, who described herself as spouse to a transgender wife.

“I don’t know if anything can bring back the events though,” Oyer wrote. “Most of the queens are enlisted.”

Stars and Stripes also reported that the 86th Airlift Wing, axed a separate drag karaoke event scheduled to be held at the base enlisted club, according to community members posting on social media sites.

In a press release Friday, 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 Air Force Base 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.

The 86th Airlift Wing’s publics affairs office at Ramstein and the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs office at the Pentagon have not responded to a request for comment.

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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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