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Schumer receives 6,500 names calling for gay-inclusive reform

N.Y. senator is lone committee Dem to withhold support for inclusive bill

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UAFA, Uniting American Families Act, immigration reform, gay news, Washington Blade
UAFA, Uniting American Families Act, immigration reform, gay news, Washington Blade

LGBT and immigration activists prepare to deliver signatures to Sen. Charles Schumer. (Washington Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

The office of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) received on Thursday via hand delivery 6,500 petition signatures from LGBT rights supporters urging him to include bi-national gay couples as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

The signatures — collected over the course of one day — were the result of the efforts from the LGBT grassroots advocacy group GetEQUAL in coordination with the pro-immigrant organizations Presente.org, DRM Action and Uniting We Dream.

According to the LGBT group Immigration Equality, Schumer is the only one of the 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee who hasn’t committed to supporting amendments that would include bi-national couples as part of immigration reform. Given Republican opposition, Schumer’s vote will be necessary for a majority vote in committee to amend the larger bill.

Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, co-director of GetEQUAL, personally handed the names to Schumer’s staff on Thursday as part of a group of about a half-dozen activists.

“It’s interesting because he’s making a political mistake,” Sousa-Rodriguez told the Blade. “The whole reason why this is even happening is because of Latinos, and Latinos hold the key to the White House. But 64 percent of voters support the inclusion of same-sex couples in immigration reform and 59 percent of Latino voters support same-sex marriage. Latinos have turned a page, the country has turned a page, but D.C. keeps being stuck in the ’90s.”

A Brazilian native who’s married to a U.S. citizen, Sousa-Rodriguez is an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States at a young age and would be able to gain citizenship through a marriage-based green card application if the immigration reform included the provision for bi-national couples.

Cesar Vargas, executive political director of DRM Action Coalition, represented pro-immigrant groups who want to see the inclusion of bi-national same-sex couples as part of a reform bill pending before the Senate.

“During 2012, we worked during the campaign season to ensure that the Latino community was heard and to ensure that Democrats and positive-minded Republicans were on board [with immigration reform],” Vargas said. “But … we fought for immigration reform for all families, not to exclude anyone else. So, that’s one of the things that we want to send to Sen. Schumer that New York voters and Latinos from New York are demanding immigration reform for all families and not just for a few.”

The staffer who received the signatures on behalf of Schumer was Veronica Duron, who embraced Sousa-Rodriguez when he came into the office because the two knew each other before she started work with the senator.

Duron noted that Schumer is a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act as a standalone bill, but couldn’t say the senator could commit to a vote to include the measure as part of immigration reform at this time.

“I don’t know; that’s the question we’ve been asking,” Duron said. “In every scenario, how we can possibly have UAFA in the bill and still get it to pass on the floor? And so, we’re trying to come up with best scenario possible to get it in the bill and still get it to come to the floor and get 60 votes.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee will on Monday begin considering family unification issues relevant to immigration reform, which would include two amendments filed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for bi-national gay couples. Consideration of family unification issues is likely to continue for the period of that week.

One of the amendments mirrors UAFA, which is for “permanent partners” and the other would be limited to married bi-national same-sex couples. Both measures, according to legal experts, would be inoperable in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans continue to express opposition to the idea of including bi-national same-sex couples as part of immigration reform. On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the committee and the “Gang of Eight” that produced the bill, tweeted, “If the Judiciary Committee tries to redefine marriage in the immigration bill they will lose me and many others.”

His comments are along the lines of what Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have said in opposition to the idea of including gay couples in the bill. Additionally, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) made comments to the Washington Blade urging Leahy not to include the pro-gay amendments.

Nonetheless, Sousa-Rodriguez said his organization is focusing its attention on Schumer because his vote is necessary for unanimous support among the Democrats on the committee.

“Sen. Schumer is the only Democrat that hasn’t committed to the inclusion of UAFA into the bill in the committee,” Sousa-Rodriguez said. “All of the other Democrats on the committee already agree that they will vote for UAFA and he hasn’t yet, so that’s why we’re doing this right.”

Asked whether an immigration bill without these LGBT provisions is worth supporting, Sousa-Rodriguez said it would still protect LGBT people — noting that among the 11 million undocumented immigrants are an estimated 270,000 LGBT people — but maintained the package could be better.

“UAFA is key piece of legislation that we want to include in order to protect our families as well,” he said.

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Congress

Anti-LGBTQ provisions removed from NDAA

New version omits restriction on gender affirming care, book and drag bans

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U.S. Capitol Building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Anti-LGBTQ provisions submitted by House Republicans to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) have been removed from the defense spending bill, triggering outrage from conservative lawmakers and praise from LGBTQ groups.

The conference version of the bill was released on Thursday.

This week saw the revocation of two measures targeting gender affirming care along with the book ban and drag ban. Language stipulating the list of approved flags that can be flown at military bases was amended such that more flags can be added on a discretionary basis.

“MAGA members of Congress tried to hijack the National Defense Authorization Act to advance their anti-LGBTQ+ agenda, attempting to riddle it with discriminatory riders,” Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf said in a statement to the Washington Blade.

His statement continued, “They failed and equality won. Anti-LGBTQ+ provisions, including efforts to restrict access to gender affirming care, were rejected. The anti-LGBTQ+ agenda continues to be deeply unpopular across the country and a failing political strategy.”

Wolf thanked U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) for “defending equality and defeating attacks on the community.”

Pledging to vote “no” on the bill, Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) said in a post on X, “I was appointed to the NDAA conference committee but NEVER got to work on the final version of the NDAA bc they made the deal behind closed doors and here are the horrible results.”

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Congress

New bill would protect LGBTQ-owned businesses from lending discrimination

Legislation introduced by Sens. Padilla, Gillibrand and Rep. Torres

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U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A bicameral bill introduced on Wednesday by U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), along with U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) would require financial institutions to collect data on access to credit and capital by LGBTQ-owned businesses.

The legislation would thereby allow regulators to better identify and potentially remedy instances of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in these areas.

CNBC reported in June that a study by the Movement Advancement Project found LGBTQ-owned businesses encountered more rejections than non-LGBTQ-owned businesses that applied for funding, amid a tightening of lending standards across the board.

Specifically, the bill would “clarify that Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) requires financial institutions to collect the self-identified sexual orientation and gender identity of the principal owners of small businesses, in addition to their sex, race, and ethnicity,” according to a press release by Padilla’s office.

The California senator said, “With anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and hate crimes on the rise, LGBTQ+ business owners continue to face persistent and unjust barriers to financial success,” adding that “LGBTQ+-owned small businesses are a cornerstone of local economies, and they deserve equitable resources to help them grow and thrive.”

Padilla’s press release notes the legislation “would also add a definition for businesses owned by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex individuals to the ECOA statute.”

Additionally, “The legislation also includes a Sense of Congress confirming that sexual orientation and gender identity are already covered under the ECOA (including the current data collection requirements)” while clarifying “that the sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity of the principal owners of a business should be collected as three separate forms of information.”

The Congressional Equality Caucus, Ali Forney Center, Center for American Progress, Destination Tomorrow, Drag Out The Vote, Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality Action Fund, InterAct, and New Pride Agenda have backed the bill.

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Politics

Endocrine Society corrects misinformation about gender affirming care at GOP debate

Presidential candidates clashed in Ala. on Wednesday.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) (Screen capture/NBC News)

The Endocrine Society, the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the clinical practice of endocrinology, released a statement correcting misinformation about gender affirming healthcare that was spread at the fourth Republican presidential primary debate on Wednesday night.

The group said comments in which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) characterized care for transgender and gender-diverse youth as child abuse and genital mutilation “do not reflect the health care landscape” and contradict “mainstream medical practice and scientific evidence.”

“Pediatric gender-affirming care is designed to take a conservative approach,” the Endocrine Society wrote. “When young children experience feelings that their gender identity does not match the sex recorded at birth, the first course of action is to support the child in exploring their gender identity and to provide mental health support, as needed.”

The statement continues, “Medical intervention is reserved for older adolescents and adults, with treatment plans tailored to the individual and designed to maximize the time teenagers and their families have to make decisions about their transitions.”

Notwithstanding the remarks by DeSantis, other debate participants, and moderator Megyn Kelly, “gender-affirming genital surgery is rarely offered to anyone under the age of 18,” the statement says.

Additionally, “More than 2,000 scientific studies have examined aspects of gender-affirming care since 1975, including more than 260 studies cited in the Endocrine Society’s Clinical Practice Guideline.”

Other major scientific and medical groups like the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are “in alignment” with the Endocrine Society on “the importance of gender affirming care,” the statement notes.

Further, research shows it “can be life saving for a population with high suicide rates.”

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