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Where does New Jersey’s interim senator stand on LGBT issues?

Chiesa appointed as votes may come up on ENDA, UAFA

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Jeffrey Chisea, New Jersey, gay news, Washington Blade
Jeffrey Chisea, New Jersey, gay news, Washington Blade

It’s unclear weher U.S. Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa stands on LGBT issues. (Photo public domain)

Eyes will be on Gov. Chris Christie’s choice for interim U.S. senator in New Jersey if bills sought by LGBT advocates come up for a vote on the floor while he occupies the seat.

On Thursday, Christie announced that he’s designating New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to occupy the seat on an interim basis after the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Chiesa will hold the seat until New Jersey voters decide on a permanent U.S. senator in a special election set for Oct. 16.

It’s unclear where Chiesa stands on federal LGBT issues. Christie’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request from the Washington Blade to comment on Chiesa’s views

But during a Jan. 25, 2012 interview with NJ Today, Chiesa spoke out on the issue of defending state law against pending litigation seeking marriage equality in New Jersey. Articulating a somewhat neutral position, Chiesa said he’ll defend the law banning same-sex marriage, or defend the law if it were changed.

“My role as the legal adviser is to defend the constitution and the laws as they’re passed,” Chiesa said. “We’ll continue to do that. The laws as they’re in place right now to the extend that they’re being contested as being unconstitutional, my office will continue to assert their constitutionality, and if there’s other laws that are passed, it’ll be our job to do the same thing whatever the state of the law is.”

Litigation pending before the state court in New Jersey seeking marriage equality, known as Garden State Equality v. Dow, was filed by Lambda Legal and the statewide LGBT advocacy group Garden State Equality. State officials in other states — such as California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan — have refused to defend bans on same-sex marriage against similar lawsuits.

Also on the issue of marriage, Chiesa never changed an existing opinion from previous New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow saying out-of-state same-sex marriages won’t be recognized in the Garden State.

TJ Helmstetter, a spokesperson for Garden State Equality, said Chiesa was “a surprise pick” and hopes the new interim senator will take the opportunity to learn more about them during his role as U.S. senator.

“We hope that during his time in Washington, however that short that is, that he uses that time like so many other members of both parties to evolve on issues of equality and to really get with the rest of New Jersey, the majority of New Jerseyans, who support fairness for all families,” Helmstetter said.

But there’s some evidence of support. Helmstetter praised Chiesa for work in implementing and defending the LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying legislation that Christie signed into law.

“We must give credit where credit is due, and this AG has been helpful, for instance, in defending the anti-bullying ‘Bill of Rights,’ working with our organization to make sure that New Jersey has the strongest anti-bullying bill, not only in law but also in fact,” Helmstetter said.

Chiesa’s views on LGBT issues will be important as LGBT advocates seek to overcome the 60-vote threshold to beat a filibuster on bills that may come to the floor in the coming months, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Uniting American Families Act. Education reform legislation that includes the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act — which a Senate committee will start considering on Tuesday — may also come to the floor.

A “no” vote from the Republican would be particularly poignant because Chiesa is occupying a seat held by Lautenberg, whom LGBT advocates praised as a “champion for equality” upon his death his earlier this week.

Chiesa’s views may conform to those views of Christie, who opposes same-sex marriage and vetoed a bill that would have legalized it in the state, but also signed into law one of the strongest LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying bills in the country.

But Helmstetter said it’s possible that state laws in New Jersey against LGBT employment non-discrimination and anti-LGBT bullying would prompt him to vote in favor of similar measures on a federal level.

“I would that expect Chiesa — coming from a state that is so overwhelmingly pro-equality and already has protections in place around employment and so many other areas — that he would take that knowledge from a pro-equality state to Washington and help spread that equality on a federal level,” Helmstetter said.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    June 10, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Marriage is about respect, not just benefits. This guy is like Christie – a politician who knows which way the wind is blowing but doesn't have the guts to do the really important right thing.

    That we can always have someone much worse is not a solution to real equality.

    • David Lampo

      June 11, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      So did you characterize the Clintons, Obama, and John Kerry the same way? Or is your scorn reserved only for a Republican who has supported civil unions, pushed the strongest anti-bullying bill in the country, and appointed the first gay person to the NJ Supreme Court?

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Politics

Rachel Levine: Efforts to deny health care to trans youth are ‘politics’

Former Pa. health secretary opened Victory Fund conference

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Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine speaks at the Victory Fund's 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Dec. 2, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine on Thursday criticized efforts to prevent transgender youth from accessing health care.

“Unfortunately, some have fought to prevent transgender youth from accessing the health care that they need,” she said in a speech she delivered at the opening of the Victory Fund’s 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference that took place in-person at the JW Marriott in downtown D.C. “This is politics and this politics has no place in health care and public health and they defy the established standards of care written by medical experts.”

Levine was Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary until President Biden nominated her to become assistant secretary of health.

She became the first openly trans person confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March. Levine in October became a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service.

The conference will take place in-person and virtually through Sunday.

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VIDEO: Biden addresses advocates on World AIDS Day

President says end to transmission ‘within striking distance’

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President Biden addressed advocates on World AIDS Day.

President Biden, in remarks delivered Wednesday at the White House in recognition of World AIDS Day, said to advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS the end to HIV transmission was near.

“It’s because of you and it’s not hyperbole to suggest that we are within striking distance of eliminating HIV transmission, within striking distance,” Biden told attendees in the East Room.

Joining Biden in the East Room were Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra and Gabriel Maldonado, an HIV/AIDS Advocate and founder of TruEvolution, a Riverside, Calif.-based LGBTQ group.

Biden also during his remarks touted having made the appointment of Harold Phillips to lead the White House Office of National AIDS Policy — a position that had gone vacant throughout the entirety of the Trump administration.

Notably, Biden talked about the Ending the HIV Epidemic plan, an initiate health officials started in the Trump administration, by saying was to beat HIV domestically by 2030. That was initial target date when the initiative, but Biden had campaigned on defeating by HIV by 2025 to the skepticism off observers.

Watch Biden full remarks below:

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Biden recognizes LGBTQ survivors in World AIDS Day statement

In contrast, Trump consistently omitted sexual minorities

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President Biden recognized LGBTQ people as among the survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on Tuesday in a statement recognizing World AIDS Day, marking a departure from consistent omissions of the LGBTQ community under the Trump administration.

“Ending the HIV epidemic is within our reach, and we are committed to finishing this work,” Biden said. “On World AIDS Day, we rededicate ourselves to building on the progress of the last 4 decades; upholding and advancing human rights; supporting research, science, and data-driven solutions; expanding access to housing, education, and economic empowerment; and fighting stigma and discrimination. No one living with HIV should suffer the undeserved guilt and prejudice that too many continue to experience.”

Biden, as the world recognizes World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, enumerates LGBTQ people as survivors in a paragraph acknowledging the coronavirus pandemic has presented new obstacles in efforts to beat HIV/AIDS.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the challenges our heroic health care and frontline workers face, yet they continue to deliver essential HIV prevention services and provide vital care and treatment to people living with HIV,” Biden said. “The pandemic has also interrupted HIV research and highlighted the work that still remains to achieve equitable access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment in every community — particularly for communities of color, adolescent girls and young women, and the LGBTQI+ community.”

The inclusion of LGBTQ people in a statement recognizing World AIDS Day stands in contrast to statements from President Trump, who consistently declined to mention the LGBTQ community in each of his statements. The consistent omissions took place even though top health officials under the Trump administration started the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, which seeks to beat HIV/AIDS by 2030.

Last year, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, asked by the Washington Blade why the LGBTQ community was missing from the 2020 statement, responded with a false statement Trump was the first to observe World AIDS Day by adorning the White House with a large red AIDS ribbon. In fact, the practice began under President George W. Bush and had continued through Obama and Trump administrations.

The inclusion of LGBTQ people in Biden’s World AIDS Day statement is consistent with former President Obama mentioning LGBTQ people as among the survivors of HIV/AIDS in his final World AIDS Day statement. In 2016, Obama acknowledged “gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, black and Latino Americans, people living in the Southern United States, and people who inject drugs are at a disproportionate risk” of the disease.

Biden in his World AIDS Day statement says his administration “remains steadfast in our efforts to end the HIV epidemic,” ticking off policies his administration has pursued, including a budget request of $670 million to fight HIV/AIDS domestically and support for global initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS, which he said has save more than 21 million lives.

“This remarkable progress over the past 18 years has been made possible through strong, bipartisan United States leadership and American generosity,” Biden said.

Read Biden’s full statement below:

WORLD AIDS DAY, 2021
 
– – – – – – –
 
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
 
A PROCLAMATION
For decades, World AIDS Day has been recognized as an opportunity for people around the world to stand together in the fight against HIV.  This year on World AIDS Day, we are focused on addressing health inequities and inequalities and ensuring that the voices of people with HIV are at the center of our work to end the HIV epidemic globally.

While we have made remarkable progress in the 40 years since the first-known reported case of AIDS, this disease remains a serious public health challenge — and we join the international community to honor and remember the more than 36 million people, including 700,000 Americans, who have tragically died from AIDS-related illness since the start of the epidemic.  We also renew our commitment to stand with the nearly 38 million people living with HIV around the world as we pursue our shared goal of ending the HIV epidemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the challenges our heroic health care and frontline workers face, yet they continue to deliver essential HIV prevention services and provide vital care and treatment to people living with HIV.  The pandemic has also interrupted HIV research and highlighted the work that still remains to achieve equitable access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment in every community — particularly for communities of color, adolescent girls and young women, and the LGBTQI+ community.

My Administration remains steadfast in our efforts to end the HIV epidemic, confront systems and policies that perpetuate entrenched health inequities, and build a healthier world for all people. Earlier this year, I reinstated the White House Office of National AIDS Policy to coordinate our efforts to reduce the number of HIV infections across our Nation.  This week, my Administration is releasing an updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy to decrease health inequities in new diagnoses and improve access to comprehensive, evidence-based HIV-prevention tools. This updated strategy will make equity a cornerstone of our response and bring a whole-of-government approach to fighting HIV.

My budget request includes $670 million to support the Department of Health and Human Services’ Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. Initiative — to reduce HIV diagnoses and AIDS-related deaths.  My Administration has also strengthened the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS by adding members from diverse backgrounds who bring the knowledge and expertise needed to further our Nation’s HIV response. 

My Administration is committed to helping the world end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.  Through the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we have saved more than 21 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infections, and supported at least 20 countries around the world to reach epidemic control of HIV or achieve their ambitious HIV treatment targets.  This remarkable progress over the past 18 years has been made possible through strong, bipartisan United States leadership and American generosity.  Now, together with partner governments and communities, my Administration is setting a bold vision for achieving sustained epidemic control of HIV by supporting equitable health services and solutions, contributing to improved health for all in PEPFAR-supported countries, and working with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; UNAIDS; and other regional and local partners toward the goal of ending the HIV epidemic everywhere.

Ending the HIV epidemic is within our reach, and we are committed to finishing this work.  On World AIDS Day, we rededicate ourselves to building on the progress of the last 4 decades; upholding and advancing human rights; supporting research, science, and data-driven solutions; expanding access to housing, education, and economic empowerment; and fighting stigma and discrimination.  No one living with HIV should suffer the undeserved guilt and prejudice that too many continue to experience.  We must innovate and explore new ways to help address HIV/AIDS in communities here at home and around the world.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 1, 2021, as World AIDS Day.  I urge the Governors of the United States and its Territories, and the American people to join the HIV community in activities to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to provide support, dignity, and compassion to those living with HIV.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth.
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