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Reid becomes 50th ENDA sponsor

Legislation tied ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal bill in 2010 for number of co-sponsors

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is the 50th sponsor of ENDA. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is the 50th ENDA sponsor. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) gave the Employment Non-Discrimination Act a noteworthy boost late Thursday when he signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill.

Reid’s backing gives ENDA a total of 49 co-sponsors, which, in addition to the support from chief sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) means an even 50 senators are committed to supporting the proposal.

In a statement provided to the Washington Blade, Reid said he’s co-sponsoring ENDA to put an end to LGBT workplace discrimination and will work to lead the bill to passage in the Senate.

“No one should face discrimination in their workplace based on sexual orientation,” Reid said. “It’s time to make fairness the law of the land. That is why I am co-sponsoring this legislation and I will do everything I can to ensure that it passes the Senate.”

Reid has previously supported ENDA, but hadn’t before lent his name as a co-sponsor of the bill. His co-sponsorship is particularly noteworthy because as Senate Democratic leader, he normally doesn’t co-sponsor bills — even the ones he supports.

The Democratic leader’s co-sponsorship is also significant because it means ENDA has the exact same number of co-sponsors as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation in 2010 that eventually became law.

Laura Martin, a spokesperson for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, commended Reid for signing on in support of ENDA in the aftermath of Nevada legalizing statewide protections against anti-trans bias in the workplace.

“Sen. Harry Reid has long supported ENDA and we’re proud of him for co-sponsoring the legislation; its a good indication the bill will pass,” Martin said. “We did the work in Nevada to protect LGBTQs from discrimination by passing a state-wide trans-inclusive ENDA. Its past due time all Americans have same protections. We’re ready to do the work to get this done.”

Still, ENDA has opposition in the Senate.

On the same day that Reid announced he would co-sponsor the bill, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told ThinkProgress he opposes legislation that would give employment protections to people who are gay.

“I haven’t read the legislation,” Rubio said. “By and large I think all Americans should be protected but I’m not for any special protections based on orientation.”

Earlier this week, in a statement commemorating June as Pride month, Reid said he “look[s] forward to taking up” ENDA “soon.”

Speaking with reporters in May, Reid revealed that he has a lesbian niece and believes her employment “shouldn’t be affected” by her sexual orientation. At the time, he said there’s “a chance” the bill would come to the Senate floor this year.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, also commended Reid for co-sponsoring ENDA.

“Freedom to Work applauds Sen. Harry Reid for his strong leadership on LGBT workplace fairness and his sponsorship of the bipartisan and fully inclusive ENDA,” Almeida said. “Getting to 50 Senate sponsors is a big deal. With this wind at our backs, I think we are going to get to 60 Senate votes by September.”

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Kamala Harris hosts Pride month reception

Upwards of 200 people attended Naval Observatory event

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Vice President Kamala Harris hosted about 200 guests for Pride Month celebration at her official residence on June 28, 2022. She spoke at the Capital Pride festival in D.C. earlier in the month. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Vice President Kamala Harris helped bring Pride Month to a close Tuesday at her residence with a celebration for high-profile members of the LGBTQ community, recognizing successes achieved but also urging continued movement.

“When we celebrate Pride, it’s because we understand not only the strength of what we have accomplished, and the fight for equality, but we [also] understand the fragility of these gains, and so we know what we must do to be vigilant and maintain [those rights],” Harris said.

The Advocate reported in coverage of the event the Pride celebration was the first ever to take place at the vice president’s residence, but that’s incorrect.

President Biden as vice president hosted a Pride event with LGBTQ leaders in 2014. Harris also said during the event her understanding was it was a first for a sitting vice president.

An estimated 200 attendees were present for the event at the Naval Observatory in D.C., which serves as the vice president’s official residence. Guests at the party mingled by the pool and partook of drinks served on a spinning wheel placed just outside.

High-profile officials from the Biden administration who were present included Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Neither delivered remarks. Also at the event was “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Shangela, who addressed the crowd.

Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, who were among in plaintiffs in the litigation against California’s Proposition 8, were also present at the event. Harris married the couple in 2013 as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling restoring marriage equality to the state.

Perry and Stier spoke before the crowd and urged them to continue to stand strong in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

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White House: ‘We have made clear’ Brittney Griner is being ‘unjustly detained’

Biden officials spoke to athlete’s wife ‘in the last few days’

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White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. (Screen capture via C-SPAN)

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday he has spoken in the last few days with the wife of Brittney Griner as part of a larger effort within the Biden administration to secure the release of the lesbian basketball player in Russia whom supporters say is being unlawfully detained.

Sullivan made the comments speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One during President Biden’s trip to Europe in response to a question about efforts within the Biden administration to bring Griner home ahead of her expected trial in Russia.

“So first, Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, unjustly detained, and we have made that clear as an official determination of the U.S. government,” Sullivan said. “Second, the Russian government should release her and allow her to be returned and reunited with her family and come home safe and sound.”

Sullivan added he — as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken — have spoken with Griner’s wife Cherelle, to “convey our very deep sympathy, to convey that, you know, we just can’t even begin to imagine what the family must be going through, what Brittney — what Brittney must be going through.”

Griner, a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury within the Women’s National Basketball Association, was detained in February by Russian Customs on allegations that cartridges of hashish oil were found in her luggage. Griner had gone to Russia to play with the Russian Premier League during the WNBA off-season.

Sullivan said the U.S. government “is actively engaged in trying to resolve this case and get Brittney home,” but added he’s constrained in what he could say because of confidentiality about the sensitive issue.

“But I will tell you it has the fullest attention of the president and every senior member of his national security and diplomatic team,” Sullivan said. “And we are actively working to find a resolution to this case, and will continue to do so without rest until we get Brittney safely home.”

The Biden administration, Sullivan added, is additionally working to return all unjustly detained Americans and hostages being held overseas,” including detainees in Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, Venezuela, and China.

The Washington Blade has placed a request with the State Department for a readout on Blinken’s role in the Biden administration’s talks with Griner.

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Pelosi hints at legislation to codify same-sex marriage rights

House Dems lay out plans following end to Roe

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impeachment, gay news, Washington Blade
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hinted a legislation to codify same-sex marriage after the end to Roe v. Wade.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hinted at the possibility of legislation to codify the right of same-sex couples to marry, which many fear is in danger after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, as part of an effort to secure “freedoms which Americans currently enjoy.”

Pelosi suggested such legislation could be in the works in a “Dear Colleague” letter on Monday to fellow members of the House Democratic caucus addressing plans for congressional action after the ruling last week in Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization, which eliminated the right for women to access an abortion.

The concurrence of U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas is a core component of the letter from Pelosi, who expressed consternation about his rejection of finding unenumerated rights under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“It is still appalling to me that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would agree that a Constitutional right does not exist if it was not spelled out explicitly and in public when the 14th Amendment was ratified over 150 years ago,” Pelosi said. “While this extremist Supreme Court works to punish and control the American people, Democrats must continue our fight to expand freedom in America. Doing so is foundational to our oath of office and our fidelity to the Constitution.”

Thomas said in his concurring opinion he welcomes vehicles that would allow the court to revisit other major decisions, such as the Griswold decision guaranteeing the right to contraceptives; the Lawrence decision decriminalizing sodomy for same-sex couples and others; and the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Although Pelosi doesn’t explicitly say she’ll introduce legislation on same-sex marriage, she brought up “access to contraception and in-vitro fertilization to marriage equality,” then added, “Legislation is being introduced to further codify freedoms which Americans currently enjoy. More information to follow.”

“It is clear from how Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell stacked the Supreme Court that elections have ramifications,” Pelosi said. “It is essential that we protect and expand our pro-choice Majorities in the House and Senate in November so that we can eliminate the filibuster so that we can restore women’s fundamental rights – and freedom for every American.”

Any legislation seeking to codify marriage equality would have to get around marriage being an issue administered by the states under the guidelines of the U.S. Constitution. In the past, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, which would have required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage and states to recognize same-sex marriage performed elsewhere.

Pelosi’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on the possibility of marriage legislation or the timeline for U.S. House approval of such a measure. Nadler’s office also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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