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EXCLUSIVE: Fla. congresswoman meets with Cuban LGBT rights activists

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen met with Wendy Iriepa Díaz and Ignacio Estrada Cepero.

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Wendy Iriepa, Ignacio Estrada, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, House of Representatives, Republicans, Florida, Gay News, Washington Blade
Wendy Iriepa, Ignacio Estrada, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, House of Representatives, Republicans, Florida, Gay News, Washington Blade

LGBT advocates Wendy Iriepa Díaz and Ignacio Estrada Cepero meet with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) to discuss human rights in Cuba in the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Wednesday met with two Cuban LGBT rights activists in her Capitol Hill office.

The Washington Blade had exclusive access to the majority of the meeting between the Cuban-born Republican who represents portions of Miami-Dade County and Wendy Iriepa Díaz and Ignacio Estrada Cepero that lasted more than half an hour.

Estrada, who founded the Cuban League Against AIDS in 2005, dismissed the Cuban government’s claims that people with HIV/AIDS receive free anti-retroviral drugs and other treatment under the island’s health care system. He and Iriepa, a transgender woman whom he married in a high-profile wedding in the Cuban capital of Havana in 2011, also criticized Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) that has publicly backed LGBT rights in the country.

Cuba has offered free sex-reassignment surgeries to trans Cubans under the country’s health care system in 2008.

Iriepa, who worked for CENESEX for seven years until she married Estrada, underwent the procedure herself in 2007. She told the Blade during an interview earlier this week that only 20 trans Cubans have received SRS since the law changed – and CENESEX determines those who will actually receive it.

Estrada and Iriepa arrived in D.C. on Monday and are scheduled to return to Miami tomorrow.

They are in the nation’s capital less than three months after Mariela Castro traveled to Philadelphia to receive an award from Equality Forum, an LGBT advocacy group.

Mariela Castro in May 2012 appeared on a New York City panel with Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Mariela Castro also met with LGBT rights advocates in San Francisco while she was in the U.S.

“With these international trips, with this amount of recognition she has undermined the work of the (Cuban) LGBT community,” Estrada told Ros-Lehtinen as he showed her posters of Pride walks and other events that he and other Cuban LGBT rights advocates organized independent of CENESEX. “You are seeing a broken policy.”

Ros-Lehtinen applauded Estrada and Iriepa at the end of the meeting.

“I feel very honored to be able to meet you,” she said. “I am grateful to you for filling this tremendous role inside of Cuba that is certainly not easy.”

“It’s very important for the U.S. community to understand what is the status of LGBT rights and the denial of rights in Cuba,” Ros-Lehtinen told the Blade after the meeting. “Mariela Castro, as part of the regime, has been on a propaganda tour internationally and here in the U.S. especially trying to sell this facade that is really non-existent in Cuba.”

A Cuban government representative did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comments about Estrada and Iriepa’s meeting with Ros-Lehtinen.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Gerry Fisher

    August 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Odd meeting. It seems more like a PR event. I'm not sure what to make of it.

  2. Adam Everett Colclasure

    August 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    That's interesting, I know the Congresswoman is an ally to the GLBT community surprisingly for being a republican.

  3. Elsie G. Mrozek

    August 4, 2013 at 5:18 am

    Jen, I'm using it now and it's awesome! I've signed up for my account and have been bringing in fat paychecks. For real, my first week I made $302 and the second week I doubled it and then it kinda snowballed to $120 a day! juet folllow the course.. they will help you out… http://www.Can99.Cℴm

    I was kind of worried about the entire thing. I've never worked from home, But Yeah, I did just join and all is good. so I will post back how it goes!

  4. Jonathan Burrows

    August 4, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Elsie G. Mrozek Go away you scamming creep. The only checks anyone receives will be you. Blow off and go scam other people.

  5. Jonathan Burrows

    August 4, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has a trans daughter. That may explain her willingness to be an "ally" of gay people.

  6. Jonathan Burrows

    August 4, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    It plays into the Miami Cuban community hatred of anything that Cuba under Castro. Also reinforces the narrative that Cuba is an oppressive third world country that treats people with absolute disregard. Ignore.

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World

Trudeau’s party wins Canada election

Prime minister champions LGBTQ rights

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at the U.N. in 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party won the country’s election that took place on Monday.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation projected Trudeau’s party won, even though polls have not closed in all provinces and territories. Erin O’Toole of the Conservative Party was Trudeau’s main challenger.

Trudeau has been prime minister since 2015.

He won re-election in 2019, even though a picture of him in blackface emerged a few weeks before the vote. His party lost its majority in Parliament.

Trudeau last month called a snap election in the hopes his party could once again have a majority government.

The prime minister in 2017 formally apologized to those who suffered persecution and discrimination under Canada’s anti-LGBTQ laws and policies and announced the Canadian government would settle a class-action lawsuit filed by those who were forced to leave the military and civil service because of their sexual orientation.

A law that added gender identity to Canada’s nondiscrimination and hate crimes also law took effect in 2017. Trudeau supports a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

Canada in 2018 joined the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership the U.S. launched in order to promote LGBTQ rights around the world. Canada has also said it would offer refuge to LGBTQ Afghans who are fleeing their country after the Taliban regained control of it in August.

The Washington Blade will update this article.

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McAuliffe participates in Virginia Pride roundtable

Gubernatorial candidate highlighted plans to keep Va. ‘open and welcoming’

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Terry McAuliffe, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Terry McAuliffe on Monday met with Virginia Pride in Richmond to discuss his plans to keep the state “open and welcoming” for the LGBTQ community.

“Great opportunity to speak with @VA_Pride in Richmond this AM,” McAuliffe tweeted following the roundtable that took place at Diversity Richmond’s headquarters. “VA is the #1 state for business because we are open and welcoming — but that’s all at risk this November. Glenn Youngkin’s far-right social agenda would harm LGBTQ+ Virginians and send our economy into a ditch.”

McAuliffe and Youngkin are running a close race for the governorship, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released Saturday that shows the former Virginia governor leading by a 50-47 percent margin among likely voters.

The Human Rights Campaign endorsed McAuliffe, who was governor from 2014-2018, for his record of supporting LGBTQ rights, including supporting marriage equality and signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees as his first action in office. 

“LGBTQ leaders in Richmond had a great meeting with Gov. McAuliffe where he was able to lay out his agenda for building on the tremendous progress Virginia has made towards equality,” said Virginia Pride Program Director James Millner in an email to the Washington Blade. “The governor talked extensively about his record on LGBTQ issues and promised to work with us to ensure that every LGBTQ Virginian is able to live openly and authentically.”

McAuliffe’s legacy includes welcoming businesses turned off by North Carolina’s passage of its anti-transgender “bathroom bill.” 

When North Carolina’s House Bill 2, a law requiring students to use public restrooms and locker rooms aligned with the gender on their birth certificates, took effect in 2016, McAullife recruited CoStar, a real estate information company that operates databases for Apartments.com, ApartmentFinder.com and similar companies, to move its headquarters to Richmond. This recruitment brought 730 jobs to the state.

David Dorsch, a senior vice president at Cushman and Wakefield, which represented CoStar nationally, told the Charlotte Business Journal that CoStar’s primary reason for choosing “Richmond over Charlotte was HB 2.”

Youngkin is a former business executive who previously ran the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm named by the HRC in 2019 as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index. HRC, however, has called out Youngkin for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his current campaign.

McAuliffe in April released an LGBTQ rights platform that includes a call to repeal the so-called “conscience clause,” which allows religious-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Governor Ralph Northam, who was McAuliffe’s former lieutenant governor and has signed historic LGBTQ-inclusive legislation during his time in office, also endorsed McAuliffe for governor.

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Biden recognizes 10th anniversary of end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Pete Buttigieg, Gina Ortiz Jones named in White House statement

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President Biden recognized in a statement on Monday the tenth anniversary of the end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that once discharged service members from the military for being openly gay or bisexual.

“Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members,” Biden said. “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all.”

Biden recognized high-profile openly gay appointees in his administrations who are also veterans, naming Air Force Under Secretary Gina Ortiz Jones and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Biden also names Shawn Skelly, assistant secretary of defense for readiness, who would have been discharged from the military under President Trump’s transgender military ban.

“On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation,” Biden said. “We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.”

Technically speaking, the anniversary of Obama signing repeal legislation was in December. Today is the anniversary of defense officials certifying the military is ready, which put an end to the policy.

Read Biden’s full statement below:

Statement by President Joe Biden on the Tenth Anniversary of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all. It was the right thing to do. And, it showed once again that America is at its best when we lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

Despite serving with extraordinary honor and courage throughout our history, more than 100,000 American service members have been discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—including some 14,000 under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Many of these veterans received what are known as “other than honorable” discharges, excluding them and their families from the vitally important services and benefits they had sacrificed so much to earn.

As a U.S. Senator, I supported allowing service members to serve openly, and as Vice President, I was proud to champion the repeal of this policy and to stand beside President Obama as he signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act into law. As President, I am honored to be Commander-in-Chief of the strongest and most inclusive military in our nation’s history. Today, our military doesn’t just welcome LGBTQ+ service members—it is led at the highest levels by brave LGBTQ+ veterans, including Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly, who served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I was gratified to appoint the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and Afghanistan veteran who joined the military under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. And during my first week in office, I proudly delivered on my pledge to repeal the discriminatory ban on open service by patriotic transgender service members.

On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation. We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.

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