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Gay congressional candidate marries in Mass.

Sciortino says lack of controversy shows LGBT progress

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Pem Brown, Carl Sciortino Jr., gay news, Washington Blade, Massachusetts
Pem Brown, Carl Sciortino Jr., gay news, Washington Blade, Massachusetts

Francis Pemberton “Pem” Brown and Mass. House Rep. Carl Sciortino, Jr. (D-Middlesex) wed Saturday. (Photo by Glen Livermore Photography).

A gay Massachusetts politician vying to win an upcoming special congressional election married his partner of more than five years on Saturday in a ceremony he says reflects the progress of the LGBT rights movement.

State Rep. Carl Sciortino, who’s seeking to represent Massachusetts’ 5th congressional district in the U.S. House, wed his partner of more than five years, Pem Brown, a consultant for non-profit communications, in Boston at the Old South Meeting House.

Sciortino, 35, told the Blade that he thinks the lack of controversy over his wedding to Brown, 29, demonstrates the amount of progress made in LGBT rights over the last 10 years, and especially after the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

“I think the fact that I can get married as a congressional candidate in a middle of the election, and it’s not a big deal, not a controversy, is a sign of how far we’ve come in the last 10 years,” Sciortino said. “When I first ran for office in 2004 at the height of the marriage debate here, it was inconceivable then that I could 10 years later be getting married, and have it be recognized not only by the State of Massachusetts, but the federal government.”

Sciortino, who has touted his progressive values in running for Congress, is credited as a state lawmaker with helping beat back a state constitutional amendment that would have rescinded marriage rights for gay couples in Massachusetts.

The location of the wedding is significant for the LGBT rights movement because it’s where the LGBT community gathered in 2003 to celebrate the night of the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that brought marriage equality to the first jurisdiction in the country.

According to the Sciortino campaign, 175 people attended the ceremony. Among them was Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, who officiated.

Solomon, who worked with Sciortino as head of MassEquality when same-sex marriage was made legal in Massachusetts, said the wedding is a reminder that “the political is the personal.”

“Carl had been in that building just about 10 years ago on the day of that decision,” Solomon said. “It was really cool, exciting and moving to be back there for the ceremony. It’s a place where lots of social movements and resistance movements had taken off, from the Boston Tea Party onwards.”

Sciortino’s campaign gained more recognition at the national level last month when it started running a web ad of Sciortino “coming out” as a progressive to his Tea Party father. Just recently, Sciortino was endorsed by the Progressive Democrats of America.

The primary in the heavily Democratic district is set for Oct. 15. According to an Emerson College poll published late last month, Sciortino is at the bottom of the pack in a crowded field.

The poll found State Sen. Katherine Clark in the lead at 24 percent, followed by Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian at 19 percent, State Sen. Karen Spilka at 15.5 percent, State Sen. William Brownsberger at 11 percent and Sciortino at 5 percent.

Among those who had seen his ad, the situation is different. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee published a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling on Sept. 26 that showed,  among voters who have seen his ad, Sciortino leading in the race at 29 percent.

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Politics

Chasten Buttigieg speaks out against Pence’s homophobic remarks

Pence doubled down Thursday on homophobic remarks about the Transportation Secretary

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Chasten Buttigieg on The View (Screen shot/YouTube)

Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, said former Vice President Mike Pence has not apologized for homophobic and misogynistic remarks about the couple that he made at a dinner in D.C. last weekend.

“I spoke up because we all have an obligation to hold people accountable for when they say something wrong, especially when it’s misogynistic, especially when it’s homophobic,” Chasten Buttigieg said during an appearance Thursday on ABC’s The View.

Last Saturday, Pence had joked that following the birth of the Buttigieg twins in 2021, the transportation secretary took “maternity leave” and then the country suffered “postpartum depression” over issues with airlines and air travel.

The former vice president delivered the remarks — which were first reported by the Washington Blade — during the annual Gridiron Club dinner, which he headlined along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

Per tradition, speakers at the dinner are expected to poke fun at political figures, including guests in attendance, but Pence’s comments quickly drew outrage for their homophobia and misogyny.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the matter in a comment shared with the Blade on Monday, “The former vice president’s homophobic joke about Secretary Buttigieg was offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline.”

The Buttigiegs have been public about the “terrifying” ordeal they suffered following the premature births of their twins. The newborns developed serious Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections (RSV) — which required one to be hospitalized, put on a ventilator, and transferred to a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., for treatment.

“An honest question for you, @Mike_Pence, after your attempted joke this weekend,” Chasten Buttigieg tweeted on Monday, “If your grandchild was born prematurely and placed on a ventilator at two months old – their tiny fingers wrapped around yours as the monitors beep in the background – where would you be?”

The transportation secretary, asked on Monday whether they are owed an apology from Pence, said, “I’ll let others speak to that.”

During Thursday’s interview, Chasten Buttigieg called out the hypocrisy of Pence’s putative identity as a “family values Republican,” telling the talk show’s hosts, “I don’t think he’s practicing what he preaches here.”

“But also,” he added, “it’s a bigger conversation about the work that women do in families — taking a swipe at all women and all families and expecting that women would stay home and raise children is a misogynistic view.”

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Politics

LGBTQ groups challenge Fla. healthcare ban for trans youth

Law ‘stands in direct contrast to the overwhelming weight of the science’

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Gov. Ron DeSantis(R-Fla.) (Screen capture via YouTube)

Attorneys from a coalition of three LGBTQ groups and a public interest law firm announced on Thursday their plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of Florida parents challenging the state’s ban on healthcare interventions for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors.

Plaintiffs are represented by Southern Legal Counsel, Inc., the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). A spokesperson for NCLR told the Washington Blade they plan to file the complaint “in the next week or so.”

The ban on guideline-directed, medically necessary healthcare for trans youth went into effect Thursday. The rule has been opposed by major medical associations with relevant clinical expertise including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

These organizations’ clinical practice guidelines and recommendations for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minor patients are backed by hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on the safety, efficacy, and medical necessity of these interventions.

“This policy came about through a political process with a predetermined conclusion, and it stands in direct contrast to the overwhelming weight of the evidence and science,” said Simone Chriss, director of Transgender Rights Initiative, Southern Legal Counsel, in a press release announcing the lawsuit. 

“There is an unbelievable degree of hypocrisy when a state that holds itself out as being deeply concerned with protecting ‘parents’ rights’ strips parents of their right to ensure their children receive appropriate medical care,” Chriss said.

“Our daughter is a happy, confident child but denying her access to the medical care recommended by her doctors would completely disrupt her life,” one parent-plaintiff said in the press release. “I’m devastated by what this will mean for her physical and mental health.”

The healthcare ban is among a bevy of anti-LGBTQ laws passed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his conservative allies in the state legislature. Other examples include last year’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bars classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity, and the 2021 law that prohibits transgender women and girls from participating in school sports.

The ACLU is tracking 10 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration by Florida lawmakers during this legislative session. Among these is a proposal that would allow the state to take children from their parents for facilitating access to gender affirming healthcare and require courts to “vacate, stay, or modify the child custody determination to the extent necessary to protect the child from the provision of such prescriptions or procedures.”

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Congress

Ritchie Torres speaks about mental health struggles

Openly gay N.Y. congressman appeared on ‘GMA3’

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U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) (Screen capture via GMA3 Twitter video)

New York Congressman Ritchie Torres has spoken out about his struggle with depression and the importance of mental health in the wake of U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.)’s recent hospitalization for clinical depression. 

Torres, a Democrat who is the first openly gay Afro-Latino member of Congress, told “GMA3” hosts DeMarco Morgan and Eva Pilgrim on Tuesday that he had “an obligation to tell” his “story in the hopes of breaking the shame and silence, and stigma that too often surrounds the subject of mental health.”

Torres views his coming to terms with his mental health issues — while also being open about it — as a form of “public service” to the American people. 

“We live in a society that historically has shamed people for experiencing mental illness, that has framed mental illness as a failure of character or a failure of willpower. And I’m here to send a message that mental illness is nothing of which to be ashamed, that there are millions of Americans who struggle with depression and anxiety,” Torres explained. 

Even before being elected to Congress, Torres, 34, spoke freely about his past experiences concerning mental health issues and how they affected him. While campaigning, one of his opponents tried to use his depression as a counterpoint to prove that he was not worthy of being in public office. 

From then on, Torres vowed to “never again would I allow my mental health to be weaponized,” he told Time magazine

He emphasized the importance of psychotherapy and medication as a means of controlling his depressive episodes and going through his day by day as a congressman.

He noted, however, that “there are people who have trouble accessing mental health care.” 

“And even if you do, the process of experimenting with psychiatric medications can be draining and debilitating, because there’s no one size fits all,” he added. 

Torres said he hopes that Congress can pave the way for more mental health care for the millions of Americans who need it.

“Our healthcare system is fundamentally broken and Congress is no closer to fixing it,” he argued. 

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