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Record number of LGBT candidates in 2013 races

Victory Fund endorses 85 contenders

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Houston Mayor Annise Parker is favored to win re-election to a third term. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund on Tuesday named 10 openly LGBT candidates as part of its annual “Races to Watch” list after endorsing a total of 85 LGBT candidates that it says represents an all-time high for an off-year election.

Among those on the “Races to Watch” list are lesbian Annise Parker, who’s considered the favorite to win re-election to her third term as mayor of Houston; and gay Washington State Sen. Ed Murray, who’s ahead in the polls in his race for mayor of Seattle.

“2013 isn’t an off year,” said Victory Fund Political Director Lucinda Guinn. “It’s definitely on at the Victory Fund.”

Guinn said the national LGBT advocacy group that raises money and provides campaign support for LGBT candidates for public office was focusing on candidates in places where LGBT rights have not advanced as rapidly as in other parts of the country.

“We’re working hard this year to help build up heroes in places where equality is late in arriving,” she said in a statement. “Places where these candidates can be the spark to help their own communities move toward equality.”

Of the 85 LGBT candidates the Victory Fund endorsed this year, 18 have won primaries and advanced to the general election on Nov. 5; 14 have won in general elections already held; and one emerged as the victor in a run-off election, bringing the total number of winning LGBT candidates so far to 33.

Nine Victory Fund-endorsed candidates lost their 2013 races in primaries and three have lost in a general election, bringing the total number of losses so far to 12, according to data released by the group.

One of the most prominent candidates who didn’t make it through their primary race was lesbian Democrat Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council, who lost her race to become New York’s first openly gay mayor to pro-LGBT Democrat Bill de Blasio.

Also losing in a primary contest was gay State Rep. Carl Sciortino of Massachusetts, a Democrat who ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives formerly held by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.

Fifty-four Victory Fund-endorsed candidates are running in the Nov. 5 general election for local and state offices throughout the country, according to information released this week by the Victory Fund.

Among them are at least three openly gay candidates in the D.C. metropolitan area. Gay Democrat Jay Fisette is running for re-election to a fifth term on the Arlington County Board, the county’s legislative governing body. He’s considered a strong favorite to retain his seat.

In nearby Falls Church, Va., Lawrence Webb, who lost his re-election bid for his seat on the Falls Church City Council, is running for a seat on the Falls Church School Board.

In Maryland, gay attorney Patrick Wojahn, a former board member of the state LGBT advocacy group Equality Maryland, is running for re-election to the College Park, Md., City Council. He’s considered a favorite to retain his seat.

In April, gay Mayor Jim Ireton of Salisbury, Md., won his re-election bid by a comfortable margin.

Although Quinn lost her race for mayor, seven openly gay or lesbian candidates are either seeking re-election or election to the New York City Council on Nov. 5 after winning primary elections in September. The Victory Fund has endorsed each of them.

The remaining candidates the Victory Fund announced on Tuesday as members of its “10 Races to Watch” list are Celia Israel, candidate for the Texas House of Representatives; Robert Lilligen, candidate for the Minneapolis City Council; Chris Seelbach, candidate for the Cincinnati City Council; Darden Rice, candidate for the St. Petersburg, Fla., City Council; Michael Gongora, candidate for Mayor of Miami Beach, Fla.; Tim Eustace, candidate for the New Jersey State Assembly; LaWana Mayfield, candidate for the Charlotte, N.C., City Council; and Catherine LaFond, candidate for the Charleston, S.C., Water System Commission.

The Victory Fund says it doesn’t release the names of openly LGBT candidates who seek the group’s endorsement but don’t receive it.

“We have a set of criteria for endorsing candidates,” said Victory Fund spokesperson Jeff Spitko. “We want to confirm that they are qualified, have a campaign plan and a path to victory,” he said. “We want to make sure they are viable.”

Spitko said the Victory Fund endorsed 180 openly LGBT candidates in 2012 and 124 of them won their races.

A full list of the openly LGBT candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund and appearing on the Nov. 5 election day ballot can be found here.

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The White House

Senate confirms Biden’s 200th judicial nominee

Diverse group includes 11 LGBTQ judges

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Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden at the White House on Jan. 5, 2023. (Screenshot via White House YouTube channel)

With the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of his 200th judicial nominee on Wednesday, President Joe Biden surpassed the number who were appointed to the federal bench by his last two predecessors at this point in their presidencies.

Among them are 11 LGBTQ judges, the same record-setting number who were nominated and confirmed under former President Barack Obama over the course of his two terms in office.

In a statement celebrating the milestone, Biden highlighted the diverse identities, backgrounds, and professional experiences of the men and women he has appointed over the past four years.

They “come from every walk of life, and collectively, they form the most diverse group of judicial appointees ever put forward by a president,” he said, noting that “64 percent are women and 62 percent are people of color.”

“Before their appointment to the bench, they worked in every field of law,” Biden said, “from labor lawyers fighting for working people to civil rights lawyers fighting to protect the right to vote.”

The president added, “Judges matter. These men and women have the power to uphold basic rights or to roll them back. They hear cases that decide whether women have the freedom to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions; whether Americans have the freedom to cast their ballots; whether workers have the freedom to unionize and make a living wage for their families; and whether children have the freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water.”

The LGBTQ judges who were confirmed under Biden include Beth Robinson, the first LGBTQ woman to serve on a federal court of appeals, Nicole Berner, the 4th Circuit’s first LGBTQ judge, Charlotte Sweeney, the first LGBTQ judge to serve on a federal district court west of the Mississippi River, and Melissa DuBose, the first Black and the first LGBTQ judge to serve on a federal court in Rhode Island.

Echoing the president’s comments during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted Biden’s appointment of the U.S. Supreme Court’s first Black woman, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“We’ve confirmed more Hispanic judges circuit courts than any previous administration,” she said. “We’ve confirmed more Black women to circuit courts than all previous presidents combined.”

Jean-Pierre added that while these milestones are “great news,” there is still “much more work to be done.”

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National

GLAAD: Social media platforms continue to fail to protect LGBTQ users

Only TikTok received a passing grade

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(Public domain photo)

GLAAD released its fourth annual Social Media Safety Index on Tuesday, giving virtually every major social media company a failing grade as it surveyed LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression online.

According to GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, YouTube, X, and Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and Threads received failing F grades on the SMSI Platform Scorecard for the third consecutive year.

The only exception was Chinese company ByteDance, owned TikTok, which earned a D+.

Some platforms have shown improvements in their scores since last year. Others have fallen, and overall, the scores remain abysmal, with all platforms other than TikTok receiving F grades.

●     TikTok: D+ — 67 percent (+10 points from 2023)

●     Facebook: F — 58 percent (-3 points from 2023)

●     Instagram: F — 58 percent (-5 points from 2023)

●     YouTube: F — 58 percent (+4 points from 2023)

●     Threads: F — 51 percent (new 2024 rating)

●     X: F — 41 percent (+8 points from 2023)

This year’s report also illuminates the epidemic of anti-LGBTQ hate, harassment, and disinformation across major social media platforms, and especially makes note of high-follower hate accounts and right-wing figures who continue to manufacture and circulate most of this activity.

“In addition to these egregious levels of inadequately moderated anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation, we also see a corollary problem of over-moderation of legitimate LGBTQ expression — including wrongful takedowns of LGBTQ accounts and creators, shadowbanning, and similar suppression of LGBTQ content. Meta’s recent policy change limiting algorithmic eligibility of so-called ‘political content,’ which the company partly defines as: ‘social topics that affect a group of people and/or society large’ is especially concerning,” GLAAD Senior Director of Social Media Safety Jenni Olson said in the press release annoucing the report’s findings.

Specific LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression issues identified include:

●      Inadequate content moderation and problems with policy development and enforcement (including issues with both failure to mitigate anti-LGBTQ content and over-moderation/suppression of LGBTQ users);

●      Harmful algorithms and lack of algorithmic transparency; inadequate transparency and user controls around data privacy;

●      An overall lack of transparency and accountability across the industry, among many other issues — all of which disproportionately impact LGBTQ users and other marginalized communities who are uniquely vulnerable to hate, harassment, and discrimination.

Key conclusions:

●      Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and disinformation on social media translates to real-world offline harms.

●      Platforms are largely failing to successfully mitigate dangerous anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation and frequently do not adequately enforce their own policies regarding such content.

●      Platforms also disproportionately suppress LGBTQ content, including via removal, demonetization, and forms of shadowbanning.

●      There is a lack of effective, meaningful transparency reporting from social media companies with regard to content moderation, algorithms, data protection, and data privacy practices.

Core recommendations:

●      Strengthen and enforce existing policies that protect LGBTQ people and others from hate, harassment, and misinformation/disinformation, and also from suppression of legitimate LGBTQ expression.

●      Improve moderation including training moderators on the needs of LGBTQ users, and moderate across all languages, cultural contexts, and regions. This also means not being overly reliant on AI.

●      Be transparent with regard to content moderation, community guidelines, terms of service policy implementation, algorithm designs, and enforcement reports. Such transparency should be facilitated via working with independent researchers.

●      Stop violating privacy/respect data privacy. To protect LGBTQ users from surveillance and discrimination, platforms should reduce the amount of data they collect, infer, and retain. They should cease the practice of targeted surveillance advertising, including the use of algorithmic content recommendation. In addition, they should implement end-to-end encryption by default on all private messaging to protect LGBTQ people from persecution, stalking, and violence.

●      Promote civil discourse and proactively message expectations for user behavior, including respecting platform hate and harassment policies.

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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit against Montgomery County schools gender guidelines

4th Circuit last August dismissed parents’ case

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender nonconfirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district — none of whom have trans or gender nonconfirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

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