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ENDA lands new Republican co-sponsor

Grimm becomes sixth House Republican to back pro-LGBT measure

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Michael Grimm, New York, United States House of Representatives, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade
Michael Grimm, New York, United States House of Representatives, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) has become a co-sponsor of ENDA. (Photo public domain)

A new House Republican has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as LGBT advocates continue to push for a vote in the Republican-controlled chamber, the Washington Blade has learned.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn in Congress, elected to co-sponsor the bill Monday, according to sources familiar with the legislation.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s gay and lead sponsor of ENDA, commended Grimm for supporting the bill, which would bar employers from discriminating against or firing workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I am happy to welcome Rep. Grimm as the 200th cosponsor of the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” Polis said. “This is common sense legislation that is supported by a majority of Americans and was passed overwhelmingly by the United States Senate. I look forward to working with Rep. Grimm and all of the co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle to pass this bill and protect all Americans from discrimination in the work place.”

Grimm’s office didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request for comment on his decision to sign on as an ENDA supporter.

Counting Polis, Grimm’s support brings the total number of sponsors in the House to 201. A total of 218 votes is necessary to pass legislation in the chamber.

Grimm is the sixth Republican co-sponsor of ENDA. The other five are Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Charles Dent (R-Pa.), Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.).

Elected during the Republican wave in 2010, Grimm is generally looked upon as having an unfavorable record on LGBT issues. The Human Rights Campaign gave him a rating of “0” in its latest congressional scorecard.

A former FBI agent who served in the 1990s Persian Gulf War as a Marine, Grimm is an opponent of same-sex marriage. He expressed his opposition in 2011 when the New York Legislature was preparing to legalize gay nuptials.

“I believe, by definition, that marriage is between a man and a woman, just as President Clinton did in 1996 when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law, defining it as such,” Grimm said.

Still, beyond his decision to back ENDA, he’s a co-sponsor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, legislation that would require schools to develop to policies against bullying, including the discrimination and harassment of LGBT students.

Christian Berle, legislative director for Freedom to Work, said Grimm’s co-sponsorship of ENDA reflects growing Republican support for the legislation.

“We applaud Congressman Grimm for joining the growing number of Republicans supporting LGBT workplace protections, Freedom to Work along with Log Cabin Republicans have been lobbying broadly within the House GOP Conference and we hope to build momentum with more ENDA supporters in the weeks and months to come,” Berle said.

But Grimm signs on as a co-sponsor to ENDA as he’s facing additional challenges and is being investigated for possible corruption.

The House Ethics Committee is deferring an investigation into Grimm for possible campaign finance violations to the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal probe. The New York Daily News reported earlier this month Grimm may have used “donor swapping” to skirt fundraising limits. Grimm made headlines this week after he threatened a reporter who was about to ask him about the corruption probe. The incident was caught on video in which Grimm told a NY1 reporter that he would throw him from a balcony and break him in half.

The Senate last year passed ENDA on a bipartisan basis by a 64-34 vote. Supporters have said the legislation already has the votes to pass the House, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has continually said he opposes the legislation when asked if he’ll bring it up for a vote.

Polis has previously said the best way to encourage Boehner to bring ENDA to a vote is adding additional Republican co-sponsors to the bill. Boehner’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Grimm’s sponsorship changes things in terms of a possible House vote.

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Politics

Anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian activist Pat Robertson is dead at 93

Televangelist was infamous for making outrageous and offensive statements

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Pat Robertson (Screen capture via Youtube)

Anti-LGBTQ Christian-media mogul, televangelist, conservative political activist, and evangelical Southern Baptist minister Pat Robertson died at 93, representatives from his Christian Broadcasting Network confirmed on Thursday.

A public figure who was active in American politics since the 1960s, Robertson became as known for making Christianity central to the Republican Party as he was for his outrageously offensive comments targeting LGBTQ people as well as Haitians, Black People, Muslims, Jewish people, Buddhists, and many others.

  • When fellow anti-LGBTQ evangelical televangelist and erstwhile rival Jerry Falwell appeared on his flagship television program The 700 Club on the week of September 11, 2001, Robertson replied “I totally concur” when Falwell laid blame for the terror attacks on “the ACLU” along with “the pagans and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians.”
  • In 2020, Robertson falsely predicted that “without question Trump is going to win the election,” going on to support efforts to keep Trump in office and vowing that “God himself would intervene” on the former president’s behalf.
  • “These people are crazed fanatics,” Robertson said on the 700 Club, talking about Muslims, “and I want to say it now: I believe it’s motivated by demonic power. It is Satanic and it’s time we recognize what we’re dealing with.” 
  • Three years later, in 2009, he said, “Islam is a violent – I was going to say, ‘religion’, but it’s not a religion; it’s a political system. It’s a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world, and world domination.”
  • Feminism, Robertson famously wrote in a 1992 fundraising letter, “is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
  • After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Robertson warned Christian business that gay customers will “make you conform to them”: “You’re gonna say that you like anal sex, you like oral sex, you like bestiality,” he said. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to conform your religious beliefs to the group of some abhorrent thing. It won’t stop at homosexuality.”
  • In 1998, Robertson said divine retribution would soon ensnare the city of Orlando as punishment for Disney World’s Gay Days, in the form of “earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor.”
  • “This is a devastating blow to religious freedom and to the sanctity of America,” he said in 2019 in response to the U.S. House’s passage of the Equality Act, which would codify nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. He continued, “If you want to bring the judgment of God on this nation, you just keep this stuff up. You know, I was reading in Leviticus where it said, ‘Because of these things, the land will vomit you out.’ Vomit you out. I think God will say, ‘I’ve had it with America, if you do this kind of stuff, I’m going to get rid of you as a nation.’” Robertson then warned of “the potential of atomic war” and the possibility of an attack on the country’s electric grid.
  • In 2006, on his website Robertson began claiming that he could leg-press 2,000 pounds through training and an “Age-Defying energy shake.”
  • The following year, commenting on people who have had too much plastic surgery, Robertson said “they got the eyes like they’re Oriental” and manually stretched his eyelids.
  • Another of his more infamous rants came in 2010, when Robertson claimed on The 700 Club that the earthquake in Haiti that year — which killed hundreds of thousands and impacted millions — was caused because Haitians made a deal with the devil when the country won independence from French colonial rule in 1791.
  • When a viewer called in to The 700 Club in 2012 to request advice, complaining that his wife did not respect him, Robertson said the caller could move to Saudi Arabia and become a Muslim so he could beat her.
  • Discussing AIDS in 2013, Robertson said, “You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there they want to get people so if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger,” Robertson said. “Really. It’s that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder.”
  • In 2021, Robertson said critical race theory will give people of color “the whip handle” over white people.
  • When a gunman killed 60 people and wounded hundreds more in Las Vegas in 2017, Robertson blamed “disrespect” for then-President Donald Trump and the practice among professional football players and others of taking the knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.
  • In February of 2022, Robertson said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “compelled by God” to invade Ukraine to fulfill the “end times prophecy” in Israel.

Likely one of the ugliest hate-mongering statements he made, and which especial condemnation was leveled at him, occurred in the aftermath of the June 12, 2016, massacre when 49 LGBTQ+ people were killed at Pulse, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a shooter who’d pledged allegiance to a radical form of Islam.

Robertson told viewers on his religious 700 Club broadcast the following day that Americans should just let LGBTQ+ people and Muslims kill each other:

“The left is having a dilemma of major proportions, and I think for those of us who disagree with some of their policies, the best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves,” he said.

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District of Columbia

DC Front Runners Pride 5K to take place as scheduled

Air quality improved overnight

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The D.C. Front Runners hold the Pride Run 5K at Congressional Cemetery on Friday, June 10. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Front Runners’ annual Pride Run 5K will take place as scheduled at Congressional Cemetery on Friday.

The Blade Foundation, SMYAL, the Wanda Alston Foundation, Team DC, Teens Run DC, Pride 365 and Ainsley’s Angels of America are among the race’s beneficiaries. Wegmans, Shake Shack, Knead Hospitality and Design, Choice Hotels and Capital One Café are among the sponsors.

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Africa

South Africa retail giant supports Pride month despite customer backlash

Woolworths South Africa to continue selling LGBTQ-specific merchandize

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Woolworths South Africa has pledged to continue celebrating Pride month despite the backlash it has received from some customers. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Itai)

A South Africa retail giant has vowed to continue celebrating Pride month and LGBTQ and intersex people despite backlash from some customers.

Woolworths South Africa said will continue offering its Pride regalia to its staff and selling merchandize that recognizes the LGBTQ and intersex community. Woolworths South Africa also said it has established a Woolworths Pride (W.Pride) team, citing its values are firmly in favor of kindness and inclusivity. 

“We have established an internal W.Pride task team to give voice to and address issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community. We have adapted our working wardrobe policy to recognize everyone’s unique preferences to style, cultural or religious needs and gender identity or expression. We have created a range of Pride merchandise and are donating funds to LGBTQIA+ support organizations,” said Woolworths South Africa. “However, we know that there is always more to be done; and we will keep looking for ways to enable, uplift and celebrate the LGTBQIA+ community. Our community guidelines don’t allow for hate speech or discrimination. Our values are firmly in favor of kindness and inclusivity.” 

OUT, an LGBTQ and intersex rights organization that is based in South Africa, commended Woolworths South Africa and criticized the backlash it received from some of its customers.

“Woolworths’ public affirmation of LGBTQIA+ allyship aligns with South Africa’s vision of a society that guarantees equality, safety and dignity for all. It’s also clear that Woolworths recognizes the importance of celebrating diversity in the LGBTQIA+ community, rather than merely tolerating it,” said OUT Human Rights Coordinator Sibonelo Ncanana. “However, the level of hateful discourse we have seen on social media in response to Woolworths’ Pride campaign is disheartening and shameful. We urge the company and other LGBTQIA+ allies within the corporate sector to stand firm against fear and hate. They should remain steadfast in the knowledge that they are on the right side of history and our constitutional values.” 

Activists hope to use Pride to raise awareness of anti-LGBTQ violence, discrimination

Although South Africa is the only African country on the continent that constitutionally recognizes LGBTQ and intersex people, sporadic attacks and hate speech remain common. One of the reasons is South African society remains oriented around cultural and religious beliefs that denounce LGBTQ and intersex people. 

Violence against LGBTQ and intersex South Africans that includes rape, murder and mutilation also remains a problem.

Tankisho Tawanyana, a 34-year-old lesbian woman from Kimberly, last October was raped and killed by three men who later doused her with paraffin and set her on fire. Two women in April 2021 killed  Khulekani Gomazi, a transgender woman from Mpophomeni.

Some LGBTQ and intersex rights organizations have therefore taken it upon themselves to try and ensure South African students are taught to accept people from different gender identities in order to curb attacks based on gender identity.

The Uthingo Network and 23 other civil society organizations have already raised a series of concerns about the ongoing queerphobic bullying and discrimination against queer students in South African schools and called on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, to hold teachers accountable and create queer-affirming school environments.

“It does not matter who you are or whom you love, everyone has a constitutional right to be themselves. Uthingo Network promotes equal rights for LGBTQI+ South Africans,” said Uthingo Network.

Despite these problems, a number of LGBTQ and intersex rights organizations will host Pride events throughout South Africa in the coming months with the hope of raising awareness and end the discrimination and attacks against the community.

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