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DNC chair discouraged support for ENDA directive: sources

Wasserman Schultz’s office calls allegation a ‘bald-faced lie’

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC, Democratic National Committee, Lesbian Leadership Council, gay news, Washington Blade
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC, Democratic National Committee, Lesbian Leadership Council, gay news, Washington Blade

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is among those who haven’t articulated support for an ENDA executive order. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A gay Democratic activist claims that Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) has discouraged House members from asking President Obama to take administrative action to protect LGBT workers, an assertion her office calls a “bald-faced lie.”

Paul Yandura, political director for gay philanthropist Jonathan Lewis, made the allegation when speaking with the Washington Blade from his home in West Virginia on Thursday regarding a 2013 missive that was circulated among House members by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.).

“I was told personally by two members that she was tamping down on public calls for the president to make good on his promise — this was last year when the issue was really getting hot,” Yandura said. “She is most likely doing the same still.”

Yandura’s allegation comes as lawmakers — led by the LGBT Equality Caucus and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) — are circulating a new missive among members of Congress calling on Obama to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.

Two sources familiar with the 2013 letter told the Washington Blade that Wasserman Schultz discouraged members of Congress from signing it, but Yandura was the only source willing to go on the record. The other source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Wasserman Schultz, who represents Florida’s 23rd congressional district in the U.S. House, dissuaded Democrats from signing the letter in private conversations on the House floor.

Although these sources said Wasserman Schultz may be engaging in the same tactic for the letter currently being circulated, no one has made the same claim to the Blade about the upcoming letter. As the Blade reported this week, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has already pledged to sign it.

Yandura said he wouldn’t disclose the names of the House members who told him Wasserman Schultz was discouraging support for the 2013 letter because he didn’t want to “rat them out.”

“I’m sure she’ll come with something that sounds like a good excuse, but it’s about time,” Yandura said. “It’s time that she not only signs it, but tells people that they should publicly, and that it’s OK and that there’s no pressure not to sign it.”

Mara Sloan, a Wasserman Schultz spokesperson, disputed the allegations made by Yandura, saying any assertion that she discouraged members from signing the letter “is a bald-faced lie.”

“The congresswoman believes the most effective way to ensure equal rights for LGBT Americans in the workplace is through passing comprehensive non-discrimination legislation,” Sloan said. “The congresswoman regularly speaks to the administration about issues important to the LGBT community, and will continue to be a fierce advocate for full equality.”

Sloan didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up email about whether that response means Wasserman Schultz won’t sign the group letter currently being circulated among House members calling for the LGBT executive order. The response is along the lines of responses to requests for comment about the order by the White House, which consistently redirects attention to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Despite her record of support for the LGBT community, Wasserman Schultz has never explicitly called on Obama to sign an executive order barring LGBT discrimination among federal contractors. Asked about the issue in January by The Huffington Post, Wasserman Schultz said she supports the idea of Obama using his executive authority in “as broad a way as he can to ensure that we can move this country forward.”

Yandura said he thinks Wasserman Schultz refuses to express support for the executive order and has discouraged House members from speaking out in favor of it for political reasons.

“I think she doesn’t want to embarrass the president, and still doesn’t want to embarrass the president, because it is an embarrassment that he still hasn’t done it,” Yandura said. “We’re now coming down to the end of the second term, and if they don’t get moving on it, it’ll never even get implemented.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has refused to bring ENDA to the floor for a vote; the Senate passed a version last year.

Yandura said he heard from House members about Wasserman Schultz because he was part of the effort to gather signatures for the 2013 letter. It ultimately was signed by 110 House Democrats. A separate letter to the same effect was signed by 37 Senate Democrats.

At the time, Yandura said he didn’t speak to the media about what he heard, but urged other groups working on the letter — Freedom to Work and most likely GetEQUAL — to address the situation with Wasserman Schultz. Freedom to Work didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.

Heather Cronk, managing director for GetEQUAL, said she couldn’t corroborate allegations that Wasserman Schultz was actively discouraging House members from signing the letter.

“I actually can’t corroborate that,” Cronk said. “I’ve heard that she wasn’t a fan of the Executive Order, but I don’t have any evidence that she actively worked against it.”

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said he hasn’t heard anything about Wasserman Schultz discouraging members from the signing the letter, even though his group was active in gathering signatures.

Yandura said he didn’t contact HRC about about Wasserman Schultz “probably because I don’t see them as good accountability enforcers for the president or Dems.”

The offices of Capps and Pallone, who were responsible for gathering signatures for the House letter, didn’t immediately respond with information about whether they had heard anything about Wasserman Schultz discouraging support for it.

Yandura has a history of making inflammatory statements against the DNC for not undertaking sufficient efforts on behalf on LGBT rights. In 2004, he landed his partner Donald Hitchcock, then the DNC’s LGBT liaison, in hot water by publicly asserting that the Democratic Party wasn’t doing enough to combat the multitude of anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot that year.

Yandura’s boss has contributed to LGBT organizations such as Freedom to Work and GetEQUAL. Last year, Lewis announced that he would no longer donate to the Democratic Party after Senate Democrats excluded same-sex bi-national couples from immigration reform legislation (which was later remedied by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against the Defense of Marriage Act) and President Obama’s decision to continue to withhold an executive order barring LGBT discrimination.

Invoking the assertion from LGBT advocates that the executive order is a 2008 campaign promise from then-candidate Obama, Yandura said the best way to convince Obama to pen his name to the directive is increased pressure.

“I think that if the pressure could get built again, we might be able to shame him into doing it,” Yandura said. “We’ve waited for him to do the right thing. Now, I don’t know what it will take other than what it took to get him to do other things — and that is causing a shitstorm, getting up in his face and demanding it get done.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Michael Bedwell

    March 13, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    But Obama LOVES us, and has said “Gay” 18,932.7 times (the Human Rights Champagne Fund counted). I don’t know how many times Frau Wasserman Schultz has said “Gay,” but I’m sure she loves us, too. Now, isn’t that really all that matters, Boys & Girls?

  2. Stephen Clark

    March 19, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    There is obviously an obstructionist whom she and the administration are coddling and servicing. The obstructionist needs to be identified, called out, and forced to offer a real justification. The whole "we want legislation" excuse has always been political dissembling. The manipulation indicates that they have no cogent justification for refusing the order. Time to go after her.

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Politics

Meet 4 candidates vying for 2 Rehoboth commissioner seats

Clear Space Theatre permit flap roils race

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Four candidates are competing for two seats for City Commissioner in the Aug. 14 City of Rehoboth Beach election. The Blade interviewed each; below are their remarks and a preview of the key issues in the race.

Incumbent Richard Byrne 

Richard Byrne (Photo via Linkedin)

Byrne was elected a city commissioner in 2018, contributing to projects like the creation of Steve Elkins Way and adding city committees to improve Rehoboth.

“It’s been just an honor to serve these past three years, very inspiring, challenging and a very productive time,” Byrne said. “I feel that I have the energy, I have the know-how and I certainly have the experience to continue in this role working on behalf of the residents, and our voters all across the city.”

Byrne voted against reversing the approval for Clear Space Theatre’s site plan in June. The planning commission’s and inspectors’ effort toward its approval seemed neither arbitrary nor capricious, Byrne said.

“I’ve also been one of many who is advocating the need for our city to in the future, employ the services of a professional urban planner to help us and guide our work as we go forward,” Byrne said. “This is my community. It’s my only community. My only home. I just love this community, and I care deeply about it.”

Planning Commissioner Rachel Macha 

Rachel Macha (Photo via Linkedin)

Macha has been a member of the planning commission since 2019 and works through the comprehensive development plan alongside the other members and additionally reviews residential and commercial land use projects.

Macha is also involved in the plant, shade, and tree commission that approves the removal of trees in order to preserve the canopy. She has worked on projects such as Rehoboth’s Main Street and a campaign called Respect Rehoboth, a way to enforce social distancing and mask mandates. 

“Rehoboth is a hidden gem, I mean it has ‘the nation’s summer capital’ as its tagline. I think there are just a lot of people that have found this is kind of a slice of heaven,” Macha said. “I just have had a real love for Rehoboth all my life and my kids have now had that same love for it, and I just want that to continue for generations to come.”

The reversed approval of Clear Space Theatre’s construction plan was disappointing, according to Macha. 

“There were some commissioners and the mayor that were undermining the hours and effort that the planning commission not once, but twice worked through,” Macha said. “I just think it was unfair, and also just disrespectful, frankly, to really call out the planning commission on not doing a thorough job.”

Former Commissioner Toni Sharp

Toni Sharp (Photo via Facebook)

Sharp served as a city commissioner from 2013 to 2019 and, in her tenure, Sharp worked to budget a communications position within the commission and helped launch a platform to receive feedback from the community.

Sharp was involved in many other committees during her term and needed some time away, she said. 

“I am reinvigorated, I have much more perspective and I think, it may happen this way for a lot of people, that when you step away from something, you really get a clarity of exactly what you want to do,” Sharp said. “I know how to be a commissioner, I know how to get things done. And now it is just a matter of what are the most pressing things that I believe we need to get done here in Rehoboth.”

Like many residents in Rehoboth, Sharp wants to see Clear Space Theatre have a place in the city, despite Rehoboth’s restrictions for parking.

“Now, what’s the right process to get from point A, which is where we are now, to point B, to keep moving forward to get a mutually agreeable situation?” Sharp asked her then fellow commissioners at an April 2019 hearing. “Do we have to have a different discussion about parking in this particular area of town? It feels like a different discussion.”

Tim Bennett

Tim Bennett (Photo courtesy Bennett Campaign)

Bennett worked as the director of marketing and advertising programs at Subaru of America for 15 years, including his help to hire lesbian former tennis champion Martina Navratilova. He has worked to benefit the LGBTQ community through marketing. 

Bennett gained interest in working on city committees and offered his services wherever they were needed, he said.  

“I decided to come in as someone with no political history here, unencumbered,” Bennett told the Blade. “I’ve had no history here, I’m a new person, it’s time for getting some fresh ideas and new voices into the city.”

Bennett supports a full-time city planner position that would help in land redevelopment for the city, according to his website. Clear Space Theatre’s reversed approval was rushed and traffic, parking and the building size were the main problems, said Bennett.

“I think it’s such sloppy government, and I think it’s sad all around because if the plans exist, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Bennett said. “I understand that there are going to be traffic problems, there are going to be parking problems. It needs to be mitigated, of course, and we just have to follow the rules and do the right thing.”

Bennett attributes much of his passion to his time at Marietta College, a small school in Ohio.

“There was always this thing of being taught when you graduated to find a way to be of use and try to make things a little better than you found them, or in the importance of showing up,” Bennett said. “I’ve always remembered that and I’ve tried to always strive to do that with work. When you’re involved in something or you take on a project it’s, ‘Can I be of use, can I contribute something, and can I be of help?’”

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Politics

Jenner’s campaign to replace Newsom in recall race in debt

A recent Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll showed her tied for fifth place with 3 percent support

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Caitlyn Jenner (Blade file screenshot)

LOS ANGELES – According to campaign filings as reported by Politico Monday, the gubernatorial recall campaign of Trans reality-television personality Republican Caitlyn Jenner to replace Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom has amassed significant debt.

In required disclosure of campaign finances to the California Secretary of State, Jenner’s campaign has raised through to the end of July from its launch $747,000 and spent some $910,000, leaving her campaign with about $156,000 in unpaid bills and roughly $21,000 on hand for the race’s critical final stretch.

Politico noted that; “The campaign has sent about $67,000 to Parscale Strategy, LLC, the firm run by former Trump campaign strategist Brad Parscale. It spent $25,000 on former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer’s media strategy company Ari Fleischer Communications.

Among Parscale Strategy’s reported spending was a $1,800 “staff meeting” at Nobu, a fancy Malibu restaurant, and $1,300 for a limousine service that ferried Jenner to Los Angeles meetings.”

Jenner is temporarily residing in Australia filming a reality-television show, although her campaign told the online portal for the San Francisco Chronicle in a statement that “Caitlyn has not paused her campaign at all,” and will be back in California for a bus tour in August.

Jenner,71,  has barely gained momentum since her entrance to the race this past April. A recent Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll  showed her tied for fifth place with 3 percent support. Politico pointed out that media buys statewide in California are several million dollars and with her campaign in debt it makes gaining traction with potential voters difficult.

The date set for the recall is September 14 and midway through this month the mail-in ballots will be sent out by elections officials statewide.

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World

Peru LGBTQ activists express concern over country’s new government

Prime minister has made homophobic, transphobic comments

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Peruvian President Pedro Castillo (Screen capture public domain)

Activists in Peru have expressed concern over their country’s new government and whether it will actively oppose LGBTQ rights.

President Pedro Castillo, a teacher from Cajamarca region of northern Peru who is a member of the leftist and socialist Free Peru party, in June narrowly defeated Keiko Fujimori, his right-wing opponent who is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, in the second round of Peru’s presidential election. Castillo’s inauguration took place in Lima, the Peruvian capital, on July 28.

The Associated Press reported Castillo during his campaign expressed his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples, but stressed LGBTQ issues “are not a priority.”

Castillo named Congressman Guido Bellido, an indigenous man who represents Cuzco, as his prime minister.

Bellido in a 2019 Facebook post praised former Cuban President Fidel Castro and specifically his 1963 comments in which he said “the (Cuban) revolution does not need hairdressers and work will make them men. The ‘new man’ cannot be a faggot. The socialist society cannot allow this type of degenerates.”

Media reports indicate Bellido in 2020 made transphobic comments in response to gender-based coronavirus prevention measures that activists said discriminated against trans people. Bellido also reportedly said “the woman is so destructive and ruthless when it comes to mixing her grudges and selfishness” and “I don’t see any lesbian or gay (person) mobilizing” against it.

“Violence is going to intensify every day if things continue as they are,” Bellido said.   

Bellido has also been criticized for his previous comments in support of the Shining Path rebel group.

“(Shining Path) has been the biggest violator of human rights in the history of Peru and it concerns me a lot,” Alberto de Belaúnde, an independent congressman from Lima who is openly gay, told the Washington Blade on Monday as he discussed Bellido’s comments. “It is not a good scenario for the human rights agenda in general and specifically for the LGBT agenda.”

Peruvian Prime Minister Guido Bellido (Photo public domain)

Gabriela Oporto Patroni, a Peruvian human rights lawyer, described Bellido’s comments as “concerning.” George Hale of Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos (PROMSEX), an LGBTQ and women’s rights group in the South American country, echoed Oporto.

“Prime Minister Bellido’s previous comments that reflect his homophobia, transphobia and misogyny are unfortunate,” Hale told the Blade.

Bellido, for his part, in recent days has said he “categorically rejects all forms of violence and terrorism in all of its extremes.” Hale noted to the Blade that Finance Minister Pedro Francke has publicly said his government will support LGBTQ rights.

“I will fight for equality of opportunities without discrimination based on gender, ethnic identity or sexual orientation,” said Francke on July 31. “I will combat homophobia and I will strongly support the fight against the killer (Shining Path), in line with the public promise that our prime minister has made.”

 

The Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People (REDLACTRANS) on Tuesday noted Foreign Affairs Minister Héctor Béjar has said his government supports the Yogyakarta Principles, a set of global LGBTQ rights principles that advocacy groups adopted in 2006.

“We support the 2016 Yogyakarta Principles’ 29 principles about the application of international human rights norms for sexual orientation and gender identity to avoid abuses and to protect the human rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals,” said Béjar. “The human rights of sex workers will also be part of our agenda.”

 

Miluska Luzquiños is a transgender activist who lives in Lambayeque, a city in northern Peru.

She told the Blade on Monday the situation for LGBTQ Peruvians remains “very complicated and uncertain” because of the pandemic. Luzquiños also noted the country does not have a trans rights law.

“It is necessary for the LGBTIQ movement to keep doing advocacy in government spaces as (part of) civil society,” she said.

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