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A gay defense of Donald Trump

Time for LGBT politicos to practice what they preach

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gay Republicans, gay news, Washington Blade

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Political pundits call this the “silly season” because of all the absurd, dishonest and hypocritical statements made by and on behalf of candidates at election time. There is no better example of this than the hysterical screeds against gay Republicans (including Log Cabin Republicans) simply because they support Donald Trump or haven’t gotten on the #NeverTrump train. The premise that LGBT voters should oppose Donald Trump because he’s anti-gay (among many other false reasons) is absurd, and it typifies the political myopia that affects so many in our community who view everything through a gay lens, demanding complete conformity to their politically correct agenda, unless, it sees, you’re a Democrat.

After all, Bill Clinton gave us “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, yet he was enthusiastically supported by LGBT organizations. It was the same with John Kerry, who not only opposed same-sex marriage but also supported two state constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage in Missouri and Massachusetts. Of course, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama also opposed marriage when they ran, coming out in support just recently, only after it was politically safe and necessary for them to do so. Yet none of them were labeled bigots or anti-gay because of their positions. It’s only when it’s a Republican who disagrees that the gay knives come out.

The fact is that any honest look at Trump’s record and views on gay rights shows that most of the attacks by gay Democrats on his views are simply incorrect.

Trump, of course, has been a New York Democrat and social liberal for most of his adult life, chummy with many Democratic politicians, including the Clintons, and active in many charities, including support for AIDS charities. He has a long record of public support for expanding gay rights, including adding sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He stated support for employment nondiscrimination as far back as 2000 in his book, “The America We Deserve,” in which he wrote of his support for a country “free of racism, discrimination against women, or discrimination against people based on sexual orientation.”

He publicly supported repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and in an interview with The Brody File (a very conservative radio show) in 2011, in response to a question about civil unions, he said, “First of all, I live in New York. I know many, many gay people. Tremendous people. And to be honest with you … I haven’t totally formed my opinion. But there can be no discrimination against gays.”

During the Republican primary campaign, he was famously accused by some of his rivals, particularly Ted Cruz, of supporting “New York values,” code words for gay rights, but he never backed away from his support, stating in February that the country would continue to see “forward motion” on gay rights under his presidency, hardly the stuff of anti-gay bigotry.

After the horrific terrorist attack on the gay nightclub in Orlando by radical Islamist Omar Mateen, Trump gave an impassioned speech denouncing it, specifically citing the long history of homophobia in the Islamic world, where gays are imprisoned or killed in many Muslim nations. While many other Republicans were afraid to explicitly make the connection between radical Islam and homophobia, Trump was not, and yet for that he was attacked by the likes of HRC’s Chad Griffin, a sycophant for Hillary Clinton.

Trump and his surrogates repeatedly raised the issue of gay rights during the Republican convention, and Trump himself chose the well-known gay entrepreneur Peter Thiel to give the keynote address, in which he publicly announced his sexual orientation to the cheers and applause of many in the audience. Yet instead of celebrating its symbolic importance, the gay media and establishment ignored or dismissed it in their continuing role as shills for the Democratic Party.

Put perhaps the most dramatic expression of Trump’s fundamental support for gay rights was his heartfelt acknowledgement of the “GLBTQ community” in his acceptance speech at the convention, a truly historic step, one that would have been applauded by the Blade and gay politicos if it had been uttered by a Democrat.

It is certainly fair to criticize Trump for telling social conservatives that he would consider appointing justices to the Supreme Court who oppose the Obergefell decision, yet it would be extremely unlikely that even if Trump truly wanted to reverse it that he could do so.

There’s no doubt one can find much to criticize in Trump (and, for that matter, Hillary Clinton), but to label him anti-gay or a mouthpiece of the religious right is so off-base and incorrect it calls into question the credibility and honesty of those making such accusations.  According to a recent poll of gay voters by NBC News, 36 percent of registered LGBT voters support a candidate other than Clinton, with 28 percent supporting either Trump or Gary Johnson, the Libertarian. It’s time for gay Democrats to stop reviling anyone who doesn’t agree with their political perspectives and try instead to exhibit the same tolerance they demand of everyone else.

David Lampo is the author of ‘A Fundamental Freedom: Why Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rights’ and served on the boards of Equality Virginia and Log Cabin Republicans.

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Kenyan McDuffie for D.C. Council-at-Large

A voice of reason and progress in city government

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D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5). (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Kenyan McDuffie is a voice of reason, and a voice for progress, on the D.C. Council. He has been a voice for those without one, and for minority communities across the District. 

Kenyan is a fourth-generation Washingtonian raised in a working-class family of six. He attended Shaed Elementary in Edgewood, St. Anthony Grade School in Brookland, and graduated from Woodrow Wilson Jackson-Reed high school, having played varsity basketball. He has been a union member working as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. His college career began at the University of the District of Columbia, which he continues to strongly support. He transferred and graduated summa cum laude from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Community Development and then joined the staff of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. He left there to attend the University of Maryland School of Law, where he was an editor of the law school’s Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class. 

After law school he clerked for an associate judge on the 7th Judicial Circuit of Maryland and then became an Assistant State’s Attorney in Prince George’s County. He then joined the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where, as a trial attorney, he enforced key federal civil rights laws in cases throughout the country. His caseload at the DOJ included defending the civil rights of the mentally ill, nursing home residents, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations.

At that point in his career, Kenyan added community activist to his resume becoming president of his local civic association and taking a job as a policy adviser with the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice. In that position he worked with Council members to shape policy and legislation for the District of Columbia.

In 2012, with this wealth of experience, he was elected to the D.C. Council. At that time Lateefah Williams, president of the Stein Democratic Club, wrote in the Blade, “Kenyan McDuffie is the type of leader that Ward 5 needs. He is intelligent, he has key experience in diverse matters from public safety to public policy, and he is a staunch supporter of the LGBT community. These are some of the reasons the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest LGBT political organization, endorsed Kenyan McDuffie for Ward 5 Council.  … and why I personally support Kenyan McDuffie.” Her confidence in Kenyan was well placed. For 10 years he has worked to build coalitions and create solutions, tackling D.C.’s most significant challenges. In his first year on the Council, he was elected to serve as Chairman Pro Tempore (Vice Chair), a position he continues to hold. 

Kenyan is what those of us looking at legislators call a work-horse, not a show-horse. He has put in the work to bring consensus and pass legislation, which he did with sweeping updates to D.C.’s criminal justice laws when he became chair of the Judiciary Committee in 2017. With that committee he oversaw the implementation of D.C.’s police body-worn camera program, including ensuring the public has fair access to the video footage from encounters with officers. 

Kenyan has a view of public safety that includes both a strong MPD, with appropriate community oversight, and recognition of the need to fully fund community organizations working to reduce crime. Kenyan, like the mayor, believes we need to do both of these things, not one or the other. He recently said, “One of my proudest moments on the Council is passing the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act. The law takes a holistic approach to preventing crime in the first instance and floods communities disproportionately impacted by violence with resources – including violence interrupters and behavioral and mental health services – in addition to more innovative, data-driven policing.”

For the past five years, Kenyan has chaired the Council’s Business and Economic Development Committee. His focus has been on helping grow the local economy with a stronger focus on supporting small and minority-owned businesses. He fought to put millions of dollars in the Commercial Acquisition Fund to allow socially disadvantaged business owners to apply for grants to purchase commercial properties here in D.C. Kenyan spearheaded an emergency relief package of $100 million to help the hospitality, entertainment, and retail industries – some of D.C.’s largest employers of immigrants and minority workers – weather the pandemic and keep District employees on the payroll.

For these reasons, and many more, we cannot afford to lose Kenyan’s voice on the Council. I urge everyone to cast their vote for Kenyan McDuffie for Council-at-large. 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Bisexual activists cautiously excited after White House meeting

Sept. 20 gathering took place during Bisexual Visibility Week

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From left to right: Ellyn Ruthstrom, Tania Israel, Nicole Holmes, Mimi Hoang, Ezra Young, Lauren Beach, Belle Hagget Silverman, Diana Adams, Heron Greenesmith, and Khafre Abif. Kneeling: Robyn Ochs, Fiona Dawson and Blair Imani outside the White House on Sept. 20, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Heron Greenesmith)

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, just in time for Bisexual Visibility Week, a diverse group of 15 bisexual and pansexual activists met with officials from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including Melanie Fontes Rainer, the director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS. 

The 15 advocates comprised a wide cross-section of the bisexual community, including nonbinary, transgender, female, young, older, Black, Asian and Muslim advocates, people with disabilities and parents. We came from many walks of life: Academia, education, research, health care, advocacy, law, media and community activism. This isn’t unusual: Bisexual people comprise more than half of all LGBT people, totally approximately 12.5 million bisexual adults in the U.S. Strikingly, 15 percent of all GenZ adults — nearly 1 in 6 — identify as bisexual. People of color are more likely to identify as bisexual, as are cisegender women and transgender people in general. 

It has been a painful six years since the Executive Branch last met with bisexual activists (you do the math.) Those meetings, like this one, were the product of tireless advocacy from a population with zero paid organizational staff and less than one percent of all philanthropic dollars earmarked for the LGBT community. It was these stats and others that we shared at HHS on Sept. 20. 

Bisexual and pansexual people face specific disparities in mental and physical health, intimate partner violence and monkeypox prevention, treatment and care. Did you know, for example, that nearly half of bisexual women report having been raped? And did you know that federal reporting on monkeypox doesn’t disaggregate between gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men, despite evidence that bisexual men are uniquely vulnerable to MPX and other infectious diseases. 

Khafre Abif is a Black bisexual educator, father and person living with HIV. At the meeting with agency officials, Abif shared the story of how staff at his HIV-care clinic initially denied him the monkeypox vaccine, despite Abif being bisexual and thus in a population of special focus for the vaccine. 

“This meeting has been a long time coming for the bi+ community,” said Abif. “I’m looking forward to a dialogue with federal officials about solving some of the health issues we face.”

In order to begin remedying these disparities and more, we presented the administration with a set of benchmarks, including the creation of a Federal Interagency Bisexual Liaison and a Federal Interagency Bisexual Working Group. Other benchmarks included training for HHS staff on bisexual disparities and remedies thereof, funding streams for bisexual-specific funding and interventions, and the disaggregation of data on specific health disparities. 

Robyn Ochs is a pillar of bisexual and pansexual community organizing. At HHS, Ochs shared more about her specific expertise. “Research has made clear our health disparities and invisibility. It’s time for federal interventions to catch up with what we already know through research and lived experience.”

Frustrated by years of inaction by the federal government to release bisexual-specific data, target the bisexual and pansexual community with tailored interventions, or recognize the importance of bi+ health in general, we are cautiously excited by this opportunity to share critical data and remedies. 

Heron Greenesmith is the Senior Research Analyst for LGBTQI+ Justice at Political Research Associates, and the co-founder of BiLaw and the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition. Find Greenesmith on Twitter @herong.

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Larry’s Lounge transformed pandemic into an opportunity

A vibrant neighborhood bar that reflects owner’s passion for animals

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A happy crowd enjoys the outdoor space at Larry’s Lounge. (Photo courtesy Larry Ray)

In a Blade article (9/2/22) Larry’s Lounge (LL) customer Brett Howard fondly called Larry’s Lounge “a dive bar.” Yes, it is and so much more.

D.C. native, veteran businessperson and LL owner Ron Robinson transformed the COVID lockdown and pandemic into an opportunity. When D.C. ordered all alcohol establishments to serve food, Ron did with popcorn and wings out of his kitchen. With the assistance of customers, Ron built outdoor structures with fans, heaters, lights, and even plastic walls (lovingly referred to as “shower curtains”).

This opportunistic spirit dates back to 1987 and the founding of LL by then owners and neighbors Larry Tan and Ken Megill. They dreamed of opening the first full-service Malaysian and Singaporean restaurant on the East Coast. Chef Lawrence Tan and Dr. Kenneth A. Megill (philosophy from Yale University) formed an excellent partnership.

Back then, the ANC Commissioner created the 18th Neighborhood and Business Association. The number of businesses along this busy 18th Street corridor between S Street and Florida Avenue, N.W., surprised the neighbors. These more than 100 businesses included accountants, attorneys, restaurants, and retail. Neighbors bonded around “community policing” to ensure safety. Chief of Police Robert Contee even served as this area’s community police.

Larry and Ken consulted with the neighbors and by the time they applied for their restaurant liquor license for Straits of Malaya, the neighbors cheered. The Dupont Circle ANC and D.C. Alcohol Board were shocked that there were no objections. Neighborhood involvement from the very beginning was the key to success. Several years later in 1993, they applied for their CT liquor license for Larry’s Lounge again to the delight of the neighbors. Straits closed in 1991 since Tan needed to return home to take care of an ailing family member. (He did reopen for a bit.) Sadly, Ken passed at age 82. Larry resides in D.C.

Today, Larry’s Lounge is a vibrant indoor/outdoor neighborhood bar. It reflects owner Ron’s passion for animals. Sometimes there are more dogs than people. Most neighborhood dogs pull over their guardians (aka owners) to take a drink from the bowls and receive love from LL staff and customers.

Larry Ray is former ANC 2B 01 Dupont Circle Commissioner. He is a mediator who teaches at The George Washington University School of Law.

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