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HRC under fire for continuing to support Kirk after racist remark

LGBT Democrats demand withdrawal of support from GOP lawmaker

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Mark Kirk, Equality Act, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Kirk, Equality Act, gay news, Washington Blade

The Human Rights Campaign is under fire for supporting Sen. Mark Kirk after his racist remark.

The Human Rights Campaign is under fire from Democratic activists for its continued endorsement of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) after racially charged comments about he made about the parentage of his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

Stampp Corbin, a gay Democratic activist and publisher of San Diego LGBT Weekly, was among those calling on the Human Rights Campaign to rescind its endorsement of Kirk for his comments, even after the senator apologized for them.

“I think that any organization would reconsider an endorsement of a candidate that makes an obviously racist statement,” Corbin said. “The repudiation is exactly what Sen. Kirk did concerning Donald Trump’s troubling comments. Now, HRC needs to hold Kirk to his own standard.”

Kirk made the controversial remarks during a debate with Duckworth after she talked about her family’s long history of commitment to the United States and her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization for descendants of individuals who fought on the U.S. side in the Revolutionary War.

“I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound because people are quick to sound the drums of war and I want to be there to say this is what it costs, this is what you’re asking us to do, and if that’s case, I’ll go,” Duckworth said.

It was at the conclusion of Duckworth’s comments that Kirk, who has repudiated Donald Trump based on racism within his campaign, responded with his controversial and racially charged remark alluding to her Thai heritage.

“I’ve forgotten that your parents came over all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” Kirk said.

As NPR reported, the remark was flippant, racially charged and incorrect. Born in Thailand, Duckworth has a Thai mother of Chinese heritage and an American father who was a U.S. Marine. According to Mother Jones, Duckworth’s father, a World War II veteran, traces his heritage back to the American Revolution.

Faced with criticism for the comments, Kirk made an apology via Twitter the next day, referencing Duckworth’s military service. She lost both her legs and injured her right arm during the Iraq war.

In March, the Human Rights Campaign had elected to endorse Kirk in his bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate over Duckworth based on his LGBT record. The senator was an original co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2011 and 2013, was the second sitting Republican U.S. senator to come out in favor of marriage equality and is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act.

But the endorsement came much to the chagrin of LGBT Democrats who were unhappy with the Human Rights Campaign’s decision to a Republican in the first place. After all, Duckworth also supports LGBT rights, backs same-sex marriage, and is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act. Kirk also votes for Republican leadership, which is blamed for the lack of progress of LGBT rights legislation in Congress.

Many critics say the Human Rights Campaign congressional scorecard gives Duckworth a perfect “100” score while Kirk earned a score of “78,” but that’s old information. The most recent ratings from the 114th Congress give both lawmakers scores of “100.”

Kirk’s comments re-ignited frustration among LGBT Democrats, inspiring new calls on the Human Rights Campaign to rescind the endorsement.

Brandon Lorenz, a Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after Kirk’s comments the lawmaker should “rescind” them, but maintained the organization’s support is unwavering.

“Mark Kirk’s comments were wrong and inappropriate,” Lorenz said. “HRC endorsed Sen. Kirk based on the strength of his record on LGBTQ equality, and while that remains unchanged, we believe he should rescind his comments immediately.”

The Human Rights Campaign didn’t respond to a follow-up email on whether Kirk’s apology via Twitter was sufficient, or whether more action is needed.

The racially charged remarks were out of character for Kirk, who in 2011 upon the introduction of ENDA said he’s a Republican who supports equal rights and opportunity.

“It was Sen. Dirksen that clinched the deal on the [1964] Civil Rights Act,” Kirk said. “I see this legislation as in that tradition to make sure that our country is a country not of equal outcomes, which would be a Communist state, but of equal opportunities, and to make sure that everyone has that opportunity regardless of orientation.”

Kirk’s apology wasn’t enough to assuage LGBT Democrats, who continued to criticize the Human Rights Campaign for ongoing support for the lawmaker.

Mark Joseph Stern, a writer on LGBT rights and law for Slate, concluded in an op-ed piece the Human Rights Campaign is “simply irredeemable” for continuing to back Kirk after his remarks.

“Whatever the HRC might admire about Kirk’s lack of homophobia, it should not be able to forgive his racism: The organization purports to oppose all forms of discrimination,” Stern writes. “But apparently, for the HRC, racism is lower on the hierarchy of bigotries than homophobia, and thus less disqualifying than anti-gay bias. To the HRC, it seems, a candidate can mock his opponent for having mixed heritage so long as he still supports marriage equality.”

Jerame Davis, director of the LGBT labor group Pride at Work, said Duckworth deserves “a direct and formal apology, not a tweet to the masses” and the Human Rights Campaign “should still rescind their endorsement.”

“From voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act – and its many LGBTQ healthcare protections – to voting against paycheck fairness for women or an increase to the minimum wage, Mark Kirk is repeatedly on the wrong side of the issues. HRC should have never endorsed him to begin with,” Davis said.

Pride at Work is gathering signatures in an online petition calling on the Human Rights Campaign to rescind its support, saying Congress needs lawmakers “with common decency and a strong pro-LGBTQ record” and Kirk “does not meet that standard.”

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)

 

MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness

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Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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