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Criticism of ‘feckless’ Mook after Clinton’s loss

LGBT advocates weigh in on future of Dem Party

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Robby Mook, gay news, Washington Blade
Robbie Mook, gay news, Washington Blade

Hillary for America Campaign Manager Robby Mook speaks at a press conference in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Following the unexpected defeat of Hillary Clinton, LGBT political observers are calling for a reassessment of the Democratic Party — and the candidate’s gay campaign manager is being criticized by some in the aftermath of one of the most shocking political upsets in American history.

Some Democrats are saying Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook pursued the wrong strategy in a “change” election and relied too heavily on projecting an image of Clinton as an establishment candidate.

Had Mook succeeded in guiding Clinton to victory, he would have been the first openly gay campaign manager of a major U.S. party presidential nominee, and he would have elected the first female president. Instead, Clinton lost and the Democratic Party, now in the minority in every part of the federal government, is in disarray and without a clear leader.

Wayne Besen, a Chicago-based gay activist and radio host known for his opposition to widely discredited “conversion therapy,” said Mook came off as the “kind of man you’d want to take home and introduce to mom and dad,” but didn’t enact the right strategy to combat Donald Trump’s low-brow campaign tactics.

“We needed a campaign manager who effectively channeled the fear and anger felt by those left behind by globalization and the technological revolution,” Besen said. “We needed someone, particularly against Trump, who was a political brawler. Unfortunately, Mook was often feckless in media appearances and looked shifty. He spoke with little emotion and seemed to be reading off DNC talking points. He appeared as if he was afraid to mess up, when he should have spoken with conviction, charisma, and authority.”

Besen, a Bernie Sanders supporter in the Democratic primary, added Mook “made a mistake” with the choice of Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) as Clinton’s running mate, saying the vice presidential nominee performed well, but “was the wrong man for this peculiar moment in American history.”

“On my daily radio show in Chicago, I repeatedly warned that Trump’s only path to victory was the Rust Belt,” Besen said. “Thus, the Clinton campaign should pick an anti-trade firebrand stalwart like Sanders or Warren and shuttle them between the Great Lakes and Pennsylvania. Instead they went in the opposite direction and paid dearly for this mistake.”

Besen tempered his criticism of Mook by saying he “competently ran a sophisticated, sprawling campaign operation” and won the popular vote, even though Clinton didn’t end up winning the election through the Electoral College system. According to election results posted on CNN, Clinton as of Tuesday surpassed Trump in the popular vote by about 800,000 votes.

On the day after the election, Hillary Clinton omitted Mook from the list of those she thanked during her concession speech, although she recognized Kaine and his wife, President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.

But Daniel Pinello, a gay political scientist at the City University of New York’s John Jay College, rejected the idea Mook’s omission had any significance.

“I caution against reading too much into remarks made in a concession speech by a candidate who had had no opportunity to recover from a grueling months-long campaign schedule and who had just experienced a great — and largely unexpected — career tragedy,” Pinello said. “It’s very hard under such circumstances for even the most composed individual to remember thanking everyone appropriately.”

Trump won the election largely in part to victories in the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which have traditionally been “blue” states in presidential elections. The results in those states were a surprise because prior to Election Day, polls there showed Clinton with a comfortable lead.

The Trump campaign seems to have been more aware those states were in play than the Clinton campaign. According to NBC News, Trump in the last 100 days of the election out-campaigned Clinton in states that ended up being critical on Election Day. In Ohio, Trump made 26 rally appearances compared to the 17 made by Clinton. In Michigan, Trump made 13 rally appearances compared to the six made by Clinton. In Wisconsin, Trump made six appearances while Clinton never once visited the state during that time period.

Jimmy LaSalvia, a gay independent and former Republican who endorsed Clinton, said Mook ended up filling the campaign with insiders and, in contrast to Trump’s team, no one who “could help them to see the need to express more empathy for Americans who feel shut out and screwed by the system.”

“I saw many examples of evidence that Mook and his team fundamentally missed the mood of the country,” LaSalvia said. “This election wasn’t about Republicans versus Democrats, it was about the insiders versus the outsiders. The Clinton campaign did too many things that highlighted their candidate’s insider status, and not enough to appear on the side of the outsiders.”

As one example, LaSalvia said during the Democratic primary the Clinton campaign faulted Sanders for not being a Democrat, even though that contributed to his appeal. Additionally, LaSalvia said the team erred by including almost entirely lists of former elected officials and high-level appointees in their Republican outreach — a strategy he said he warned the campaign against because it “helped to highlight her campaign as the political establishment who the country was ready to fire.”

“If Mook had a winning message that he could organize around, then his organizational skills would lead her to victory,” LaSalvia said. “That didn’t happen. He and his candidate, being the establishment figures they are, just couldn’t see what they were missing.”

One aspect of Clinton’s campaign that stood out was running on the most advanced platform for LGBT rights of any major U.S. presidential candidate in history.

Surpassing even Obama in his bids for the White House in 2008 and 2012, Clinton ran on supporting marriage for same-sex couples as a constitutional right, comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation known as the Equality Act, a vision for achieving an “AIDS-free generation” and a pledge to protect transgender Americans from disproportionate violence.

Besen said although the positions were unprecedented for a major U.S. presidential candidate, they helped Clinton rather than contributed to her defeat by Trump, who took anti-LGBT positions over the course of his campaign.

“I think that Clinton’s pro-LGBT platform helped her,” Besen said. “Had LGBT rights been toxic, Obama would not have been reelected. And North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory would have cruised to reelection this year.”

(Indeed, McCrory, who signed the anti-LGBT House Bill 2 into law, appears to have narrowly lost in his bid for re-election in North Carolina even though Trump won the state comfortably and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C), another Republican, won re-election.)

Calls for new path for Democrats

Other observers insisted Mook performed well given the circumstances of the election year and the focus of examination shouldn’t be on the past, but the future and finding new leaders in the Democratic Party.

Eric Stern, a gay Berkeley-based Democratic activist who supported Sanders in the primary, said Mook and his team “worked tirelessly in support of their candidate and should be commended,” but the Democratic Party has to make changes.

“The candidacy of Bernie Sanders resonated with primary voters in Michigan and Wisconsin in a way that Secretary Clinton’s did not,” Stern said. “My hope is that as the Democratic Party begins to pick up the pieces and develop a game plan for the future — that Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and leaders from the communities made most vulnerable by the election of Donald Trump have real seats at the decision making table (as well as consideration for party leadership positions). Excluding the voices of those leaders at this critical moment — who represent millions of Americans — would be disastrous for our party.”

Stampp Corbin, a gay San Diego-based activist and publisher of LGBT Weekly, said the Clinton campaign made errors, but the abolition of the Electoral College should be a new priority for the Democratic Party.

“While I believe the Democrats squandered an opportunity to unite working class whites and minorities with an economic message a la Bernie Sanders, the real question is whether the Electoral College is still relevant,” Corbin said.

As Corbin noted, 2016 marks the fifth time in U.S. history a Republican ascended to the White House, even though a Democrat won the popular vote, and the second time after Al Gore lost to George W. Bush in the 2000 election that was ultimately settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Perhaps the electors should vote their conscience on Dec. 19, which is their prerogative,” Corbin added. “Some might have to pay a small fine, less than a $1,000, a small price to pay to actually enforce the true will of the people.”

Mook declined an interview request for this article and the Clinton campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

According to media reports, Clinton during a 30-minute phone conversation with high-level donors on Saturday blamed her loss on letters FBI Director James Comey sent to Congress in the days before the election. The first letter 11 days before the election indicated a new investigation of her use of a private email server as secretary of state was underway, while the second letter exonerated her — yet again after initially being cleared in July — of any wrongdoing.

“There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful,” Clinton was quoted in the New York Times as saying, according to a donor who relayed the remarks. But, she reportedly added, “our analysis is that Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum.”

Hilary Rosen, a D.C.-based Democratic activist, echoed the anger over Comey’s letters, which defied the agency’s general practice of not commenting publicly on investigations, when asked to evaluate Mook’s performance as campaign manager.

“I’m not into the blame game here,” Rosen said. “Robby put together a brilliant organization. Sometimes votes fall short of expectations. James Comey hurt momentum and turnout and Hillary had not a vote to spare. There were multiple issues beyond Robby’s control. I’m grateful for him giving it his all.”

Pinello echoed the sense that Comey reigniting the email scandal that dogged Clinton throughout her presidential campaign was a major factor in Clinton’s loss.

“To my mind, the most significant culprit for the Clinton loss was James Comey, whose unforgivable last-minute intervention in a presidential campaign rivals the worst of J. Edgar Hoover’s political subterfuges as FBI director,” Pinello said.

As for an inability to prevent losses in traditionally “blue” states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Pinello said Mook should be cut some slack.

“If virtually every American professional political pollster was dead wrong about Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — recall that, on Monday, FiveThirtyEight.com had Clinton with a 70-plus-percent probability of winning, while the figure at the New York Times was 84 percent — how could Robby Mook reasonably be held responsible for the loss of those states?” Pinello said. “After all, he was just campaign manager — not Merlin the Magician.”

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. MPetrelis

    November 15, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    The quote from Hilary Rosen about Mook’s alleged brilliant team is a stark reminder of how badly the Democrats need to clean house. Rosen is part of the problem, not the solution and her slavish devotion to the corrupt Clintons is one reason the DNC is in such turmoil.

    • customartist

      November 16, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Rosen is STILL in denial over the numerous failures of the DNC as evidenced by her interviews just yesterday.

      Losers begone!

  2. Im Just Sayin

    November 15, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    The lesson taught by Trump’s win and Clinton’s loss is that you don’t engage people craving change by running re-treads. All we had to do was open our eyes and see the repudiation of Jeb Bush and the embrace of Bernie Sanders to understand the mood of the electorate. Clinton was damaged goods from the day she lost to Obama. Don’t blame poor Robby Mook or try to pin it on that self-serving tool James Comey. Well-honed Clinton hubris combined with arrogant democratic insiders staring at their own navels is what in the end handed the election to Trump.

    • uhhuhh

      November 16, 2016 at 11:35 am

      Bernie lost. Get over it.

      • Im Just Sayin

        November 16, 2016 at 7:06 pm

        OMG Bernie lost? How did I not know this.

      • customartist

        November 17, 2016 at 1:56 pm

        Guess who else lost?

        It’s gonna be kinda hard to simply get over the Conservative SCOTUS rulings that could likely come.

    • customartist

      November 16, 2016 at 1:27 pm

      Debbie Wasserman Schultz did not have the vision to see that a Sanders could be elected just as easily as a Trump.

      SHE lost this election for us. I cannot effectively express the degree of disdain that I feel for her. I will fight the DNC tooth and nail if they propose electing another such leader.

      • Im Just Sayin

        November 16, 2016 at 7:06 pm

        Nor does that egomaniac Chuck Schumer who is doing his best to diminish Elizabeth Warren.

        • customartist

          November 17, 2016 at 1:59 pm

          Possibly right. The career Democrats seem to want to continue on being P.C., but actually achieving little?

      • EJGinWNC

        November 9, 2017 at 9:18 pm

        I’m a Trump voter but feel about the DNC the same as you expressed. Brazile’s disclosures this past week make me realize that Bernie could have won the nomination for the Party IF Dirty Debbie and Hillary hadn’t cut a deal to buy the Democrat National Party hook line and sinker.

  3. Paul Jenkins

    November 16, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Hillary Clinton’s hubris and arrogance are why the Democrats lost. Frankly, most people I talked to were shocked by Hillary’s corruption and lying. I went to bed at 8:00 pm on election night depressed because I thought Hillary might actually win. Hillary knew she was going to run for President, yet her own hubris and arrogance was her downfall. All I can say is, “away with you foul spirit.”

    • uhhuhh

      November 16, 2016 at 11:36 am

      “I went to bed at 8:00 pm on election night depressed because I thought Hillary might actually win.”

      Then enjoy the President Trump you wanted.

  4. uhhuhh

    November 16, 2016 at 11:34 am

    “Some Democrats” = a loud mouth Bernie Bro.

    Okay.

  5. customartist

    November 16, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Democrats cannot win by only BEIING RIGHT. We cannot only talk to the “Smart” people, while ignoring those citizens, voting citizens, who speak and think in a less polished manner. Our leaders made this fatal error this time around.

    Bill Clinton, in contrast, talked to the average Bubba.

    And secondly, Democrats cannot continue to do the same old things. Democrats, cycle after cycle, allow Republicans to Obstruct our progress when we are in power, but then we try to be polite, reasonable, cooperative and politically correct when They are in power. This predictable pattern of behavior will get us the same old predictable results. If Democratic Politicians insist on repeating their losing performance, then they must GO! Change or be changed.

    • Vagabondage

      November 17, 2016 at 11:41 am

      I largely agree with you in essence and upped your comment, but I’d take care regarding how you convey what you consider to be “facts” to the “less-polished.” Some of them do tear their eyes away from Breitbart long enough to watch the mainstream news, and some are fully capable of using three-syllable terms like “Dem-splaining” or “lib-splaining” with just the barest hint of irony. Aggressive with Republicans and more assertive yet ALSO empathetic with voters might be what’s called for.

      • customartist

        November 17, 2016 at 12:02 pm

        Completely agreed. Balance. I did not intend to put all Trump or conservative leaning voters in one basket. The point is directed more at Dems.

  6. Janice Archer Weaver

    November 16, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    What’s gay got to do with it? He was a terrible campaign manager of a terrible candiate!

    • customartist

      November 17, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Why don’t the down votes show up?

  7. Glenn Priceless

    November 17, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    And then there was that VP candidate…

  8. Marcus Goldman

    November 18, 2016 at 8:03 am

    So, somehow I found my way to this article. With all due respect to all posters and readers of this article. The leadership of the gay community has their heads so far up their butts they can’t or simply refuse to see that they indeed have no clothes on. You can only push so far with the threats and name calling before people start to think they made a big mistake in agreeing to support the rights of a few. An old saying worth it weight in gold, “You get more results with sugar than poo.” Right now your movement has just stalled and being checked by same folks who agree to help you live as you wish but don’t like the threats you also have brought against us. I have no doubt if the gay community continues to move against the faith community in taking away their rights, your cause will be set back even further.

  9. Memorable Event - A Deplorable

    November 19, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    “Perhaps the electors should vote their conscience on Dec. 19, which is their prerogative,” Corbin added. “Some might have to pay a small fine, less than a $1,000, a small price to pay to actually enforce the true will of the people.”

    Not true! When they return home and have to face their neighbors, they will pay a MUCH bigger price. They would never be safe again.

  10. My Two Cents

    November 19, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    The Democrats lost the election because Hillary may be the most corrupt candidate who’s ever run for elected office. Plus, she dumped Socks the minute she left the White House. Evil. Just…evil.

  11. Brian's Ions

    November 20, 2016 at 9:03 am

    There is even some “bubble” arrogance in that statement. Florida and North Carolina were lost for the same, basic economic and ‘cultural disconnect’ reasons.

    Bernie Sanders went were the votes were, and earned much bi-partisan respect. Bernie campaigned at Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, for example. Hillary did not. That was a missed opportunity to send a message of inclusion to all of LU’s students and their parents.

    \“On my daily radio show in Chicago, I repeatedly warned that Trump’s only path to victory was the Rust Belt,” Besen said. “Thus, the Clinton campaign should pick an anti-trade firebrand stalwart like Sanders or Warren and shuttle them between the Great Lakes and Pennsylvania. Instead they went in the opposite direction and paid dearly for this mistake.”//

    “There’s an old saying that victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.”
    — JFK (after the Bay of Pigs)

    NBC/ SNL
    ‘The Bubble’
    http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/the-bubble/3428577
    .

  12. LesbianTippingHabits

    November 21, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Re Robby Mook, and Hilary Rosen, how do they tip?

    Remember, tips are good karma. And karma never lies. Thank you.

  13. Daniel

    November 26, 2016 at 2:52 am

    Where is Robby Mook? Is he alive? There is no media on him since election night. People need to start asking this question more. The Clintons have a long history of people “disappearing” after things go badly for them. I fear Mook may have a similar problem. I hope I’m wrong. Can anyone find any recent news or other indication that he’s still on this planet?

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Top 10 Blade news stories by web traffic

COVID breakthroughs, Equality Act, and anti-trans attacks

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Elliot Page created excitement by posting his first photo in swim trunks back in May.

Each year our staff gathers in late December to review the highest trafficked stories of the year and there’s more than a little bit of competitive spirit as we review the results. Here are the top 10 stories by web traffic at  HYPERLINK “http://washingtonblade.com”washingtonblade.com for 2021.

#10: Mark Glaze, gun reform advocate, dies at 51

The sad, tragic story of Glaze’s death captivated readers in November. 

#9: COVID breakthrough infections strike summer tourists visiting Provincetown

This one went viral in July after a COVID outbreak was blamed on gay tourists.

#8: Thank you, Kordell Stewart, for thoughtful response to ‘the rumor’

This opinion piece thanked the former NFL quarterback for writing a personal essay addressing gay rumors. 

#7: Elliot Page tweets; trans bb’s first swim trunks #transjoy #transisbeautiful

The actor created excitement by posting his first photo in swim trunks back in May.

#6: Romney declares opposition to LGBTQ Equality Act

Mitt Romney disappointed activists with his announcement; the Equality Act passed the House but never saw a vote in the Senate.

#5: White House warns state legislatures that passing anti-trans bills is illegal

The year 2021 saw a disturbing trend of GOP-led legislatures attacking trans people.

#4: Lincoln Project’s avowed ignorance of Weaver texts undercut by leaked communications

The Lincoln Project’s leaders, amid a scandal of co-founder John Weaver soliciting sexual favors from young men, have asserted they were unaware of his indiscretions until the Blade obtained electronic communications that called that claim into question.

#3: FOX 5’s McCoy suspended over offensive Tweet

Blake McCoy tweeted that obese people shouldn’t get priority for the COVID vaccine. 

#2: Transgender USAF veteran trapped in Taliban takeover of Kabul

Among the Americans trapped in the suburban areas of Kabul under Taliban control was a transgender government contractor for the U.S. State Department and former U.S. Air Force Sergeant. She was later safely evacuated.

#1: Amid coup chaos, Trump quietly erases LGBTQ protections in adoption, health services

And our most popular story of 2021 was about the Trump administration nixing regulations barring federal grantees in the Department of Health & Human Services from discriminating against LGBTQ people, including in adoption services.

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CDC still falling short on LGBTQ data collection for COVID patients: expert

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COVID-19 vaccine, gay news, Washington Blade
The CDC is still not issuing guidance to states on LGBTQ data collection among COVID patients.

Despite requests since the start of the COVID pandemic for the U.S. government to enhance data collection for patients who are LGBTQ, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is still falling short on issuing nationwide guidance to states on the issue, a leading expert health on the issue told the Blade.

With a renewed focus on COVID infections reaching new heights just before the start of the holidays amid the emergence of Omicron, the absence of any LGBTQ data collection — now across both the Trump and Biden administrations — remains a sore point for health experts who say that information could be used for public outreach.

Sean Cahill, director of Health Policy Research at the Boston-based Fenway Institute, said Wednesday major federal entities and hospitals have been collecting data on whether patients identify as LGBTQ for years — such as the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey, which has been collecting sexual orientation data since the 1990s — but the CDC hasn’t duplicated that effort for COVID even though the pandemic has been underway for two years.

“It’s not like this is a new idea,” Cahill said. “But for some reason, the pandemic hit, and all of a sudden, we realize how little systematic data we were collecting in our health system. And it’s a real problem because we’re two years into the pandemic almost, and we still don’t know how it’s affecting this vulnerable population that experiences health disparities in other areas.”

The Blade was among the first outlets to report on the lack of efforts by the states to collect data on whether a COVID patient identifies as LGBTQ, reporting in April 2020 on the absence of data even in places with influential LGBTQ communities. The CDC hasn’t responded to the Blade’s requests for nearly two years on why it doesn’t instruct states to collect this data, nor did it respond this week to a request for comment on this article.

Cahill, who has published articles in the American Journal of Public Health on the importance of LGBTQ data collection and reporting in COVID-19 testing, care, and vaccination — said he’s been making the case to the CDC to issue guidance to states on whether COVID patients identify as LGBTQ since June 2020.

Among those efforts, he said, were to include two comments he delivered to the Biden COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force in spring 2021, a letter a coalition of groups sent to the Association of State & Territorial Health Officers asking for states to collect and report SOGI in COVID in December 2020 as well as letters to HHS leadership and congressional leadership in spring and summer 2020 asking for them to take steps to encourage or require SOGI data collection in COVID.

Asked what CDC officials had to say in response when he brought this issue to their attention, Cahill said, “They listen, but they don’t really tell me anything.”

“We’ve been making that case, and to date, as of December 22, 2021, they have not issued guidance, they have not changed the case report form. I hope that they’re in the process of doing that, and maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised in January, and they’ll come up with something…I really hope that’s true, but right now they’re not doing anything to promote SOGI data collection and reporting in surveillance data.”

Cahill, in an email to the Blade after the initial publication of this article, clarified CDC has indicated guidance on LGBTQ data collection for COVID patients may come in the near future.

“HHS leaders told us this fall that CDC is working on an initiative to expand SOGI data collection,” Cahill said. “We are hopeful that we will see guidance early in 2022. Key people at CDC, including Director Walensky, understand the importance of SOGI data collection given their long history of working on HIV prevention.”

In other issues related to LGBTQ data collection, there has been a history of states resisting federal mandates. The Trump administration, for example, rescinded guidance calling on states to collect information on whether foster youth identified as LGBTQ after complaints from states on the Obama-era process, much to the consternation of LGBTQ advocates who said the data was helpful.

The White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force has at least recognized the potential for enhancing LGBTQ data collection efforts. Last month, it published an implementation plan, calling for “an equity-centered approach to data collection, including sufficient funding to collect data for groups that are often left out of data collection (e.g….LGBTQIA+ people).”

The plan also calls for “fund[ing] activities to improve data collection…including tracking COVID-19 related outcomes for people of color and other underserved populations,” and specifically calls for the collection of LGBTQ data.

The importance of collecting LGBTQ data, Cahill said, is based on its potential use in public outreach, including efforts to recognize disparities in health population and to create messaging for outreach, including for populations that may be reluctant to take the vaccine.

“If we see a disparity, we can say: Why is that?” Cahill said. “We could do focus groups of the population — try to understand and then what kind of messages would reassure you and make you feel comfortable getting a vaccine, and we could push those messages out through public education campaigns led by state local health departments led by the federal government.”

The LGBTQ data, Cahill said, could be broken down further to determine if racial and ethnic disparities exist within the LGBTQ population, or whether LGBTQ people are likely to suffer from the disease in certain regions, such as the South.

“We have data showing that lesbian or bisexual women, and transgender people are less likely to be in preventive regular routine care for their health,” Cahill said. “And so if that’s true, there’s a good chance that they’re less likely to know where to get a vaccine, to have a medical professional they trust to talk to about it today.”

Among the leaders who are supportive, Cahill said, is Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health and the first openly transgender person confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a presidential appointment. Cahill said he raised the issue with her along with other officials at the Department of Health & Human Services three times in the last year.

In her previous role as Pennsylvania secretary of health, Levine led the way and made her state the first in the nation to set up an LGBTQ data collection system for COVID patients.

“So she definitely gets it, and I know she’s supportive of it, but we really need the CDC to act,” Cahill said.

Although the federal government has remained intransigent in taking action, Cahill said the situation has improved among states and counted five states — California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Nevada and Oregon — in addition to D.C. as among those that have elected to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity of COVID patients.

However, Cahill said even those data collection efforts are falling short because those jurisdictions have merely been public about collecting the data, but haven’t reported back anything yet.

“Only California has reported data publicly, and the data that they’re reporting is really just the completeness of the data,” Cahill said. “They’re not reporting the data itself…And they’re also just asking people who tests positive. So, if somebody says positive COVID in California, a contact tracer follows up with that individual and asks them a battery of questions, and among the questions that are asked are SOGI questions.”

As a result of these efforts, Cahill said, California has data on the LGBTQ status of COVID patients, but the data is overwhelmingly more complete for the gender identity of these patients rather than their sexual orientation. As of May 2021, California reported that they had sexual orientation data for 9.5 percent of individuals who had died from COVID and 16 percent of people who tested positive, but for gender identity, the data were 99.5 percent.

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Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead

No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise

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Despite having President Biden in the White House and Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, efforts to update federal civil rights laws to strengthen the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people by passing the Equality Act are all but dead as opponents of the measure have contorted it beyond recognition.

Political willpower is lacking to find a compromise that would be acceptable to enough Republican senators to end a filibuster on the bill — a tall order in any event — nor is there the willpower to force a vote on the Equality Act as opponents stoke fears about transgender kids in sports and not even unanimity in the Democratic caucus in favor of the bill is present, stakeholders who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity said.

In fact, there are no imminent plans to hold a vote on the legislation even though Pride month is days away, which would be an opportune time for Congress to demonstrate solidarity with the LGBTQ community by holding a vote on the legislation.

If the Equality Act were to come up for a Senate vote in the next month, it would not have the support to pass. Continued assurances that bipartisan talks are continuing on the legislation have yielded no evidence of additional support, let alone the 10 Republicans needed to end a filibuster.

“I haven’t really heard an update either way, which is usually not good,” one Democratic insider said. “My understanding is that our side was entrenched in a no-compromise mindset and with [Sen. Joe] Manchin saying he didn’t like the bill, it doomed it this Congress. And the bullying of hundreds of trans athletes derailed our message and our arguments of why it was broadly needed.”

The only thing keeping the final nail from being hammered into the Equality Act’s coffin is the unwillingness of its supporters to admit defeat. Other stakeholders who spoke to the Blade continued to assert bipartisan talks are ongoing, strongly pushing back on any conclusion the legislation is dead.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Equality Act is “alive and well,” citing widespread public support he said includes “the majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents and a growing number of communities across the country engaging and mobilizing every day in support of the legislation.”

“They understand the urgent need to pass this bill and stand up for LGBTQ people across our country,” David added. “As we engage with elected officials, we have confidence that Congress will listen to the voices of their constituents and continue fighting for the Equality Act through the lengthy legislative process.  We will also continue our unprecedented campaign to grow the already-high public support for a popular bill that will save lives and make our country fairer and more equal for all. We will not stop until the Equality Act is passed.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chief sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, also signaled through a spokesperson work continues on the legislation, refusing to give up on expectations the legislation would soon become law.

“Sen. Merkley and his staff are in active discussions with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to get this done,” McLennan said. “We definitely see it as a key priority that we expect to become law.”

A spokesperson Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had promised to force a vote on the Equality Act in the Senate on the day the U.S. House approved it earlier this year, pointed to a March 25 “Dear Colleague” letter in which he identified the Equality Act as one of several bills he’d bring up for a vote.

Despite any assurances, the hold up on the bill is apparent. Although the U.S. House approved the legislation earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn’t even reported out the bill yet to the floor in the aftermath of the first-ever Senate hearing on the bill in March. A Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic aide, however, disputed that inaction as evidence the Equality Act is dead in its tracks: “Bipartisan efforts on a path forward are ongoing.”

Democrats are quick to blame Republicans for inaction on the Equality Act, but with Manchin withholding his support for the legislation they can’t even count on the entirety of their caucus to vote “yes” if it came to the floor. Progressives continue to advocate an end to the filibuster to advance legislation Biden has promised as part of his agenda, but even if they were to overcome headwinds and dismantle the institution needing 60 votes to advance legislation, the Equality Act would likely not have majority support to win approval in the Senate with a 50-50 party split.

The office of Manchin, who has previously said he couldn’t support the Equality Act over concerns about public schools having to implement the transgender protections applying to sports and bathrooms, hasn’t responded to multiple requests this year from the Blade on the legislation and didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article.

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who declined to co-sponsor the Equality Act this year after having signed onto the legislation in the previous Congress, insisted through a spokesperson talks are still happening across the aisle despite the appearances the legislation is dead.

“There continues to be bipartisan support for passing a law that protects the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Annie Clark, a Collins spokesperson. “The Equality Act was a starting point for negotiations, and in its current form, it cannot pass. That’s why there are ongoing discussions among senators and stakeholders about a path forward.”

Let’s face it: Anti-LGBTQ forces have railroaded the debate by making the Equality Act about an end to women’s sports by allowing transgender athletes and danger to women in sex-segregated places like bathrooms and prisons. That doesn’t even get into resolving the issue on drawing the line between civil rights for LGBTQ people and religious freedom, which continues to be litigated in the courts as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected any day now to issue a ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia to determine if foster care agencies can reject same-sex couples over religious objections.

For transgender Americans, who continue to report discrimination and violence at high rates, the absence of the Equality Act may be most keenly felt.

Mara Keisling, outgoing executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, disputed any notion the Equality Act is dead and insisted the legislation is “very much alive.”

“We remain optimistic despite misinformation from the opposition,” Keisling said. “NCTE and our movement partners are still working fruitfully on the Equality Act with senators. In fact, we are gaining momentum with all the field organizing we’re doing, like phone banking constituents to call their senators. Legislating takes time. Nothing ever gets through Congress quickly. We expect to see a vote during this Congress, and we are hopeful we can win.”

But one Democratic source said calls to members of Congress against the Equality Act, apparently coordinated by groups like the Heritage Foundation, have has outnumbered calls in favor of it by a substantial margin, with a particular emphasis on Manchin.

No stories are present in the media about same-sex couples being kicked out of a restaurant for holding hands or transgender people for using the restroom consistent with their gender identity, which would be perfectly legal in 25 states thanks to the patchwork of civil rights laws throughout the United States and inadequate protections under federal law.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the American Unity Fund, which has bolstered the Republican-led Fairness for All Act as an alternative to the Equality Act, said he continues to believe the votes are present for a compromise form of the bill.

“I know for a fact there is a supermajority level of support in the Senate for a version of the Equality Act that is fully protective of both LGBTQ civil rights and religious freedom,” Deaton said. “There is interest on both sides of the aisle in getting something done this Congress.”

Deaton, however, didn’t respond to a follow-up inquiry on what evidence exists of agreeing on this compromise.

Biden has already missed the goal he campaigned on in the 2020 election to sign the Equality Act into law within his first 100 days in office. Although Biden renewed his call to pass the legislation in his speech to Congress last month, as things stand now that appears to be a goal he won’t realize for the remainder of this Congress.

Nor has the Biden administration made the Equality Act an issue for top officials within the administration as it pushes for an infrastructure package as a top priority. One Democratic insider said Louisa Terrell, legislative affairs director for the White House, delegated work on the Equality Act to a deputy as opposed to handling it herself.

To be sure, Biden has demonstrated support for the LGBTQ community through executive action at an unprecedented rate, signing an executive order on day one ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the fullest extent possible and dismantling former President Trump’s transgender military ban. Biden also made historic LGBTQ appointments with the confirmation of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health.

A White House spokesperson insisted Biden’s team across the board remains committed to the Equality Act, pointing to his remarks to Congress.

“President Biden has urged Congress to get the Equality Act to his desk so he can sign it into law and provide long overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Americans, and he remains committed to seeing this legislation passed as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The White House and its entire legislative team remains in ongoing and close coordination with organizations, leaders, members of Congress, including the Equality Caucus, and staff to ensure we are working across the aisle to push the Equality Act forward.”

But at least in the near-term, that progress will fall short of fulfilling the promise of updating federal civil rights law with the Equality Act, which will mean LGBTQ people won’t be able to rely on those protections when faced with discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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