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Elizabeth Warren voted to confirm Ben Carson?

‘I have no idea what she was thinking’

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Ben Carson, gay news, Washington Blade
Ben Carson, gay news, Washington Blade

Donald Trump has selected Dr. Ben Carson as HUD secretary. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Some LGBT advocates are criticizing Senate Democrats for joining Republicans to vote unanimously in favor of Ben Carson as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, despite his characterization of LGBT rights as “extra rights” during his confirmation hearing and his history of anti-LGBT views.

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs approved Carson on Tuesday unanimously by voice vote, which means the 11 Democrats on the committee agreed to his confirmation, including progressive champions like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Deborah Shields, executive director of MassEquality, said she was perplexed over why Warren would vote in favor of Carson given the nominee’s record.

“We don’t usually get involved, per se, in national politics in that way, but I have to admit we’re very shocked given that she’s been such as advocate of economic justice and civil rights and his record belies that,” Shields said. “So, I have no idea what she was thinking. And yes, we do strongly object and given what a champion she’s been, it’s really quite shocking.”

During his confirmation hearing, Carson derided LGBT rights as “extra rights” when asked by Sen. Brown for assurance HUD would have a duty to promote equal access opportunities to LGBT people.

“If confirmed in this position, of course I would enforce all the laws of the land, and I believe that all Americans regardless of any of the things that you mentioned should be protected by the law,” Carson said. “What I mentioned in the past is the fact no one gets extra rights. Extra rights means you get to redefine everything for everybody else. That, to me, doesn’t seem to be very democratic.”

The remarks from Carson, who has called the LGBT community “a few people who perhaps are abnormal” and undeserving of equal protection under the law, are consistent with his political career of attacking LGBT rights.

During his presidential campaign, Carson opposed same-sex marriage and backed a constitutional amendment against the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality.

Most notably, Carson landed in hot water when, as a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University, he compared LGBT advocates to pedophiles during an interview on Fox News. Outcry over the remarks led him to apologize “if anybody was offended” and cancel plans to give the commencement address for the medical school.

Carson’s views on LGBT rights raise questions about how he’d handle his role as HUD secretary. Among other things, he’d have authority to rescind a rule prohibiting government-funded housing from discriminating against LGBT people, or institute a religious exemption for that rule that could substantially limit its reach. Carson could undo the extension of that rule prohibiting homeless shelters from turning away transgender people based on their gender identity.

In a statement, Brown said Carson is “not the nominee I would have chosen to lead HUD” and has made “often troubling public statements over the last three years,” but voted for him because of commitments the nominee made.

“This includes Dr. Carson’s promises to address the scourge of lead hazards that threaten the health and futures of children in Ohio and nationwide; uphold the Fair Housing Act and the housing rights of LGBTQ individuals; and advocate for rental assistance, investment to end homelessness, and including housing in the president’s infrastructure plan,” Brown added. “I will do everything in my power to hold Dr. Carson accountable for making good on his promises.”

Explaining her vote on Facebook amid discontent among progressive grassroots activists, Warren said in a post beginning with “OK, let’s talk about Dr. Ben Carson” she voted for the nominee even though she disagrees with “many of the outrageous things” he said because he made commitments to manage HUD fairly to all Americans in written responses to her questions.

“Can we count on Dr. Carson to keep those promises?” Warren wrote. “I don’t know. People are right to be skeptical; I am. But a man who makes written promises gives us a toehold on accountability. If President Trump goes to his second choice, I don’t think we will get another HUD nominee who will even make these promises – much less follow through on them.”

In his response to written questions from Brown, Carson clarified his reference to LGBT rights as “extra rights” and rejects any notion he would remove LGBT protections during his tenure at HUD.

Asked whether he could think of any instances of protecting equal housing opportunities for LGBT people as “extra rights,” Carson replied, “I can not.” Asked if he thinks HUD institutes “extra rights” for LGBT people that should be withdrawn, Carson replied, “I do not.”

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In addition to Warren and Brown, other Democrats who voted in favor of Carson were Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) as well as newly seated Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

Christian Fuscarino, executive director of the New Jersey-based Garden State Equality, said his organization objected to Menendez’s vote in favor of Carson.

“I think it’s important for all lawmakers to consider those most vulnerable who will be impacted by Carson’s lack of education in housing needs and issues,” Fuscarino said.

The office for Menendez didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to respond to Garden State Equality about his vote.

Patrick Paschall, executive director of the Maryland-based FreeState Justice, said Van Hollen’s vote for Carson in committee is “disappointing” based on Carson’s remarks against LGBT people.

“We have deep concerns about many of Trump’s nominees, including Dr. Ben Carson,” Paschall said. “He’s said some overtly anti-transgender things in the past that target the transgender community for discrimination and exclusion, and we’re certainly very concerned about his nomination to run a department he himself has said he’s not qualified to run and knows nothing about.”

Bridgett Frey, a Van Hollen spokesperson, pointed to her boss’ comments about concern over the nominee in response to the criticism.

“Sen. Van Hollen raised serious concerns at the Banking Committee confirmation hearing on Dr. Carson, and looks forward to the full floor debate on his nomination,” Frey said.

It’s unknown when Carson’s nomination could come up for a vote on the Senate floor, although it should happen soon now that the committee has approved the nomination. Under Senate rules, only a bare majority is required for confirmation.

The Human Rights Campaign in response to the committee vote said the position of the nation’s largest LGBT group, which has previously opposed Carson, remains unchanged.

In response to a question about whether the Human Rights Campaign would include the vote on Carson in its congressional scorecard, a spokesperson for the organization said those scoring decisions are made at the end of the congressional session. The spokesperson declined to comment on individual senators like Brown and Warren voting for Carson in committee.

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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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State Department expresses concern over anti-LGBTQ bill in Uganda

Measure would further criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts

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A State Department spokesperson on Wednesday expressed concern over the passage of a bill in Uganda that would further criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts.

Ugandan lawmakers on Monday passed the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019, which contains a provision, known as Clause 11, that would explicitly ban “penetration of another person’s anus with that other person’s sexual organ or with any object” and “sexual acts between persons of the same gender.”

“We’re certainly concerned about the legislation in Uganda,” said State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter in response to the Washington Blade’s question about the bill during a briefing with reporters.

Consensual same-sex sexual acts are already criminalized in Uganda.

President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it previously contained a death penalty provision.

The U.S. cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a statement said the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019 criminalization provision “will enhance the already homophobic environment in Uganda and consequently lead the way for further violation of the rights of sexual and gender minorities, including violations such as ‘corrective rape’ and other acts of violence.” The Ugandan LGBTQ advocacy group has also called for Museveni to veto the measure over the clause.

“Sexual Minorities Uganda calls on the president of the Republic of Uganda to consider not assenting to the bill because of the problematic Clause 11 that now classifies sexual and gender minorities as sexual offenders,” said SMUG in its statement. “Rather, we call on the president to reminisce on the effects the now repealed Anti-Homosexuality Act had on the human rights discourse for sexual and gender minorities.”

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern also condemned the bill.

“Same-sex relations are already criminalized in Uganda’s Penal Code,” said Stern in a press release. “The inclusion of same-sex relations in this bill paints LGBTQ people as sexual offenders, and can only serve one purpose — to fuel already rampant LGBTQ-phobia, discrimination and violence. It is deplorable. The colonial legacy of criminalizing same-sex relations must end.”

The Biden administration in February issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

“The United States certainly stands up and defends the human rights of our LGBTQI+ persons all around the world and we also stand firmly in opposing violence and discrimination against all LGBTQI persons and will also urge governments to criminalize their status or conduct,” said Porter during Wednesday’s briefing.

“We will continue to condemn any violence or discrimination of vulnerable populations including our LGBTQI+ people, whether they’re in Uganda or anywhere in the world,” added Porter.

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