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Will Trump, gov’t agencies recognize Pride month?

Would be first GOP president to issue such a proclamation

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Chechnya, gay news, Washington Blade

Will President Trump recognize June as Pride month? (C-Span image)

Picture it: President Trump enters the East Room of the White House on a warm D.C. day in June to the sound of cheers from adoring members of the LGBT community holding up their iPhones to document the occasion with videos and photos.

With his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner at his side, Trump welcomes guests and commemorates June as Pride month by recognizing the LGBT community’s accomplishments in recent years.

Having trouble with this image? It could be because of the anti-LGBT positions and actions Trump and his administration have taken or perhaps because such an event would anger anti-LGBT groups that supported his election. It could be because instead of cheering him, LGBT people angered by his policies would boo Trump out of the room.

It might also be because recent reports Trump may have abused executive power or committed obstruction of justice raise questions about whether Trump will even be president in June.

Assuming Trump remains in office, it remains to be seen what steps he’ll take, if any, to recognize June as Pride month. Kelly Love, a White House spokesperson, said via email when asked if Trump would issue a Pride proclamation or host a White House Pride reception, “We will let you know as soon as we announce our June proclamations.”

During the 2016 election, Trump in an interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl said he’d “look into” whether he could issue a proclamation as president recognizing June as Pride month, essentially dodging the question.

“I would look into it,” Trump said. “And I feel so badly what happened [in Orlando]. And we have to do something about it.”

President Clinton started the tradition of issuing a proclamation to recognize June as Pride month. Although President George W. Bush discontinued that tradition, it was renewed by President Obama, who also in each of his years in office held a White House reception to celebrate Pride with members of the LGBT community.

If Trump were to continue the recognition of June as Pride month with either a proclamation or a reception, he would be the first Republican president to do so. It would also be consistent with his claims during the presidential campaign that he’s a bigger friend to LGBT people than his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said his group — largely alone among LGBT organizations that support and interact with the Trump administration — has proposed the idea of Trump recognizing Pride, but no commitments were made.

“The suggestion has been formally made to the White House,” Angelo said. “Conversations are ongoing. It’s too soon to comment further.”

Given Trump’s predilection for photo ops — such as the pictures he’s taken with business leaders and presidents of historically black colleges — one possibility for Trump recognizing Pride is a shot of him in the Oval Office with Angelo and high-profile LGBT people who supported him like Peter Thiel, Caitlyn Jenner or Ric Grenell.

It’s not just whether Trump will recognize Pride that remains in question. In years past, the affinity groups for LGBT workers at federal departments hosted Pride celebrations.

Some of those celebrations were newer than others. The Pride celebration at the Pentagon only came about after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in 2010, but celebrations at the U.S. Justice Department occurred even during the Bush administration and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey addressed LGBT employees in 2008. By the end of last year, virtually each of the departments had some kind of celebration.

Under the Obama administration, the heads of the departments were featured speakers at the Pride events and delivered remarks in solidarity with LGBT people. It’s certainly hard to imagine Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressing LGBT employees at the Justice Department.

The Washington Blade reached out to multiple affinity groups for LGBT federal workers, but — perhaps in a sign of fear of reprisal — they were largely silent on plans for Pride celebrations with June just a few weeks away. FedQ, the umbrella organization for the groups, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

John Elias, president of DOJ Pride, was the only head of an LGBT affinity group to respond to the Blade’s request and would say only that plans are underway for some kind of Pride recognition.

“The Department’s LGBT Pride Month Observance Program is in the planning phase,” Elias said. “I expect the format will remain as it has been in recent years.”

Elias didn’t respond to a follow-up email on whether that meant Sessions would be invited to speak at the event and if he planned on attending as Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch did under the Obama administration.

UPDATE: After the initial publication of this article, a number of affinity for LGBT federal groups responded to affirm their agencies are set to hold events recognizing June as Pride month.

At the Small Business Administration, spokesperson Mark Gibson said, “Plans are currently underway but nothing is concrete as of yet.”

Rudy Reyns, president of DOD Pride, said an event would take place in Pentagon Center Courtyard on June 12 and Defense Secretary James Mattis has been invited to attend if his schedule allows.

A representative from HUD Glove said the group is planning four events to recognize June as Pride month. The group has invited HUD Secretary Ben Carson to speak, the representative said, although he hasn’t yet confirmed his attendance.

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District of Columbia

Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 68

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

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Bernie Delia speaks at the Pride Honors event on May 31, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bernie Delia, a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. LGBTQ Pride events, and who served most recently as co-chair of World Pride 2025, which D.C. will be hosting next June, died unexpectedly on Friday, according to a statement released by Capital Pride Alliance. He was 68.

“It is with great sadness that the Capital Pride Alliance mourns the passing of Bernie Delia,” the statement says. “We will always reflect on his life and legacy as a champion, activist, survivor, mentor, friend, leader, and a true inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.”

The statement says that in addition to serving six years as the Capital Pride Alliance board president, Delia served for several years as president of Dignity Washington, the local LGBTQ Catholic organization, where he helped create “an environment for spiritual enrichment during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

“He also had a distinguished legal career, serving as one of the first openly gay appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice and later as an appellate attorney,” the statement reads.

Delia’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 26 years, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2019. Prior to that, he served from 1997 to 2001 as associate deputy attorney general and from 1994 to 1997 served as senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which provides executive and administrative support for 93 U.S. attorneys located throughout the country.

His LinkedIn page shows he served from January-June 1993 as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, in which he was part of the White House staff. And it shows he began his career as legal editor of the Bureau of National Affairs, which published news reports on legal issues, from 1983-1993.

The Capital Pride Alliance statement describes Delia as an avid runner who served as the coordinator of the D.C. Front Runners and Stonewall Kickball LGBTQ sports groups.

“He understood the value, purpose, and the urgency of the LGBTQ+ community to work together and support one another,” the statement says. “He poured his soul into our journey toward World Pride, which was a goal of his from the start of his involvement with Capital Pride.”

The statement adds, “Bernie will continue to guide us forward to ensure we meet this important milestone as we gather with the world to be visible, heard, and authentic. We love you, Bernie!”

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Africa

Prominent South African activist elected to country’s parliament

Steve Letsike founded Access Chapter 2

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Steve Letsike (Photo courtesy of Steve Letsike)

A prominent South African LGBTQ activist has won a seat in the country’s parliament.

Steve Letsike, a lesbian woman who founded Access Chapter 2, a South African advocacy group, is a member of the African National Congress. She is also part of the ANC’s National Executive Committee that determines the party’s direction.

Letsike won a seat in the South African National Assembly in national and provincial elections that took place on May 29.

The ANC lost its parliamentary majority that it had had since Nelson Mandela in 1994 won the South African presidency in the country’s first post-apartheid elections. MPs earlier this month re-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa after the ANC and the Democratic Alliance, the country’s second largest political party, formed a coalition government.

Letsike in a statement to the Washington Blade described her election as “a milestone for the people of South Africa, and also affirmative of our party’s posture that is inclusive and intention to transformation agenda.”

“I am not in parliament for myself but the people that trusted the ANC to send individuals that will put people first,” said Letsike. “In that cohort that includes the LGBTI people like myself. Rooted in the teaching of a just society, that seeks equality and believes in the rule of law. That demand on developmental agenda from a queer lens and clear priorities of the people is important.” 

“I am delighted by this task, trust and hope for our people,” she added.

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The White House

EXCLUSIVE: Jill Biden to host White House Pride celebration

Event to take place on June 26

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First lady Jill Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

First lady Jill Biden will host the White House Pride Month celebration on June 26, according to a press release previewed by the Washington Blade.

The party on the South Lawn will also feature a performance by singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer Deborah Cox and musical selections by DJ Trifle.

This year’s event comes on Equality Day this year, which honors the anniversaries of three landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that expanded rights and protections for LGBTQ Americans: Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down sodomy laws, United States v. Windsor (2013), which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made marriage equality the law of the land.

The White House highlighted some of the “historic action” taken by President Joe Biden to “advance LGBTQ+ equality for the community,” including:

  • Signing into law the landmark Respect for Marriage Act which protects the rights of same-sex and interracial couples;
  • Appointing a historic number of LGBTQI+ and transgender appointees, including the first transgender American to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate;
  • Directing all federal agencies to strengthen civil rights protections on the basis of gender identity, resulting in agencies working to strengthen protections in housing, health care, education, employment, the criminal justice system, nutrition programs, and more;
  • Reversing the ban on open service by transgender members of the military;
  • Signing an executive order focused on LGBTQI+ children and families that directs agencies to address the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy” and finalized rule-making that ends disparities that LGBTQI+ children and parents face in the child welfare and foster care system and protects against disparities in health care; and
  • President Biden continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act to enshrine civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ Americans in federal law.

Last year, the president and the first lady hosted the celebration, which was the largest Pride event ever held at the White House.

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