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Rick Perry: ‘I totally support’ Trump’s transgender military ban

Energy sec’y bases objections on dubious claims about cost of care

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Rick Perry, Texas, Republican Party, Values Voter Summit, gay news, Washington Blade
Rick Perry, Texas, Republican Party, Values Voter Summit, gay news, Washington Blade

Energy Secretary Rick Perry (R-Texas) says he supports Trump’s transgender military ban. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Energy Secretary Rick Perry took time Friday during his visit to an air conditioning manufacturer in Texas to declare support for President Trump’s ban on transgender military service.

Perry told reporters he backs the policy change after his visit to the Daikin Texas Technology Park in Waller, Texas, basing his reasoning on the cost of transition-related care, according to the Texas Tribune.

“I totally support the president in his decision,” Perry was quoted as saying. “The idea that the American people need to be paying for these types of operations to change your sex is not very wise from a standpoint of economics.”

Trump made dubious claims about “tremendous medical costs and disruption” posed by transgender military service when announcing his ban Wednesday on Twitter.

According to a study the RAND Corp., costs associated gender reassignment surgery would actually be very little. The study estimated those surgeries would consume between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually out of the Pentagon’s multi-billion dollar budget.

“I think the president makes some good decisions about making sure that we have a force that is capable,” Perry reportedly added.

As ThinkProgress reported, the U.S. military actually spends ten times as much $84 million on erectile dysfunction medication than it would under RAND Corp.’s estimate for gender reassignment surgery.

Asked about that cost comparison, Perry reportedly quipped, “You know what, I don’t check on the price of Viagra.”

Perry has a long anti-LGBT history as Texas governor and perennial Republican presidential candidate, which includes declares support for the now lifted ban on gay troops in the Boy Scouts of America. As energy secretary, penned an op-ed against his alma mater Texas A&M over the election of its first openly gay student president, Bobby Brooks, saying the system was rigged in his favor in a “quest for diversity.”

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European Union

European Court of Human Rights rules against Lithuania propaganda law

Children’s book author in 2019 challenged anti-LGBTQ statute

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(Bigstock photo)

The European Court of Human Rights on Monday ruled Lithuania’s anti-LGBTQ propaganda law violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Author Neringa Dangvydė Macatė in 2019 filed a lawsuit against the law after Lithuanian authorities censured her children’s book that featured two same-sex couples.

The law specifically bans the distribution of information to minors that “expresses contempt for family values, encourages the concept of entry into a marriage and creation of a family other than stipulated in the Constitution of the republic of Lithuania and the Civil Code of the republic of Lithuania.” The court in April 2022 heard Macatė’s case.

Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Bob Gilchrist is among those who have publicly criticized the law. Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, an openly gay Lithuanian MP who is running for mayor of Vlinius, the country’s capital, told the Washington Blade the ruling will bolster efforts to repeal the propaganda law.

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South America

Chilean government seeks to implement LGBTQ, intersex rights agenda

Conservative newspaper incorrectly reported ministry plans legislation

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The' LGBTIQA+ Roundtable'’s first year of work ended on Jan. 6, 2023. Forty-two organizations from across Chile participated. (Photo courtesy of the Women and Gender Equity Ministry)

A conversative Chilean newspaper’s article on Sunday that said the Women and Gender Equity Ministry was preparing to introduce a bill that would create an LGBTQ and intersex rights undersecretariat prompted mixed reactions across the country. 

The ministry in 2022 launched its first “LGBTIQA+ Roundtable” that includes representatives of different public institutions, organizations and Chilean LGBTQ and intersex activists who are working to improve the quality of life for the country’s queer community that over the last year has seen an increase in attacks and hate crimes.

LGBTQ and intersex rights in Chile have gained ground over the last decade.

Civil unions, marriage equality, transgender rights and an anti-discrimination law are some of the successes that took time to take effect. There is, however, no state institution or public policy that works to ensure historically discriminated LGBTQ and intersex Chileans are included. This is why activists feel the “LGBTIQA+ Roundtable” that President Gabriel Boric’s government is promoting is an unprecedented opportunity. 

Jaime Nazar, left, Javier Silva with their two children shortly after they married in Santiago, Chile, on March 10, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Forty-two organizations from across Chile participated in the roundtable during its first year, which culminated on Jan. 6 with the signing of an agreement between the Women and Gender Equity Ministry’s Women and Gender Equality Undersecretariat and the Interior and Public Safety Ministry’s Crime Prevention Undersecretariat to assist people across the country who are victims of anti-LGBTQ attacks. The roundtable at the same time also announced it will send a bill to Congress later in 2023 that would expand the ministry’s mandate to ensure “the LGBTIQA+ community is included.”

There has yet to be an announcement on the creation of an LGBTQ and intersex undersecretariat.

Most Chilean media outlets covered this report after El Mercurio published it on Sunday. José Antonio Kast, an extreme right-wing politician who is a former presidential candidate, on his Twitter account criticized what turned out to be inaccurate.

“Chile is poorer, more violent and insecure than a year ago and the inept government is dedicated to enlarge the State to deepen its ideological agenda, instead of solving social urgencies,” wrote the Republican Party leader. 

The ministry told the Washington Blade that “the roundtable with organizations from the LGBTIQA+ community has just been finalized.”

“One of the demands is to have an institutionality,” said the ministry. “During 2023 it will be defined which is the progressive path, while the anti-discrimination law is improved at the same time.”

Women and Gender Equity Undersecretary Luz Vidal Huiriqueo on her social media networks said “we met with LGBTQ+ organizations for seven months” and the ministry made “security, employment and health priorities.” 

“On the 1st we advanced in an agreement with (the Crime Prevention Undersecretariat) to properly address and for the long challenges we committed to propose an institutional mechanism,” said Vidal. 

Vidal said in an exclusive interview with the Blade before El Mercurio published its inaccurate report that “finding and giving answers to the demands of the LGBTIQA+ population in Chile is a commitment for President Gabriel Boric’s government that will not be put aside for anything.”

“We at the (Women and Gender Equality Ministry) have embraced the day-to-day needs that this community, in many cases, has to survive,” said Vidal from her office. “That is why, from our ministry, we have created this intergovernmental roundtable to have a fluid and permanent communication with LGBTIQA+ organizations.

Vidal added Boric “instructed us to move from discourse to action.” 

“We have to get to work. We have to implement the agreements,” said Vidal. “We can’t just make pretty announcements and that is our commitment. The commitment we have today is to work for women, for gender equity, for and with the entire population, in favor of all citizens and of those who lack the presence of the State.”

Chilean authorities after signing an agreement to provide additional government assistance to hate crimes victims. (Photo courtesy of the Women and Gender Equity Ministry)

The undersecretary told the Blade the need to incorporate the queer community into the ministry’s work is important because “the State, as of today, has no powers to specifically address the LGBTQ+ population.”

“We need to create a progressive path that, whether an institutional or other figure, allows us to implement public policies,” she said.

That supposed institutionality was the one that sparked controversy last Sunday and it will not be an easy path, regardless of the mechanism that Boric’s government ultimately chooses to implement.

“I think it is not going to be an easy process,” said Vidal. “It is not going to be a project that we can say, we are going to take them out at the end of the year, that is clear to us. Even today it is difficult to move forward with projects or the work that the ministry is doing because we currently have a Congress with political forces that are against inclusion and respect for diversity. This is present in our Congress, and it is also present in several Latin American countries.” 

Emilia Schneider, Chile’s first trans congresswoman, on the other hand told the Blade that “it seems to me that the announcement of an institutional framework for the LGBTI community within the Women’s Ministry, and also in what has been working with the Justice Ministry to advance in an institutional framework against discrimination, regarding the reform of the Anti-Discrimination Law are two fundamental steps to advance in dignity and rights for sexual diversities and dissidences.” 

Schneider said it is important “to make a permanent change in the State, which recognizes the importance of having a space that responds to the needs of the queer population and takes charge of combating inequality, discrimination and violence to which our community is exposed.” 

“It seems to me that this is one of the most important commitments, which if realized would be a fundamental legacy of this government in matters of sexual diversity and dissidence,” she said.

Ignacia Oyarzun, coordinator of public policies for Asociación OTD Chile, the country’s most important trans rights organization, said the implementation of an institutional framework to advance LGBTQ and intersex rights “is an advance that goes in the direction of establishing what will be a trans labor quota to achieve a greater integration of the community in society.”

Oyarzun noted employers do not hire people who are trans, or fire them without reason. This lack of employment opportunities, according to Asociación OTD Chile, makes trans people more vulnerable to violence.

Jorge Muñoz of Movimiento Organizado de Gays, Lesbianas, Trans y Heterosexuales (MOGALETH) in Puerto Montt, a city that is roughly 640 miles south of the capital of Santiago, also participated in the roundtable. Muñoz told the Blade that “any approach from the central power to civil society, and especially to the regions, is positive.” 

“In this context, we consider it an advance in terms of the demands of the collective in the struggle for the recognition of the historical violation of our rights,” said Muñoz. “The State’s recognition of mistreatment and hate speech towards dissidents has historically been centralized. The regions where we also suffer harassment, mistreatment, difficulties in access to health, education and work have been relegated throughout history. In this sense, what we value most is the recognition of our demands in the territorial context.”

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Politics

EXCLUSIVE: Pelosi reflects on long career, LGBTQ advocacy

Former Speaker credits activists who fought for AIDS funding, marriage equality

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Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (Photo courtesy of the Office of Nancy Pelosi)

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sat down with the Washington Blade in her office Tuesday evening for an exclusive interview just weeks after formally stepping down from leadership, having led her party in the House for 20 years, including as Speaker. 

Pelosi reflected on the role she has played in landmark legislative achievements, including milestones in the fight for LGBTQ rights. She also addressed some current events that have earned significant attention from political observers and the beltway press. 

So much of the historic progress over the past few decades in advancements toward the legal, social, and political equality of LGBTQ Americans, including those living with HIV/AIDS, was facilitated directly or otherwise supported by Pelosi’s leadership in Congress, but she was quick to credit the tireless work of individual activists and LGBTQ, civil rights, and HIV/AIDS advocacy groups.

“I attribute the success with [fighting] HIV/AIDS and everything that came after,” from legislation on hate crimes to marriage equality, “to the outside mobilization” of these activists and organizations, she told the Blade.

Despite positioning herself as an advocate for LGBTQ rights well before that position was popular, Pelosi said she is unaware of any instances where she may have suffered political consequences as a result. Regardless, she said, “I don’t care.”  

The more she has been criticized for championing LGBTQ rights in Congress, “the more proud I am” of that work, Pelosi added. 

Pelosi has always been a strident LGBTQ ally, guided by her commitment to justice, love, and fairness as ordained by the teachings of her Catholic faith. These ideals are in perfect alignment, she said, as opposed to the position held by many opponents of LGBTQ rights who nevertheless claim to believe we are all created in God’s image. 

During an interview with Larry King, when serving as the San Francisco Democratic National Convention host committee chairwoman in 1984, Pelosi said the late television host remarked: “I just don’t understand how a Catholic girl who grew up in Baltimore, Maryland is such a champion for gay rights.”

“You’ve answered your own question,” Pelosi told him, referring to his mention of her Catholicism. “It is our faith that tells us that we’re all God’s children, and we must respect the dignity and worth of every person.”

Pelosi’s time in Congress began with the AIDS crisis, and she has kept up the fight ever since 

After committing herself and the Congress to the fight against HIV/AIDS during her first speech from the floor of the House in 1987, Pelosi said some of her colleagues asked whether she thought it wise for her feelings on the subject to be “the first thing that people know about you” as a newly elected member.

They questioned her decision not because they harbored any stigma, but rather for concern over how “others might view my service here,” Pelosi said. The battle against HIV/AIDS, she told them, “is why I came here.”

“It was every single day,” she said. 

Alongside the “big money for research, treatment, and prevention” were other significant legislative accomplishments, such as “when we] were able to get Medicaid to treat HIV [patients] as Medicaid-eligible” rather than requiring them to wait until their disease had progressed to full-blown AIDS to qualify for coverage, said Pelosi, who authored the legislation.

“That was a very big deal for two reasons,” she said. First, because it saved lives by allowing low-income Americans living with HIV to begin treatment before the condition becomes life-threatening, and second, because “it was the recognition that we had this responsibility to intervene early.”

Other milestones in which Pelosi had a hand include the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program, President Bush’s PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) initiative, the Affordable Care Act (which contains significant benefits for Americans living with HIV/AIDS), and funding for the Ending the Epidemic initiative. 

The last appropriations bill passed under Pelosi’s tenure as Democratic leader in December contained an additional $100 million boost to HIV/AIDS programs. 

These and other hard-won victories over the years – from the biomedical progress made possible by investment in research to foreign aid packages that have saved countless lives overseas – have often come despite staunch opposition from lawmakers, particularly congressional Republicans.

For instance, the late former Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina opposed federal funding for HIV/AIDS research because he considered it tantamount to the government’s endorsement of “the homosexual lifestyle” responsible for the spread of the disease in the U.S.

nancy pelosi, gay news, Washington Blade
Rep. Nancy Pelosi speaks at the NGLCC National Dinner in 2018. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Asked how she might compare anti-LGBTQ members like Helms with whom she worked in the past to those serving today, Pelosi said the most salient difference is the homophobic and transphobic attitudes among lawmakers in previous decades were in many cases borne out of ignorance. 

Pelosi said that while the prejudice was “horrible [back] then” and she was “impatient” with lawmakers in the House who exhibited attitudes similar to those expressed by Helms, at that time people who held those views were often “just not up to date on what was happening in the world.” 

(Pelosi noted that, for his part, Helms seemed to soften his stance on matters concerning HIV/AIDS. She suspects U2 frontman Bono may have successfully appealed to Helms as a parent, but “I don’t know exactly.”)

By contrast, today’s lawmakers, like the overwhelming majority of Americans, “must have a growing awareness of [LGBTQ] people in their own communities, maybe in their own families,” Pelosi said. “They’re really in a different world,” which means, they “have made a decision that they’re going to be anti-LGBTQ,” she said, adding that hate and prejudice today is most often directed at the trans community. “It’s completely unacceptable.” 

Asked to share her thoughts on the many scandals that have unfolded over the past couple of months concerning gay freshman GOP Rep. George Santos of New York, Pelosi pointed out that while the congressman has dominated headlines recently, other members of the House Republican caucus who have weaponized homophobia and transphobia to a far greater extent than he are much more dangerous. 

But first, Pelosi said that House Democrats would never do what the Republican leadership has done by tolerating the embattled freshman congressman to protect their slim majority control of the chamber.

Santos is “almost a joke; he’s become a punch line,” Pelosi said. “He’s outrageous, and there’s no way he should be allowed to serve” given the extent to which the congressman has failed to exhibit the “dignity” required of members who are privileged to serve in the House of Representatives.

At the same time, “there are people over there who are more seriously dangerous to the freedoms in our country than him” Pelosi said. She pointed to the hate mongering and fear mongering in which many of Santos’s Republican colleagues have engaged, including “the things that that they say about trans families and, just, the injustice of it all.” 

Rep. Nancy Pelosi visits the site of the Pulse massacre in 2016.

The aim of these far-right lawmakers extends far beyond undermining the rights of LGBTQ people, of course. Pelosi noted that, “you have to remember, with all of these things, whether we’re talking about women’s right to choose – we’ve always expanded freedoms. And now with this Supreme Court, they’re narrowing freedoms with women’s right to choose” by the revocation of constitutional protections for abortion via last year’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. 

Breaking the ‘marble ceiling’

Rep. Nancy Pelosi is presented with a rainbow-jeweled gavel at an LGBTQ staffer event on Capitol Hill in 2012. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

During a lecture last year hosted at the University of California, Berkeley, Barbara Boxer, who formerly represented California in the House and then in the Senate, commented on the historic significance of Pelosi’s election to become the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2006. “The fact that a woman could get into the leadership like this, to win the trust of all these men, it’s more extraordinary than you can imagine,” Boxer said. 

Boxer has also been a trailblazer for women in politics. She was the first woman to chair the Marin County Board of Supervisors, and after her election to serve in the upper chamber alongside California’s senior Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the two became the first pair of women to represent any state in the U.S. Senate.

Asked how she managed to secure the votes from, particularly, the older men in her caucus without compromising her values, Pelosi told the Blade, “I just did what I believed” rather than coming to Congress to “change other people’s behavior.” 

She said that many of her male colleagues “had to get over their own negative attitudes” concerning the prospect of electing a woman to lead their party in the House, but “I wasn’t going to wait until then.”

At the same time, Pelosi acknowledged that “it took courage to vote for a woman as speaker,” noting that when she was sworn in back in 2007, she took the opportunity to thank the men who had supported her speakership. (She was elected unanimously on the first ballot.)

Pelosi said that prior to her speakership, she had always believed that the prospect of Americans electing a woman president was likelier to happen in her lifetime than members of Congress – who tend to be older men – voting for a woman speaker.

“I thought the American people were more ready than the Congress” to break the “marble ceiling,” she said. 

Considering the parallel special counsel investigations into alleged mishandling of classified documents by President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, Pelosi has perhaps unwittingly strengthened the case for America to elect a woman president by virtue of her unblemished record as a steward of sensitive, top-secret information. 

“I have 30 years of experience in intelligence. I have been on the [House Intelligence] Committee, the top Democrat on the Committee, ex officio on the Committee, a speaker and [Democratic] leader [in the House],” Pelosi said. 

She distinguished the rules by which she and other members of Congress are governed, which prohibit the removal or relocation of classified documents, from the policies that the Commander in Chief must follow, which are comparably more permissive. 

Regardless, Pelosi said, “the documents are to be respected,” along with the rules and procedures for how they should be handled. 

There are also important distinctions to note between the allegations against Trump and Biden, Pelosi said. “When you see the former president obstructing access to the documents, and you see this president saying, ‘I’ve instructed my lawyers to look for whatever is there and make them available to the Justice Department,’ that’s two different things,” she said. 

Additionally, Pelosi said, from the information that has been made available so far, it seems that Trump was in possession of a greater volume of documents whose contents were more sensitive than those at issue in Biden’s case. 

Pelosi’s LGBTQ fans celebrate her accomplishments 

Rep. Nancy Pelosi hugs activist Mike Almy at the certification of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal in the U.S. House on Dec. 21, 2010. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In November, the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, issued a statement following Pelosi’s announcement of her plans to step down from Democratic leadership but continue to represent her constituents in California’s 11th Congressional District in the House. 

“Speaker Pelosi has been the tip of the spear on watershed advancements for the LGBTQ+ community,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said in a statement, pointing to her 1987 speech on the AIDS crisis and “forceful advocacy for marriage equality long before its mainstream popularity,” both before she was elected as speaker. 

The Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages, was signed into law in 1996 with overwhelming support from both parties in both chambers of Congress; 342 members of the House voted for the proposal, with Pelosi joining only 64 other House Democrats, one independent, and one Republican in her opposition. 

“During [Pelosi’s] tenure as Speaker,” HRC noted, “the House of Representatives passed an historic hate crimes law [the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act], repealed the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law, led the fight to enact the Affordable Care Act, and vocally opposed bans on transgender members serving in our nation’s military.” 

Pelosi’s leadership was bookended with Congress’s passage late last year of the Respect for Marriage Act, which is credited as the greatest legislative victory for LGBTQ Americans since the 2010 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stands with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) at the enrollment for the Respect for Marriage Act in the U.S. House on Dec. 8, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Nancy Pelosi)

Outside the U.S. Capitol building, Pelosi has also been celebrated by the LGBTQ community for signaling her support through, for example, her participation in some of the earliest meetings of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, her meeting with the survivors of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre, and her appearance at a host of LGBTQ events over the years.  

Of course, at the same time, Pelosi has been a constant target of attacks from the right, which in the past few years have become increasingly violent. During the siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, her office was ransacked by insurrectionists who shouted violent threats against her. A couple of weeks later, unearthed social media posts by far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) revealed she had signaled support for executing Pelosi along with other prominent House Democrats. And last October, the speaker’s husband Paul Pelosi suffered critical injuries after he was attacked by a man wielding a hammer who had broken into the couple’s San Francisco home. 

Pelosi told CNN last week that her husband is “doing OK,” but expects it will “take a little while for him to be back to normal.”

Among her fans in progressive circles, Pelosi – who has been a towering figure in American politics since the Bush administration – has become something of a cultural icon, as well. For instance, the image of her clapping after Trump’s State of the Union speech in 2019 has been emblazoned on coffee mugs.

“What is so funny about it,” Pelosi said, is rather than “that work [over] all these years as a legislator,” on matters including the “Affordable Care Act, millions of people getting health care, what we did over the years with HIV/AIDS in terms of legislation, this or that,” people instead have made much ado over her manner of clapping after Trump’s speech. And while the move was widely seen as antagonistic, Pelosi insisted, “it was not intended to be a negative thing.” 

Regardless, she said, “it’s nice to have some fun about it, because you’re putting up with the criticism all the time – on issues, whether it’s about LGBTQ, or being a woman, or being from San Francisco, or whatever it is.” 

Rep. Nancy Pelosi talks with Blade reporter Christopher Kane on Tuesday, Jan. 24. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Nancy Pelosi)
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