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Trump blows off question on Roy Moore’s views against gays

President says he’ll meet with U.S. Senate candidate next week

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President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden on Oct. 16. (Image public domain)

In the same White House Rose Garden news conference in which he called sexual assault allegations against him “fake news” and begged Hillary Clinton to run against in 2020, President Trump blew off a question from a reporter on whether he disagrees with U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore on making homosexuality illegal.

Trump refused to a say whether he’s comfortable with Moore serving in the U.S. Senate in response to a reporter who inquired about the candidate’s opposition to homosexuality and belief Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in public office.

“I’m going to be meeting with Roy sometime next week and we’re going to talk to him about a lot of different things, but I’ll be meeting with him,” Trump said. “He ran a very strong race. The people of Alabama — who I like very much, and they like me very much — but they like Roy, but we’ll be talking to them, and I can report back to then, OK?”

The reporter also posed the question to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was present at the news conference, but McConnell never responded to question and Trump proceeded to the next reporter.

Moore has built an virulently anti-LGBT reputation over his career as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court before he became a U.S. Senate candidate. In 2015, Moore urged his state to refuse to recognize the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality nationwide. A 2005 tape was unearthed over the course of his Senate run in which he said homosexuality should be illegal. (Such a law would be unconstitutional as a result of the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas).

At the anti-LGBT Values Voter Summit last week, Moore expressed his view Christian theology should take precedence over all government laws and the country must “go back to the basis of our morality, which is in God, not man.”

In the Republican primary, Trump supported not Moore, who was a favorite of the far-right and Steve Bannon, and instead supported incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.). Moore ended up beating Strange in the primary by a several points after which Trump tweeted Moore “sounds like a really great guy.”

Trump’s refusal to repudiate Moore falls short of the response White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered last month when she said the two “don’t agree” on LGBT issues.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, chided Trump for declining to condemn in a tweet containing a video of the exchange.

Moore is facing a run-off on Dec. 12 in Alabama to win the open U.S. Senate seat against Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, whom the Human Rights Campaign has endorsed. A Cygnal poll published on Thursday found Moore enjoys an eight-point lead in the race.

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Michigan

Mich. Democrats spar over LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes law

Lawmakers disagree on just what kind of statute to pass

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Members of the Michigan House Democrats gather to celebrate Pride month in 2023 in the Capitol building. (Photo courtesy of Michigan House Democrats)

Michigan could soon become the latest state to pass an LGBTQ-inclusive hate crime law, but the state’s Democratic lawmakers disagree on just what kind of law they should pass.

Currently, Michigan’s Ethnic Intimidation Act only offers limited protections to victims of crime motivated by their “race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.” Bills proposed by Democratic lawmakers expand the list to include “actual or perceived race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, physical or mental disability, age, national origin, or association or affiliation with any such individuals.” 

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have both advocated for a hate crime law, but house and senate Democrats have each passed different hate crimes packages, and Nessel has blasted both as being too weak.

Under the house proposal that passed last year (House Bill 4474), a first offense would be punishable with a $2,000 fine, up to two years in prison, or both. Penalties double for a second offense, and if a gun or other dangerous weapons is involved, the maximum penalty is six years in prison and a fine of $7,500. 

But that proposal stalled when it reached the senate, after far-right news outlets and Fox News reported misinformation that the bill only protected LGBTQ people and would make misgendering a trans person a crime. State Rep. Noah Arbit, the bill’s sponsor, was also made the subject of a recall effort, which ultimately failed.

Arbit submitted a new version of the bill (House Bill 5288) that added sections clarifying that misgendering a person, “intentionally or unintentionally” is not a hate crime, although the latest version (House Bill 5400) of the bill omits this language.

That bill has since stalled in a house committee, in part because the Democrats lost their house majority last November, when two Democratic representatives resigned after being elected mayors. The Democrats regained their house majority last night by winning two special elections.

Meanwhile, the senate passed a different package of hate crime bills sponsored by state Sen. Sylvia Santana (Senate Bill 600) in March that includes much lighter sentences, as well as a clause ensuring that misgendering a person is not a hate crime. 

Under the senate bill, if the first offense is only a threat, it would be a misdemeanor punishable by one year in prison and up to $1,000 fine. A subsequent offense or first violent hate crime, including stalking, would be a felony that attracts double the punishment.

Multiple calls and emails from the Washington Blade to both Arbit and Santana requesting comment on the bills for this story went unanswered.

The attorney general’s office sent a statement to the Blade supporting stronger hate crime legislation.

“As a career prosecutor, [Nessel] has seen firsthand how the state’s weak Ethnic Intimidation Act (not updated since the late 1980’s) does not allow for meaningful law enforcement and court intervention before threats become violent and deadly, nor does it consider significant bases for bias.  It is our hope that the legislature will pass robust, much-needed updates to this statute,” the statement says.

But Nessel, who has herself been the victim of racially motivated threats, has also blasted all of the bills presented by Democrats as not going far enough.

“Two years is nothing … Why not just give them a parking ticket?” Nessel told Bridge Michigan.

Nessel blames a bizarre alliance far-right and far-left forces that have doomed tougher laws.

“You have this confluence of forces on the far right … this insistence that the First Amendment protects this language, or that the Second Amendment protects the ability to possess firearms under almost any and all circumstances,” Nessel said. “But then you also have the far left that argues basically no one should go to jail or prison for any offense ever.”

The legislature did manage to pass an “institutional desecration” law last year that penalizes hate-motivated vandalism to churches, schools, museums, and community centers, and is LGBTQ-inclusive.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Justice, reported hate crime incidents have been skyrocketing, with attacks motivated by sexual orientation surging by 70 percent from 2020 to 2022, the last year for which data is available. 

Twenty-two states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have passed LGBTQ-inclusive hate crime laws. Another 11 states have hate crime laws that include protections for “sexual orientation” but not “gender identity.”

Michigan Democrats have advanced several key LGBTQ rights priorities since they took unified control of the legislature in 2023. A long-stalled comprehensive anti-discrimination law was passed last year, as did a conversion therapy ban. Last month the legislature updated family law to make surrogacy easier for all couples, including same-sex couples. 

A bill to ban the “gay panic” defense has passed the state house and was due for a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday.

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District of Columbia

Reenactment of first gay rights picket at White House draws interest of tourists

LGBTQ activists carry signs from historic 1965 protest

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About 30 LGBTQ activists formed a picket line in front of the White House April 17. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

About 30 LGBTQ activists formed a circular picket line in front of the White House Wednesday afternoon, April 17, carrying signs calling for an end to discrimination against “homosexuals” in a reenactment of the first gay rights protest at the White House that took place 59 years earlier on April 17, 1965.

Crowds of tourists looked on with interest as the activists walked back and forth in silence in front of the White House fence on Pennsylvania Avenue. Like the 1965 event, several of the men were dressed in suits and ties and the women in dresses in keeping with a 1960s era dress code policy for protests of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the city’s first gay rights group that organized the 1965 event.

Wednesday’s reenactment was organized by D.C.’s Rainbow History Project, which made it clear that the event was not intended as a protest against President Joe Biden and his administration, which the group praised as a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights.

“I think this was an amazing event,” said Vincent Slatt, the Rainbow History Project official who led efforts to put on the event. “We had twice as many that we had hoped for that came today,” he said.

“It was so great to see a reenactment and so great to see how far we’ve come,” Slatt said. “And also, the acknowledgement of what else we still need to do.”

Slatt said participants in the event who were not carrying picket signs handed out literature explaining the purpose of the event.

A flier handed out by participants noted that among the demands of the protesters at the 1965 event were to end the ban on homosexuals from working in the federal government, an end to the ban on gays serving in the military, an end to the denial of security clearances for gays, and an end of the government’s refusal to meet with the LGBTQ community. 

“The other thing that I think is really, really moving is some of the gay staff inside the White House found out this was happening and came out to greet us,” Slatt said. He noted that this highlighted how much has changed since 1965, when then President Lyndon Johnson’s White House refused to respond to a letter sent to Johnson from the Mattachine Society explaining its grievances. 

“So now to have gay people in the White House coming out to give us their respects and to say hello was especially meaningful to us,” Slatt said. “That was not expected today.”

Among those walking the picket line was longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate Paul Kuntzler, who is the only known surviving person who was among the White House picketers at the April 1965 event. Kuntzler said he proudly carried a newly printed version of the sign at Wednesday’s reenactment event that he carried during the 1965 protest. It stated, “Fifteen Million Homosexuals Protest Federal Treatment.”  

Also participating in the event was Japer Bowles, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Bowles presented Slatt with a proclamation issued by Bowser declaring April 17, 2024, Mattachine Society Day in Washington, D.C.

“Whereas, on April 17, 1965, the Mattachine Society of Washington courageously held the nation’s inaugural picket for gay rights, a seminal moment in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQIA+ equality in the United States, marking the genesis of public demonstrations advocating for those rights and paving the way for Pride Marches and Pride celebrations worldwide,” the proclamation states.

About 30 minutes after the reenactment event began, uniformed Secret Service agents informed Slatt that due to a security issue the picketers would have to move off the sidewalk in front of the White House and resume the picketing across the street on the sidewalk in front of Lafayette Park. When asked by the Washington Blade what the security issue was about, one of the Secret Service officers said he did not have any further details other than that his superiors informed him that the White House sidewalk would have to be temporarily cleared of all people.

Participants in the event quickly resumed their picket line on the sidewalk in front of Lafayette Park for another 30 minutes or so in keeping with the 1965 picketing event, which lasted for one hour, from 4:20 p.m. to 5:20 p.m., according to Rainbow  History Project’s research into the 1965 event.

Although the LGBTQ picketers continued their procession in silence, a separate protest in Lafayette Park a short distance from the LGBTQ picketers included speakers shouting through amplified speakers. The protest was against the government of Saudi Arabia and organized by a Muslim group called Al Baqee Organization.

A statement released by the Rainbow History Project says the reenactment event, among other things, was a tribute to D.C.-area lesbian rights advocate Lilli Vincenz, who participated in the 1965 White House picketing, and D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who founded the Mattachine Society of Washington in the early 1960s and was the lead organizer of the 1965 White House protest. Kameny died in 2011 and Vincenz died in 2023.

The picket signs carried by participants in the reenactment event, which were reproduced from the 1965 event, had these messages:

• “DISCRIMINATION Against Homosexuals is as immoral as Discrimination Against Negroes and Jews;”

• “Government Should Combat Prejudice NOT PROMOTE IT”

• “White House Refuses Replies to Our Letters, AFRAID OF US?

• “HOMOSEXUALS Died for their Country, Too”

• “First Class Citizenship for HOMOSEXUALS”

• “Sexual Preference is Irrelevant to Employment”

• “Fifteen Million U.S. Homosexuals Protest Federal Treatment”

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District of Columbia

Organizers announce details for D.C. Black Pride 2024

Most events to take place Memorial Day weekend at Westin Downtown

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Black Pride 2024 details were announced this week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Center for Black Equity, the organizer of D.C. Black Pride, the nation’s first and one of the largest annual African-American LGBTQ Pride celebrations, announced this year’s event will take place Memorial Day Weekend from May 24-27.

The announcement, released April 16, says that most 2024 D.C. Black Pride events will take place at the Westin Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel at 999 9th St, N.W.

“With the theme Black Pride Forever, the event promises a weekend filled with vibrant celebrations, empowering workshops, and a deep exploration of Black LGBTQIA+ history and culture,” the announcement says.

It says events will include as in past years a “Rainbow Row” vendor expo at the hotel featuring “organizations and vendors created for and by the LGBTQIA+ community” offering products and services “that celebrate Black excellence.”

According to the announcement, other events include a Health and Wellness Festival that will offer workshops, demonstrations, and activities focused on “holistic well-being;” a Mary Bowman Poetry Slam “showcasing the power and beauty of spoken word by Black LGBTQIA+ artists;” the Black Pride Through the Decades Party, that will celebrate the “rich history of the Black LGBTQIA+ movement;” and an Empowerment Through Knowledge series of workshops that “delve into various topics relevant to the Black LGBTQIA+ community.”

Also, as in past years, this year’s D.C. Black Pride will feature its “Opening Night Extravaganza” reception and party that will include entertainment and live performances.

The announcement notes that D.C.’s annual Black Pride celebration, started in 1991 as a one-day outdoor event at Howard University’s Banneker Field, has inspired annual Black LGBTQ Pride events across the United States and in Canada, United Kingdom, Brazil, Africa, and the Caribbean. More than 300,000 people attend Black LGBTQ Pride events each year worldwide, the announcement says.

Full details, including the official schedule of events, can be accessed at dcblackpride.org.

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