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Senate Dems take series of actions to assist LGBT youth, elders

Lawmakers call for reinstatement of survey questions, introduce LGBT elder legislation

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National Champagne Brunch, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin signed letters and introduced legislation aimed at helping LGBT youth and elders.
(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Senate Democrats took a series of actions Tuesday seeking to assist the LGBT community — one action for the LGBT youth, two others for LGBT elders — both of which are subgroups that have a history of unique challenges.

In a pair of letters dated Nov. 7, U.S. Sens. Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) led 21 senators in calling on the Trump administration to ensure programs designed to combat youth homelessness reach LGBT people and include LGBT elders in health surveys.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) — along with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) — introduced the LGBT Elder Americans Act, which seeks to improve services available for LGBT elders.

The letters, sent to both the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, bases its call to action on President Trump’s promise during his 2016 campaign to be a friend to LGBT people.

“During the campaign, President Trump said that he would ‘do everything in [his] power to protect LGBTQ citizens.’  We write to you because the administration is not living up to the president’s promise,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to reverse course on actions that will make it more challenging for programs you oversee to serve LGBTQ Americans.”

Specifically, the letter to the Justice Department expresses concern two federal grant programs that combat homelessness — DOJ’s Mentoring for Child Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation & Domestic Sex Trafficking Initiative and HHS’ Street Outreach Program — will no longer focus on LGBT youth because this year’s funding requirement “removed that requirement as well as all mentions of LGBTQ youth.”

“As LGBTQ youth are at a higher risk for running away and becoming homeless compared to their peers, and therefore more likely to be victimized, we are concerned about the effect these administration decisions would have on these vulnerable youth,” the letter says.

Meanwhile, the letter to the Department of Health & Human Services calls for restoration of questions allowing respondents to identify as transgender in the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants as well as LGBT on the Centers for Independent Living Annual Program Performance Report. (HHS has previously removed the sexual-orientation question from the NSOAPP, but reinstated it under public pressure.)

“In order to ensure that key programs for older adults and people with disabilities are meeting the needs of the entire LGBTQ community, we once again reiterate our call for HHS to restore the gender-identity question to the NSOAPP and to collect information on sexual orientation and gender identity on the CILPPR,” the letter says.

Additionally, the letter expresses concern about the withdrawal of a proposed HHS rule that would have clarified same-sex spouses should are afforded equal rights in nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid. That rule was widely seen as redundant after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality nationwide.

Neither the Justice Department, not the Department of Health & Human Services, responded to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the letter.

Meanwhile, the LGBT Elder Americans Act, reintroduced by Bennet, would build on the Older Americans Act to include LGBT seniors as a vulnerable population and permanently establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

“Our laws and research are not current in addressing the unique needs of the aging generation of baby boomers,” Bennet said in a statement. “This legislation would provide LGBT seniors, who often face significant barriers to accessing health care, with targeted services and resources. By helping aging service organizations assist older LGBT adults and permanently establishing a National Resource Center, we will better meet the needs of the LGBT community.”

Baldwin, who’s running for re-election in the U.S. Senate next year and remains the only out lesbian in Congress, also emphasized the importance of the LGBT Elder Americans Act in a statement.

“We should guarantee all of our seniors access to the care that truly meets their needs and so I am proud to advance this legislation that will improve services and support for LGBT older adults,” Baldwin said. “Too many LGBT older adults carry the harmful physical and emotional health effects of having lived through a lifetime of discrimination. It is past time we do something about it and strengthen the Older Americans Act to better support our LGBT seniors.”

Last week, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) — along with Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) — introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House known as the Ruthie & Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act, named for two LGBT elders who continue to fight for LGBT equality.

Michael Adams, CEO of the LGBT elder group SAGE USA, commended the lawmakers for introducing the legislation in a statement.

“LGBT elders, whose courage in the face of danger and adversity paved the way for progress on LGBT equality in recent years, deserve to be taken care of as they age, no matter where in the United States they live,” Adams said. “Our LGBT elder pioneers did not lead the movement birthed at Stonewall by being silent. We at SAGE follow their example by raising our voices in support of the Ruthie & Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2017 and to demand justice for this growing population.”

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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 (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, June 21, 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!”

In a statement posted on social media, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she and her administration were “heartbroken” over the news of Delia’s passing.

“Bernie leaves behind an incredible legacy in our city and country — through his life and advocacy, he helped pave a path for LGBTQIA+ residents in our city and within the federal government to live and work openly and proudly,” the mayor says in her statement.

“He helped transform Capital Pride into one of the largest and most inclusive Pride celebrations in the nation — a true reflection and representation of our people and values,” the statement says. “This is the D.C. that Bernie helped build and that he leaves behind.”

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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 invited the Democratic Alliance and other parties to form a Government of National Unity.

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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