Connect with us

homepage news

Gay friend defends Trump’s pick for AG amid concerns from LGBT groups

‘He’s been a huge force in my life’

Published

on

William Barr in the early 90s as Attorney General under George H.W. Bush. (Photo public domain)

A longtime gay friend of William Barr, President Trump’s pick as the next U.S. attorney general, has come to the defense of the nominee amid concerns from LGBT groups he’d continue the anti-LGBT legal positions of the Trump Justice Department.

Paul Cappuccio, a former general counsel for Time Warner who’s raising children in a same-sex marriage, told the Washington Blade during an interview Friday he worked for Barr when Barr served as attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration and said “there’s been no one who has been more supportive of my same-sex family than Bill Barr has, not only with my partner, with my children, for whom he’s ‘Uncle Bill.’ I know several people who are openly gay — who he has mentored — front and center,” Cappuccio said. “I was not open the entire time I knew him, but I was open a lot of the time I knew him.”

Cappuccio, who said he’s “thrilled” Barr may come back as attorney general, said the Trump nominee “feels extremely passionate” that “justice is about fairness for an individual, and people are entitled to be treated as individuals no matter what their political views, their race, their religion, their sexual orientation.”

“About that, he’s always been passionate, and I’ve seen it with a first-hand seat, including sitting next to him in the attorney general’s office for a couple years, so I feel quite comfortable and happy that Bill could be attorney general again,” Cappuccio said.

Cappuccio said Barr is “a person who is about enforcing the laws, not undermining them, not trying to remake them” and that he “accepts precedent,” which Cappuccio said bodes well for preserving the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality nationwide.

“Do I think Bill Bar would have, if he was on the Supreme Court, would have voted to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right?” Cappuccio said. “I don’t know, but I know he would do nothing to undermine the decision, right? And that’s what matters because he’s going to be our nation’s chief law enforcement officer.”

Cappuccio added Barr is a “devout Catholic,” but is “a person who has never been one to judge anyone, and for whom — and this is how he measures himself — the equal fair treatment of an individual is the ultimate requirement and test and goal.”

“For what it’s worth, I have direct experience with him as a person and seen how he has not only treated LGBT people fairly, but mentored them,” Cappuccio said. “He’s been a huge force in my life. For example, I got to tell you, I wasn’t always open, and when he found out, he looked at me and said, ‘You feel like you couldn’t tell me? You couldn’t tell me you want to marry someone? I can’t believe that.’ And that was one of the sweetest things. ‘I want to meet this guy’ is what he said.”

Despite Cappuccio’s praise for Barr, who most recently served as a counsel for Kirkland & Ellis LLP, the Trump nominee once made anti-gay comments expressing concerns about greater tolerance for the “homosexual movement” in the United States than the religious community.

“It is no accident that the homosexual movement, at one or two percent of the population, gets treated with such solicitude while the Catholic population, which is over a quarter of the country, is given the back of the hand,” Barr once wrote. “How has that come to be?”

Barr expressed those views in a 1995 article for “The Catholic Lawyer,” a conservative Catholic publication for St. John’s University School of Law, in an article titled, “Legal Issues in a New Political Order.”

“We live in an increasingly militant, secular age,” Barr wrote. “We see an emerging philosophy that government is expected to play an ever greater role in addressing social problems in our society. It is also expected to override various private interests as it goes about this work. As part of this philosophy, we see a growing hostility toward religion, particularly Catholicism. This form of bigotry has always been fashionable in the United States.”

As evidence of the subordination of religious attitudes to the will of the government, Barr pointed to a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 1987 requiring Georgetown University to give an LGBT student group equal rights to the organizations on campus despite the school’s Catholic views. (Georgetown University has since embraced the school’s LGBT student body.)

“Another example was the effort to apply District of Columbia law to compel Georgetown University to treat homosexual activist groups like any other student group,” Barr wrote. “This kind of law dissolves any form of moral consensus in society. There can be no consensus based on moral views in the country, only enforced neutrality.”

(Other media outlets have reported the article is dated October 2017, but that publication is a reprint. The website for St. John’s University’s Law School indicates the article was first published in 1995.)

Barr’s views in that 23-year-old article suggest his tenure as attorney general will continue to uphold the precedence of “religious freedom” over LGBT rights. Prior to his termination, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued guidance outlining those views in a “religious freedom” memo as directed by Trump in an executive order last year. The Justice Department also participated in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before the U.S. Supreme Court on the side of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple over religious objections.

Jon Davidson, chief counsel for the LGBT group Freedom for All Americans, said he was concerned that Barr’s comments in the 1995 article demonstrate he’ll continue the Justice Department on the same path as Sessions.

“While I am not aware of anything William Barr has done recently that explicitly indicates where he stands on discrimination against LGBTQ people, he made a number of disparaging comments in the 1990s about ‘homosexual activist groups’ and the ‘homosexual movement’ that are troubling,” Davidson said. “Those comments suggest that the Department of Justice under his stewardship is unlikely to alter course in any significantly positive way for LGBTQ people, as compared to the anti-LGBTQ positions advanced by the DOJ under Jeff Sessions.”

But Cappuccio dismissed concerns over views Barr expressed in the 1995 article, saying the underlying issue is “in truth a little more complicated than it gets portrayed, which is the right for religious people to hold their views versus the requirement that you can’t let them discriminate against people.”

“He’s not going to ever let people be discriminated against, OK?” Cappuccio said. “I think he was making in that article a broader point about that there’s a school of thought — and he identified like three schools of thought in that article — that taking a moral view, even by a religious institution, is kind of like illegitimate in a secular society, and he was raising that. I don’t think you can read that article and think he’s focusing on — I think he gave 100 examples of that issue.”

Cappuccio added he doesn’t “sweat” the views expressed in the article because of his long, first-hand friendship with Barr, which includes a close relationship with his family.

“When I heard he was thinking of going back to attorney general, my first reaction was ‘Does this mean he can’t babysit my daughter Mia anymore?” Cappuccio said. “But I’m telling you…and this is important to me, he’s a good guy on this issue and…this is not in any way, shape or form anyone you need to be worried about.”

Cappuccio said “frankly, my constitutional views would probably be there’s not a right” to same-sex marriage under the U.S. Constitution as decided in the Obergefell decision, even though he thinks it’s good policy, but added in terms of enforcing the law, including that ruling, Barr will be “nothing but a good thing for every individual, including gay individuals.”

Subordination of LGBT rights to religious freedom is just one component of the anti-LGBT policy that has come from the Justice Department during the Trump administration. Just two days after Sessions came into the job as attorney general, the Justice Department withdrew its appeal of a court order barring enforcement of Obama-era guidance requiring schools to allow transgender kids to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity. Weeks afterward, Sessions along with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revoked the guidance altogether.

Under Sessions, the Justice Department similarly withdrew a lawsuit against North Carolina’s House Bill 2 when it was replaced with a compromise law signed by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and let stand a court order against protections for transgender patients under Obamacare.

Sessions also issued a memo reversing former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s position that anti-transgender discrimination in the workforce is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars sex discrimination in employment. The Justice Department under Sessions also argued before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals that Title VII doesn’t cover anti-gay discrimination in employment and continues to defend Trump’s transgender military ban in court.

Cappuccio said he has “no idea” whether Barr will continue the Justice Department’s position against LGBT inclusion under federal laws barring sex discrimination and defense of the transgender military ban.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, was out of the gate early with a statement objecting to Trump’s choice of attorney general, predicting the Trump administration’s efforts at “erasing” LGBT people will continue under Barr’s watch.

“William Barr, who has wrongfully suggested that LGBTQ people – not Trump and his destructive policies – have harmed the United States, is the latest in a long line of replacements who President Trump has appointed to his Cabinet who are just as anti-LGBTQ as their predecessors,” Ellis said. “If confirmed, there’s little doubt that William Barr would continue the Trump administration’s objective of erasing LGBTQ Americans from the fabric of this nation.”

During his tenure at the Justice Department under Bush, Barr also acted to keep in place an administrative ban on people with HIV from entering the United States. When the Department of Health & Human Services sought to change the rule, Barr led the Justice Department in blocking the change. According to a 1991 article in the The New York Times, Barr argued “it was completely impractical for an immigration examiner to make a sophisticated analysis of an alien’s infection and health insurance coverage to determine whether that person might become a public charge in 5 or 10 years.” (The HIV travel ban would later be codified in 1993 and not lifted until a bipartisan process spanning the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.)

Additionally, Barr is on record saying he supported the use of Guantanamo Bay to detain people with HIV from entering the United States, including Haitians seeking asylum in the country.

David Stacy, government affairs director of the Human Rights Campaign, referenced Barr’s anti-gay views and actions against people with HIV in a statement expressing concerns about the designated nominee.

“The Trump-Pence White House and the Justice Department have been pursuing a policy agenda to undermine the legal rights of LGBTQ people since day one,” Stacy said. “From his views around HIV/AIDS during his tenure as attorney general to his more recent writing promoting extreme views around religious exemptions, William Barr looks ill suited to be our country’s top law enforcement officer. The Senate has a solemn responsibility to advise and consent on this important nomination and his troubling views on LGBTQ equality and the law must be thoroughly vetted.”

The Blade reached out to Barr for comment for this article on whether his views on LGBT rights have changed since the 1990s, but he referred Cappuccio to the Blade to speak on his behalf as a member of the LGBT community.

Jerri Ann Henry, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, was vague in response to a request to comment on Barr.

“We are pleased to see President Trump take action to ensure the Justice Department has an experienced leader at the helm and we look forward to working with Attorney General nominee Barr in the future,” Henry said.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

homepage news

Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

Published

on

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.”

Continue Reading

homepage news

Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

Published

on

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading

homepage news

Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness

Published

on

Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Trending