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GOP congressman urges: ‘Don’t be an asshole, don’t be a homophobe’

Rep. Hurd addresses Log Cabin Pride event

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Will Hurd, gay news, Washington Blade
‘Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be a racist. Don’t be a misogynist, right? Don’t be a homophobe,’ said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas). (Photo public domain)

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), the only African-American Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, praised the LGBT GOP group Log Cabin Republicans and its work on behalf of LGBT rights at a June 20 Pride Social gathering organized by Log Cabin Republicans of D.C.

Close to 70 people turned out for the gathering at the Chastleton Apartments ballroom on 16th Street, N.W., which Log Cabin D.C. billed as a bipartisan event. Among those attending were many LGBT Democrats and D.C. elected officials, including Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and D.C. Board of Education President Ruth Wattenberg.

“It’s a pleasure to be with you all today because you all know something that many of my colleagues don’t,” Hurd told the gathering. “If you’re at least the age of 40 in most places across this country you have to whisper that you’re a Republican,” he said. “This is a party that is shrinking. The party is not growing in some of the largest parts of our country,” he continued.

“Why is that? I’ll tell you. It’s real simple,” said Hurd. “Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be a racist. Don’t be a misogynist, right? Don’t be a homophobe. These are real basic things that we all should learn when we were in kindergarten.”

Hurd’s district in Southern Texas includes more than a third of the U.S.-Mexico border. He has broken from many of his fellow Republicans by expressing strong opposition to President Trump’s controversial proposal to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

He is also one of just eight Republicans in the House that voted earlier this year for the LGBT civil rights bill known as the Equality Act, which the House passed but is stalled in the Senate.

Hurd told the Log Cabin gathering that he has a quick reply to those in his majority Latino district in Texas and in Washington who ask him how he came to support LGBT rights.

“People would ask me and I would say, look, are you asking the only black Republican to support not being pro-equality?” Hurd said. “And most people never have a follow-up question to that.”

Added Hurd: “And you all have been toiling and fighting for a very long time. You all have had a difficult fight not only in our country but in our party. And so I just thank you for sticking to it. Thank you for caring about our principles. Thank you for being an example for so many other people.”

Log Cabin D.C. President Adam Savit and the group’s vice president, Patrick Wheat, said they believe the event, in which attendees mingled before and after Hurd spoke, succeeded in furthering a campaign started earlier this year by gay Democratic activist Paul Kuntzler to build a bipartisan effort to advance the rights of LGBT people. Kuntzler was among those who attended the event.

“It exceeded my expectations,” Wheat said. “I’m extremely excited to have as many representatives from both the LGBT community and the D.C. elected officials,” he told the Blade. “We are in a unique place as the District of Columbia Log Cabin Republicans to serve as a conservative voice in LGBT spaces and as an LGBT voice in conservative spaces.”

Among the others attending the event were Jerri Ann Henry, executive director of the national Log Cabin Republicans; Robert Kabel, chair of the board of the national Log Cabin group; Bobbi Elaine Strang, president of the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; Jose Cunningham, the gay chair of the D.C. Republican Party; and James Abbott, a member of the U.S. Federal Labor Relations Board.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.)

Remarks before Log Cabin Republicans of D.C. Pride Social

June 20, 2019

Chastleton Apartments Ballroom

Washington, D.C.

First of all, thanks for not un-inviting me. I don’t know if you all heard, I got invited to a cyber security event and was quickly disinvited after they saw my positions.

It’s a pleasure to be with you all today because you all know something that many of my colleagues don’t. If you’re at the age of 40 in most places across this country you have to whisper that you’re a Republican. This is a party that is shrinking. The party is not growing in some of the largest growing parts of our country.

Why is that? I’ll tell you. It’s real simple. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be a racist. Don’t be a misogynist, right? Don’t be a homophobe. These are real basic things that we all should learn when we were in kindergarten. But unfortunately there’s too many people that don’t follow those things.

A lot of people when I first got elected – it was like how did the black dude get elected in a Latino district? It’s real simple. Show up, talk to people, right? I don’t care where you’re from. Most people realize the way we solve problems is by the power of the people not by the power of the government.

Most people know that the way to help people move up the economic ladder is by focusing on the free market. It’s not socialism. We know these things. But if people don’t feel like you trust them or you care about them they’re not going to listen to your ideas even if your ideas are benefiting the masses.

So that’s something that I’m trying to do. You know it’s unfortunate that I was only one of eight Republicans that voted for the Equality Act. I had a real – this guy is taking a lot of notes. Do we have the press here?

DC LCR Vice President Patrick Wheat: He’s with the Washington Blade.

Hurd: Ok, good…Be kind. That’s all I’m asking. People would ask me and I would say, look, are you asking the only black Republican to support not being pro-equality, right? And most people never have a follow up question to that. But the bottom line is this. We are facing – 2020 is going to be difficult. But the only way we make sure the principles and theories that we believe in are to continue to exist is if our party starts believing like the rest of the country.

And you all have been toiling and fighting for a very long time. You all have had a difficult fight not only in our country but in our party. And so I just say thank you for sticking to it. Thank you for caring about our principles. Thank you for being an example for so many other people.

And just know you’ve got some partners to fight on behalf of everyone. This is something that I’m going to continue to do while I’m in Congress, and God bless you all…And one minute, please. Can I tell a quick story? I’ll make it short.

So you also know that I was in the CIA for nine and a half years. I was doing the back allies at four O’clock in the morning collecting intelligence to protect our homeland – two years in India, two years Pakistan, two years in New York City, and a year and a half in Afghanistan.

And when I was in Pakistan it was in 2005 during an earthquake. I was there when an earthquake hit Cashmere that killed 80,000 people. The ambassador at the time wanted to figure out how we can help the Pakistani people. He said hurry up and get there and figure out what we need and he said we really need an airlift because Cashmere was at 14,000 feet. A lot of villages were even higher up. They were cut off from most of the country.

So we got about two dozen Chinook helicopters – C 47 helicopters. And I was directing this traffic to help people from these villages that were cut off. And I was about to jump on one of these helicopters to go to my bed down location and we had a report that one village had gone without food and water and power for about four days. And it was in the middle of the winter. At night it was negative 23 degrees below zero. It was a legitimate 20 degrees below zero.

So we decided to make one more stop. So we land in this village, big main doors open. And if you’ve ever seen a helicopter crew, they look like they’re from outer space. You know the flap mask, all this kind of stuff. And these villagers start piling on – about 200 people. And there is a little girl who had been without food and who was about six or seven years old – lost both her mom and her dad in the earthquake. She sees this whole scene. She’s crying. She’s scared, she’s upset.

And this village elder picks her up. So I grab this little girl and hold her as tight as I possibly can. And halfway through the flight she kind of calms down and relaxes a little bit. When we get to our destination we open the big doors in the helicopter. I put the little girl down. She takes about ten steps, turns around, comes back and gives me the biggest hug of my life. She goes over to the helicopter crew and the person she probably thought was from outer space and she kisses him on the hand. And he pats her on the head and gives her the thumbs up. She smiles real big and returns the gesture. And she runs away.

That little girl’s face is seared into my mind because that girl and what we did that day is an example of how the United States government is the only country that has the resources and the willingness to help people even when they’re 7,000 mile away. It’s another example how America has become the exceptional country, not because of what we have taken but because what we have given.

And we can measure our success on what we give, not what we take. And that’s something I’m going to continue to try to do in Congress. I’m glad there’s folks like you all that are willing to join this battle as well. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

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Missing gay man found ‘alive and well’

Police say Richard ‘Rick’ Woods found in good health

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Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man, was found alive and well.

D.C. police announced on Friday that Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man who police said was reported missing and last seen on July 14, has been located. But the announcement doesn’t provide information on where he was found or why he went missing.

Friends who know Woods say he operated for many years an antique wood furniture restoration business in various locations in D.C. The most recent location of his business, friends said, was in Georgetown a short distance from where police said he was last seen on the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.

“MPD does not publicly disclose the circumstances surrounding a missing person and how they are found, however we do release their flyer as well as a notification when they are located,” said D.C. police spokesperson Brianna Burch. “Mr. Woods was found in good health,” Burch told the Blade.

Police sought help from the public in their initial announcement that Woods was missing. The announcement said he was reported missing to police on Friday, July 23.

Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and LGBTQ rights advocate John Fanning, who said he has been friends with Woods for many years, said he was delighted to hear Woods was found in good condition.

“Rick is known by many in our community,” Fanning told the Blade at the time Woods was reported missing. Fanning said he and others who know Woods stand ready to provide support for him should he be in need of such support.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Woods for comment.

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Some D.C. gay bars to require proof of COVID vaccination

Action prompted by mayor’s order reinstating masks indoors

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Adams Morgan’s A League of Her Own is among the area queer bars requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

At least four D.C. gay bars announced this week on social media that they will require patrons to show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for being admitted to the bars.

They include the Logan Circle area gay bars Number Nine and Trade, which are operated by the same co-owners, and the Adams Morgan gay sports bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, which are also operated by the same owner and share the same building.

The four bars, which also offer dining service, announced their proof of vaccination requirement shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday issued a new order reinstating the city’s requirement that facial masks be worn inside all businesses and other public establishments.

The mayor’s order applies to all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two. It was scheduled to take effect 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31.

At a July 29 news conference, Bowser pointed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued two days earlier recommending that fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in places where transmission of the coronavirus is considered “substantial” or “high.”

The mayor said that, at the advice of her public health experts, she decided to issue the new order to help curtail the rising number of COVID cases in D.C. over the past month or more due to the rapid spread of the virus’s delta variant, which is surging throughout the nation. Like other parts of the country, Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbit said people who are unvaccinated in D.C. make up nearly all of the newly infected cases.

“I know D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines, and they will embrace this,” Bowser said in referring to the new mask requirement.

The four-page order released by the mayor’s office, similar to the city’s earlier mask requirements, allows indoor patrons of restaurants and bars to remove their masks while “actively” eating or drinking.

But some representatives of restaurants and bars have pointed out that other jurisdictions, including Maryland and Virginia, have followed the CDC’s initial policy of making mask wearing a recommendation rather than a requirement.

“Mayor Bowser’s announcement that nightlife hospitality patrons must wear a mask indoors when not ‘actively eating or drinking’ renders the reinstated mandate essentially unenforceable and results in the rule being reduced to a largely theatrical requirement,” said Mark Lee, director of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a local trade association representing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other nightlife related businesses.

“The greatest disappointment for many venue operators and staff, however, is that the mayor’s decision does not allow an option for establishments to admit only fully vaccinated patrons and be exempt from the mandate, as a number of other jurisdictions across the country have done,” Lee said.

John Guggenmos, co-owner of the bars Trade and Number Nine, told the Washington Blade he and his co-owners adopted the proof of vaccination policy as an added means of protecting the safety of both patrons and employees of the two bars.

“We’re hopeful that this will be in effect for just a few weeks or a month or two,” Guggenmos said. “Our patrons have always been very supportive,” he said in referring to the city’s public health directives last year and early this year in which masks were required up until May of this year.

Guggenmos said Trade and Number Nine will allow an alternative to the vaccination requirement if patrons provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the previous three days of their admission to the bars.

In its social media postings, Pitchers and A League of Her Own said their proof of vaccination requirement was based on the concern for the health of their patrons and staff.

“We will require proof a COVID vaccination until further notice at Pitchers/ALOHO and masks per the mayor,” a Facebook posting says. “We take guidelines and the health of our patrons and staff very seriously. We will accept a picture or hard copy of your COVID vaccination card,” it says. “No exceptions, no arguing, no talking to the manager.”

Tammy Truong, owner of the gay bar Uproar Lounge at 639 Florida Ave., N.W., told the Blade the bar has no immediate plans to require proof of vaccination as a requirement for admission, but Uproar will fully comply with the mayor’s order requiring indoor masks.

Justin Parker, co-owner of the nearby gay bar The Dirty Goose at 913 U St., N.W., told the Blade he and his staff decided on Friday to also put in place a requirment that patrons show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past five days. He said a 5-day window for the COVID test, which the CDC allows in some cases, was chosen rather than three a requirement to accomodate people who may not be able to get tested during weekends.

Owners of other D.C. gay bars couldn’t immeidately be reached. But the Blade could not find any announcements by the other gay bars as of Friday afternoon that they planed to put in place a proof of vaccination requiremenet. 

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Va. school guidelines for transgender students

Christian Action Network and other conservative groups filed suit

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Connor Climo, gay news, Washington Blade

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students that are to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The VDOE introduced the policies in March to better protect and affirm trans and non-binary students in schools, considering they are more likely to face discrimination and harassment from their peers and students. The directives would require Virginia schools to allow them to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Several conservative organizations, including the Christian Action Network, and families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools had sought to overturn the VDOE’s policies. The groups cited their need to protect their right to free speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Challenging the enactment of non-binary and trans-inclusive school policies in Virginia is not a new occurence. 

Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County teacher, was suspended in May after stating he would not use trans students’ preferred pronouns. Circuit Judge James E. Plowman, Jr., who invoked Pickering v. Board of Education,  a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a teacher that stated they have the right to provide commentary on issues of public importance without being dismissed from their position, reinstated Cross after he filed a lawsuit,  

Equality Virginia on Tuesday a statement celebrated what they described as “a win for Virginia schools and students.”

“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”

Equality Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 other organizations and school board leaders across the state filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the lawsuit.

The brief’s arguments included references to historic lawsuits like Brown v. Board of Education and Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board that specifically addressed inequalities in schools for minority students.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a win for LGBTQ rights advocates in education and their respective students, there still remains a final barrier to ensure that the VDOE’s policies are sanctioned in the fall. 

“The dismissal clears one statewide hurdle for the guidelines and limits future challenges,” reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “But it leaves the fight to continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the start of the school year.”

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