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In 1996, Sanders and Biden were on opposite sides of DOMA vote

Democratic socialist in minority in vote against anti-gay law

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From left, former Vice President Joe Biden Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

A key vote on LGBT rights was taken 23 years ago in Congress and the results found two lawmakers who are now leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — Bernie Sanders and Joseph Biden — on opposite sides of the contentious issue.

The vote was on the Defense of Marriage Act, an anti-gay law the Republican majority in Congress cooked up in 1996 to stymie President Clinton as he sought re-election.

Drawing on (unfounded) public fears as Hawaii’s courts were leading the way for the state to legalize same-sex marriage, DOMA sought to bar the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex unions for the purposes of federal benefits. Moreover, DOMA sought to allow states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

When the House vote was set to take place on July 12, 1996 — 23 years ago this week — public opinion was overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage. Gallup, which first started polling on same-sex marriage in 1996, found 68 percent of the American public opposed same-sex marriage and 27 percent supported it. (The numbers are basically reversed in 2019.)

The House vote on DOMA ended up being 342-67. Sanders, who was representing Vermont in the U.S. House, was among the small cadre of lawmakers who bucked public opinion and voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.

Months later, when DOMA came up for a vote in the U.S. Senate on Sept. 10, 1996, Biden in his capacity representing Delaware in the U.S. Senate bowed to public sentiment at the time, voting in favor of the anti-gay law.

The vote on DOMA in the Senate was 85-14 with Biden in the supermajority of senators. DOMA then headed to the desk of President Clinton, who signed the measure into law on Sept. 21, 1996.

Biden has built a reputation as a strong supporter of the LGBT community, famously coming out in favor of same-sex marriage on “Meet the Press” in 2012, but his vote on DOMA in 1996 sets up a key contrast between him and Sanders in terms of who came to bat first when times were tough for the LGBT community.

Falz Shakir, campaign manager for Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, said via email to the Washington Blade the candidate’s vote against DOMA in 1996 is part of a long record of support for LGBT rights.

“Bernie’s vote against DOMA may not have been the mainstream Democratic view at that time, but for Bernie, who already had a long record of standing with the LGBTQ community, it was the only morally acceptable option,” Shakir said. “Beginning in 1972 when he proposed abolishing all discriminatory laws relating to sexuality, to backing Burlington’s first Pride march, to his opposition to ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ Bernie has consistently listened to the LGBTQ community and stood with them in demanding an end to discrimination in all forms. Bernie’s vote against DOMA is just one example of his commitment to fighting for equality, even when it wasn’t politically popular.”

Jamal Brown, national press secretary for the Biden campaign, referenced Biden’s long record on LGBT rights in response to a Blade inquiry on the split between Sanders and Biden on DOMA in 1996.

“Joe Biden has been and continues to be a fierce advocate for LGBTQ rights,” Brown said. “He stood behind the freedom to marry on the national stage at a time when most political pundits said it was a mistake, proudly officiated a same-sex wedding at the vice president’s Residence, worked to dismantle ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ made LGBTQ equality a key pillar of his work after the White House and continues to champion passage of the Equality Act. Biden’s commitment to the LGBTQ community is unparalleled.” 

But while observers say Sanders took a political risk in voting against DOMA in 1996 compared to Biden, whether it had an impact on the marriage equality movement was another question.

Andrew Sullivan, a gay conservative commentator and early marriage equality proponent, praised Sanders when asked whether Sanders deserves credit for his vote against DOMA and whether it had an impact.

“I do think it was brave and important for Sanders to vote this way — principled but unpopular,” Sullivan said. “It speaks very highly of him that he was against this Clinton-favored bullshit. I don’t think it made the slightest bit of difference though.”

A chief reason for the lack of impact of Sanders’ vote against DOMA is the lack of any statement from the Vermont independent on the issue.

The Blade could find no statements from him in the congressional record at the time, nor did research of contemporaneous newspaper accounts yield any first-hand comments from him. (For that matter, the Blade could find nothing from Biden justifying his vote in favor of DOMA.)

From what can be found, Sanders didn’t frame his vote against DOMA in terms of LGBT rights.

In 2015, when Sanders was running against Hillary Clinton, Mark Joseph Stern of Slate published an article that featured a 1996 quote in the Burlington Free Press from Sanders’ chief of staff justifying her boss’ vote on DOMA on constitutional grounds and state’s rights.

“You’re opening up Pandora’s box here,” the Sanders staffer was quoted as saying. “You’re saying that any state can refuse to … recognize the laws of another state if they don’t like them.”

That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of same-sex marriage, which formed a strong basis of Stern’s criticism of Sanders for calling himself a longtime champion of marriage equality.

“Sanders’ exaggeration of his marriage equality record is strange and unwise,” Stern concluded. “If Sanders were honest about his evolution — and, yes, it was an evolution — then he could still brag about supporting marriage equality long before his chief primary rival. Instead, he has attempted to reframe his somewhat tepid support as vociferous and unabating.”

Moreover, Sanders — unlike Biden — was virtually absent in the marriage equality fight in the years that followed. When a U.S. constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide was up for debate in 2006, Sanders was asked whether his state should legalize same-sex marriage.

Reflecting on the political turmoil in Vermont when it legalized civil unions in 2000, Sanders replied, “Not right now, not after what we went through.”

In 2009, when Vermont finally sought to legalize same-sex marriage, Sanders was absent from the discussion in his home state.

Vermont, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage though the legislative process, ended up only being able to do so after the state legislature held an override vote on the Republican governor’s veto. In the Vermont State House, the override succeeded by a single vote.

Meanwhile, Biden, for beating President Obama to the punch in endorsing same-sex marriage in 2012, continues to be remembered for his impact on the marriage equality movement.

Biden’s words on “Meet the Press” led Obama to follow suit and started a national conversation on the issue, which in turn led to more states legalizing same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality nationwide.

Nonetheless, Sanders in his 2016 campaign bragged about his vote against DOMA as evidence of his longtime support for the LGBT community, criticizing Hillary Clinton for not coming out against the anti-gay law sooner. (Clinton had supported DOMA at least through her 2000 U.S. Senate campaign.)

In a 2015 interview with the Washington Blade, Sanders said he has a clear memory of being on the House floor in 1996 as he cast his vote against the anti-gay law.

“I remember being on the floor at the time,” Sanders said. “It was politically a very difficult vote, and despite what some may say, the Supreme Court evolves as does the American public. I think it’s also fair to say that very few people would have predicted the degree to which gay rights have changed, the dramatic change in a relatively short period of time.”

Evan Wolfson, who founded and led Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples, was tepid in his assessment of whether Sanders deserves credit for his DOMA vote.

“He didn’t at the time offer full-throated support for the freedom to marry, but he was far from the only one not yet there at the time,” Wolfson said. “His vote would have had more impact had he followed it up with leadership on making the case for the freedom to marry nationally and in Vermont, which became one of our crucial battlegrounds in the late 1990’s and throughout the 2000’s.”

But asked whether in the terms of the DOMA vote Sanders showed greater leadership on marriage equality than Biden, Wolfson replied, “Sanders voted right in 1996. Biden did not.”

“Sanders was not a leader then or since on gay or transgender civil rights, but was generally on the right side and deserves credit for that, as well as his correct vote in 1996,” Wolfson added.

Wolfson emphasized he “like[s] many of the Democratic candidates for president, and have my favorites, but haven’t yet endorsed any.”

Both Sanders and Biden were clearly on the record against the Defense of Marriage Act by 2013, when the Supreme Court was considering litigation filed by the late “mother of marriage equality” Edith Windsor.

As previously noted, Biden came out for same-sex marriage on “Meet the Press.” After initially defending DOMA in court, the Obama administration joined the American Civil Liberties Union and lesbian attorney Roberta Kaplan in lobbying against the law. Sanders joined a group of 212 congressional Democrats in signing a legal brief arguing against the constitutionality of DOMA. The Supreme Court would strike down the anti-gay law in 2013.

Emily Hecht-McGowan, an unpaid volunteer with the Biden campaign who led the LGBT project at the now closed Biden Foundation, said she doesn’t “have a particular point to make” about Biden’s vote for DOMA in 1996, adding, “I try not to think about the DOMA vote in the ’90s.”

Hecht-McGowan, however, emphasized Biden’s remarks on marriage in 2012 were profound — both the LGBT movement as a whole and for she and her spouse, Sharon McGowan of Lambda Legal. At the time, Hecht-McGowan said they were awaiting a child in Maryland, where they lived because it was one of the few states that would recognize same-sex marriages, and were worried they would lose marriage equality at the ballot because it was up for referendum.

“And when the vice president went on ‘Meet the Press’ and made the comments he made, and came in support for marriage equality in the way that he did, I believe — and I said this to him — that that was a watershed moment for the issue, a watershed moment for my home state of Maryland,” Hecht-McGowan said. “And, I believe, what he did pushed Maryland we needed to go to win in November, and that year…we had four marriage initiatives around the country, and it was the first time we won anywhere — much less in all four places.”

“So, his unabashed endorsement of marriage equality on ‘Meet the Press’ that morning,” Hecht-McGowan continued, “pushed other notable leaders, as we all know, in the right direction, and I think the ripple effects of that November, I think we can see not just in November 2012, at the Supreme Court in 2013, at the Supreme Court in 2015. So, I think any question about his commitment to the LGBT community — certainly on the marriage issue — has been long settled.”

NOTE: This story has been updated with a comment from the Biden campaign, the Sanders campaign and Emily Hecht-McGowan.

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Biden names civil rights veteran to U.S. Education Dept.

Catherine Lhamon’s portfolio will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct, racial discrimination

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Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon. (Photo public domain))

The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has nominated Catherine Lhamon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Lhamon currently serves as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity at the White House, where she manages the President’s equity policy portfolio. She is a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and served as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2017 to 2021.

She has also served as Legal Affairs Secretary to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Her portfolio at Education, where she previously served in the same position under former President Barack Obama, will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct and racial discrimination in the nation’s K-12 schools, universities and colleges. Lhamon was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, to which President Obama nominated her and the Senate confirmed her in 2013.

“I am thrilled that President Biden is nominating Catherine Lhamon to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Catherine has devoted her career to ensuring equity is at the core of all her work,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement released by his office Thursday.

“She has a strong record of fighting for communities of color and underserved communities, whether as the current Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, or as a civil rights educator at Georgetown University. We are thrilled to have Catherine serving as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and know she will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and justice for all of America’s students.”

Lhamon has also litigated civil rights cases at National Center for Youth Law, Public Counsel Law Center, and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.  Lhamon taught federal civil rights appeals at Georgetown University Law Center in the Appellate Litigation Program and clerked for the Honorable William A. Norris on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Catherine Lhamon is the right choice to lead the Department of Education’s civil rights division at such a critical time for the country and the agency. There is much work to do in order to roll back the harmful policies and legacies of Betsy DeVos, from her attacks on transgender students to her unconscionable revocation of discriminatory discipline guidance and rewrite of Title IX rules,” Adele Kimmel, Director of the Students’ Civil Rights Project at Public Justice told the Blade in an email.

“During her previous tenure in the same job, Catherine embraced equality, enforced Title IX and ensured students had an ally inside the federal government. She will do so again, and the Senate should move to quickly confirm her so she can begin the work of restoring the Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights and dignity of students and implementing the Biden Administration’s pledge to undo the damage that DeVos has done,” Kimmel added.

Born in Virginia and raised in California, Lhamon graduated from Amherst College and Yale Law School. Lhamon and her husband and two daughters are transitioning between California and Maryland.

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IDAHOBiT events to promote intersectionality, resilience, allyship

HRC president to participate in virtual panel in Canada

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(Photo courtesy of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia committee)

 

Intersectionality, resilience and allyship are among the themes that this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia events will highlight.

Dignity Network Canada and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention on May 17 will hold a virtual panel that will feature Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, Canadian Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity Executive Director Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Kaleidoscope Trust Executive Director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, COC Nederland Executive Director Marie Ricardo and Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell. The British High Commission and the Dutch Embassy in Canada have co-sponsored the event.

“We hope that this will be a really interesting and important conversation on intersectionality and transnational solidarity — and what it means for these leaders and their organizations during these times,” reads a description of the event.

The U.N. LGBTI Core Group on May 17 will host a virtual IDAHOBiT event that will focus on ways to develop an “inclusive and diverse post-pandemic world.” The World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American and Asian Development Banks host a similar IDAHOBiT commemoration.

“In order to heal from the economic, social, and public health dire impact the pandemic has had and still has, every plan of recovery must take into account a human-rights based, intersectional and gender responsive approach that addresses the specific needs of LGBTI persons in order not to leave them further behind,” reads a description of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group event.

Several Russian LGBTQ rights groups on May 17 will hold a “Vaccine for Acceptance” event that seeks to bolster allyship in the country.

Retired South Africa Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron on May 16 will moderate a virtual panel that will focus on religion and anti-LGBTQ violence.

Workplace Pride and the Dutch Embassy in Budapest on May 17 will host a symposium on LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces in Hungary. M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, on the same day will participate in a webinar the U.S. Embassy in Singapore is hosting with Oogachaga, a local LGBTQ advocacy group.

Haver Srbija, a Serbian NGO, on May 15-16 will hold Falafel, a film festival that seeks to build “bridges and promotes Israeli, Jewish and LGBTQI culture and communities” and highlight “various social issues in the context of the fight against prejudice, discrimination, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia and encourages the audience to develop critical thinking on the issue of these topics.” Proud Lebanon is slated to hold a series of six webinars between May 17-22 that will focus on feminism, LGBTQ rights and other topics.

The National Center for Sexual Education in Cuba will hold a series of virtual forums and other events through the month to commemorate IDAHOBiT.

CENESEX Director Mariela Castro, whose father is former Cuban President Raúl Castro, during a May 4 press conference in Havana said the IDAHOBiT events are part of the process of amending the country’s family code to make it more equitable for LGBTQ Cubans. Mariela Castro said a bill to amend it will be introduced in the Cuban Parliament in July.

“I was able to appreciate that the majority of the population … is in favor of recognizing the rights of LGBTI+ people and especially the rights in the family sphere that include the possibility, the option, of marriage,” said Mariela Castro during the press conference, according to Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

This year’s events will take place against the backdrop of a pandemic that continues to exacerbate existing inequalities for LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups around the world.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in dozens of countries. Violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation remains rampant in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Mixed reviews from transgender Republicans on Caitlyn Jenner’s run

Remarks on kids in sport a sore point among LGBTQ advocacy groups

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Caitlyn Jenner was quickly repudiated by LGBTQ advocates after she entered California’s recall election as a gubernatorial candidate — and her fellow transgender Republicans are mixed over whether or not to back her up.

Transgender Republicans are few in number, but some are in high-profile positions and have been working with their party to change its approach and drop its attacks on transgender people, whether it be in the military, public bathrooms, or school sports.

Jordan Evans, a Charlton, Mass.-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully last year ran to become a Massachusetts Republican State Committee Woman, told the Washington Blade she had high hopes for Jenner as a fellow transgender candidate, but they were quickly dashed after her campaign launched.

“My feelings changed quickly after Caitlyn made it clear that she was less interested in using this opportunity to present the Republican Party and conservative movements with an accessible and high-profile introduction to the trans community and simply wanted to be a trans woman who espoused the same destructive approaches that we just so happen to be seeing all over the country,” Evans said.

Evans said the high hopes she had were based on the transgender advocacy she said Jenner was doing behind the scenes and the potential for two prominent LGBTQ Republicans to run for governor in California. After all, Jenner may soon be joined in the race by Richard Grenell, who was U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence before becoming the face of LGBTQ outreach for Trump’s failed re-election.

But Jenner’s approach to the gubernatorial recall in California, Evans said, is “putting trans youth at risk for a campaign that isn’t even transformative for Republicans during this volatile time.”

“Even her current messaging is superficial and does nothing to help dispel claims that she’s unqualified,” Evans said. “The only positive thing that I’ve seen come from this is conservative mainstream media using her correct pronouns, but that is not worth the damage that she’s inflicting.”

Much of the disappointment over Jenner’s campaign is the result of her essentially throwing transgender kids under the bus as part of her campaign at a time when state legislatures are advancing legislation against them, including the bills that would essentially bar transgender girls from participating in school sports.

Jenner, declining to push back on these measures and assert transgender kids have a place in sports, instead essentially endorsed the bills shortly after she announced her candidacy.

“If you’re born as a biological boy, you shouldn’t be allowed to compete in girls’ sports,” Jenner told TMZ, which asked her about the hot-button issue during a Sunday morning coffee run.

Jenner dug deeper into MAGA-world at the expense of solidarity with the transgender community. Last week, Jenner retweeted Jenna Ellis, who has a notoriously anti-LGBTQ background and was criticized just last year for refusing to use the personal pronouns of Rachel Levine, who’s now assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to win Senate confirmation.

Jennifer Williams, a New Jersey-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly last year, said via email Jenner “did much good for several years by educating millions of people around the world about transgender folks,” but won’t countenance the candidate’s remarks on transgender kids in sports.

“In regard to her current run for California governor, her recent comments regarding transgender youth playing sports are confusing,” Williams said. “Just last year, she said that she supported transgender female athletes. Caitlyn should consult with tennis great Billie Jean King, soccer star Megan Rapinoe or WNBA legend Candace Parker on the subject of transgender athletes in women’s sports, as they are very well versed on the matter.”

At a time when state legislatures are pushing through legislation targeting transgender youth, restricting their access to sports and transition-related care, Jenner’s refusal to repudiate those measures has become a focal point for opposition to her candidacy from LGBTQ advocacy groups, who say she’s “out of touch” (although none were supporting her even before she made those comments).

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which supports LGBTQ political candidates and public officials, has signaled it wants nothing to do with Jenner.

Sean Meloy, vice president of political programs for LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Jenner hasn’t applied for an endorsement from the Victory Fund “and she shouldn’t bother to.”

“Her opposition to full trans inclusion – particularly for trans kids in sports – makes her ineligible for the endorsement,” Meloy said. “There are many great trans candidates running this cycle who are champions for equality.”

To be sure, Jenner used her celebrity status as a former reality TV star and Olympic champion on behalf of transgender lobbyists, urging donations to groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality and going to Capitol Hill to lobby Republicans on transgender issues. Jenner has also given money for transgender kids to attend college, giving transgender advocate Blossom Brown a check for $20,000 on “The Ellen Show” in 2015.

Blaire White, a transgender conservative and YouTube personality, drew on these examples of Jenner helping transgender youth in a video earlier this month and said the two once had dinner together, but wasn’t yet ready to make a endorsement.

“I will say that until she lays out all of her policy positions and until she’s more on record in long form really talking about what she wants to do for the state of California, I can’t say for sure I would vote for her and would not vote for her,” White concluded in the video. “What I can say is: I’m interested. And also, being under Gavin Newson’s governorship, I would literally vote for a triple-amputee frog over Gavin Newsom, so she already has that going for her.”

Jenner’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment for this article on the repudiation of her campaign from LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Gina Roberts, who’s the first transgender Republican elected to public office in California and a member of the San Diego GOP Central Committee, said she’s neutral for the time being as an elected Republican Party leader, but nonetheless had good things to say about Jenner’s candidacy.

“I think it’s awesome,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of indicative of how cool the Republican Party in California is because nobody really cares or it makes any difference. I mean, I was the first elected GOP transgender person in California and I think we’re ready for No. 2.”

Asked whether Jenner’s comments about allowing transgender kids in sports was troubling, Roberts said that wasn’t the case because she has her own reservations.

“I have pretty much the same opinion because … there’s so many nuances in that,” Roberts said. “If somebody transitions after they’ve gone through puberty, there is a big difference, especially in high school. If they transition beforehand, it’s not a big deal.”

A gun enthusiast and supporter of gun owner’s rights, Roberts said she competes in women’s events in shooting sports, but there’s a difference because she doesn’t “really have any advantages all those young, small ladies can pull a lot faster than I do and shoot faster than I do.”

Roberts concluded she’ll personally make a decision about whom she’ll support in the California recall election after Grenell announces whether or not he’ll enter the race, but can’t say anything until the San Diego GOP Central Committee issues an endorsement.

“He’s a good friend of mine, too,” Roberts said. “I know both of them. I think they’d both be certainly better than Gavin Newsom, I have to stay neutral until the county party decides who they’re going to endorse. I will support somebody or another in the endorsement process, but I can’t publicly announce it.”

Although LGBTQ groups want nothing to do with her campaign, Jenner’s approach has garnered the attention of prominent conservatives, who are taking her seriously as a candidate. One of Jenner’s first interviews was on Fox News’ Sean Hannity, a Trump ally with considerable sway among his viewers. Hannity was able to find common ground with Jenner, including agreement on seeing California wildfires as a problem with forest management as opposed to climate change.

Kayleigh McEnany, who served as White House press secretary in Trump’s final year in the White House and defended in the media his efforts to challenge his 2020 election loss in court, signaled her openness to Jenner’s candidacy after the Hannity interview.

“I really enjoyed watching @Caitlyn_Jenner’s interview with @seanhannity,” McEnany tweeted. “I found Caitlyn to be well-informed, sincere, and laser-focused on undoing the socialist, radical, a-scientific policies of Biden & the left. Very good.”

In theory, that support combined with Jenner’s visibility might be enough to propel Jenner to victory. In the recall election, California will answer two questions, whether California Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled, and if so, which candidate should replace him. The contender with the plurality of votes would win the election, even if that’s less than a majority vote, and become the next governor. There isn’t a run-off if no candidate fails to obtain a majority.

With Jenner’s name recognition as a celebrity, that achievement could be in her reach. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the 2004 recall election in California as a Republican based on his celebrity status, and ended up becoming a popular governor.

But the modest inroads Jenner has made with the acceptance of conservatives and potential to win isn’t enough for other transgender Republicans.

Evans, for example, said Jenner’s candidacy is not only a disappointment, but threatening the potential candidacies of transgender hopefuls in the future.

“It’s difficult to be in electoral politics, and that’s even more true when you’re a member of a marginalized community,” Evans said. “Caitlyn’s behavior is making it even more challenging for the trans community to be visible in a field where we desperately need to be seen. She’s casting a tall shadow on our ability to have a voice and is giving credibility to lawmakers and local leaders simply unwilling to view us with decency and respect.”

Williams said Jenner should avoid talking about transgender issues over the course of her gubernatorial run “and instead focus on the hard, critical policy issues facing California.”

“It is a state in crisis and she has to run a very serious campaign and not rely on her celebrity or LGBTQ status to win over voters’ hearts and minds — just like all other LGBTQ candidates around the country need to do when they run for public office,” Williams said.

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