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Katie Hill’s powerful farewell to Congress (transcript, video)

Representative addresses U.S. House

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Katie Hill, gay news, Washington Blade
Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) (Photo via C-Span)

On Thursday afternoon, Oct. 31, Halloween, the historic day the House voted to proceed with an inquiry into the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, bisexual Rep. Katie Hill delivered her powerful farewell to Congress. She resigned rather than having “revenge porn” stories and nude photos taken without her consent leak out day by day by Republican operatives.

Here is a transcript of her 7 minute farewell speech, followed by the video:

This is the last speech that I will give from this floor as a member of congress

I wasn’t ready for my time here to come to an end so soon.

It’s a reality I’m still grappling with and I will be for a long time to come. I expected or I at least hoped to be here for as long as the voters from California’s 25th district deemed me worthy of the honor of representing them.

I thought I could make a difference here in making our community, our great country and the world a better place for generations to come.

I, like so many of my colleagues, ran for office because I believe that our political system was broken, controlled by the powerful and the wealthy, ignoring and failing the regular people that it’s supposed to serve.

I came here to give a voice to the unheard in the halls of power. I wanted to show young people, queer people, working people, imperfect people that they belong here – because this is the people’s house.

I feel short of that and I’m sorry. To every young person who saw themselves and their dreams reflected in me, I’m sorry.

To those who felt like I gave them hope in one of the darkest times in our nation’s history, I’m sorry.

To my family, my friends, my staff, my colleagues, my mentors – to everyone who has supported and believed in me – I’m sorry.

To the thousands of people who spent hours knocking on doors in the hots summer sun, who made countless phone calls, who sacrificed more than I could ever know, to give everything they could in every possible way so that I could be here – I am so, so sorry.

And to every little girl who looked up to me, I hope that one day you can forgive me.

The mistakes I’ve made and the people I’ve hurt that led to this moment will haunt me for the rest of my life and I have to come to terms with that.

Ever since those images first came out, I’ve barely left my bed. I’ve ignored all the calls and the texts. I went to the darkest places that a mind can go. And I’ve shed more tears than I thought were possible.

I’ve hidden from the world because I’m terrified of facing the people that I let down.

But I made it through because the people who love me most dragged me back into the light and reminded me that I was stronger than that.

To those of you who were by my side in my worst moments – you know who you are – I love you, I’m so grateful, and I will never forget.

And I’m here today because so many of the people I let down, people close to me, supporters, colleagues, people I’ve never even met told me to stand back up and that despite all of my faults, they still believed in me and they were still counting on me. And I realized that hiding away and disappearing would be the one unforgivable sin.

I will never shirk my responsibility for this sudden ending to my time here. But I have to say more, because this is bigger than me.

I am leaving now because of a double standard. I am leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip.

I’m leaving because I didn’t want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics that I’ve ever seen  and the right wing media to drive clicks and expand their audience by distributing intimate photos of me – taken without my knowledge, let alone my consent – for the sexual entertainment of millions.

I’m leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching.

I am leaving because of the thousands of vile threatening emails, calls, and texts that made me fear for my life and the lives of the people I care about.

Today is the first time that I’ve left my apartment since the photos, taken without my consent, were released – and I’m scared.

I’m leaving because, for the sake of my community, my staff, my family and myself, I can’t allow this to continue.

Because I’ve been told that people were angry when I stood strong after the first article was posted, and that they had hundreds more photos and text messages that they would release bit by bit until they broke me down to nothing while they used my faults and my past to distract from the things that matter most.

I’m leaving because there is only one investigation that deserves the attention of this country – and that’s the one that we voted on today.

Today I ask you all to stand with me and commit to creating a future where this no longer happens to women and girls.

Yes, I’m stepping down. But I refuse to let this experience scare off other women who dare to take risks, who dare to step into this light, who dare to be powerful.

It might feel like they won in the short term, but they can’t in the long term. We cannot let them. The way to overcome this setback is for women to keep showing up, to keep running for office, to keep stepping up as leaders because the more we show up, the less power they have.

I’m leaving but we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence and remain in board rooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body, and worst of all, in the Oval Office.

So, the fight goes on to create the change that every woman and girl in this country deserves.

Here in the halls of Congress, the fight will go on without me. And I trust so many of my colleagues to be strong on this front while I move on to one of the many other battlefields.   Because we have an entire culture that has to change. And we see it in stark clarity today.

The forces of revenge by a bitter, jealous man, cyber exploitation and sexual shaming that target our gender and a large segment of society that fears and hates powerful women have combined to push a young woman out of power and say that she doesn’t belong here.

Yet a man who brags about his sexual predation, who’s had dozens of women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, who pushes policies that are uniquely harmful to women and who has filled the courts with judges who proudly rule to deprive women of the most fundamental right to control their own bodies, sits in the highest office of the land.

And so today, as my last vote, I voted on impeachment proceedings. Not just because of corruption, obstruction of justice, or gross misconduct – but because of the deepest abuse of power, including the abuse of power over women.

Today, as my final act, I voted to move forward with the impeachment of Donald Trump on behalf of the women of the United States of America.

We will not stand down. We will not be broken. We will not be silenced. We will rise and we will make tomorrow better than today.

Thank you and I yield the balance of my time, for now but not forever.

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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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.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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State Department expresses concern over anti-LGBTQ bill in Uganda

Measure would further criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts

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A State Department spokesperson on Wednesday expressed concern over the passage of a bill in Uganda that would further criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts.

Ugandan lawmakers on Monday passed the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019, which contains a provision, known as Clause 11, that would explicitly ban “penetration of another person’s anus with that other person’s sexual organ or with any object” and “sexual acts between persons of the same gender.”

“We’re certainly concerned about the legislation in Uganda,” said State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter in response to the Washington Blade’s question about the bill during a briefing with reporters.

Consensual same-sex sexual acts are already criminalized in Uganda.

President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it previously contained a death penalty provision.

The U.S. cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a statement said the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019 criminalization provision “will enhance the already homophobic environment in Uganda and consequently lead the way for further violation of the rights of sexual and gender minorities, including violations such as ‘corrective rape’ and other acts of violence.” The Ugandan LGBTQ advocacy group has also called for Museveni to veto the measure over the clause.

“Sexual Minorities Uganda calls on the president of the Republic of Uganda to consider not assenting to the bill because of the problematic Clause 11 that now classifies sexual and gender minorities as sexual offenders,” said SMUG in its statement. “Rather, we call on the president to reminisce on the effects the now repealed Anti-Homosexuality Act had on the human rights discourse for sexual and gender minorities.”

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern also condemned the bill.

“Same-sex relations are already criminalized in Uganda’s Penal Code,” said Stern in a press release. “The inclusion of same-sex relations in this bill paints LGBTQ people as sexual offenders, and can only serve one purpose — to fuel already rampant LGBTQ-phobia, discrimination and violence. It is deplorable. The colonial legacy of criminalizing same-sex relations must end.”

The Biden administration in February issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

“The United States certainly stands up and defends the human rights of our LGBTQI+ persons all around the world and we also stand firmly in opposing violence and discrimination against all LGBTQI persons and will also urge governments to criminalize their status or conduct,” said Porter during Wednesday’s briefing.

“We will continue to condemn any violence or discrimination of vulnerable populations including our LGBTQI+ people, whether they’re in Uganda or anywhere in the world,” added Porter.

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