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Trump considering Grenell as next secretary of state: report

Gay appointee’s combative nature is ‘actually a selling point for Trump’

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Ric Grenell, Richard Grenell, gay news, Washington Blade
U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell is being considered as secretary of state. (Photo public domain)

Amid speculation Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will leave his position to pursue his old job as U.S. senator in Kansas, President Trump is considering one of his top ambassadors who’s also the highest-ranking openly gay person in his administration as a replacement, according to the Washington Post.

Trump has reportedly “asked people what they think” about U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell for the role. If nominated and confirmed, Grenell would be the first-ever openly gay person to serve in a Cabinet-level role for any administration.

Grenell has gained a reputation for having a combative nature, especially for chiding Germany over continued business dealings with Iran. But that style, the Post reports, is “actually a selling point for Trump.”

In terms of LGBTQ advocacy, Grenell has been spearheading the Trump administration’s global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality in the more than 70 countries, including many Middle Eastern and Caribbean countries, where it remains illegal.

Although critics have questioned whether this initiative actually exists, Grenell earlier this month hosted an event at the U.S. mission at the United Nations highlighting the endeavor.

It’s not the first time Trump had reportedly considered Grenell for a more senior role in his administration. Earlier this year, when Trump and former National Security Adviser John Bolton parted ways, Grenell was reportedly on the short-list as a replacement and lobbied for the position. Trump, however, ended up picking Robert O’Brien, who formerly served in the Trump administration as a special envoy for hostage affairs.

But other names are reportedly ahead of Grenell on Trump’s short-list to become the next secretary of state.

Chief among them is O’Brien himself, who is seen as closely aligned with Pompeo, therefore a natural successor. According to the Post, Trump “really likes” O’Brien. Other names mentioned are Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, State Department envoy to Iran Brian Hook, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

As the Post noted, Grenell, if nominated by Trump, could face a difficult uphill in the confirmation process. Grenell’s confirmation as ambassador was held up for several months in the Senate as a result of a hold by Democrats, many of whom objected to his mean tweets he made in the past about the appearance of women, including Hillary Clinton, Rachel Maddow and Callista Gingrich. In the end, Grenell was confirmed by a party-line vote of 56-42.

It remains to be seen whether or not Pompeo will, in fact, pull the trigger and leave his job as secretary of state to seek a position as the junior U.S. senator from Kansas. The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the White House seeking comment on Trump’s reported consideration of Grenell as a secretary of state.

UPDATE 1/7/2020: Pompeo has decided not to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas, according to the Washington Post.

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National

FBI joins investigation into murder of LGBTQ Atlantan

Atlanta Police continue to search for the suspect in the deadly stabbing of a woman asking that anyone with information to please come forward

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Katie Janness and her dog Bowie via Facebook

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Police Department’s murder investigation into this past Wednesday’s stabbing death of 40-year-old Katie Janness and her dog in Piedmont Park, located about 1 mile northeast of downtown between the Midtown and Virginia Highland neighborhoods, has been joined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI).

WXIA 11 Alive news reported that the FBI is assisting the Atlanta Police Department, (APD) however a spokesperson for the APD told WXIA the department wouldn’t provide any specifics about the FBI’s involvement with the investigation, nor did the Atlanta Field Office of the FBI comment. 

The Georgia Voice, the local LGBTQ newspaper, reported that Janness, a member of Atlanta’s LGBTQ community and a bartender at the LGBTQ-owned Campagnolo, was found stabbed to death in the park on Wednesday (July 28) after walking her dog Bowie, who was also killed.

Janness was found by her partner of six years, Emma Clark, after Clark tracked her with her phone’s GPS.

“Today, I lost the love of my life and baby boy,” Clark said in a post shared to a GoFundMe page. “It was tragic. She was the most intelligent, kind, humble, and beautiful person I have ever known. I wanted to spend every second with her. [Bowie] was the sweetest, most loyal companion. My heart is so very broken, my world will never be the same.”

A vigil was held for Janness on Thursday evening at Piedmont Park.

Atlanta Police continue to search for the suspect in a deadly stabbing of a woman in Piedmont Park

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Janness’ murder is believed to be the first homicide inside the park in 12 years and according to family members of Janness’ longtime girlfriend, a security camera at an intersection near the park’s entrance captured the last known picture of Katherine Janness and her dog before the two were killed.

But other cameras in the area weren’t working, including one facing the entrance. As of Friday the AJC also reported, as of Friday afternoon, Atlanta police had released few details about the murder investigation that has left city residents and parkgoers on edge.

Atlanta Police are asking that anyone with information to please come forward, and tipsters can remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.

APD detectives are also asking those who live in this area to review footage from their security cameras and contact the police if they find anything that may be pertinent to this investigation. The timeframe for review should be between 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday to 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

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Politics

Out for America; nearly 1,000 elected LGBTQ+ officials but more needed

Lack of representation has consequences, as LGBTQ elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks

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Victory Institute Out for America report cover Image of Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride (D First District) being sworn in to office

WASHINGTON – In its annual report the Washington D.C. based LGBTQ Victory Institute noted that there had been an increase of 17 percent in the past year of LGBTQ Americans serving as elected officials. According to the data in the Out for America 2021 report released this past week, there are 986 known out LGBTQ elected officials in the United States.

The Victory Institute reported that total included two U.S. senators, nine U.S. representatives, two governors, 189 state legislators, 56 mayors and six statewide executives. While this is considered a large increase, LGBTQ people hold just 0.19 percent of elected positions in the United States, despite making up at least 5.6 percent of the U.S. adult population.

Americans must elect 28,116 more LGBTQ people to public office for LGBTQ people to achieve equitable representation (serving in 5.6 percent of elected positions) the report went on to note.

KEY FINDINGS:

The report found that in the past year (between June 2020 and June 2021):

  • LGBTQ elected officials of color increased by 51 percent, with Black LGBTQ elected officials growing at the fastest pace (a 75 percent increase);
  • Trans women elected officials increased by 71 percent (from 21 to 36), yet trans men saw no increase (with just five serving nationwide);
  • Queer-identified elected officials increased by 83 percent, faster than all other sexual orientations; and
  • LGBQ cisgender women state legislators surpassed the number of GBQ cisgender men state legislators for the first time.

The report also found that:

  • LGBTQ elected officials are significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than the overall elected official population, but are less diverse than the U.S. population;
  • Mississippi is the only state in the nation with zero known out LGBTQ elected officials serving;
  • 23 states have transgender elected officials serving and 29 states have non-cisgender elected officials;
  • LGBTQ people are equitably represented among mayors of top 100 cities for the first time (with six), but are underrepresented among mayors overall and in all other public positions; and that
  • 84 percent of LGBTQ elected officials are Democrats and just three percent are Republicans.

In an emailed statement, former Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker, who currently serves as the President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute reflected, “While LGBTQ elected officials are growing steadily in number, at this pace it will still take decades to come anywhere close to achieving equitable representation in government.” 

Parker went on to note, “This lack of representation has enormous consequences, because LGBTQ elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks and to change the hearts and minds of colleagues in supporting inclusive policies. A moonshot effort to increase our numbers is essential to advancing equality at every level of government – and a large part of that is showing LGBTQ people that running for office is our best bet to achieve lasting social change.”

In addition to changes in representation over the last year, the report also looks at trends since the first Out for America report was released in November 2017. In that time, LGBTQ elected officials increased by 121 percent (from 448 to 986) overall, and LGBTQ elected officials of color increased by 201 percent (from 92 to 277). 

Since November 2017, there is a 296 percent increase in Black LGBTQ elected officials (from 23 to 91), 135 percent increase in Latinx LGBTQ elected officials (from 51 to 120) and a 117 percent increase in Asian American and Pacific Islander elected officials (from 12 to 26). Trans women increased by 800 percent (from four to 36) and bisexual elected officials by 787 percent (from eight to 71).

“LGBTQ elected officials are significantly more diverse than the overall elected official population – so their impact extends beyond LGBTQ equality alone,” said Ruben Gonzales, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute. “LGBTQ elected officials are on the frontlines in legislative efforts to end police brutality, defend voting rights and secure inclusive healthcare reform. LGBTQ people are represented in every community in America and that diversity allows for more thoughtful policy changes when we are in office.”

The Out for America report is an annual analysis of LGBTQ elected representation in government based on Victory Institute’s LGBTQ elected officials database – the largest and most comprehensive listing available. The interactive Out for America map, updated daily, displays all known LGBTQ elected officials and is available at outforamerica.org.

Read the full Out for America 2021 report at victoryinstitute.org/out-for-america-2021.

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World

New Zealand seeks to ban conversion therapy

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi introduced bill on Friday

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New Zealand flag (By Takuta via Flickr)

A New Zealand lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi, who is a member of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labor Party, on Friday introduced the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill.

“Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand,” said Faafoi in a statement that announced the bill’s introduction. “They are based on the false belief that any person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is broken and in need of fixing.”

“Health professionals, religious leaders and human rights advocates here and overseas have spoken out against these practices as harmful and having the potential to perpetuate prejudice, discrimination and abuse towards members of rainbow communities,” added Faafoi.

The bill would make it an “offense to perform conversion practices on anyone — irrespective of age — where the practices have caused serious harm, and would carry up to five years imprisonment.” The bill would also make it “an offense to perform conversion practices on a child or young person aged under 18, or on someone with impaired decision-making capacity” and anyone who practices them could face up to three years in prison.

Conversion therapy survivors could also file complaints with New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Rainbow Youth, an LGBTQ rights group in New Zealand, welcomed the bill.

“We’re excited about this step to safeguard LBGTIQA+ people around Aotearoa,” said the group in a tweet, referring to the country by its Maori name.

Ardern told Express, an LGBTQ newspaper in New Zealand, during a 2020 interview that she and her party support the bill.

“We support it,” she said. “I support it.”

New Zealand would join Malta and a handful of other countries that ban conversion therapy if the bill becomes law.

The Canadian House of Commons in June approved a measure that would ban conversion therapy in the country. The Canadian Senate is expected to debate the bill later this year.

German lawmakers last year approved a bill that banned conversion therapy for minors in the country. Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and California are among the U.S. jurisdictions that also prohibit the practice.

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