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Ric Grenell joins RNC as senior adviser for LGBTQ outreach

Former ambassador has turned attack dog for Trump

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Ric Grenell, Richard Grenell, gay news, Washington Blade
Richard Grenell has joined the RNC as head of voter outreach. (Photo public domain)

Richard Grenell, the former acting head of national intelligence under President Trump, has joined the Republican National Committee as a senior adviser focusing on LGBTQ outreach, an RNC official confirmed to the Blade on Thursday.

“As America’s first openly-gay cabinet member, I can confidently say that President Trump has done more for gay and lesbian Americans than any other president, and it is not even close,” Grenell said in a statement to Fox News, which was first to report the development.

It’s a new role for the Republican Party, which has a documented history of being hostile to advancing LGBTQ rights. In many ways, that still continues. The Republican National Committee renewed for the 2020 election cycle its 2016 platform, which calls for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, objects to use of federal law to ensure transgender people can use the restroom consistent with their gender identity and makes veiled support for widely discredited conversion therapy.

As acting head of intelligence under Trump, Grenell has the distinction of being the first openly gay Cabinet member in history, although he never sought or obtained Senate confirmation for the role, and also served as U.S. ambassador to Germany. Grenell also spearheaded the global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality in the 69 countries where it remains illegal.

Upon leaving the federal government, Grenell has been active in efforts to re-elect Trump, including by being an attack dog on Twitter denouncing LGBTQ rights advocates he sees as shills for the Democrats and journalists he sees as biased against Trump.

The news Grenell has joined the RNC comes on the heels of his appearance in a Twitter video produced by Log Cabin Republicans highlighting Trump as the “most pro-gay president” ever. The video undercuts Joe Biden’s record on LGBTQ rights by claiming he’s fallen short, despite the general perception he’s been a champion, and promotes Trump, despite the actions his administration has taken widely deemed anti-LGBTQ.

Grenell joins the RNC after a report in Politico months ago he had joined the Trump re-election campaign, which Grenell vehemently denied. It wouldn’t have been Grenell’s first stint on a presidential campaign. Grenell was tapped as foreign policy spokesperson for the Romney campaign in 2012, but after social conservatives blew a fuse, the relationship was ended after only 12 days.

Christian Berle, a gay D.C. political consultant and former staffer with Log Cabin Republicans, said “it’s great to see” the RNC seeking votes from LGBTQ people, that won’t be enough for him in the coming election.

“President Donald Trump and his administration’s horrific record on matters of equality negate any foundation for gay voters backing him for a second term,” Berle said. “Whether it’s a heightened animus towards transgender individuals or arguing for the right to discriminate in adoption and in the workplace, his administration has been a giant step backwards from the previous administration. My husband and I will be crossing party lines to vote for Biden this year, because another four years of Trump will only make lives worse for LGBTQ people.”

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The White House

White House: Fla. ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law is ‘discrimination, plain and simple’

Statute took effect on Friday

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement Friday as Florida’s notorious ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law took effect, saying “[…] state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves.”

President Joe Biden also tweeted about the law prior to leaving for Camp David to spend the July 4 holiday weekend, calling the law “the latest attempt by Republicans in state houses to target LGBTQI+ students, teachers and families.”

In her statement, Jean-Pierre said:

“Today, some of Florida’s most vulnerable students and families are more fearful and less free. As the state’s shameful ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law takes effect, state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves.

“Already, there have been reports that ‘Safe Space’ stickers are being taken down from classrooms. Teachers are being instructed not to wear rainbow clothing. LGBTQI+ teachers are being told to take down family photos of their husbands and wives — cherished family photos like the ones on my own desk.

“This is not an issue of ‘parents’ rights.’ This is discrimination, plain and simple. It’s part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points.

“It encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being. It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students. And it must stop.

“President Biden has been very clear that every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom.

“The Department of Education will be monitoring this law, and any student or parent who believes they are experiencing discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the department’s Office for Civil Rights.

“Our administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family — in Florida and around the country.”

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Comings & Goings

Roane named COO of Lambda Legal

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John Roane

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

Congratulations to John Roane appointed Lambda Legal’s Chief Operating Officer. On his appointment he said, “I’m delighted and honored to join Lambda Legal and its dedicated team of lawyers, paralegals, and support staff at this critical time in our movement. The forces that oppose our civil rights are organized and formidable, and Lambda Legal is our last line of defense.”

Prior to joining Lambda Legal, Roane was Vice President and COO at AIDS UNITED, Inc. He has also served in that role for the Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and with the Association of American Veterinary Colleges. He was Associate Director, Program Support Services with the DC Association of American Medical Colleges.  

In his volunteer capacity, Roane was past chair of the board of directors, Finance and Administration Roundtable (FAR); former board secretary, Us Helping Us; and active with the Society of Human Resource Management, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Food and Friends, and Dog World Rescue. He has also volunteered with CAMP Rehoboth. 

Jimmy Rock

Congratulations also to Jimmy Rock for being named a partner at Edelson PC, opening the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Rock said, “I’m thrilled to be joining this team helping to redefine what it means to be part of the plaintiffs’ bar.” His work focuses on consumer protection and environmental cases. He is also the lead for the firm’s Public Client Litigation. 

Prior to joining Edelson PC, he was with the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia where he helped to start OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection. He also served five years as an Assistant Deputy Attorney General managing OAG’s Public Advocacy Division. Rock received the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award for Trial of Affirmative Litigation in 2015. He has served as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center; and as faculty at the National Attorneys General Training Institute’s “Trial of a Complex Consumer Case.” He has presented at numerous conferences. 

Torey Carter-Conneen

Congratulations to Torey Carter-Conneen honored with a Business of Pride award from the Washington Business Journal. On accepting the award, he said, “I am humbled and honored to receive this recognition and be among an accomplished group of fellow leaders, and especially as we celebrate Pride.”

He is currently CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Prior to joining ASLA, he served as COO of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and previously he was the Senior Vice President and CFO for the Center for American Progress, COO and later acting president and CEO at the LGBTQ Victory Fund and Institute. 

Outside of work, Carter-Conneen sits on the executive committee of the board for Shepherd’s Table in Silver Spring, Md., and serves on the board of the American Immigration Council. He and his husband Mike are fathers to two children, Drew and Aiden.

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The White House

Megan Rapinoe among 17 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients

White House ceremony to take place July 7

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Megan Rapinoe (Screen capture via U.S. Soccer YouTube)

The White House on Friday released President Joe Biden’s selection of recipients for bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7.

Included among the seventeen honorees are Megan Rapinoe, the out Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice and LGBTQ rights.

Also selected by the president for a posthumous recognition was Richard Trumka, the powerful labor leader and longtime Democratic ally of the LGBTQ community who passed away last August. Trumka had led the AFL-CIO since 2009 and who throughout his career, was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ Americans, social and economic justice.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the U.S., world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.

Presidential Medal of Freedom (The White House)

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Simone Biles
Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Biles is also a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system and victims of sexual assault.

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell is a member of the Sisters of Social Service and former Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is also a prominent advocate for economic justice, immigration reform and healthcare policy.

Julieta García
Dr. Julieta García is the former president of The University of Texas at Brownsville, where she was named one of Time magazine’s best college presidents. Dr. García was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dedicated her career to serving students from the Southwest Border region.

Gabrielle Giffords
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona state Senate, serving first in the Arizona legislature and later in Congress. A survivor of gun violence, she co-founded Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention.

Fred Gray
Fred Gray was one of the first black members of the Alabama State legislature since Reconstruction. As an attorney, he represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP and Martin Luther King, who called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.”

Steve Jobs (posthumous)
Steve Jobs (d. 2011) was the co-founder, chief executive and chair of Apple, Inc., CEO of Pixar and held a leading role at the Walt Disney Company. His vision, imagination and creativity led to inventions that have, and continue to, change the way the world communicates, as well as transforming the computer, music, film and wireless industries.

Father Alexander Karloutsos
Father Alexander Karloutsos is the former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. After over 50 years as a priest, providing counsel to several U.S. presidents, he was named by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Khizr Khan
Khizr Khan is a Gold Star father and founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center. He is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom and served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden.

Sandra Lindsay
Sandra Lindsay is a New York critical care nurse who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. She was the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and is a prominent advocate for vaccines and mental health for health care workers.

John McCain (posthumous)
John McCain (d. 2018) was a public servant who was awarded a Purple Heart with one gold star for his service in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. He also served the people of Arizona for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Diane Nash
Diane Nash is a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century. Nash worked closely with Martin Luther King, who described her as the “driving spirit in the nonviolent assault on segregation at lunch counters.”

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights.

Alan Simpson
Alan Simpson served as a U.S. senator from Wyoming for 18 years. During his public service, he has been a prominent advocate on issues including campaign finance reform, responsible governance and marriage equality.

Richard Trumka (posthumous)
Richard Trumka (d. 2021) was president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade, president of the United Mine Workers, and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Throughout his career, he was an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.

Wilma Vaught
Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military, repeatedly breaking gender barriers as she rose through the ranks. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.

Raúl Yzaguirre
Raúl Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate who served as CEO and president of National Council of La Raza for thirty years. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama.

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