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Anti-trans ads seeking to win votes for Trump crash and burn

Radio ad against Equality Act says Dems have ‘lost their mind’



Facebook slapped a fact check on anti-trans ads ran by the American Principles Project. (Screen capture via Facebook)

Joe Biden, upon taking office as president, would enact legislation that would shut down Black churches and schools and compromise Black girls getting athletic scholarships to college — at least according to a misleading radio ad that ran during the election and came up short in convincing Black voters to re-elect President Trump.

It was one of several anti-transgender ads aired in the final days of the 2020 election in midwestern swing states. But the campaign tactic — hotly debated in Trumpworld — ended up not paying off: Biden eked out wins in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and consequently the presidential election, throwing cold water on the idea that anti-transgender attacks are effective.

The radio ad — one of several on the airwaves and internet stoking anti-transgender animus and fears about the Equality Act to expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination under federal law — aired just before Election Day on 100.7 Milwaukee, a hip-hop station near Milwaukee, Wis.

“As a Christian, I can love the sinner, but these Democrats demand we embrace the sin,” says one Black female voice in the ad, according to a partial recording obtained by the Washington Blade.

“The Democrats have lost their minds,” another Black female voice responds. “Do you really want to go before the throne of grace and say, ‘I didn’t like how Trump talked, so I voted for Sodom and Gomorrah?’ because I won’t.”

A male voice at the end of the ad indicates it was paid for by Black Americans to Re-Elect the President, a Super PAC run by Vernon Robinson, a Black conservative based in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Black Americans to Re-Elect the President ran an anti-trans ad in Wisconsin.

(A look at contributions to reported to the Super PAC, however, reveal its major donors are wealthy white men, including Bruce Eberle of the Virginia-based Eberle Communications Group and Foster Friess, a Wyoming-based businessman and supporter of evangelical causes.)

An invoice from iHeartMedia to Black Americans to Re-Elect the President found online at the Federal Communications Commission website, confirms 100.7 Milwaukee charged the Super PAC a total of $11,000 on Nov. 5 to run an ad on the Equality Act that aired multiple times in the days leading to Election Day — sometimes more than once over a course of a single hour.

During floor debate on the Equality Act last year, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who sponsors the legislation, refuted many of the claims made against the measure cited in the radio ad.

“It doesn’t eliminate women’s colleges, fraternities or sororities or other non-discriminatory sex segregated programs,” Cicilline said. “The Equality Act doesn’t prevent parents from having control over their children’s medical decisions or force doctors to provide treatment against their best judgment or religious beliefs, and the Equality Act doesn’t eliminate women’s sports. The Equality Act doesn’t force churches to act as public accommodations or eliminate the ability of religious institutions to accept federal money.”

Milwaukee turnout in 2020 was virtually the same — and slightly worse in Black-majority wards — as in 2016, when turnout was considered poor and hurt Hillary Clinton, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

But at the end of the day, despite going to Trump’s column in 2016, Wisconsin went to Biden in 2020 thanks in part to Black voters and Wisconsin’s record turnout of 3.2 million voters in a presidential election. If the goal of the anti-Equality Act ad was to ensure Trump would win in Wisconsin thanks to Black voters, that didn’t happen.

Vivian Topping, a transgender advocate and director of advocacy and civic engagement for the Equality Federation, said the anti-trans ads weren’t effective because a majority of Americans believe “these attacks on transgender children only increases the bullying and harassment they experience.”

“I think folks could see through the fact that this was an ad buy that was a desperate political tactic done on behalf of a group that knows that they can’t win on the issues that voters care most about like ending the coronavirus pandemic and stabilizing the economy,” Topping said.

The American Principles Project, an anti-LGBTQ group chaired by Terry Schilling, ran similar Facebook ads in Michigan stoking fears about transgender kids in girls’ sports, advising voters to reject Biden and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) over their support for the Equality Act.

Another TV ad by the American Principles Project in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania criticized Biden for telling a mom of a transgender kid he’d “flat-out change the law” to protect LGBTQ rights, falsely accusing him of saying he supports gender reassignment surgery for children when he didn’t say that.

Here again, the ads didn’t succeed in turning Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, all of which went to Trump in 2016, back to his side in 2020, nor did they succeed in convincing Michigan voters to elect Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James over Peters.

Lucas Acosta, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign said the failure of the ads to win states for Trump demonstrates “it’s 100 percent clear this election that APP did no favors to their anti-equality allies.”

“The electorate is actually highly supportive of trans people’s rights to live freely and openly and is incredibly supportive of trans people’s rights to have equal and fair access to health care, right?” Acosta said. “And so these types of attacks what they did is they just reaffirmed what voters knew that Trump, and in the case of Michigan, that John James was just completely anti-equality, which turned them off.”

Acosta pointed to polls finding a majority of Americans support access to health care for transgender people and close to a majority of voters in swing states would actually be turned off by a candidate who opposes equality for LGBTQ people.

“They keep looking for their next marriage equality band like it was in 2004, right?” Acosta said. “But they keep sort of swinging and missing, and that gives me glee. I am always entertained, and love to see groups like this absolutely fail because it reaffirms that our strategy of working to highlight these opponents of equality and what their records are and showing what these pro-equality candidates are advocating for us to do is the exact right strategy for this moment.”

For the American Principles Project, social media played a role in vetting the ad. Facebook placed a notice on the ad stating the Equality Act would allow boys to compete in girls’ sports, although the notice didn’t explicitly say the ad was false.

Acosta commended social media companies for flagging these ads, but said he wished they were “more vigilant about what those groups who were promulgating misinformation were attempting to do by slightly altering their content in order to get around their regulations.”

“I would hope that in the future that everyone, including HRC, learned exactly what type of attacks and the type of things, and the type of strategies that groups like APP are going to be doing on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and that we reevaluate our strategies in approaching them moving forward,” Acosta said.

One exception to the rule anti-trans ads didn’t pay off was the race to represent Texas’ 23rd congressional district in the U.S. House.

The National Republican Congressional Committee ran ads mocking Democratic candidate Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian, for supporting access to transgender surgeries for U.S. service members. Jones ended up losing the race to Republican candidate Tony Gonzalez by nearly four points, 46.5 to 50.7 percent.

Acosta pointed out Jones was running during an election year that was bad for House Democrats and the anti-trans attacks, as well as the NRCC pointing out she had a same-sex partner on its website, ended up allowing her to raise money for her campaign.

“I think there were a lot of voters this cycle who were able to not vote for for President Trump and take that frustration out on him directly by voting for Joe Biden but were always leaning a little bit right and were always leaning a little bit more Republican, so they supported a Republican in the House,” Acosta added.

Topping said the anti-trans ads against Jones were consistent with other anti-LGBTQ attacks against openly LGBTQ candidates in the election.

“What I can say is that race was always competitive, and I think that the track record that we saw from these ads was that in states where they did run in Michigan and Wisconsin — and even in Kentucky the year before when they were running in the governor’s race — it didn’t sway the race,” Topping said.

The American Principles Project and Black Americans to Re-Elect the President didn’t respond to multiple requests from the Washington Blade to comment for this article.

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards



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



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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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness



Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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