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EXCLUSIVE: Melania Trump wanted WH lit up in rainbow colors for Pride Month

Mark Meadows for absence of solidarity with LGBTQ community

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First Lady Melania Trump wanted to light up the White House in rainbow colors for LGBTQ Pride Month. (Screen capture via YouTube)

First lady Melania Trump said she wanted to light up the White House in rainbow colors for LGBTQ Pride Month in June, but the plan never came to fruition at a time when Mark Meadows as chief of staff played a role in blocking any sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ community, according to two Republican sources familiar with her plans who spoke exclusively to the Washington Blade.

Meadows had a significant role, one Republican source said on condition of anonymity, in ensuring the Trump White House ignored Pride Month, which is why President Trump didn’t send out a tweet to recognize the annual LGBTQ celebration as he did in 2019. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Meadows weighed in specifically on shutting down the rainbow lighting proposal at the White House.

Had the first lady succeeded in lighting the White House in rainbow colors, it would have been the first time that occurred since the Obama administration lit up the building after the Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage in 2015. Such a move by Trump would have symbolized a tremendous change for the Republican Party, which has a long history of animosity toward LGBTQ people.

Melania Trump ended up signaling support for the LGBTQ community months later just before the election in a video for Outspoken, the media project for Log Cabin Republicans, in contrast to Meadows, who has publicly railed against same-sex marriage and built an anti-LGBTQ record in Congress as a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Neither the White House nor the first lady’s office responded to the Washington Blade’s request for comment for this article. The decision against lighting up the White House came at a time when many leaders in the LGBTQ community made the decision to cancel Pride Month parades and celebrations amid the coronavirus pandemic in recognition of dangers to public health and the rising death toll worldwide.

Pride Month this year also came shortly after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, which prompted greater social awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement and drew resources and activism LGBTQ advocates once expended on annual Pride celebrations.

Ironically, in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, some progressives criticized President Trump on social media for his response by sharing misleading memes on social media depicting one image of the White House lit up in rainbow colors during the Obama years, and another image of the White House darkened with no lights said to be taken at a time when Trump had retreated to a bunker. (The image of the darkened White House was later revealed to have been taken during the Obama administration.)

In the video Melania Trump made for Log Cabin Republicans just before Election Day, she insisted her husband supports gay people and blamed any perception Trump is anti-LGBTQ on the political establishment.

“I was shocked to discover that some of these powerful people have tried to paint my husband as anti-gay or against equality,” Melania Trump said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Donald loves helping people, and he loves seeing those around him and his country succeed.”

The first lady’s claims fly in the face of the Trump administration’s long list of anti-LGBTQ actions, including the transgender military ban and arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court against LGBTQ protections under federal civil rights law.

Although Trump’s supporters say he’s the first president to enter the White House in support of same-sex marriage based on remarks he made after the 2016 election saying he’s “fine” with the Supreme Court decision in favor of it, critics point out those words don’t equate to supporting marriage equality and Trump ran on opposition to same-sex marriage in 2016.

Charles Moran, managing director of Log Cabin Republicans and co-chair of the Trump Pride coalition group for Trump’s re-election campaign, deferred comment to the White House on Melania Trump’s plans for wanting to light up the building in rainbow colors.

Meadows joined the team three months before Pride Month in March 2020 to serve as chief of staff. The lighting of the White House was but one opportunity missed to recognize the LGBTQ celebration, including the absence of any recognition of Pride Month from President Trump himself.

Earlier this year, in an article on the Trump campaign’s plan to engage in unprecedented LGBTQ outreach for a Republican presidential nominee, the New York Times reported several aides suggested he send out a tweet this year recognizing June as Pride Month. That didn’t happen.

In contrast, Trump in 2019 tweeted out a message recognizing Pride Month, becoming the first Republican U.S. president to recognize the annual LGBTQ celebration. But 2019 was before Meadows came to the White House.

Before that time as a U.S. House member representing North Carolina’s 11th congressional district in Congress, Meadows was chair of the House Freedom Caucus where he built a solid record against LGBTQ rights.

Consistently receiving scores of “zero” on the Human Rights Campaign biennial congressional scorecards, Meadows cast numerous votes deemed anti-LGBTQ.

Meadows voted last year against the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination in federal civil rights law, and voted in 2017 in favor of a floor amendment barring the U.S. military from paying for transition-related care for transgender people, including gender reassignment surgery.

In 2013, Meadows warned on “The Steve Deace Show” of a “constitutional crisis” if the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide as it later did.

“It’s a huge invasion into state’s rights and the state definition of marriage, whether you call it traditional or natural marriage,” Meadows said. “I call it marriage, you know, it’s between one man and one woman, period.”

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

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness

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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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