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Rep. Maloney: Don’t blame Biden if McConnell ‘acts like a dinosaur’

N.Y. Democrat seeks to become first openly gay char of DCCC

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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney seeks to become the first out gay chair of the DCCC. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), running to become the first openly gay chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, warned Tuesday not to blame President-elect Joe Biden if he falls short on fulfilling campaign promises to the LGBTQ community because of divided government.

Maloney made the remarks, ultimately predicting Biden would be successful, during a phone interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade when asked if he thinks Biden can fulfill his pledge to enact the Equality Act without strong Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress.

“You can’t blame Biden if Mitch McConnell acts like a dinosaur,” Maloney said. “Our job is to overcome that obstacle, working with a president who has made an historic commitment to the LGBT community and one I know he will fulfill. But he needs help, and that’s on all of us and it would be a mistake to stand back and expect him to do it all alone. That’s not how civil rights victories work.”

Maloney added his colleague, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the chief sponsor of the Equality Act, has been a “tireless champion for the legislation” and “can’t wait to work with the new administration.”

“And yes, I believe, we will get it done because the country is way ahead of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate,” Maloney said.

On the campaign trail, Biden said the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination, would be his No. 1 legislative priority and he’d sign it within his first 100 days in office.

Making that happen with Republicans in control of the Senate — a possible outcome depending on the two special elections in Georgia — will be a challenge, although Biden as a presidential candidate touted being able to work across the aisle with Republicans.

As House Democrats lick their wounds after the loss of at least 13 seats, Maloney is currently vying to become chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with a plan to recalibrate the caucus following an after-action review.

The election among House Democrats to vote for the next head of the DCCC is expected to take place next week. Maloney and Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) are jockeying for the role.

The review, Maloney said, would be similar to the analysis that took place prior to the takeover in 2018, when he led a process taking about three months to view all the quantitative data on the 2016 losses and interviewed about 200 people, including members of Congress, pollsters, and consultants.

“I mean, soup to nuts,” Maloney concluded. “The point was to develop a shared understanding among ideological perspectives, and also, to fine tune your organization. And I think the 2018 results speak for itself. So, I tend to repeat that process.”

Asked about the timing for when the review would be done, Maloney cautioned not to expect the process to be done lickety-split.

“I don’t think the point is to rush it,” Maloney said. “I think the point is to do it well and to learn something.”

But why did the House Democrats suffers so many unexpected losses when they were widely expected to gain seats as Biden won the presidential election? Maloney declined to speculate without having gone through this after-action review.

“I don’t know but I know how to find out,” Maloney said. “And I think the important thing now is to do a rigorous after-action review, which is exactly what I did. The last time we found ourselves at a similar crossroads and the result was the architecture of the 2018 victory. So I think anybody who tells you they know is offering you an opinion, and that’s a poor substitute for analysis.”

When the Blade pointed out other House Democrats, including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), have blamed the losses on calls to “Defund the Police” and labels of socialism, Maloney declined to say whether he shares that view.

”It’s not my job to comment on the different opinions being expressed, but to listen to all of them and to look at the evidence and develop a shared understanding among all members of the caucus about what we went through and the best way to move forward,” Maloney said.

Among those supporting Maloney in the DCCC is Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), another gay member of Congress and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Members of Maloney’s whip team for the DCCC race are Reps. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), the first lesbian mother in Congress, Chris Pappas (D-N.H), as well as LGBTQ rights supporters Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).

In 2022, Maloney would be taking the reins of the DCCC after congressional redistricting from state legislatures in the aftermath of the 2020 Census. Although Democrats sought to take additional state legislatures to eliminate districts gerrymandered for Republicans, Democrats took no additional legislatures and lost ground in Alaska and New Hampshire.

Maloney said factoring redistricting into plans for the 2022 election would be “absolutely critical,” and will require a “50-state strategy,” but declined to provide details on that strategy.

“I’ve already begun developing a plan on that, and it’s something I plan to discuss with my colleagues and not talk about with reporters,” Maloney said.

If elected as DCCC chair, Maloney would be the first openly gay person to hold that role as the number of openly gay members of the House Democratic caucus will be expanded and diversified to include the first two openly gay Black members of Congress, Reps. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.).

“Every barrier that falls, every ceiling we shatter makes us stronger as a community,” Maloney said. “There is simply no substitute in politics or in business, or in life, for having a real seat at the table, and while I believe I am the most qualified person with the best experience, I’m always happy when I can also show folks what’s possible for our community.”

CORRECTION: An initial version of this article misspelled the name of Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and referred to her as a progressive, even though she’s poised to become leader of the moderate New Democrat Coalition. The Blade regrets the errors.

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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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