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LGBTQ groups condemn Capitol siege, back Trump removal from office

‘Our democratic processes must be defended’

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Supporters of President Trump stand in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

LGBTQ rights groups on Wednesday were quick to condemn the siege of the U.S. Capitol.

“Today’s violence is revolting and nothing short of insurrection, a coup instigated by Donald Trump and abetted by cowardly Republicans who have put party over conscience,” tweeted Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “We must honor the rule of law. It is what has made our democracy a model and one that is worth upholding.”

PFLAG Executive Director Brian K. Bond in an email to his organization’s supporters wrote “today’s violence” was “undertaken not to build up, but to tear down. And we cannot ignore glaring differences between the treatment of Black Lives Matter protestors seeking justice and the treatment of the violent insurrectionists who today stormed the U.S. Capitol to undermine our democracy.”

“The people attacking the Capitol building are not protestors, and the disparities in how they were received are glaringly clear,” added Bond.

Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez echoed Bond.

“The peaceful transition of power is the hallmark of our American democracy that both Republican and Democratic presidents have honored throughout history,” said Martinez in an email to Equality Texas supporters. “The subversive nature of today’s insurrection, which led to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, is not only un-American; it is domestic terrorism. Moreover, the lack of preparedness to ensure public safety was negligent — especially compared to the extraordinary measures taken during the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in the summer.”

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a statement to the Washington Blade said President Trump “has attacked marginalized people, including transgender Americans” since he began his campaign.

“Yesterday’s angry mob of armed white militants attacked the people of this country and the foundations of our democracy,” added Heng-Lehtinen. “Trump and those who aid and abet him have a clear pattern of inciting violence, of targeting political opponents, of attacking people of color — all while excusing the violent actions of their supporters.”

The siege began as members of Congress were certifying the Electoral College results that confirmed the election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. Trump supporters marched to the Capitol after the outgoing president spoke at the “Save America Rally” on the Ellipse.

Democrats on Tuesday regained control of the U.S. Senate after Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) respectively in Georgia.

Equality Florida on Wednesday acknowledged the Georgia election results before condemning the Capitol siege.

“Congratulations to Senator-elect Rev. Raphael Warnock and Senator-elect Jon Ossoff on their historic elections to the United States Senate,” said Equality Florida in a tweet. “We are thankful for our volunteers, members, staff and board for being a part of the coalition that supported Georgia Equality (an LGBTQ rights group in Georgia) in their efforts to elect pro-equality senators.”

“This historic mobilization of voters is a testament to our incredible democratic process, and contrasts the treasonous actions taken by supporters of President Trump at the U.S. Capitol today,” added Equality Florida.

Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith and National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey are among those who have called for Trump’s removal from office. Smith has also called for an investigation into the U.S. Capitol Police’s response to the siege.  

“We condemn the violence in Washington, D.C., and in communities across the country that has been incited by today’s attack on the Capitol building,” said Carey in a statement. “We are better than this. To move forward we must begin by making the strongest statement possible and remove Trump from office using the power of the 25th Amendment.”

Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings in his statement also cited the 25th Amendment.

“Today’s unprecedented events are a betrayal of that fundamental American commitment, and any pretense to ‘patriotism’ on the part of those who committed today’s acts of desecration of the temple of democracy that is our Capitol building are blasphemous,” he said. “Our democratic processes must be defended, and we call upon our leaders to utilize any and all processes available to them, including the 25th Amendment, to ensure an orderly transition of power in accordance with the will of the American people as expressed freely at the ballot box in November.”

“The president, but also the those who have remained silent in the face of his lies, are responsible for this attack on our democracy, and they should be held accountable for their actions,” added Heng-Lehtinen. “Their desperate attempt to hold onto power at any cost will cement their legacy of failure.”

GLAAD, 18 LGBTQ rights groups demand Trump’s removal

GLAAD late on Thursday released a statement signed by 18 LGBTQ rights organizations that calls for Trump’s removal from office.

“As LGBTQ organizations and movement leaders, we call for the immediate and unequivocal removal of Donald Trump as president of the United States via the invoking of the 25th Amendment or by impeachment if necessary,” reads the statement. “Our nation’s security and the personal security of every American is in grave danger, and we cannot afford to sustain even another day with this destructive and seditious man in the White House.”

Athlete Ally, the Equality Federation, Family Equality, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, GLSEN, Lambda Legal, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, NMAC, PFLAG, Pride in Running, Puerto Rico Para [email protected], SAGE, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Transgender Law Center and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund signed GLAAD’s letter.

HRC has also called for Trump’s removal from office.

“The Human Rights Campaign urgently calls for the immediate removal of President Donald Trump from office,” said David in a press release his organization released on Thursday. “President Trump bears responsibility for Wednesday’s insurrection at the United States Capitol and the attempted coup of our government in which four people died.”


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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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