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LGBTQ Trump supporters tiptoe away from president after U.S. Capitol attack

One-time won’t commit to forcibly removing Trump from office

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LGBTQ Trump supporters are minimizing their previous support for him.

In the aftermath of the assault on the U.S. Capitol instigated by President Trump, his one-time LGBTQ supporters are now distancing themselves from him without outright renouncing their previous support.

Many LGBTQ Trump supporters didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment. Others condemned the violence at the U.S. Capitol, but sought to artfully distance themselves from Trump while minimizing their previous support for him as an incumbent president running for re-election in 2020.

One-time Trump supporters — amid talk of Trump being forced to resign, impeached and removed from office or being stripped of the presidency through never-before invoked powers of executive officers under the 25th Amendment — wouldn’t commit to supporting any of those outcomes.

Charles Moran, managing director of Log Cabin Republicans, condemned the assault on the U.S. Capitol as “a dark day in the current chapter of American history,” but compared it to racial unrest of 2020 and said “it brought into the new year the anger and violence that we experienced only recently in the summer of 2020.”

“That said, the violence and un-American acts committed yesterday by those who stormed the Capitol building were completely unacceptable and those who took part in trying to forcefully stop our democracy from working should be identified, arrested, tried and punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Moran said, “Full stop, no exceptions.”

Moran said Log Cabin Republicans, which endorsed Trump in the 2020 election, learned from the success it enjoyed in increasing the LGBTQ vote for the Republican presidential nominee (according to exit polls) but said those efforts were never about Trump himself.

“While the gay left has had a deranged obsession with Donald Trump, our movement has never been about one man,” Moran said. “We can and will achieve continued success, with or without Donald Trump.”

Moran also side-stepped the issue of what should happen with Trump amid talk of removing him from office before end of his presidential term.

“President Trump’s last day in office will be January 20, when Vice President Biden will be sworn into office,” Moran said. “I don’t know what President Trump will do next. The Republican Party today, however, is transformed, and I think for the better.”

Chad Felix Greene, who wrote a self-published book “Without Context,” disputing each of the LGBTQ media watchdog GLAAD’s accounts of anti-LGBTQ attacks by Trump, told the Blade the assault on the Capitol was “an act of domestic terrorism and should not be tolerated.”

“The right has attracted a population of people that think anarchy and obscenity are political activism,” Greene added. “White supremacists, antisemites and other assorted idiots latched onto the MAGA movement because it was rebellious and counter culture and controversial.”

Greene said he lost his respect for Trump “when he began behaving as a conspiratorial voice leading his followers into madness,” and is now looking to Mike Pence for leadership, despite the vice president’s long anti-LGBTQ record.

“While I appreciated [Trump’s] policies as a leader, he proved himself to be a threat to everything we built over the last four years over his ego,” Greene added. “Pence is the perfect mirror image of this. Consistent. Calm. Trustworthy and a man of integrity. He’s not the face of what MAGA became as an aggressive and passionate movement. He reminded us of what good Republican and conservative leadership can be.”

Greene said he expects Trump to “leave office” and “won’t support” him in future political efforts, but at the same time doesn’t back efforts to forcibly remove the president from office before the end of his term.

“Honestly it’s in two weeks,” Greene said. “He reluctantly gave a statement on an orderly exit. I think current efforts at removing him are political and short-sighted. We’ve completely forgotten the stimulus and vaccine rollout that needs attention. Trump is done. Further political theater seems petty and unnecessary to me.”

Dan Innis, a Republican former New Hampshire state senator who supported Trump and after the 2020 election said on Twitter he wouldn’t accept the results, told the Blade the assault on the U.S. Capitol was “very sad,” but wouldn’t give up his previous position.

“My concerns about the validity of the election remain,” Innis said. “If the election was fair, and I hope it was, show us. Why the secrecy? If there is nothing to hide, don’t hide it. However, given yesterday’s events, we will never know the truth about the election. As a result, millions of Americans, me included, will forever doubt the integrity of the American election process.”

Innis also sought to minimize Trump as a leader of the conservative movement, adding “vanquishing” him “will not change my views, or the views of those millions” who don’t trust the nation’s leaders and institutions.

“Trump was nothing but a figurehead of a larger movement, and that movement is not going to just go away just because Trump goes away,” Innis said. “If the Democrats, including Joe Biden, think that is going to happen, I think they will be surprised.”

The distancing from Trump corresponds to the growing list of administration aides resigning in the aftermath of the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Among them was Tyler Goodspeed, who’s gay and was acting chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, who resigned Thursday. “The events of yesterday made my position no longer tenable,” Goodspeed was quoted as saying to the New York Times.

But several other LGBTQ officials with ties to Trump had little to say for themselves and didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment. Among them was Richard Grenell, who was the face of LGBTQ outreach for Trump’s re-election. Although Grenell condemned the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Twitter as it was unfolding, by the next day his focus shifted to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Iran, Big Tech and the media, but not Trump.

Brandon Straka, the gay conservative who founded the “Walk Away” movement and was among the speakers at the “Stop the Steal” rally that led to the assault on the U.S. Capitol also didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

After the assault, Straka posted on Twitter a one-hour video skirting the violence and expressing outrage at the rioters and issued a call to “completely gut the conservative movement and start again.” On Friday, Straka indignantly tweeted about Facebook disabling the “Walk Away” campaign on the social media platform.

Also not responding to the Blade was Gregory Angelo, who cheered Trump on after stepping down as head of the Log Cabin Republicans and later took a job at the Trump White House; and Rob Smith, a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” activist who later became a chief spokesperson for the pro-Trump student group Turning Point USA.

Other LGBTQ conservatives who spoke to the Blade, but didn’t support Trump for re-election in 2020, weren’t shy about saying the assault on the U.S. Capitol confirmed their fears about him.

Brad Polumbo, a D.C.-based conservative journalist and host of the podcast “Breaking Brad,” said the Trump administration yielded good policy — including for LGBTQ people, despite Trump’s anti-LGBTQ reputation — but the recent events proved him right.

“The crazed mob attack on the Capitol and President Trump’s denial of the election results that fomented it, for me, vindicate the decision to never get on board the Trump train,” Polumbo said. “From tax cuts to deregulation to the confirmation of several excellent Supreme Court justices to Middle East peace deals and an unprecedented openness to gay Americans, there are many successes gay conservatives like me can take away from the Trump presidency. But recent events have also served as a painful reminder to LGBT conservatives, and all conservatives, really, that policy aside, our leaders’ character matters.”

Jennifer Williams, a New Jersey-based Republican transgender advocate who challenged Trump over his supporters using anti-trans campaign tactics that ended up failing in the 2020 election, denounced the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

“The people who stormed and violently entered the Capitol to disrupt yesterday’s election certification acted not as Americans, but as vandals to democracy,” Williams said. “Every single one of the perpetrators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. These people did not act as Republicans, because what they did is not in the spirit of what Republicans stand for or how we conduct ourselves. However, that is the least of my worries. I fear our children seeing our country as they saw it yesterday.”

Williams, who said the results of the 2020 election are clear, issued a clarion call that the time has come for Trump to step down before the end of his term, or that officials should do the job for him.

“President Trump should consider stepping down and/or ceding his day-to-day authority to Vice President Pence for these last few days in order to restore a sense of peace to our country,” Williams said. “The president and his son — after using strong anti-transgender and vulgar language in his own speech — encouraged the protesters to march on our Capitol building. That is unconscionable and every American, liberal or conservative and LGBTQ or not, must recognize this. We are a country of laws and freedom, not anarchy and mob rule.”

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State Department expresses concern over anti-LGBTQ bill in Uganda

Measure would further criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts

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A State Department spokesperson on Wednesday expressed concern over the passage of a bill in Uganda that would further criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts.

Ugandan lawmakers on Monday passed the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019, which contains a provision, known as Clause 11, that would explicitly ban “penetration of another person’s anus with that other person’s sexual organ or with any object” and “sexual acts between persons of the same gender.”

“We’re certainly concerned about the legislation in Uganda,” said State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter in response to the Washington Blade’s question about the bill during a briefing with reporters.

Consensual same-sex sexual acts are already criminalized in Uganda.

President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it previously contained a death penalty provision.

The U.S. cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a statement said the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019 criminalization provision “will enhance the already homophobic environment in Uganda and consequently lead the way for further violation of the rights of sexual and gender minorities, including violations such as ‘corrective rape’ and other acts of violence.” The Ugandan LGBTQ advocacy group has also called for Museveni to veto the measure over the clause.

“Sexual Minorities Uganda calls on the president of the Republic of Uganda to consider not assenting to the bill because of the problematic Clause 11 that now classifies sexual and gender minorities as sexual offenders,” said SMUG in its statement. “Rather, we call on the president to reminisce on the effects the now repealed Anti-Homosexuality Act had on the human rights discourse for sexual and gender minorities.”

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern also condemned the bill.

“Same-sex relations are already criminalized in Uganda’s Penal Code,” said Stern in a press release. “The inclusion of same-sex relations in this bill paints LGBTQ people as sexual offenders, and can only serve one purpose — to fuel already rampant LGBTQ-phobia, discrimination and violence. It is deplorable. The colonial legacy of criminalizing same-sex relations must end.”

The Biden administration in February issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

“The United States certainly stands up and defends the human rights of our LGBTQI+ persons all around the world and we also stand firmly in opposing violence and discrimination against all LGBTQI persons and will also urge governments to criminalize their status or conduct,” said Porter during Wednesday’s briefing.

“We will continue to condemn any violence or discrimination of vulnerable populations including our LGBTQI+ people, whether they’re in Uganda or anywhere in the world,” added Porter.

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Anticipation builds amid delay: Will Biden name LGBTQ ambassadors?

United States has never had lesbian woman, trans person as envoy

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Biden administration, gay news, Washington Blade

More than 100 days into his presidency, President Biden has yet to name picks for a multitude of ambassadorial positions in a delay unusual for a presidency at this stage, raising questions about whether he’ll miss an opportunity to exhibit America’s LGBTQ community overseas through the appointment of the first-ever lesbian and transgender person as ambassadors.

Many of these ambassadorial vacancies, which complement the diplomatic corps of the U.S. government to serve as a representation of American diversity overseas, are in key positions. Nearly 90 ambassadorial positions, including sought-after posts in Israel, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Italy and China, remain vacant according to an April article in USA Today.

The delay in ambassadorial appointments appears to come from pressure on Biden to refrain from the traditional practice of naming donors who bundled for his presidential campaign to the prestigious posts as opposed to foreign policy experts. Biden declined during his campaign to commit to refusing to reward donors with ambassadorial appointments, but the issue has taken hold in progressive circles.

On the other hand, many donors and bundlers for Biden’s presidential campaign were LGBTQ people, who would reasonably expect an ambassadorial appointment as a reward for helping get Biden to the White House.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, under questioning from the Washington Blade on Tuesday on whether Biden is missing an opportunity to name lesbian and transgender ambassadors in historic firsts, urged patience.

“Given we haven’t named many ambassadors quite yet — and we hope to soon; stay tuned — certainly the president looks to ensuring that the people representing him, not just in the United States, but around the world, represent the diversity of the country, and that certainly includes people who are LGBTQ, members of the transgender community,” Psaki said.

Asked to clarify her definition of “soon” in this context — whether it means days, weeks, or months — Psaki declined to provide a more definite timeline.

“I think it depends on when the president makes some decisions,” Psaki said. “And he’ll continue to consider a range of options for a lot of the positions that are out there and still remain vacant.”

At the same time, Psaki made a point to commend the work of Foreign Service officers at the State Department with whom Biden has sought to restore trust after years of scorn from former President Trump.

“I will say, having served at the State Department for a couple of years, there are incredible career service employees who are serving in these embassies around the world who are representing the United States and our values.” Psaki said. “That continues to be the case, but, of course, we’re eager to have ambassadors in place and confirmed to represent the president and the vice president and the United States.”

The appointment of members of the LGBTQ community to ambassadorships has a significant place in the movement’s history. In 1998, Jim Hormel became the first openly gay person to serve as U.S. ambassador after being named U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. But the victory came after a struggle when anti-gay senators, including the late Jesse Helms, refused to confirm Hormel explicitly because he’s gay. President Clint0n ended up appointing Hormel as an ambassador through a recess appointment, which averted the need for Senate confirmation.

Presidents regardless of party have achieved historic firsts with the appointment of openly gay men as ambassadors. Michael Guest in the George W. Bush administration was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Romania, making him the first openly gay person to obtain Senate confirmation for an ambassadorship. Former President Obama over the course of two terms appointed a record seven openly gay men as ambassadors, including John Berry as U.S. ambassador to Australia and Daniel Baer as U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe.

Richard Grenell, named by President Trump as U.S. ambassador to Germany, currently has the distinction of being the openly gay person with the most prestigious ambassadorial appointment. Consistent with his reputation as a firebrand on social media, Grenell hit Germany hard as ambassador to compel the G-5 country to meet its military spending obligations as a NATO partner. Grenell has something to show for his efforts: The country began to spend closer to 2 percent of its GDP on defense.

And yet for all these appointments, no president has ever named an open lesbian or trans woman for a position as U.S. ambassador, an oversight that stands out after the rapid progress on LGBTQ rights in recent years. At a time when transgender rights are in focus amid anti-trans attacks in state legislatures, the appointment of an openly transgender ambassador would also send a signal of solidarity with the transgender community.

There’s no indication Biden won’t appoint an LGBTQ person for a position as U.S. ambassador, which could be an easy achievement from him with the LGBTQ community, but the delay raises questions on whether or not they will happen, in addition to keeping the diplomatic corps from being fully staffed and functional.

Moreover, the position of LGBTQ international liaison at the State Department, a position Biden campaigned on filling after Trump let the position remain vacant, remains unfilled. During the Obama years, Randy Berry served in that role and travelled internationally to work with LGBTQ groups overseas and demonstrate U.S. solidarity with them.

It’s unclear why the international LGBTQ liaison position continues to remain vacant within the Biden administration. A State Department spokesperson referred the Blade on Wednesday back to the White House on potential LGBTQ ambassadorial appointments or the international LGBTQ liaison role.

To be sure, Biden has made several key LGBTQ appointments in the limited time in his presidency. Among them are Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary, making him the first-ever openly gay person to win Senate confirmation for a Cabinet-level role, and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health, which made her the first openly transgender person to win Senate confirmation for any presidential appointment.

In the past few weeks alone, Biden has signaled he’d name openly lesbian and transgender people to high-ranking civilian positions at the Defense Department. Brenda Sue Fulton, a lesbian activist who fought to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the transgender military ban, got the nod as assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, while Shawn Skelly, a transgender national security expert who served in the Air Force for 20 years as a Naval Flight Officer, obtained the nod to become assistant secretary of defense for readiness. Meanwhile, Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian Iraq war veteran who twice ran to represent Texas’ 23rd congressional district, was nominated to become Air Force under secretary.

Even the State Department itself has a person from the LGBTQ community serving as its public face. Ned Price, who conducts daily briefings with the media as State Department spokesperson, is the first openly gay person to serve in that prominent position.

The LGBTQ Victory Institute, which at the start of the Biden administration had signaled the appointment of a lesbian, transgender person and LGBTQ person of color as U.S. ambassadors were among its goals, expressed confidence Biden would name these appointments in due time.

“President Biden will roll out his picks for ambassadorships over the next few months and it presents an incredible opportunity to choose diverse and groundbreaking LGBTQ nominees,” said Ruben Gonzales, executive director of the LGBTQ Victory Institute. “As President Biden has already made history with the number of LGBTQ women and transgender people he has nominated for Senate-confirmed positions, we predict this commitment to LGBTQ diversity will continue when ambassadors are nominated. The impact of our first LGBTQ women ambassadors, first LGBTQ ambassadors of color and first trans ambassadors would be enormous – an impact not lost on the Biden administration.”

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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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