Connect with us

Politics

USAID appoints Jay Gilliam to lead global LGBTQ initiatives

Former HRC staffer worked for agency during Obama administration

Published

on

USAID Senior LGBTQI+ Coordinator Jay Gilliam. (Photo courtesy of USAID)

The U.S. Agency for International Development has appointed Jay Gilliam to lead its efforts to promote LGBTQ rights around the world.

Gilliam was previously the director of the Human Rights Campaign Global program.

The Texas native worked at USAID from 2012-2016. Todd Larson, a retired U.N. official who became USAID’s senior LGBTQ coordinator in 2014, is among those with whom Gilliam worked.

“Both of those experiences taught me about the importance of being able to really talk about this work and amplify it and the ways to do that safely, but also the ways that it’s really important for the U.S. government to be able to lead in this space,” Gilliam told the Washington Blade on Dec. 15 during a telephone interview.

“Being in touch with so many strong advocates and leaders from around the world through that position I think gives me a stronger sense of the needs of the community, the connections,” he added, referring to his HRC work. “Hopefully I can bring into the work that USAID is doing and open doors and get support and resources to those advocates and leaders.”

Gilliam’s position, senior LGBTQI+ coordinator, is within USAID’s Bureau for Development, Democracy and Innovation. He said he has “an open line to” USAID Administrator Samantha Power, who is a vocal champion of LGBTQ rights.

Power on Dec. 6 tweeted a picture of her meeting with Gilliam.

“With decades of global human rights experience, including many years at USAID and HRC, Jay has trained advocates across the globe to advance LGBTQI+ equality,” tweeted Power. “We’re thrilled to have his expertise in this role.”

Gilliam told the Blade his “overall vision” is to “make it easier for USAID staff and our partners” to advance LGBTQ-specific issues and to “make it easier” for activists around the world “to engage with the agency.”

“For me, this kind of means helping us to recognize advocates better understand USAID’s work,” he said. “This means learning from LGBTQI+ people around the world about their needs and co-creating and resourcing projects that best respond to those needs.”

“This means creating and sharing tools necessary for those of us at USAID and our partners, as well as the broader global development community and global LGBTQI+ community, to better integrate the needs identified for LGBTQI+ persons,” added Gilliam.

Gilliam said he will work to ensure USAID is “giving rightful attention to all parts of our community, the L, the G, the B, the T, the Q and I and all those along the spectrum so that we can really understand and help and support and get people or maybe more attention to those that haven’t gotten it yet.” Gilliam also told the Blade that he is committed to intersectionality.

“I always like to think about it from my own perspective of being black and gay and sitting in many different communities and seeing the way that I am included or not included in that work,” he said. “And I think about that in relation to the needs from the global LGBTQI+ community and the way that they might have multiple identities that include privileges, that include being marginalized by broader society.”

“There’s thinking through and working with colleagues at USAID who are also working with marginalized communities and making sure that we are also paying attention to where our work intersects and being able to shine a spotlight and address the needs coming out of those intersectional communities,” added Gilliam. “For me, it actually also means working in an integrated way across our development space. And so, while there is clearly a need to focus on human rights efforts with LGBTQI+ community and addressing needs of violence, stigma, discrimination, criminalization, there’s also lots of other ways and needs that our community has that USAID is working on.”

Gilliam said expanding economic and educational opportunities are among the other aspects of USAID’s work that directly impact LGBTQ people.

“Focusing on the way that we are integrating LGBTQI+ issues across the agency and the work that it does, it’s also for me and intersectional way to look at this work,” he told the Blade.

The Biden administration in February issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. Gilliam told the Blade his position “is a reflection of how USAID is able to” implement the directive.

“It gives me the opportunity to engage with people around the agency to say that this is an administration priority that is really important for folks to be able to work on,” said Gilliam.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Politics

Laphonza Butler appointed as California’s first openly LGBTQ U.S. senator

Dianne Feinstein died in D.C. on Sept. 28

Published

on

EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler speaking at EMILYs List's annual We Are EMILY National Gala, May 16, 2023. (Photo Credit: EMILY’s List/Facebook)

On Sunday evening, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he is appointing Black openly lesbian EMILY’s List President, Laphonza Butler, to the vacant seat of the late U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein who died Friday at age 90.

Butler’s wife is Neneki Lee, the D.C.-based director for labor union SEIU’s Public Services Division.

News of Butler’s selection by Newsom was first reported by Politico’s California Bureau Chief Christopher Cadelago. A source knowledgeable on the governor’s team told Politico there were no preconditions about whether she could run in 2024.

Newsom’s office confirmed that he has picked Butler, a Democratic strategist who rose to prominence in the labor movement, to fill Feinstein’s seat.

In an emailed statement, Newsom said:

“An advocate for women and girls, a second-generation fighter for working people, and a trusted adviser to Vice President Harris, Laphonza Butler represents the best of California, and she’ll represent us proudly in the U.S. Senate. As we mourn the enormous loss of Senator Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for — reproductive freedom, equal protection, and safety from gun violence — have never been under greater assault. Laphonza will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington D.C.” 

Equality California tweeted a statement praising Newsom’s action:

Democrat Alex Padilla, now serving as California’s senior U.S. senator, released the following statement after Newsom appointed Butler to fill the vacancy created by the late Senator Feinstein: 

“Throughout her career, Laphonza Butler has been a strong voice for working families, LGBTQ rights, and a champion for increasing women’s representation in politics. I’m honored to welcome her to the United States Senate.

“Governor Newsom’s swift action ensures that Californians maintain full representation in the Senate as we navigate a narrow Democratic majority. I look forward to working together to deliver for the people of California.” 

Butler is a longtime leader in Democratic politics in California and beyond. She has been involved in campaign strategy, and the labor movement for two decades, and according to her official biography she has dedicated her life to empowering women and supporting them in finding their voice, and using it to make meaningful change.

Newsom’s office noted in its statement:

“Butler, a longtime senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris, labor leader and advocate for women and working people, will be the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate. She will also be the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress in American history and the second Black woman to represent California in the Senate following Vice President Kamala Harris.”

Prior to joining EMILYs List, Butler served as Director of Public Policy and Campaigns in North America for Airbnb. She also was a partner at SCRB Strategies, a political consulting firm where she was a strategist for candidates running up and down the ballot and a senior advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign.

With nearly 20 years in the labor movement, Butler has served as the president of the biggest union in California, and the nation’s largest home care workers union, SEIU Local 2015. She was elected to this position at just 30 years old, one of the youngest to take on this role. As president, Butler was the leading voice, strategist, and architect of efforts to address pay inequity for women in California and a top advocate for raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour — the first state in the nation to do so, benefiting millions of working women in low wage jobs. That effort also gave hundreds of thousands of home workers access to paid time off. She also served as an SEIU International Vice President and President of the SEIU California State Council.

Throughout her career, Butler has been highly regarded as a strategist working to elect Democratic women candidates in political offices across California and nationally. A long-time supporter of Kamala Harris in her California runs, Butler was a key leader in Vice President Harris’ presidential campaign. She served as a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in California during the primary and general elections. Most recently, Butler was a campaign operative behind the campaign to make the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors all-women for the first time in its history with the election of Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

She has been a member of the University of California Board of Regents and a member of the board of directors for the Children’s Defense Fund and BLACK PAC.

Laphonza grew up in Magnolia, Miss., and attended one of the country’s premier HBCUs, Jackson State University. She lives in Maryland with her wife, Neneki, and together they have a daughter, Nylah.

EMILY’s List is an American political action committee that aims to help elect Democratic female candidates in favor of abortion rights to office. It was founded by Ellen Malcolm in 1985. The group’s name is an acronym for “Early Money Is Like Yeast.” Malcolm commented that “it makes the dough rise.”

Newsom appoints Laphonza Butler to the U.S. Senate:

Continue Reading

Congress

Shutdown averted with bipartisan bill over objections of far-right House caucus

45-day continuing resolution passed 335-91.

Published

on

U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) (Screen capture/PBS News)

The U.S. House on Saturday approved a 45-day continuing resolution that, should the Senate approve the stopgap measure, as expected, will avert a government shutdown.

In a stunning turn of events, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats backed the proposal, H.R. 5860 advanced by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), which was passed with a vote of 335-91.

Ninety Republicans and one Democrat voted against the continuing resolution which, in addition to funding U.S. government agencies through mid-November, will provide billions in disaster relief .

Screenshot/C-SPAN

Democrats agreed to the bill even though it did not contain U.S. aid to Ukraine. Still, the most conservative members of McCarthy’s caucus have warned they would replace their speaker if he cooperated with Democrats on a deal to avoid a shutdown.

In recent weeks, these members advanced far-right anti-LGBTQ amendments to spending packages that stood no chance of becoming law.

The Senate voted 88-9 to pass a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government at current levels through Nov. 17 and gives the Biden administration $16 billion it requested to assist victims of natural disasters.

“Bipartisanship, which has been the trademark of the Senate, has prevailed. And the American people can breathe a sigh of relief,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.

After the Senate voted late Saturday evening to pass the House stop-gap continuing resolution, the White House released the following statement from President Biden:

“Tonight, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to keep the government open, preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans. This bill ensures that active-duty troops will continue to get paid, travelers will be spared airport delays, millions of women and children will continue to have access to vital nutrition assistance, and so much more. This is good news for the American people.

But I want to be clear: we should never have been in this position in the first place. Just a few months ago, Speaker McCarthy and I reached a budget agreement to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis. For weeks, extreme House Republicans tried to walk away from that deal by demanding drastic cuts that would have been devastating for millions of Americans. They failed.

While the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of Congress have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, there is no new funding in this agreement to continue that support. We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted. I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”

Biden is expected to sign the measure once it is delivered to the White House before the midnight deadline.

UPDATED:

On Saturday, September 30, 2023, the President signed into law:
 
H.R. 5860, which provides fiscal year appropriations to Federal agencies through November 17, 2023, for continuing projects of the Federal Government and extends several expiring authorities.

Continue Reading

Congress

McCarthy dealt another blow by far-right members seeking to replace him

Rep. Emmer denies he’s interested in becoming next Speaker

Published

on

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

After joining with the Democrats on Friday to sabotage House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (Calif.) plan to forestall a government shutdown with a last-ditch spending package, a group of far-right members are now focused on replacing him.

The stop-gap funding bill was defeated 232-198 with more than 20 Republicans voting against the measure.

House GOP sources tell the Washington Blade that removing McCarthy from the speaker’s chair is now a top priority, along with resisting pressure from Senate Republicans seeking to broker a deal to avoid allowing funding to lapse.

These sources confirmed reporting in the Washington Post about discussions of tapping U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.) to become the chamber’s top Republican, though the congressman told CBS Minnesota/WCCO News, “I fully support Speaker McCarthy. He knows that and I know that. I have zero interest in palace intrigue. End of discussion.”

While Emmer was among the 39 House Republicans who voted with the Democrats in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, which protects the rights of couples in same-sex marriages, in April he was among the more vocal members pushing for a federal ban to prohibit transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

In January, McCarthy narrowly secured his bid for the speakership after an unprecedented 15 votes from his caucus. Many of the same members now calling for his replacement demanded concessions, including conditioning their votes on McCarthy’s agreement to allow any member to call for a motion to vacate the chair at any time.

During the votes, which were held over a period of five days, other members like U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) were nominated for the position.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular