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Harry Reid dies at 82

Former Senate majority leader key to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal

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Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) died on Tuesday at his home in Henderson, Nev., after a years-long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 82.

Reid was born in Searchlight, Nev., on Dec. 2, 1939.

The Nevada Democrat was the state’s lieutenant governor from 1971-1975.

Reid represented Nevada’s 1st congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983-1987. He was in the U.S. Senate from 1987-2017, and was Senate majority leader from 2007-2015.

Reid played a leading role in securing the passage of the bill that repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010. Reid, among other things, championed the Affordable Care Act and presided over the Senate in 2013 when the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed in a bipartisan vote.

The bill later died in a Republican-controlled House.

“I am heartbroken to announce the passing of my husband, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,” said Reid’s wife of 62 years, Landra Reid, in a statement. “He died peacefully this afternoon, surrounded by our family, following a courageous, four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.”

“We are so proud of the legacy he leaves behind both on the national stage and his beloved Nevada,” she added.

“I’ve had the honor of serving with some of the all-time great Senate majority leaders in our history. Harry Reid was one of them,” said President Biden in a statement. “And for Harry, it wasn’t about power for power’s sake. It was about the power to do right for the people.”

Former President Obama also mourned Reid.

“You were a great leader in the Senate, and early on you were more generous to me than I had any right to expect,” said Obama in a statement. “I wouldn’t have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn’t have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination.”

Silver State Equality, an LGBTQ rights group in Nevada, praised Reid as a “tireless fighter for all.”

“Senator Reid was a force to be reckoned with,” said the group on Twitter. “His decades of service to Nevada and the nation included passing the ACA, repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and ushering LGBTQ+ employment protections through the Senate.”

Charlotte Clymer, a transgender activist who is a U.S. Army veteran, in a tweet said Reid “had a backbone” and “didn’t shy away from a battle, and he won most of them, including passage of the Affordable Care Act.”

“He was a fighter, and we loved him for it,” tweeted Clymer. “May his memory be a blessing.”

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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney introduces bill to make monkeypox testing free

Health insurers would be required to cover costs

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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has introduced legislation to make monkeypox testing free to the public. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), amid the ongoing monkeypox affecting gay and bisexual men, has introduced legislation in the U.S. House seeking to make testing for disease free to the public.

Maloney, one of seven openly gay members of Congress and chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement the measure, called the No Cost for Monkeypox Testing Act, would testing amid the monkeypox outbreak would be accessible to all.

“It is critical that we eliminate cost as a barrier to testing for monkeypox to ensure we can identify cases and prevent further spread,” Maloney said. “This legislation takes the lessons we learned from past public health emergencies and protects those at risk of contracting monkeypox by making tests accessible to everyone.”

The legislation would require private health insurers as well as Medicare and Medicaid to cover the costs of monkeypox testing at no expense to the patients, either through deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance.

The bill introduction comes the week after the Biden administration declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency and the same it has issued new guidance to enhance to the accessing of existing vaccines doses amid criticism federal officials were too slow in distributing shots.

The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the Centers for Disease Control seeking comment on the legislation. Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra said Tuesday the federal government has the capacity to conduct an estimated 80,000 tests each week.

Maloney has been representing New York’s 18th congressional district, but after redistricting is now seeking re-election in the 17th district. Amid controversy over a potential showdown between Maloney and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who’s Black, another openly gay member of Congress and the current representative of that district, Jones has since opted to run for re-election in the New York’s 10th congressional district. Maloney is now running unopposed in the 17th.

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Out Vermont state senator wins Democratic primary race

Tuesday’s victory makes her likely to become the first woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress

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Screenshot via Becca Balint for Congress

The Green Mountain State’s state Senate president pro tempore has won the Democratic nomination for the state’s at-large congressional seat, the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Becca Balin is running to succeed U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Tuesday’s victory makes her likely to become the first woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress if elected in November. Vermont is the only state that has never had a female member of its congressional delegation.

The VTDigger, a statewide news website, reported; “Balint, 53, is the first openly gay woman elected to the Vermont Senate and the first woman to serve as its president. The former middle school teacher and stay-at-home mother won her first political contest in a race for her southeastern Vermont Senate seat in 2014

She rose quickly through the ranks of the Democrat-controlled chamber, becoming majority leader in 2017, at the start of her second term. Four years later, in 2021, she was elected pro tem — the top position in the Senate.”

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Lindsey Graham: Same-sex marriage should be left to the states

Republican senator says issue a distraction from inflation

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Sen. Lindsey Graham said he still thinks the issue of same-sex marriage should be left to the states. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), seven years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide, said Sunday he still thinks the issue of gay nuptials should be left to the states.

Graham made the remarks during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash in a rare televised bipartisan debate with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) as the Senate was in the middle of voting on amendments for the Inflation Reduction Act.

When discussing the 6-3 conservative majority of the Supreme Court, Graham said consistent with the recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade justices could overturn other precedents, such as the 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in favor of same-sex marriage.

Asked point blank if he was saying it should be overturned, Graham said “no, I’m saying that I don’t think it’s going to be overturned.” Graham, however, had an infection his voice, suggesting same-sex marriage could be undone.

“Nor should it be?” asked Bash.

“Well, that would be up to the court,” he responded, then added: “I think states should decide the issue of marriage, and states should be decide the issue of abortion.”

When Bash brought up another case, Loving v. Virginia, the 1965 case that overturned states bans on interracial marriage, and asked if that should be revisited as well, Graham replied, “no.”

Graham quickly moved on to tamp down any expectation the would address the issue of same-sex marriage, saying fears the court would revisit the issue are unfounded and meant as a distraction from issues such as inflation.

“But if you’re going to ask me to have the federal government take over defining marriage, I’m going to say no,” Graham added.

Graham’s remarks are consistent with what he told the Washington Blade in 2015 when asked about same-sex marriage as the issue was being adjudicated by the Supreme Court. However, they contrast to his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment that was pending before Congress during the Bush administration and would have made a ban on same-sex marriage nationwide part of the U.S. Constitution. Graham was not asked about his views on now defunct idea of an amendment during the CNN interview.

h/t The Independent

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