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Biden administration uses IDAHOBiT to highlight LGBTQ rights support

WHO on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as mental disorder

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Biden administration on Tuesday publicly acknowledged the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

“Jill and I stand in support and solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) people in the United States and around the world,” said President Biden in a statement the White House released. “We join with Americans across the country to reaffirm our commitment to the ongoing work of upholding human dignity for all people and advancing equality globally.”

Biden in his statement noted there “has been much progress” since the World Health Organization on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Biden also highlighted “we continue to witness disturbing setbacks and rising hate and violence targeting LGBTQI+ people in the United States and around the world.”

“This is wrong,” he said. “LGBTQI+ people are entitled to all the rights, opportunities, and protections that belong to every human on this planet. LGBTQI+ people are an essential part of families and communities—teachers, first responders, public officials, doctors, lawyers, front-line workers and friends who enrich and strengthen every single country.” 

“And make no mistake: Hateful legislative attacks against members of our own LGBTQI+ community cannot be tolerated in America or anywhere else,” added Biden. “They spur discrimination and can stoke violence. And they are rooted in the same ignorance and intolerance that we see around the world. Hate is hate—and all of us have a responsibility to speak out against hate wherever we find it.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday issued his own IDAHOBiT statement.

“The United States affirms today, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), that the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons are the same human rights to which all persons are entitled,” said Blinken. “As enshrined in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘[a]ll human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’”

Bliken further noted that “too many LGBTQI+ persons live under the shadow of discrimination, violence and fear.”

“Global data makes clear that the dehumanization of LGBTQI+ persons is systemic, pervasive, and often violent,” he said. “Homophobia, biphobia, interphobia and transphobia are deeply entrenched in societies across the world, including here in the United States. Countless persons are at extreme risk for being themselves.”

Biden shortly after he took office in 2021 issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

The administration last June appointed Jessica Stern as the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad.

The U.S. Senate earlier this year in a bipartisan vote confirmed Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank, as the first openly lesbian American ambassador. The State Department on April 11 began to issue passports with “X” gender markers.

The State Department on April 28 released a report that details the federal government’s implementation of Biden’s foreign policy memo.

“We remain committed to ending this intolerance. Everyone deserves to live with respect, dignity, and safety,” said Blinken in his IDAHOBiT statement. “The United States affirms that all LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, and their families are valid and valuable.”

Biden in his statement also referred to the report.

“By openly reporting on our own progress, the United States hopes to inspire other governments to take similar action to address the needs of their LGBTQI+ communities,” he said.

“To the LGBTQI+ community, my administration sees you,” added Biden. “We stand with you. And we will continue to defend human rights and dignity, at home and around the world.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović are among the other world leaders who have publicly acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ rights, and other U.N. human rights experts in a statement they released on Monday highlighted the plight of LGBTQ people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.

“With the number of forcibly displaced persons continuing to rise, States, businesses and humanitarian and civil society organizations must invest in developing human rights-based policies and programs that take into full account the intersectional dimensions of forced displacement and sexual orientation and gender identity, fostering stronger collaboration and coordination among all actors responsible for the protection of displaced LGBT individuals,” reads the statement.

Advocacy groups around the world also commemorated IDAHOBiT.

“Today I want to thank my incredible team of Insight public organization who still works for LGBTQI+ people in Ukraine, saving life’s (sic) of our community during the war,” tweeted Olena Shevchenko, chair of Insight, a Ukrainian LGBTQ rights group. “We are here for equality.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a tweet said IDAHOBiT “is a significant day for the LGBTIQ+ community because it serves as a reminder of the ongoing violence and prejudice that our communities face.”

“The struggle for equality still continues,” added SMUG.

Pride House Tokyo in Japan also acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

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The White House

CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus resigns

The former Tucson, Ariz., police chief is openly gay

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus resigned on Nov. 12, 2022. (YouTube screenshot from KHOU in Houston)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus submitted his resignation to President Joe Biden Saturday evening.

Magnus had reportedly been told earlier in the week by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that he should resign or expect to be fired.

Multiple media outlets reported that Magnus said Friday that he had no plans to step down despite being told to resign by Mayorkas.

“I want to make this clear: I have no plans to resign as CBP commissioner,” Magnus said in a written statement to The Washington Post. “I didn’t take this job as a resume builder. I came to Washington, D.C. — moved my family here — because I care about this agency, its mission and the goals of this administration.”

In his letter of resignation released by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Magnus wrote: “Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Senate confirmed commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection over the past year. It has been a privilege and honor to be part of your administration.

“I am submitting my resignation effective immediately but wish you and your administration the very best going forward. Thank you again for this tremendous opportunity,” Magnus added.

Pressure on the White House to remove the embattled CBP commissioner came from within the administration as well as from House Republicans on Capitol Hill. Last week a group of House Republicans led by Georgia Congressman Jody Hice sent a letter to the president demanding that he remove Magnus after an article in Politico revealed extreme dissatisfaction within the agency.

“According to a recent report by Politico, Commissioner Magnus continually fails to attend high-level meetings regarding the border crisis. Even worse, he was caught sleeping through some of the meetings he actually attended,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter first reported by the Daily Caller.

“The report goes on to detail Commissioner Magnus’ constant complaining about his fellow senior officials in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instead of focusing on the CBP mission to secure our border,” the lawmakers added.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the CBP chief and Mayorkas argued over Magnus’ decision not to continue a retention bonus for U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz. The Times also reported Magnus had butted heads with Ortiz as well over how to reform the Border Patrol.

The day before, Magnus also attended a meeting of Border Patrol chiefs after Mayorkas had told him not to go. 

“After me making extensive attempts to reach [Mayorkas] and discuss the matter, I went to the meeting so I could engage with the chiefs on various issues and concerns. I also met with Chief Ortiz to see how we might best work together moving forward,” Magnus told the Times.

When the two finally did meet, Mayorkas encouraged him to resign.

“I expressed to him that I felt there was no justification for me to resign when I still cared deeply about the work I was doing and felt that that work was focused on the things I was hired to do in the first place,” Magnus told the Times.

The Hill noted that Magnus was chosen by the president in part because he spoke out against the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigrants and its negative effect on relations between law enforcement and immigrant communities.

Still, Magnus’ background in policing rather than immigration and border enforcement raised some questions about his ability to take on a complex agency amid historically high border crossings, The Hill further pointed out.

Magnus is openly gay and married Terrance Cheung, former chief of staff to the mayor of Richmond. Calif., in 2014.

He was previously chief of police in Tucson, Arz.; Fargo, N.D.; and Richmond, Calif., and is an outspoken advocate of community policing and of immigration sanctuary cities and states.

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Vice president at HRC National Dinner commits to fighting ‘epidemic of hate’

Kamala Harris spoke a day after Nancy Pelosi’s husband attacked

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 29. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Vice President Kamala Harris committed to fighting the “powerful forces trying to take our country backwards” in prepared remarks Saturday during the Human Rights Campaign’s National Dinner in D.C.

“The very existence of LGBTQ+ people is under assault,” Harris said from the stage of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. She decried the “epidemic of hate” that has gripped this country while celebrating the intersectional work that has been undertaken by HRC and the Biden-Harris administration. 

“This next chapter of HRC is going to center liberty and equality for all, with no exceptions,” incoming HRC President Kelley Robinson said. Speaking just before the vice president’s address, she rejected incrementalism and highlighted the importance of strengthening the movement with coalition building and grassroots organizing. 

Robison — who after taking the helm on Nov. 28 will be the first Black queer woman to lead America’s largest LGBTQ organization — previously served as executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She was introduced on stage by Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson. 

Other speakers from HRC rounded out the program along with the evening’s honorees, who included Abbi Jacobson, Chanté Adams and George Takei.  

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was slated to headline the national dinner together with the vice president, but a spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Blade on Friday that she would not be able to attend. 

Early that morning, an intruder violently assaulted Pelosi’s husband after breaking into the couple’s San Francisco home. Nancy Pelosi was in Washington at the time. Paul Pelosi, 82, was hospitalized with a skull fracture but is expected to make a full recovery.

On Saturday, Nancy Pelosi’s office published a “Dear colleague” letter thanking fellow members for their support and expressing gratitude for the “quick response” of law enforcement and emergency services personnel.  

Harris began her comments by denouncing the “vicious attack” on Paul Pelosi. It “speaks to what HRC stands for, which is the work that we will still need to do to fight hate” while sending the message that there is no place for political violence in America, she said.  

“Our HRC family is thinking of Speaker Pelosi, her husband and her family — and sending love and support their way,” HRC Interim President Joni Madison tweeted on Friday. Robinson shared the message on Twitter, adding her own words of encouragement and well-wishes. 

The National Dinner is HRC’s largest annual fundraiser. The organization has hosted the event each year since 1997, apart from a two-year hiatus from 2020 to 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous speakers have included Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, John Lewis, Rosie O’Donnell and Sally Field. 

Madison has led HRC since the termination of former President Alphonso David last year over his alleged involvement in helping to cover up sexual harassment allegations against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his tenure as Cuomo’s chief counsel.

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Biden won’t meet with Putin until Russia engages in Griner release negotiations

Two presidents to attend next month’s G-20 meeting in Bali

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(Photo courtesy of Adam Schultz/White House)

President Joe Biden “has no intention” of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month, until and unless Russia engages in negotiations for the release of American WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner. 

“The Russians need to take the serious offer that we put forward on the table, or make a serious counter-offer to negotiate, but in good faith,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing Wednesday. 

Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper, in an interview that aired Tuesday, that he would be open to talking with Putin about Griner’s release. According to a White House pool report Wednesday, Biden said progress toward a meeting about Griner’s case had not been made with Putin. 

The two are slated to join other world leaders in Bali from Nov. 15-16 for the G-20 Summit.  

Griner has been detained in Moscow since February —“wrongfully,” a State Department spokesperson said in May — over vape canisters containing cannabis oil that were allegedly found in her luggage. 

In August, the WNBA player was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. A court will hear her appeal on Oct. 25. Her lawyer told the New York Times on Wednesday that she fears she will serve the entirety of her sentence in Russia, despite efforts to arrange a prisoner swap. 

“She has not been in as good condition as I could sometimes find her in,” said her lawyer, Alexandr Boykov, who added it has been difficult for Griner to arrange phone calls with her wife Cherelle and other members of her family. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have spoken with Cherelle Griner.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this summer the U.S. had “put a substantial proposal on the table,” an offer that reportedly would free imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, an American who officials say was wrongfully detained on espionage charges. 

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