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Texas GOP snubs Log Cabin: shortsighted mistake or sign of things to come?

Party declares, ‘homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice’

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared transition-related care for youth a form of child abuse. (Screen capture via Fox News YouTube)

With the Texas GOP denying a booth at its convention to Log Cabin Republicans, condemning homosexuality as “abnormal” and repudiating transgender identities — as well as its continued refusal to accept President Biden’s election as legitimate — the resulting fallout has observers wondering if the imbroglio represents the past or the future of the Republican Party.

The Texas Republican Party delivered its full-throated rejection of LGBTQ people — including LGBTQ people who have aligned themselves with the Republican Party and former President Trump — as an official position in the state party platform drafted at a convention in Houston last weekend, which also includes a rejection of the 2020 election results and the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibiting discrimination against Black voters. Also at the convention, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) was booed as he spoke for being part of the bipartisan working group that drafted the gun control agreement now moving through Congress in the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

“Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice,” the Texas GOP platform says. “We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin, and we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”

Additionally, the platform rejects “all efforts to validate transgender identity” at a time when states are moving forward with measures banning transgender youth from competing in school sports and instituting criminal penalties for medical providers providing transition-related care to minors. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has declared transition-related care for youth a form of child abuse and has ordered state agencies to investigate the parents of children receiving such care.

Cal Jillson, a political scientist who studies Texas politics at Southern Methodist University, said in an interview with the Blade the Texas Republican Party adopted these positions because “it’s the base of the base of the base” drafting them through a series of party and precinct meetings on the way up to the state convention.

“Many state parties have decided no longer to produce platforms in their conventions, because this happens all the time,” Jillson added. “You’ve got these deeply, ideologically committed conservatives who approve a platform that then asked to be explained away by candidates and others. So many state parties just say we’re not going to do a platform because we don’t want to go through this shit.”

The Texas Republican Party’s denial of booth space at the convention for the Log Cabin Republicans of Texas came despite the group’s commitment to conservative principles — even the repudiation of gender ideology and the Equality Act — and continued defense of President Trump as the first Republican president who was a gay ally.

Charles Moran, president of Log Cabin Republicans, urged the state party in a statement to look at the special election results in Texas last week — which saw the election to a congressional seat of Maya Flores, a Mexico-born Texas Hispanic woman and Republican — as the better alternative for the party.

“Texas Republicans just saw on Tuesday night what happens when the party includes new faces and voices – a Democrat-held seat was flipped for the first time in nearly a hundred years by a conservative Mexican woman,” Moran said. “It’s clear that inclusion wins, which makes the Texas Republican Party leadership’s decision to exclude the Texas Log Cabin Republicans from their convention not just narrow-minded, but politically short-sighted.”

It’s not the first time the Texas Republican Party has excluded Log Cabin Republicans from the convention. According to the Log Cabin Republicans, the Texas GOP has not allowed Log Cabin Republicans to have a booth in years.

“So what’s going now isn’t a change from anything….just a continuation,” Moran told the Blade. “The only difference is now the media is actually paying attention to it.”

The exclusion this year, however, has inspired commentary on both sides as Democratic opponents crow the situation is perfectly emblematic of a political party with an anti-LGBTQ history and reputation and Republicans call it an isolated incident in a party that has evolved in its approach as recent polls show marriage equality — a once unpopular idea within the GOP — now has majority support among Republicans.

Charlotte Clymer, a Democratic transgender activist, wrote on Twitter the exclusion of Log Cabin from the Texas Republican convention is not unexpected.

“Watching Log Cabin Republicans be denied access at the Texas Republican Convention is like if cows were incredulous over their applications being rejected by the butcher,” Clymer wrote.

Donald Trump Jr, who has become a leading figure in the conservative movement amid the rise of his father as a political figure and has become closely aligned with Richard Grenell, who after being the face of LGBTQ outreach under President Trump has become a star in right-wing media, was among those condemning the exclusion.

“The Texas GOP should focus its energy on fighting back against the radical Democrats and weak RINOs currently trying to legislate our 2nd Amendment rights away, instead of canceling a group of gay conservatives who are standing in the breach with us,” Trump Jr. told conservative outlet Breitbart.

The Texas Republican Party didn’t respond Wednesday to the Blade’s request for comment.

The rebuke of the Texas Republican Party appears to have its own opponents within Log Cabin. On Wednesday, Michael Cargill, acting chairman of Log Cabin Texas, announced in a statement posted to local chapter’s website he’s resigning from the board and as acting chairman, citing “DC and California LCR members inexplicably interceding in Texas affairs and trying to pointlessly bully the Texas GOP.” Log Cabin Republicans of Texas was due to have a booth at the convention by “at best 2022 and worst-case scenario 2024.”

“If the Log Cabin Republicans continue down a path of divisiveness, lack of respect for the chain of command and due process, bully tactics, lack of cohesion and unwillingness to work with all chapter and state LCR leaders in the organization, the state leadership will lose its diverse composition, and its ability to lead with credibility and a unified purpose,” Cargill said.

Additionally, Cargill said David Garza, vice president of Log Cabin Republicans Austin, and Mimi Planas, president of Log Cabin Republicans San Antonio, are also resigning from the Texas board. Further, Cargill writes “neither the Austin nor San Antonio chapters will be sending representatives to the Texas Board.”

Cargill via an email sent to Log Cabin Republicans of Texas didn’t respond Wednesday to a request for comment on what he meant by D.C. and California Log Cabin members “inexplicably interceding in Texas affairs and trying to pointlessly bully the Texas GOP.”

Moran, asked by the Blade to respond to the announced resignation, downplayed the departure as an acting leader within Log Cabin’s chapter system making an exit based on his temporary status.

“From my understanding, Mr. Cargill was serving in the role only in a temporary capacity, so his resignation comes as no surprise,” Moran said. “Our Texas board represents the 5 chapters in the state and state officers serve at the pleasure of those state boards.”

Brad Polumbo, a gay libertarian commentator, wrote in a column for the conservative Washington Examiner the exclusion of Log Cabin is at odds with the values of liberty and individual freedom within the Republican Party, which “should have room in its tent for both religious conservatives with traditional views on homosexuality and gay Republicans.”

“[A] political party’s job is to win elections, and the Texas GOP is openly rejecting a group that wants to support them, agrees with them on most issues, and wants to defeat the Democrats, all because they can’t stomach the thought of having gay people in their party,” Polumbo writes. “I wonder how that will play out with LGBT voters in the next state election?

Jillson predicted the exclusionary approach by Texas Republicans to LGBTQ people within their own party and LGBTQ issues would continue until they suffer losses at the ballot box, which hasn’t happened in years and would likely not happen in the near future with Republicans expected to win in the congressional mid-term elections.

“The Republicans who attend the state conventions are a yesteryear group, even in the Republican primary electorate, which is pretty far to the right,” Jillson said. “And they select the Republican candidates that then go on to defeat the Democratic candidates and statewide elections. So until that stops happening, the Republican Party is not going to look to the middle and say, ‘Oh, sorry. We’ve been ignoring you guys. What is it that you wanted?’ And they just don’t need to do that now.”

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Congress

Gay man wins Democratic congressional primary in Ill.

Eric Sorensen running for retiring U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos’ seat

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Eric Sorensen (Photo courtesy of Eric Sorensen)

Illinois Democrats are hoping to send a gay person to Congress for the first time in the state’s history.

Voters in the 17th Congressional District in northwest Illinois on Tuesday voted to have Eric Sorensen, a former meteorologist, become the Democratic nominee for the district’s U.S. House of Representatives seat currently held by retiring Democratic Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.

“THANK YOU to everyone who was a part of this movement,” Sorensen wrote on Twitter following his primary victory. “From day one this campaign has been built on three pillars: Trust, science, and communication. I’m honored to be your #IL17 Democratic nominee for Congress.”

Sorensen, who bested his closest primary opponent by more than 13,000 votes, has centered much of his campaign messaging around the issue of mitigating the effects of climate change.

Sorensen’s candidacy and potential to become the state’s first openly gay member of Congress has been met with celebration from those advocating for more of such representation on Capitol Hill. After Sorensen claimed victory on Tuesday, advocacy groups and political organizations like Equality PAC and the LGBTQ Victory Fund were quick to offer their support.

“It has never been more important to defend our pro-choice, pro-equality majority in Congress,” Victory Fund President Annise Parker said in a statement. “As a meteorologist, Eric spent the last two decades keeping his local community safe by telling the truth and promoting a pro-science agenda. His success tonight is a testament to his continued leadership and grassroots support, as well as a highly effective ground game focused on candid conversations about how to make government work for all Americans.”

Hoping to keep the district from flipping to Republican control in a midterm year that is expected to be an uphill battle for Democratic congressional majorities, Sorensen has also gained the backing of the district’s current congresswoman. Bustos took to Twitter following Sorensen’s victory to announce her support.

“Illinoisans deserve a representative who will fight for working families, help build our local economy and continue to lift up Midwestern voices,” Bustos wrote. “Eric will do that.”

Sorensen’s ultimate ascension to Illinois’ 17th Congressional District seat, however, is not assured. Though the district leans Democratic, it is widely labeled as a competitive race following nationwide redistricting of congressional maps ahead of this year’s midterms.

Such a competitive landscape is coupled with a competitive rival battling Sorensen for the seat.

His Republican opponent, lawyer and Army Reserve Capt. Esther Joy King, previously ran for the seat in 2020, losing to Bustos by just four percent of the overall vote.

Having already secured a number of high-profile Republican endorsements including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, King has already begun her November messaging campaign after besting her primary opponent by more than 30 percentage points.

“It doesn’t have to be a choice if we elect leaders who will put their constituents first rather than far-left, out-of-touch policies and that’s exactly what I’m running to do,” King said in a statement Tuesday night. “Let’s come together to win this in November.”

Groups like the Victory Fund, however, are remain optimistic that Sorensen’s potential to make history will be within reach when voters enter the polls on Nov. 8.

“Voters are clearly enthusiastic about Eric’s vision for a more equitable future,” Parker said. “We trust Eric will be a vital voice in Congress come November. The stakes have never been higher.”

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National

Fauci: Risk of monkeypox infection not high, but ‘numbers may increase’

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Anthony Fauci, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health who has been at the forefront of the battles against the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 epidemics, downplayed Wednesday the idea gay and bisexual men are at high risk of contracting monkeypox as the outbreak begins to spread, but cautioned “the numbers may increase.”

“Given the numbers I would not say right now at this particular point, that it is a quote, high risk, but the numbers may increase, which means we just have got to be careful and pay attention,” Fauci said.

Fauci made the remarks in a conference call with reporters from LGBTQ news outlets on the heels of the Biden administration’s announcement that it would ramp up efforts to confront the emerging spread of monkeypox.

On Monday, the Department of Health & Human Services, announced a nationwide vaccination strategy against monkeypox, which consists of providing nearly 300,000 vaccines with priorities for individuals at risk and areas with high rates of infection. An estimated 750,000 vaccines are expected for delivery by the end of summer, according to HHS.

In response to a Blade question about the risk of gay and bisexual men contracting monkeypox, Fauci said that was difficult to quantify and he “wouldn’t say low, because then…that can be taken out of context,” but went on to express there’s a minimal risk of infection if precautions are taken.

“What we’re seeing given the number of cases and the rate in which they’ve accelerated, it’s clearly out there,” Fauci said. “But when you talk about the large number of gay and bisexual men who have sex with men, that on any given individual contact I think if one is careful, and make sure that both parties in a sexual interaction are aware of lesions that might go unnoticed, then you can go a long way in pure prevention to prevent that from happening, but I think it would be risky to classify it as low, medium or high.”

The U.S. has confirmed 306 monkeypox cases across 27 states and Washington, D.C., the Centers for Disease Control announced Tuesday. That represents a surge of 63 cases from the previous week.

Fauci said the current outbreak is predominantly among men who have sex with men among individuals who have had sexual contact. Monkeypox is technically not a sexually transmitted disease, Fauci said, because it’s spread through skin-to-skin contact, but “because of the close skin to skin interaction that occurs in sexual contact, that appears to be the modality spread.” Monkeypox, Fauci said, is “not fundamentally a lethal infection.”

Raj Panjabi, senior director for global health security and biodefense on the White House National Security Council, was also on the call and said the Biden administration’s monkeypox plan consists of “three pillars” of testing, vaccines, and outreach.

“In terms of outreach, there is no effective response to an outbreak without a community based response,” Panjabi said. “And so we’ve worked to ensure an open dialogue with leaders and stakeholders in the LGBTQIA+ community. What we’ve been doing is to try to understand from those most affected by this outbreak, learn from them, help them stay vigilant within the community to protect themselves from the disease and try to adjust our response according to the gaps that they’ve raised.”

The rise in monkeypox infections comes during Pride month, a time when LGBTQ community is engaged in celebrations and oftentimes in close contract and intimate settings, including sexual activity.

Asked by a reporter with NBC News whether this weekend’s Pride celebrations may have fueled the spread, Fauci said in theory “the risk is probably increased” in Pride activities “because people tend to get involved in sexual networking there,” but precautions at the end of the day would mitigate new infections.

“You don’t want to panic people but you want to get people to appreciate, particularly with the Pride activities that are going on now, to be aware and to just be careful,” Fauci said. “And being careful can be very practical, but making sure that you’re aware of things like skin lesions or lesions around areas of the body, particularly when you’re having a sexual encounter. Those are the things we’re trying to do.”

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Illinois

Chicago mayor describes Roe ruling as ‘gut punch’

Lori Lightfoot is first Black lesbian elected to run major U.S. city

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Photo courtesy of the Lori Lightfoot campaign)

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade was a “gut punch.”

“It wasn’t a surprise,” she told the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview. “This had been a 50-year quest for people who don’t want to recognize our rights and want to take us back to 1950s America, when our community was pushed very decidedly into the closet because we didn’t have protections — we certainly didn’t have marriage. That was inconceivable back then.”

“We didn’t have protections on employment, on housing and the basic rights of citizenship that we’ve come to really embrace and expect as Americans,” added Lightfoot.

Lightfoot in 2019 became the first Black lesbian woman elected mayor of a major U.S. city.

She noted Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion in the Roe decision said the Supreme Court should reconsider its decision in the Obergefell, Lawrence and Griswold cases that guarantee marriage equality and the rights to private, consensual sex and access to contraception respectively.

“Fuck Clarence Thomas,” said Lightfoot on Sunday when she spoke at Chicago Pride.

“I woke up yesterday morning feeling pretty sad for all the reasons that you would expect,” she told the Blade on Monday. “It was still inconceivable that we are now living in an America where all of us who have been empowered to teach and live our own authentic lives are now at risk in this country by the stroke of a pen and a radicalized right-wing majority on the court with seemingly little regard of the consequences.”

Lightfoot said the ruling’s “immediate impact” will be on women in “red states” and “states that have trigger laws” that ban abortion. Lightfoot added women of color and low-income women will be disproportionately impacted.

“You got to play the long game here,” she said. “Clarence Thomas clearly signaled what his intent is, which is when you talk about reconsidering Griswold, that’s the right to contraception access. They talk about reconsidering Lawrence in Texas. We know what that is. Well really, are gay men going to be in a position where they have to worry about cops breaking into their bedroom and try to haul them off to jail by engaging in a natural act of intimacy between consenting adults?”

“We are very much in the target, and the sights of this right-wing mob that feels like the only way that they can exercise their power is by taking ours,” added Lightfoot.

‘We’re going to respect your rights’

Lightfoot in May announced a “Justice for All Pledge” after Politico published a leaked draft of the Roe decision.

Her administration and the Chicago Department of Public Health pledged an additional $500,000 to “support access to reproductive healthcare for Chicagoans and patients seeking safe, legal care from neighboring states that have or ultimately will ban abortion if the Supreme Court decides to strike down Roe v. Wade, as outlined in the leaked decision.” The “Justice for All Pledge,” among other things, reaffirms Chicago will “fight for the rights of all people regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, or sexual orientation.”  

“We will fight to ensure that no person will be attacked, assaulted, bullied, or discriminated against because of who they are, the choices they make regarding their bodily autonomy, or who they love,” reads the pledge.

“We have to be a beacon of light and hope across the country and particularly in the Midwest region,” said Lightfoot. 

She also encouraged LGBTQ people from Florida, Texas and other states that have passed homophobic and/or transphobic laws to consider moving to Chicago.

“We’re going to respect your rights,” said Lightfoot. “We’re going to allow you to live in an environment where you can live your true, authentic life without the worry of some radicalized right-wing legislature cutting off your rights. People have to start making choices.”

Lightfoot also challenged corporations to do more to support LGBTQ rights and their LGBTQ employees.

“Corporations have to start making choices,” she said. “All those nice little value statements on a corporate website, if you value your employees and their rights, you cannot be situated in states that are attacking everyone in our community.” 

“When you look at the fact that many of these states are attacking children and their families, that tells you there’s no floor, there’s no floor to which they will sink,” added Lightfoot. “It’s open season on us and we’ve got to respond.”

Mayor lacked role models ‘that looked like me’

Lightfoot lives in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood with her wife, Amy Eshleman, and their daughter.

She told the Blade that she met a transgender teenager from downstate Illinois during Chicago Pride. Lightfoot said she hugged her and her parents and she “just felt such joy.”

She said she “didn’t see any role models that looked like me” and “didn’t see a lot of gay and lesbian leaders on a national level or even at the local level” when she was younger. Lightfoot told the Blade in response to a question about how she feels about being the first Black lesbian mayor of a major U.S. city that there are now “so many more of us who are living our authentic lives.”

“One of the greatest gifts that we can give is to say to those young people, you’re going to be great,” she said. “Be who you are, embrace, embrace your authentic life. Because there’s always going to be a home for you. There’s going to be a village, a community that’s going to be supportive. That’s one of the things I think the most powerful statement that I can make as mayor, using my platform as mayor of the third largest city, to say to our young people, you’re always going to have a home here.”

Lightfoot earlier this month announced she is running for re-election in 2023.

Crime and the response to protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 are among the issues over which Lightfoot has faced criticism.

She referenced efforts to make “real meaningful, permanent progress on public safety that we are doing here in our city against a lot of different headwinds” and economic development in low-income neighborhoods as two of her administration’s accomplishments. Lightfoot said she decided to run for a second term because “the work’s not done.”

“We have been through a lot, as every major city in the country has in these last three years, but we’ve persevered and continued to do really good work on behalf of the people and made a lot of progress,” she said. 

“I liken it to being a gardener,” added Lightfoot. “You till the soil, you plant the seeds, you want to be around to reap the harvest. And I want to make sure that the work that we put in place, that those roots are deep and strong and they continue to bear fruit for years and years to come, long after I fade from the scene.” 

Lesbian super PAC again endorses Lightfoot

LPAC endorsed Lightfoot’s initial mayoral campaign. The super PAC that supports lesbian candidates has once again backed her. 

“I am just grateful that they are ready to re-up for round two,” said Lightfoot.

“When we are present in those corridors of power, we bring a life of experience that is different than traditionally the straight white men that have populated these corridors of power,” she added. “We show up and we show up importantly for our community and that is critically important.”

LPAC Executive Director Lisa Turner in a statement to the Blade praised Lightfoot.

“When I think of the Black LGBTQ leaders serving in office like Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, I am filled with pride about the work LPAC has done to uplift women and support their campaigns,” said Turner. “We were the first national organization and LGBTQ organization to endorse Mayor Lightfoot in 2019, and we are proud to be the first again as she seeks re-election. LPAC’s unwavering support shows our commitment to not solely electing more LGBTQ women to office, but to elect LGBTQ women who represent the full diversity of our community.”

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