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Doug Emhoff hosts virtual White House roundtable with LGBTQ students

2022 marked by anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures

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Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff met virtually with LGBTQ high school students after a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation. (Blade file photo by Lou Chibarro)

With school starting again at the end of summer, second gentleman Douglas Emhoff met virtually with LGBTQ high school students Thursday in a year marked by a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in state legislatures, including the “Don’t Say Gay” measure signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Emhoff hosted the roundtable with the LGBTQ students to hear “about their back-to-school experience,” and measures advanced by state legislatures were a key component of the conversation, according to a readout of the talk the White House issued on Friday.

“During the meeting, the students shared how legislation in states that targets and discriminates against the LGBTQI+ community has impacted them and their peers,” the readout says. “They referenced Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and the need to defend and protect LGBTQI+ rights.”

The Biden administration’s work in supporting LGBTQ youth was among the efforts Emhoff highlighted during the virtual meeting, the White House readout says, as well as marks intended to “encourage civic participation among young people and expressed his commitment for ensuring that every young person feels safe and loved for who they are.”

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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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