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Chuck Schumer files for cloture on Respect for Marriage Act

First vote on bill expected on Wednesday

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Sen. Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-Ny.), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wi.), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

This week, the U.S. Senate is expected to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify some of the protections for same-sex and interracial couples that were established by the U.S. Supreme Court but could be weakened or overturned by the High Court’s conservative supermajority.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) just filed for cloture on the legislation, an aide to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) told the Washington Blade.

The “first vote will be on Wednesday,” the aide said in an email.

Baldwin is widely credited with driving momentum behind the bill. She, along with U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) released a statement on Monday urging Senate leadership to put the Respect for Marriage Act on the floor for a vote, explaining they had added protections for “religious liberties.”

CNN reported multiple sources said the coalition of senators is confident they have the votes necessary for the bill to pass.

This summer, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that President Joe Biden is ready to sign the bill into law.

“He is a proud champion of the right for people to marry whom they love and is grateful to see bipartisan support for that right,” she said.

The Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ organization, celebrated Schumer’s announcement earlier today that the upper chamber will “vote on the Respect for Marriage Act in the coming weeks so that no American is discriminated against because of whom they love.”

The legislation, HRC said in the press release, will “codify federal marriage equality by guaranteeing the federal rights, benefits and obligations of marriages in the federal code; repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); and affirm that public acts, records and proceedings should be recognized by all states.”

The impetus behind the Respect for Marriage Act came with the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the constitutional right to abortion in America.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion in which he pledged to revisit precedents governing same-sex marriage and other matters that were decided on the basis of the right to privacy.

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Congress

Netanyahu mocks gay pro-Palestinian protesters

Israeli prime minister spoke to joint session of Congress

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress on July 24, 2024. (Screen capture via NBC News)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday mocked gay pro-Palestinian protesters in a speech that he delivered to a joint session of Congress.

“Some of these protesters hold up signs proclaiming ‘Gays for Gaza,'” said Netanyahu. “They might as well hold up signs saying ‘Chickens for KFC.'”

Netanyahu spoke to Congress less than a year after Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched from the Gaza Strip a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel.

The Israeli government says Hamas militants killed roughly 1,200 people on Oct. 7, 2023, including at least 260 partygoers and others at the Nova Music Festival. Dozens of people who were taken hostage on Oct. 7 remain alive in Gaza. 

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says nearly 38,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began.

The International Criminal Court on May 20 announced it plans to issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders — Yehya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh. Karim Khan, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, said the five men have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza and Israel.

Outright International and the National LGBTQ Task Force are among the groups that have publicly called for a ceasefire. ACT UP, the Audre Lorde Project, and No Pride in Genocide have organized protests against the war since Oct. 7.  

Activists march in a No Pride in Genocide march from Dupont Circle to the Human Rights Campaign on Feb. 14, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Gay U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), center, speaks with March on Israel attendees in D.C. on Nov. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Gay U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), lesbian U.S. Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are among the lawmakers who refused to decline Netanyahu’s speech. 

Thousands of people have protested Netanyahu since he arrived in D.C. on Monday. 

The Associated Press reported police on Wednesday used pepper spray to disperse protesters near the Capitol after they became “violent” and “failed to obey” orders to move away from a police line. Protesters, according to the AP, also vandalized a Christopher Columbus moment in front of Union Station and set a Netanyahu effigy on fire.

Netanyahu in his speech said Iran is “funding and promoting anti-Israel protests in America.”

“When the tyrants of Tehran, who hang gays from cranes and murder women for not covering their hair, are praising, promoting, and funding you, you have officially become Tehran’s useful idiots,” he said. 

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Congress

EXCLUSIVE: Will Rollins raises $2.2+ million in Q2

Gay Democrat seeks to unseat anti-LGBTQ GOP opponent

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Will Rollins and his partner, Paolo, at the 2022 Palm Springs Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of Will Rollins for Congress)

Will Rollins, the gay Democrat vying for anti-LGBTQ U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert’s (R-Calif.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, raised more than $2.2 million in the second quarter, the Washington Blade has learned.

Fundraising totals covering the period from April 1 to June 30 must be reported to the U.S. Federal Election Commission by or before July 15.

With this latest haul, the Rollins campaign’s cash on hand will exceed $4.7 million and the total raised for the 2024 cycle, $7 million.

If Rollins out-raises Calvert, it would be the fourth consecutive quarter. In the first quarter of 2024, Rollins brought in more than $950,000 more than his opponent, boasting $3,162,026.27 in cash on hand to Calvert’s 2,639,376.83.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee believes California’s 41st Congressional District is likely to flip from red to blue, and therefore has made additional investments in Rollins’s campaign as he seeks to unseat a GOP member who has served since 1993.

The Democratic challenger’s campaign says this quarter saw more than 29,000 total contributions, 95% of which were $100 or less, for a total this cycle of more than 44,000 unique donors.

“Flipping the 41st District is critical for a host of reasons: installing new leadership that prioritizes working families over special interests, defending and restoring into law a woman’s fundamental right to choose, protecting our fragile democracy, mitigating the effects of climate change and creating local green energy jobs that will protect our planet, and so much more,” Rollins told the Blade in an emailed statement.

“But, it’s also a history-making opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “If elected, I’d have the honor of being the first openly LBGTQ+ Member of Congress to represent Palm Springs and the first openly LGBTQ+ Member of Congress from a law enforcement background.”

Rollins continued, “I think that this representation and visibility resonates with a lot of grassroots supporters who see our current congressman for who he is: a staunch opponent of our community. Calvert’s record speaks for itself, including voting against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill and just last year voting to strip funding for basic services for LGBTQ+ community centers, including meals for seniors. It’s abhorrent.”

“As a result, we’ve been fortunate to have an outpouring of support from the LGBTQ+ community, particularly those locally in Riverside County,” Rollins said. “And it’s just one of a host of reasons why our campaign’s fundraising has been so strong — I’m very thankful for the support and look forward to finishing the job this November.”

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Members of Congress introduce resolution to condemn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Joyce Beatty spearheaded condemnation

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U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 20 members of Congress on Thursday introduced a resolution that condemns Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Gay California Congressman Mark Takano and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) spearheaded the resolution that U.S. Reps. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mark Pocan (D-Wash.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) co-sponsored.

“The House of Representatives condemns the government of Uganda’s criminalization and draconian punishments regarding consensual same-sex sexual conduct and so-called ‘’promotion of homosexuality,’” reads the resolution.

The resolution, among other things, also calls upon the Ugandan government to repeal the law.

“It is difficult to overstate the gross inhumanity of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act,” said Takano in a press release.

President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court in April refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” A group of Ugandan LGBTQ activists appealed the ruling.

“Instead of focusing on rooting out corruption or ending extrajudicial killings, the Ugandan Parliament, president, and Constitutional Court have chosen to mark LGBTQ+ Ugandans as less than human,” said Takano. “Congress must not be silent in the face of such systematic, state-sponsored discrimination.”

“To all those LGBTQ+ people and your allies in Uganda — we see you,” added the California Democrat. “We and the Biden administration will not allow this terrible violation of basic dignity to go unchallenged.” 

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