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Wisconsin Republicans block conversion therapy ban

Republican legislators say they object on procedural grounds



Anglican Church, gay news, Washington Blade
Peter Tatchell protests against the Church of England in 2016. He welcomed the denomination's announcement that it supports a ban on so-called conversion therapy. (Photo courtesy of Peter Tatchell)

An effort to outlaw conversion therapy in Wisconsin was blocked for the second time on Thursday by a group of four Republican members of a state legislative committee.

In 2020, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers banned the dangerous and scientifically discredited practice via occupational licensing requirements for therapists, social workers, and counselors.

The Republican-controlled legislature responded by temporarily blocking the ban, doing so again on Thursday with all six GOP members voting against their Democratic colleagues.

Twenty states along with the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy for minors, as it is inconsistent with clinical practice guidelines governing evidence-based care, ineffective at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and tends to cause long term psychological harm.

The practice is often considered fraudulent and has been described as torture.

“It’s disappointing that the very first move the GOP is going to make this legislative session is to green-light abusive practices against children,” State Sen. Kelda Roys said.

Republican Wisconsin legislators contend their objection is rooted in the fact that the examining board in the Department of Safety and Public Standards does not have the authority to enforce the conversion therapy ban.



EXCLUSIVE: Chasten Buttigieg hits the campaign trail for Biden

Trump ‘is the biggest threat standing between our community and full equality’



Chasten Buttigieg spoke with the Washington Blade by phone on June 18 for an exclusive interview at the tail end of his trip to Michigan and Wisconsin with the Biden-Harris campaign’s “Out for Biden” national organizing effort targeting LGBTQ voters.

The teacher, author, LGBTQ activist, and husband to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg relayed some of the conversations he has had with constituents and communities about issues important to them and the reasons why they are rallying around the president and vice president’s reelection bid.

“I like to get out of Washington, and I like to get on the ground and meet voters where they’re at and hear them out and talk about why I’m supporting the president,” he said. “And to me, that is just the realness of politics.”

Buttigieg said spending time with the local volunteers and organizers was a reminder of the many “good people that make up this country and all of the people who are fighting day in and day out to make these things happen,” usually without much fanfare.

He said he feels especially at home doing this work in the Midwest. In 2022, a year after they adopted twins, the Buttigiegs moved to Traverse City, Mich., where the family is now close to Chasten’s parents. “It’s obviously easier to hop across the lake and come over to Wisconsin, where I spent a lot of years in college and post college, so this is home,” he told the Blade.

“In a way, these feel like my neighbors. And to me, the best political work that I can be doing is talking with my neighbors and talking with folks that I care about and communities that I care about.”

LGBTQ people have multiple identities

“There are a lot of people on the ground here who, of course, support the president because he is the only person on the ballot who is a pro-LGBTQ and equality president, but also there are many other issues that affect our community, many people on the ground here working to make those things happen,” Buttigieg said.

Additionally, “supporting queer Americans isn’t just defending our right to exist or our right to marry,” he said, “but many of these other issues that the president and the vice president support are queer issues” too, including reproductive freedom and access to in-vitro fertilization.

“LGBTQ Americans have families,” Buttigieg said. “We’re LGBTQ, but also we’re business owners, we’re farmers, we’re teachers, we’re parents. These are all uniquely queer issues as well.”

“For me, as a parent and as a teacher, some of these things like expanding the Child Tax Credit, making sure that every family has access to quality, affordable early childhood education and public education, and making sure that every family has access to paid leave — to me, that should not be political,” Buttigieg said.

“Unfortunately, it is in this environment. But those are pro-family policies. I think they’re pro- American policies. And that’s why I am proud to support the president and the vice president.”

The Out for Biden team is engaging with parents who are raising LGBTQ children. Buttigieg said he was “talking to a parent of a young trans kid who’s worried about not only access to health care here in the state of Wisconsin,” but also the rhetoric from leaders on the right like the presumptive GOP nominee, former President Donald Trump, who are “attacking their child simply for being who they are.”

Buttigieg said they also visited a small business owned by a queer woman in Milwaukee and learned about how the business expanded during COVID and why they’re supporting the president because of his work protecting queer Americans, small businesses, and reproductive rights.

Conversations drive voting behavior

“Oftentimes, the only reason a person is going to go into that ballot box and pull the lever in our direction is because someone they love or trust asked them to and explained what was on the line for them,” Buttigieg said.

These conversations “helped them understand how politics is deeply personal for them, and how the choices that are made in those big, white buildings in Washington trickle down to our mailboxes, our dining room tables, our doctors’ offices, and our classrooms,” he said.

“Politics is deeply personal, and we shouldn’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability and tell our neighbors and the people that we love what we stand to gain, what we stand to lose,” Buttigieg added.

He explained some of the ways he has approached these discussions, drawing from his own lived experiences.

“I often talk about my experience in the classroom, not only as a as an openly gay teacher, but as the teacher who was running lockdown drills,” Buttigieg said. “I never, ever wanted to traumatize my students with lockdown drills, talking about a gunman coming into the school, recognizing that gun violence is the number one cause of death among young people in this country — I would have rather been spending my time teaching instead of frightening my students.”

Growing up, Buttigieg said his parents were small business owners who “didn’t have a ton of money” and often were “making sacrifices to support their three kids rather than affording mom’s medicine.”

“That’s deeply personal stuff,” he said. This election will be won because Democrats are willing to go out there and tell those deeply personal stories, and move their neighbors and move their friends and families off the couch into the streets and hopefully to the ballot box to pull that lever in the direction that I believe will make our country safer and better because we reelected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

Making the case for Biden — and the case against Trump

Noting that the president and vice president have repeatedly called for Congress to enshrine federal LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections by passing the Equality Act, Buttigieg added that, “It’s not just policy, it’s the words that come out of their mouths, and it’s the actions.”

“I often hear the quip, ‘vote for the person you trust to leave your kids with,'” Buttigieg said. “Joe Biden has been an incredibly supportive president. When our kid was fighting for his life on a ventilator at two months old, the president was eager to pull Pete aside and remind him that the entire administration had our family’s back and was there for us.”

“That’s the kind of leader I want for this country, someone who cares about families,” he said. “Not just families like mine, but all families. That’s really important to me.”

“And on the other side, you have someone like Donald Trump, who, of course, is not going to acknowledge the reason that we have Pride, the reason for the march, the reason for resistance, the reason for action, but is actively surrounding himself with people who are propping up Project 2025,” Buttigieg said.

The 881-page governing blueprint for a second Trump term “threatens many of these hard-fought protections for the LGBTQ community,” he said.

Another consideration is “that the next president of the United States might appoint two more Supreme Court justices to join a bench [that] was already flirting with overturning Obergefell,” Buttigieg said, referring to the precedent that made same-sex marriage the law of the land, and noting that the court “already upheld their promise to overturn a woman’s right to choose.”

Buttigieg said, “I think it’s actually really embarrassing” for the anti-LGBTQ right “that the majority of Americans support LGBTQ equality,” meaning “they’re not only against the majority of the public opinion, but they’re also against people in their own party who are so exhausted by the divisive rhetoric, and yet here they are doubling down on their hatred for queer people.”

With respect to Trump himself, he said “if he wanted to get with the times, and if he wanted to maybe potentially save a little face with his party and push them in another direction and say, ‘hey, actually, I think we should step back, I think we should leave queer people alone, especially young, vulnerable trans Americans alone,’ he would.”

“But he won’t, and he hasn’t, because that’s who he is,” Buttigieg said. “If Donald Trump wanted you to believe that he didn’t really care one way or the other about the existence of LGBTQ Americans and their protections, he would let you know. The words and the actions that come from your campaign inform the country of what your values are, and if Donald Trump truly cared, then he would let us know.

Instead, “he surrounds himself with known bigots, white supremacists” and “with people who are touting Project 2025” who “are rallying against the existence of Pride and LGBTQ Americans and those hard fought protections that Democrats are winning and enacting around this country.”

“Maya Angelou said, ‘when people show you who they are, believe it the first time,'” Buttigieg said. “Donald Trump does not support our community. I think Donald Trump would be the most disastrous president for our community. And he is the biggest threat standing between our community and full equality.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Markey bill would offer additional support to LGBTQ elders

Measure would create Office of LGBTQI Inclusion within HHS



U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will introduce a bill on Friday to support LGBTQ elders and older adults living with HIV by establishing an Office of LGBTQI Inclusion within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Among other responsibilities, the office would advocate, coordinate activities, issue policy recommendations, and oversee the collection of data from these communities.

A major piece of the work to improve health equity at HHS under the leadership of Secretary Xavier Becerra and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine has been data collection initiatives for LGBTQ and other populations that can encounter barriers accessing care.

The Elder Pride Act will also “establish a rural grants program to serve the unique needs of rural LGBTQI+ older adults, including through education and training, community outreach and creation of community spaces, and improved cultural competency,” according to a press release announcing the legislation, which the senator’s office previewed exclusively with the Washington Blade.

“After years of exclusion and discrimination from health care settings, workplaces, and their local communities, LGBTQ+ older Americans deserve the protections their neighbors are afforded,” Markey said.

“Queer and trans elders should be able to age with dignity, grace, and surrounded by community,” he added. “The Elder Pride Act will ensure that all older adults are able to have access to the care and services they need.”  

Cosponsoring senators include Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D- Calif.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). The legislation’s provisions were included in a pair of bills introduced earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus’s Aging Issues Task Force.

The press release from Markey’s office also highlights several of the challenges faced by LGBTQ older adults vis-a-vis their cisgender and heterosexual peers: Fewer sources of support. higher poverty rates, poorer healthcare, poorer health access, and poorer health outcomes.

At the city and county level, older adults are served by local area agencies on aging (AAAs), which receive services and activities from HHS. Fewer than half of these organizations report that they will be able to provide LGBTQ-specific activities by the time the population of LGBTQ elders reaches 7 million, which is expected by 2030.

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Will Rollins campaign not just about gunning for anti-LGBTQ Congressman Ken Calvert

Gay prosecutor running in Calif. 41st Congressional District



Two years ago, openly gay prosecutor Will Rollins launched his first bid for public office and nearly defeated incumbent Republican Congressman Ken Calvert, who has represented California’s 41st Congressional District since the presidential administration of George H.W. Bush.

In this election cycle, the Democratic challenger believes he is even better positioned to win the seat, which could tip control of the U.S. House of Representatives to his party now that Republicans have only a feeble five-member majority in the chamber.

And if accurate proxies can be found in the results of recent polls, quarterly fundraising metrics, and extra muscle deployed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, it appears Rollins’s confidence is shared by critical masses of voters, donors, and party leaders.

Speaking with the Washington Blade by phone on June 13, Rollins explained why his candidacy is resonating so strongly with constituents from across the political spectrum, including key swaths of Republicans and the 90,000 Independents “who are going to decide this election.”

On the one hand, Rollins said he is buoyed by flagging support for his opponent. He argued that instead of working to deliver results for his constituents like “high paying jobs, better wages, and better benefits for workers,” Calvert has instead spent much of his time in Congress helping to fuel costly culture wars and embracing right-wing extremism while enriching himself through “legalized corruption” schemes and undermining the justice system and rule of law.

At the same time, Rollins said that his background in law enforcement, his political orientation as a moderate, and his policy agenda, which includes a focus on popular and often populist reforms, has proven to be a winning formula on the campaign trail from the westernmost parts of Southern California’s Inland Empire to the Colorado Desert town of Palm Springs.

The city, home to a thriving LGBTQ community, helped make the 41st District far purpler after congressional maps were redrawn to include the region in 2022. Rollins said the redistricting helps to explain “part of why people are so bullish on flipping the seat.”

He explained, “Calvert has historically [represented] deep red parts of southern California, and that used to include Murrieta and northern Temecula,” Rollins said. When the new maps were drawn, “he lost those two cities and he gained the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indian Wells, all of which had previously been represented by a Democrat, Raul Ruiz.”

Rollins is well positioned at this point in the race

Reflecting on his performance in the midterm elections, Rollins noted that 2022 saw higher turnout among Republican voters and lower turnout among Democratic voters, a hurdle made more difficult by the advantages Calvert exercised by virtue of his 32-year incumbency.

By contrast, as a first-time candidate, “when you go from a job as a federal prosecutor, where it’s the antithesis of self-promotion, to suddenly needing to build an entire brand and raise your name I.D. and self promote and campaign, that’s a steep learning curve, and I had basically six months after a primary to do it,” Rollins said.

As November approaches, the presidential race is expected to even out the disparities in voter turnout, and by now Rollins has now spent nearly three years introducing his candidacy and his campaign to residents across CA-41.

For the first time in either cycle, Rollins was ahead of his opponent (by one point) in an internal poll last month that provided respondents with no additional information about the candidates, a sign that “more people are getting to know me, and our name I.D. is increasing, and more people are also hearing our message,” he said.

The Democratic hopeful also noted his campaign out-raised Calvert’s in the third consecutive quarter, Q1 2024, and by more than $1 million, thanks to “voters and our grassroots supporters [who] know that this seat is primed to flip.”

The DCCC seems to agree with their assessment. As one of the organization’s “Red to Blue” candidates, a highly competitive distinction awarded to those with the best odds of unseating Republicans in their districts, Rollins receives “strategic guidance, staff resources, training, and fundraising support” to ensure the best possible odds for his victory in November.

Additional help from the organization responsible for fundraising and organizing on behalf of Democratic House candidates could be decisive in a race as close as this one, but Rollins also stressed his appeal among center and center-right constituents.

Building coalitions in a purple district

For example, the campaign recently secured high-profile endorsements from the likes of Stan Sniff, retired Republican sheriff of Riverside County, and California State Assemblymember Chad Mays, who previously served as the elected Republican leader.

Additionally, last month, the Palm Springs Police Officers Association, which had supported Calvert in 2022, announced it would back Rollins this year. Asked how he managed to win over the organization, Rollins pointed to his ability to relate to law enforcement officers along with his tenacious approach to engaging with the group.

“For cops in Riverside County, having somebody represent them who has worked alongside them, prosecuting MS-13, the Sinaloa Cartel, murderers, rapists, terrorists, that’s really powerful for the line officers who want somebody that understands what it is like every single day to do an important job that they do, putting their lives on the line to keep us safe,” he said.

Rollins added that he was now cowed by the group’s endorsement of his opponent during the midterms and was persistent in reaching out to facilitate a dialogue. “I refuse to give up on trying to persuade people that I would do a better job of representing them in Congress than Ken Calvert,” as well as his ability to relate to law enforcement officers.

The campaign’s efforts to engage with the Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBTQ group, were less successful. Rollins said that during both election cycles “we reached out to [chapters located in CA-41] repeatedly, and all of our outreach was ignored.”

It is easy to imagine areas in which the organization could find common ground with the Democratic candidate. Rollins would be the first LGBTQ member of Congress with a law enforcement background, a candidate who has worked for a Republican governor and deliberately engaged with and courted support from other individuals and groups that are right-of-center.

He also questioned why conservative LGBT Californians would ally themselves with his opponent. “What is Ken Calvert done for you? He’s voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. He’s voted against letting you serve in the military. It makes no sense to go out and support somebody like that.”

Rollins said it seems Log Cabin “is increasingly used by elected Republicans to try to maintain the appearance of support and to conceal some of their actual record on our rights” and their refusal to engage with him is likely a sign of the extent to which the GOP has become mired in partisanship.

Drawing the contrast

Rollins attributes much of his success in winning major endorsements and contributions to the many contrasts voters are seeing between his campaign and his opponent’s, perhaps starting with the professional backgrounds and records on which they are running.

In recent months, Calvert’s campaign has sought to portray Rollins as “soft on crime” because of his opposition to a criminal justice initiative, California’s Proposition 47, but the former prosecutor told the Blade he welcomes the chance to frame their race around these issues.

Rollins pointed out that while his career was spent “going after drug cartels, terrorists and violent criminals across southern California,” Calvert “is somebody who has voted to defund the FBI, who voted to defund Border Patrol, who said that the FBI has been infiltrated, [that] the Department of Justice has become a political weaponization tool,” and “called for dropping charges against people who assaulted the U.S. Capitol” on Jan. 6.

Further undermining Calvert’s effort to position himself as the “law and order” candidate is the encounter he had with police who found him consorting with a sex worker shortly into his first term in Congress, Rollins said.

He added the incident also shows the hypocrisy of his opponent’s legislative record, considering the Republican’s habit of “voting to get the government into our bedrooms and into our exam rooms, and to prevent gay people from getting married, from serving in the military.”

Rollins, who has prosecuted cases involving white collar crime, also accused his rival of exploiting “a system of legalized corruption” in Congress through which members from both parties have been allowed to exploit the powers and privileges of their office for personal financial gain with loopholes and loose oversight protecting them from consequences.

Specifically, he said Calvert has enriched himself to the tune of $20 million over his 17 terms in office “by using earmarks to benefit his own personal real estate investments,” Rollins said, “a form of insider trading in real estate.”

Rollins said that his opponent has earned a reputation for self-dealing and topped lists of the most corrupt members of Congress, with California’s 41st District taking notice. “When people have seen their own rent and gas and groceries skyrocket while their member of Congress makes $20 million since 1992, that is a major red flag for voters,” he said.

The corruption problem is bigger than Calvert, which is why Rollins said he has made reforms and policy solutions in this area a cornerstone of his campaign.

If elected, the Democrat said he will push for “a ban on members trading stock across the board” as well as “a ban on [members] using inside information to benefit their real estate investments” and “a ban on lobbying by former members of Congress.”

Rollins said he will also work to implement term limits for members of Congress and to fix the problems created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling in Citizens United v. FEC (2010), which allowed for unlimited spending by corporations and outside groups on political campaigns.

He said that even more modest reforms like establishing “disclosure rules for members” would go a long way toward mitigating concerns about the flow of dark money “into these competitive congressional races through independent expenditures.”

Each of these proposals “have been tied into our own theme of the campaign around public service and protecting our communities, and law enforcement service versus self-enrichment, self-dealing,” Rollins said. “There’s no movement to police ourselves, and yet that is what the public craves most,” he added.

Polls have long shown the overwhelming popularity of measures designed to improve the functioning of Congress along with mechanisms requiring more accountability and transparency from its members, which should perhaps come as little surprise considering that 66.7 percent of Americans disapprove of the institution according to FiveThirtyEight.

Rollins said audiences from across the political spectrum have responded enthusiastically whenever he has discussed his anti-corruption proposals, whether before a chamber of commerce or a meeting of the Stonewall Democratic Club.

Generally speaking, rather than “angertainment and click-bait politics,” most Americans want to see policy solutions aimed at addressing real problems, he said. “They want money out of politics. They want common sense solutions to traffic problems in their district. They want safer streets. They want clean energy. They want term limits.”

Likewise with their elected representatives, Rollins said. Voters “want people in the middle, not necessarily on the far left or the far right,” especially in purple districts where “you can run a successful campaign just being on what I call ‘team normal.'”

“The challenge for Democrats,” particularly those running for competitive seats, “is to make it really clear that the current MAGA majority [in the House] is different from the moderate, regular Republican voters in your district,” Rollins said.

Democrats should embrace populism

One way to reassure conservative-leaning voters is for Democrats to talk openly about the problems that helped facilitate the ascent of Donald Trump and the rise of right-wing populist movements, Rollins said.

Americans, regardless of their politics, are right when they say “government is broken,” or “The system is corrupt,” but solutions are not going to come from elected Republicans, least of all “the former host of Celebrity Apprentice,” Rollins said.

The more Democrats elected to the House who “are focused on those reforms, the better the party will do,” he said. “Because our brand can become an anti-corruption brand, and we should try to to cultivate that as much as possible, because certainly the GOP isn’t about that right now.”

Rollins added, “Right now, there’s only one political party that cares about getting money out of politics,” meaning that Democrats have the opportunity to campaign on an issue that “is supported by 90 percent of Americans.”

When it comes to more divisive matters, “a lot of it is tied to kitchen table issues, and I think that’s where we as a party are our strongest, where we’re talking about how it affects your wallet and why the far-right’s focus on culture wars is actually a massive waste of your tax dollars,” Rollins said.

Of course, it is important to call out the ways in which women, LGBTQ communities, and other groups are harmed when elected Republicans endeavor to restrict their rights, freedoms, and protections, but there is also an opportunity to explain why all Americans suffer as a result, he said.

For instance, after noting that Calvert and Congressional Republicans support “a national [abortion] ban with no exceptions,” along with restrictions on access to the abortion medication mifepristone and measures to make it more difficult for women in the military to access reproductive healthcare, Rollins stressed how these moves could damage the economy and threaten national security.

Likewise with LGBTQ rights. “I would be remiss if I didn’t also state the obvious,” Rollins said, “which is Calvert has one of the most horrible anti-LGBTQ rights voting records of any member in Congress, and started his political career by outing Mark Takano,” the gay congressman who ran against him in 1992 and now represents California’s 39th Congressional District.

Rollins said that when the subject comes up on the campaign trail, “I also talk about the way that his votes don’t just impact the LGBTQ community, because obviously they have hurt our community over the years, but they’ve actually hurt every American.”

For instance, he said, “when you try to make it harder for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. military, you deprive us of qualified pilots, snipers, Marines, Navy SEALs, Arabic linguists,” thereby weakening America’s military and security interests.

Rollins also noted the widely reported story last year about pediatric cardiologist Jake Kleinmahon, who ultimately decided to relocate out of Louisiana with his husband and daughter when conservative state lawmakers in Baton Rouge advanced a slate of anti-LGBTQ bills last year.

Following the family’s move to Long Island, Kleinmahon told CNN the only two remaining physicians in Louisiana who manage heart transplants would be expected to serve the same number of patients as they did before his departure.

“That is going to affect care,” he said, adding that “the absolute hardest part is me saying goodbye to my patients.”

“I believe the kids in Louisiana should have the same world class health care as any other part of the United States.”

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