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The story behind the Harvey Milk stamp

Harvey Milk stamp, gay news, Washington Blade

The Harvey Milk commemorative stamp is set to be released this spring.

While no specific date has been announced for the official release of the United States Postal Service’s first-ever Harvey Milk stamp, the Washington Blade has confirmed that the release date will be in May—not as late as June, as has been reported by several media outlets and as the postal service’s own Web site still indicates is possible.

“It will be May, not June,” said Susan McGowan, director of USPS Office of Stamps and Corporate Licensing. “And we hope people will turn out to experience a very special release ceremony.”

The stamp’s coming out party promises to be a big affair for the postal service—one that’s been nearly a decade in the making.

“Let’s just say it’s going to be a great celebration,” McGowan told the Blade.

Today, Harvey Milk may seem like a shoe-in as a candidate to be honored with the issuance of a U.S. postage stamp bearing his likeness.

But according to organizers of the National Harvey Milk Stamp Campaign, there was fervent opposition from some of the country’s most fundamentalist religious groups, as well as from some members of the Citizens Stamp Approval Committee (CSAC), which votes to approve about 25 stamp requests out of about 1,000 requests each year.

“I know for a fact that some of the stamp committee members were absolutely opposed to the idea of a Harvey Milk stamp or a stamp honoring any homosexual leader,” said San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, head of the International Imperial Court System, which led the national campaign to win approval for the stamp.

“That was early on, of course. I think as the process moved on and they saw how much support we had not only from Democrats, but from top Republicans, support grew.”

Although she couldn’t say whether the Citizens Stamp Approval Committee’s vote for the Harvey Milk stamp was divided or unanimous, USPS’s McGowan was adamant that there is no story of impassioned opposition to the stamp on the committee.

“I think you’re trying to find controversy where there wasn’t any,” she said. “It’s quite possible the vote was unanimous; we don’t keep those details because all that is needed is a simple majority for approval.”

What matters, says McGowan, is that the committee did approve the Harvey Milk stamp, and that it will be released in May.

Ramirez said the process for winning approval for the Harvey Milk stamp was arduous. But he added that he and his colleagues on the stamp campaign, including Stuart Milk — Harvey Milk’s nephew who is also a gay civil rights advocate — GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the Harvey Milk Foundation, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, numerous senators and members of Congress, mayors and others, were gratified that it succeeded.

“I don’t think it was as hard as it would have been 20 years ago,” Ramirez said. “In the end, I think we were treated fairly and we got approval for the stamp faster than a lot of other stamp campaigns.”

Still, some organizations such as Save California, a right-wing religious group, plan to protest the postal service’s decision to commemorate Harvey Milk, whom they call a “sexual predator.”

Nevertheless, Ramirez said national symbols, such as commemorative stamps, speak louder and resound for longer than any words of hate or bigotry espoused by angry ultra-conservatives.

“The fact that we now have the image of one of our greatest GLBT leaders on a beautifully designed United States postage stamp says more than anything else about how far we have come as a country fighting against the hatred that we still face as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez knows about that history through his own experience. He helped lead historic marches for LGBT rights in the early 1970s in downtown San Diego and other California locales to protest police abuse of gay people.

“Young people don’t know how bad it was,” Ramirez said. “You could get beat up or worse by the police, just for being in a gay bar. This stamp honoring Harvey Milk shows that by fighting for our rights and never giving up, we can change the way the majority of people behave toward minorities, whether it’s racial minorities or GLBT people.”

According to McGowan, the postal service received thousands of letters of support for the Milk stamp.

“It was overwhelming,” she said. “We get about 30,000 letters of support for stamp proposals every year, but that’s for all of the thousand or so annual stamp proposals combined. The amount of public support for this stamp was really amazing.”

The stamp campaign began with a simple letter, dated Oct. 20, 2009, signed by Ramirez in his capacity then as chair of the City of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission, asking the Citizens Stamp Approval Committee to consider and approve the design and issuance of a U.S. postage stamp commemorating and bearing an image of San Francisco City and County Supervisor Harvey Milk.

In essence, the Harvey Milk campaign asked the postal service for the first time to specifically honor a person for being a tireless soldier in the battle for equal rights for LGBT people—and for having the courage and tenacity to become one of the nation’s first openly gay elected public officials.

Ramirez and his fellow signers of the San Diego Human Relations Commission’s letter to CSAC wrote in 2009: “The governor of the state of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently inducted Harvey Milk into the California Hall of Fame, saying ‘he embodies California’s innovative spirit and has made a mark on history.”

By citing California’s then Republican governor’s support for the stamp, the campaign hoped to demonstrate the principles Milk stood for crossed party lines.

“Harvey Milk is recognized nationally and globally as a pioneer of the LGBT civil rights movement for his exceptional leadership and dedication to equal rights,” the letter continued.

That same year, the film “Milk” won Sean Penn an Oscar for best actor in recognition of his critically acclaimed portrayal of the slain civil rights leader. The hit film also brought home an Oscar for writer Dustin Lance Black for best screenplay.

That was also the year that President Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Now, five years later, a postage stamp featuring Milk’s smiling face will finally be released. The stamp will find its way into the stamp collections of philatelists throughout the world.

According to one gay stamp collector, given the fact that this is the first stamp expressly honoring an openly gay American hero, it is conceivable that the postal service may get a whole new generation of LGBT philatelists as stamp-collecting customers.

“Harvey Milk continues to inspire us all to strive for a society that provides unlimited and equal opportunities for all our citizens,” wrote Rep. Nancy Pelosi to CSAC when she was still speaker of the House of Representatives, imploring the committee to approve the stamp. “The United States Postal Service has yet to honor an LGBT American hero with a stamp, commemorating the life and efforts of Harvey Milk would be a testament to Harvey’s courage and a symbol of pride to anyone who has ever felt discrimination or cared about those who have.”

Recently, a new stamp campaign was launched for another openly gay Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.

In January, the Blade broke the news that many of the same people and organizations that won approval for the Harvey Milk stamp have joined with Walter Naegle, Mandy Carter and the National Black Justice Coalition (which Carter cofounded), to win approval for a United States postage stamp commemorating the life and work of the late Bayard Rustin.

Along with A. Phillip Randolph, Rustin was chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

“The current campaign is a new effort, but there have been letters written for more than a decade suggesting that Bayard be honored with a stamp,” said Walter Naegle, Rustin’s surviving partner. “Perhaps an increase in the number of supporters will help, but the postal service doesn’t seem to be influenced by such efforts.”

Naegle is currently engaged in an ongoing Rustin awareness campaign, focusing his efforts on a multitude of fronts. He promises to do what he can to help the Bayard Rustin National Stamp Campaign succeed.

19
Mar
2014

Conservative group blasts gay D.C. mayoral candidate

Bruce Majors, Libertarian Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Libertarian mayoral candidate Bruce Majors. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Majors)

The Republican Security Council, a conservative group that advocates for U.S. “military strength,” released a statement this week denouncing gay D.C. mayoral candidate Bruce Majors as an “avowed homosexual” whose positions on foreign policy are “well to the left” of President Obama and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

Majors is running as a Libertarian Party candidate. The Republican Security Council says in its statement that Majors has embraced the Libertarian Party’s “anti-war” positions that it says would weaken U.S. foreign policy initiatives and hinder the fight against terrorism.

“I actually pledge, if elected mayor of D.C., not to remove any of the D.C. government military bases from Japan or Germany,” Majors quipped in a statement of his own. “So the Republican Security Council has nothing to fear.”

The RSC says on its website that it has no official connection with the Republican Party. In its statement about Majors, the group criticizes him for backing the Libertarian Party candidate for governor of Virginia last year.

The group says the Libertarian candidate took away votes from GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who opposes LGBT rights, resulting in the election of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a strong supporter of LGBT rights.

“He completely supports gay marriage and has worked against candidates who back the Defense of Marriage Act,” the group said of Majors.

Robert Turner, the gay executive director of the D.C. Republican Party, said the D.C. GOP supports marriage equality and its representatives testified in favor of D.C.’s marriage equality law in 2009.

20
Feb
2014

Victory Fund’s dangerous endorsement

Richard Tisei, Republican, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Republican Richard Tisei is challenging a pro-LGBT Democrat for Congress in Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of Tisei).

By JOE RACALTO

 

Recently, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed former Massachusetts Republican Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, who is openly gay, for Congress. Although I applaud Tisei — and all LGBT political candidates who run for public office — this endorsement is not justified and sets a dangerous precedent.

Tisei’s opponent, Democratic Rep. John Tierney, has been a staunch champion for LGBT rights — even when it wasn’t popular. He backed marriage equality in Massachusetts, despite the criticism. He has supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act; he was a strong and early supporter of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and he has a HRC score of 100 percent in the 112th Congress.

Tierney’s support for LGBT causes is clean, clear and perfect.

And, Congressman Tierney will do one thing Tisei will not do — vote for Leader Nancy Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House.

It is no secret that Speaker John Boehner does not support ENDA, claiming it is not necessary. Nor is it a secret that the GOP continues to block or stall every single LGBT advancement at all levels, and in all parts of the country. Given the recent events in Arizona, ENDA is needed now more than ever and if Democrats were in control, ENDA would be the law of the land. Make no mistake, Tisei’s potential vote for Boehner would be a vote to further delay justice for LGBT Americans who face employment discrimination.

Torey Carter, COO of the Victory Fund, said Tisei’s election to Congress would “shatter a glass ceiling for the Republican Party” and “further the dialogue within the GOP about LGBT issues.”  With all due respect to Carter, at what cost and at whose expense? Should those who fight for LGBT rights have to sit by and wait for the Republicans to understand? Additionally, in order to “further” one must “start.” They have had 40 years to start the dialogue and who is gullible enough to believe Tisei can help them with that process?

This country has moved on and the election of Tisei over Rep. Tierney would represent a major setback for LGBT Americans. We must never, ever turn our backs on those who have championed our causes, like Tierney, simply to “shatter glass” or “further dialogue (within the GOP)” or whatever other reason the Victory Fund uses to describe this dangerous endorsement.

Joe Racalto is president of Giesta Racalto, LLC. He served as former Rep. Barney Frank’s senior policy adviser and is a board member at Freedom to Work.

04
Mar
2014

Will new voices call on Obama to sign ENDA exec order?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC, Democratic National Committee, Lesbian Leadership Council, gay news, Washington Blade

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is among those who haven’t articulated support for an ENDA executive order. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A new letter is being circulated among members of Congress urging President Obama to sign an executive order barring discrimination against LGBT workers, raising questions about whether pro-gay lawmakers who have previously made no explicit calls for the directive will take the opportunity to do so.

Key members of the Democratic leadership have yet to call for the executive order as have Republicans who’ve already articulated support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would bar workplace discrimination against LGBT people.

The letter that’s being circulated among lawmakers calls on Obama to sign the order in the wake of his declaration that 2014 will be a “Year of Action” through administrative means if Congress doesn’t act on his legislative agenda.

“As we continue to work towards final passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with strong bipartisan support, we urge you to take action now to protect millions of workers across the country from the threat of discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love,” the letter states.

A source familiar with the letter said the opportunity to sign it would close at the end of Monday.

Although this is the first letter intended to include signatures from members of both the House and Senate, it’s not the first time lawmakers signed letters calling for the executive order. Last year, 110 House Democrats signed a letter seeking the directive and 37 senators signed a letter to that effect.

But neither of those letters included names of lawmakers in Democratic leadership or Republicans — even though many had previously articulated support for the executive order or ENDA in some capacity. The newly circulated letter presents an opportunity for those lawmakers to augment the call with powerful voices and create a bipartisan effort to push Obama to take administrative action to protect LGBT workers from discrimination.

The top members of the House Democratic Caucus — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Assistant House Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-Calif.) — each refrained from signing the House version of the letter in 2013. None of the offices for those lawmakers responded to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on whether they’d sign the letter this time around.

[UPDATE: Mariel Saez, a Hoyer spokesperson, told the Washington Blade on Monday following the initial publication of this article that the Democratic Whip "is signing onto the letter."]

Even though she didn’t sign the letter, Pelosi has been on the record in support of the executive order since 2011, when the Blade asked her during her weekly news conference if she’d support that action. She also said Obama “of course” should sign the directive in January when speaking with The Huffington Post.

Clyburn was quoted as saying by The Huffington Post he feels “very strongly” that Obama should sign the executive order just months ago, reportedly adding “I don’t know where I would be today if the executive order had not been used to get rid of slavery.” The Blade is unaware of any public comments from Hoyer on the LGBT executive order.

At the time the 2013 letter was made public, Pelosi’s office cited a policy that she refrains from signing group letters because of her position in Democratic leadership. However, she had earlier signed her name to letters seeking action from the administration to help bi-national same-sex couples in addition to signing amicus briefs calling on federal courts to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

[UPDATE #2: Following publication of this article, Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesperson, said his boss won't sign the letter currently being circulated, noting she rarely signs group letters, and said she'll instead take her own course of action.

"Leader Pelosi has publicly expressed support for this executive order and will be sending her own private letter to the President on this matter," Hammill said.]

Also conspicuously absent from the 2013 letter is Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who also serves as chair of the Democratic National Committee and is known for her support of LGBT rights. In the past week, she’s announced the DNC would form a lesbian leadership council and hired a gay operative as the DNC’s national political director.

Neither Wasserman Schultz’s congressional office in D.C. nor the DNC responded to the Blade’s request for comment on whether she’d sign the letter this time around.

In January, Wasserman Schultz told The Huffington Post she broadly supports the idea of Obama using his executive authority, but refused to say whether that principle applies to an executive order for LGBT workers.

Wasserman Schultz’s name was also absent from letters seeking support of bi-national same-sex couples. At the time one letter was signed in 2011, Wasserman Schultz told reporters during an Immigration Equality fundraiser she supported the action, but didn’t feel comfortable making demands on the administration because of her position in the DNC.

“Given that I’m the chair of the DNC, it’s a little odd for me to be asking the administration to do specific things,” Wasserman Schultz said at the time. “So I personally support it, but because I’m also the political voice of the president, asking the president to do things publicly can get a little awkward.”

On the Senate side, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also didn’t sign his chamber’s version of the letter in 2013. His office didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether he’ll add his name this time around.

Reid has offered a nuanced position on the executive order. In February, he told The Huffington Post, “If the president decides to do it, I’d be in favor of it.”

But on either the letter signed by the House or the Senate in 2013, not a single Republican signed their name. If a single one did so this time around, it would represent the first time that a Republican lawmaker had called on Obama to sign an executive order.

None of the offices of 10 Republican senators who voted for ENDA on the Senate floor responded to a request for comment on the letter. Those are Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

Despite being an original co-sponsor of ENDA, Kirk has previously spoken against an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

“If we load executive order upon executive order, all of which would be wiped out the day after the president of the other party takes power, you really haven’t advanced the ball much,” Kirk said in 2011. “That’s why the legislation is absolutely necessary.”

In the House, six Republicans co-sponsor ENDA: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.).

According to the Huffington Post, Ros-Lehtinen has said she doesn’t support the executive order. Of those six Republicans, only Dent’s office responded to the Blade’s request to comment on the letter, and the response was negative.

“Congressman Dent believes that the regular legislative process is the best way to proceed in making this critical legislation outlawing workplace discrimination the law of the land,” said Dent spokesperson Shawn Millan.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he doesn’t know whether Republicans will sign the letter, but hopes to see some GOP names calling for the executive order.

“I’m not going to engage in speculation, but with declared GOP support for ENDA among House members of both the House and Senate, I would hope to see some Republican representation on any letter holding the president accountable to a promise he made to Americans six years ago,” Angelo said.

Neither the LGBT Equality Caucus, which is handling circulation of the letter in the House, nor the office of ENDA’s chief sponsor in the Senate Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), which is handling it in the Senate, responded to the Blade’s request for comment over the weekend about expected signers of the letter.

10
Mar
2014

Supreme celebrations after court tosses DOMA, Prop 8

Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act, gay news, Washington Blade, gay news

Activists on Monday held signs and a flag in front of the Supreme Court in hopes of a decision on the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Marriage equality supporters who gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday erupted into cheers as they learned the justices had found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

“I’m thrilled,” D.C. resident Justyn Hintze, who is originally from Florida, told the Washington Blade outside the court. “I think that it’s about time and that sexual freedom and same-sex marriage is a human right.”

D.C. resident Amanda Klinger and her fiancée, Caroline Hunt, held a sign that read “our wedding just got 1138 times more equal” as they anticipated the Supreme Court ruling on cases that challenged the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA that defined marriage as between a man and a woman in federal law and California’s Proposition 8. Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor of Grace United Church of Christ and Veritas United Church of Christ in Hagerstown and Frederick, Md., who married his husband in Massachusetts in 2004, told the Blade before the justices issued their DOMA ruling that he hoped they would be “bold” in their ruling.

“God is about justice, compassion and love,” he said.

Larry Blanchard of Palm Springs, Calif., who married his husband in October 2008, recalled a person could lose their certification in the security complex in which he worked for simply knowing a gay person.

He told the Blade he feels “times have really changed in all those years.”

“This is wonderful,” Blanchard said. “People are finally treated equally.”

Charles Butler of GetEQUAL and former board chair of Equality Maryland, had been waiting outside the court since 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’m just here to see history,” he said. “Even just as a spectator to be a part of it, it’s a really big time.”

Dani Dennenberg of Portland, Ore., held a sign that read, “two moms make a right” as she and two others waited to enter the Supreme Court. “We decided to come down and to be part of this historic moment. [We are] really hoping our country moves in the right direction.”

LGBT rights advocates around the country also applauded the DOMA decision.

“Since 2006, Virginia has had a constitutional amendment that prohibits the legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish noted. “While we continue working to lift the ban on marriage here at home, we can celebrate today’s decision from the Supreme Court, affirming that all loving and committed couples deserve equal respect and treatment.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who last month signed his state’s same-sex marriage law that takes effect on Monday, described the DOMA decision and ruling that struck down California’s Proposition 8 based on standing as “a victory for civil rights and another landmark moment in our country’s never-ending quest to be a more perfect union.”

“The decisions affirm that we can only live up to the values of freedom and justice for all when everyone is treated equally under our laws. I’m proud that we have celebrated this principle in our state with the passage of marriage equality.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Supreme Court reaffirmed “equal justice under law.”

“Today, the Supreme Court bent the arc of history once again toward justice,” she said. “The court placed itself on the right side of history by discarding Section 3 of the defenseless Defense of Marriage Act and by allowing marriage equality for all families in California.”

Same-sex marriage opponents were quick to criticize the DOMA and Prop 8 rulings.

“In a miscarriage of justice the US Supreme Court has refused to consider the decision of a single federal court judge to overturn the perfectly legal action of over 7 million California voters who passed Proposition 8 defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown. “The Supreme Court’s holding that proponents of an initiative had no legal right to appeal ignores California law and rewards corrupt politicians for abandoning their duty to defend traditional marriage laws.”

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court has lost its legitimacy as an arbiter of the Constitution and the rule of law,” Liberty Counsel Chair Mat Staver added. “Today is the death of the Court’s legacy, because the decision in the Federal Defense of Marriage Act case defies logic and is a pure invention of a handful of Justices.”

Even as same-sex marriage advocates continue to celebrate the Supreme Court’s landmark rulings on DOMA and Prop 8, GetEQUAL Co-Director Heather Cronk said in a statement she feels there is still work to be done to achieve what she described as full equality for LGBT Americans.

“Our work is far from over — not simply in our struggle for marriage equality in all 50 states, but also in employment, immigration, housing, credit, public accommodations, and so many other ways,” she said. “Today we celebrate, but we are getting right back to work.”

26
Jun
2013

Log Cabin denounces ‘tyrannical’ Obamacare

Citizens Metal, Barack Obama, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama’s signature legislative achievement is again under attack by Republicans. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The national gay group Log Cabin Republicans this week joined 21 conservative organizations, including some that oppose LGBT rights, in signing a letter calling on Congress to gut President Obama’s health care reform law.

The letter came shortly before the House began debate Friday morning on a bill introduced by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) that would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from becoming involved in any way in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including providing tax credits to individuals and small businesses to lower their health insurance premiums.

The bill, which Obama supporters say would effectively kill the health care reform law, marks the 40th attempt by House Republicans to kill the controversial law.

“I wanted you to know that today Log Cabin Republicans joined Americans for Tax Reform and a broad coalition of national conservative leaders as co-signers of a letter demanding that the United States Congress remove the Internal Revenue Service from any role in the implementation of the tyrannical Obamacare law,” Log Cabin Executive Director Gregory Angelo said in an Aug. 1 letter to the group’s members.

“The healthcare of the American people is one of the most personal and private aspects of our lives – even more so for LGBT Americans,” Angelo said in his letter. “Recent controversies about IRS targeting are bad enough, but with present scandals set aside, the last thing any member of the LGBT community needs is the IRS involved in any way in our heath care,” he said.

Angelo was referring to allegations that IRS officials gave greater scrutiny to conservative groups applying for a non-profit, tax-exempt status. A congressional investigation into the allegations prompted the IRS to apologize for the actions of a few officials who reportedly gave greater scrutiny to conservative groups. However, IRS officials said the agency also challenged tax-exempt applications of liberal-leaning groups.

Among the organizations co-signing the letter to Congress with Log Cabin were Concerned Women for America, which opposes virtually all LGBT rights legislation pending in Congress; the American Conservative Union, which barred Log Cabin and the gay conservative group GOProud from participating in its annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference in March; and Restore America’s Mission, which advocates against same-sex marriage.

Angelo told the Blade Log Cabin has made it clear that it doesn’t agree with the LGBT-related positions of some of the co-signers. But he said Log Cabin and each of the co-signers shares the strongly held position that the Obama health care reform law is harmful to the nation and should be repealed.

Angelo noted that the joint letter was initiated by Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist, who has been supportive of Log Cabin.

The House was scheduled to vote Friday on the Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act, known as HR 2009. The bill would prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury, who has jurisdiction over the IRS, from enforcing the Obamacare law, which is officially called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Democratic leaders in the House, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have called the latest GOP bill to kill the Obamacare law a publicity stunt aimed at diverting attention from Republican lawmakers’ opposition to a compromise deficit reduction measure and other pending bills opposed by House Republican leaders.

“It is only fitting that Republicans would waste the last week at work this summer voting for the 40th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act and continue their record of no jobs bills, no budget agreement, and no solutions for the middle class,” Pelosi said in a statement.

All of the GOP-sponsored bills calling for repeal of the Affordable Care Act have died in the Senate. Senate Democratic leaders said the bill being debated on Friday, if approved by the GOP-controlled House, would be dead on arrival in the Democratic Senate.

In his letter to Log Cabin members announcing that he co-signed the joint letter supporting HR 2009, Angelo also asked members to make a contribution to the gay GOP group.

“Your financial support of Log Cabin Republicans today allows us to continue to fight for choice in healthcare, your right to privacy, and to keep gay Americans -— and all Americans — free. Please give today and tell the IRS: Hands off my healthcare!”

02
Aug
2013

Pelosi blasts “outrageous” Russian “prejudice,” and “threat” to jail Olympians

"Russia's decision to criminalize equality is outrageous," Pelosi wrote.

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14
Aug
2013

Pelosi envisions path for House passage of ENDA

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she hopes ENDA could pass the House in a way similar to VAWA (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she hopes ENDA could pass the House in a way similar to VAWA (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

Amid expectations the Senate will vote next week on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is a envisioning path for passage of the bill in her chamber of Congress despite Republican control.

During her routine news conference on Wednesday, Pelosi said she’s hoping for a situation on ENDA similar to what happened when the House passed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act earlier this year.

“We made it too hot to handle in the public,” Pelosi said. “It had to come to the floor. Even so, a majority of the Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act. But nonetheless, it came to the floor. I hope we could have a similar situation with this.”

Asked to clarify whether VAWA reauthorization could be a model for House passage of ENDA, Pelosi called for expedited movement of the legislation in her chamber.

“Well, I would think it would be “once burned, twice learned,” and that they would, shall we say, save some time by taking it right to our committee and to the floor,” Pelosi said. “It’s really important. Our country – ending discrimination is what we are all about as Americans, and we should not have discrimination in the workplace because of gender identity.”

In February, the House, amid public pressure, passed the Senate measure to reauthorize VAWA, which contained protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence. It was the first and only time a bill with LGBT-specific language passed under the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

House Republican leadership initially brought to the floor its own version of the bill without LGBT protections, but didn’t have enough votes in its own caucus to pass the measure. Afterward, House leaders brought to the floor the Senate version of the bill, which was approved unanimously by the House Democratic caucus along with 87 Republicans.

Pelosi said Wednesday the situation could be similar for ENDA after noting the significant cultural change on LGBT issues since 2007, when a gay-only version of ENDA was introduced on the House floor. The Democratic leader attributed this change to “the community’s” efforts.

“So I would hope that the public attitude, which I attribute to the community’s activism, outside mobilization, and just family awareness and respect for people to end discrimination, increases its prospects for now,” Pelosi said. “And, it will be interesting to see if in the Republican Party they want to see a continuation of discrimination in the workplace for people because of their gender identity.”

Notably, throughout her remarks, Pelosi twice explicitly mentioned the bill’s protections in employment based on gender identity, and never once mentioned sexual orientation. That’s significant because the House under her leadership moved forward a bill in 2007 that included protections based on sexual orientation, but omitted language for transgender people.

Small progress has been made on ENDA quietly in the House amid considerable attention about whether the bill will have enough votes to pass in the Senate.

In this week alone, the legislation has gained at least two new Republican co-sponsors following the initial news that ENDA would soon come to a floor vote in the Senate. According to “Thomas,” the website for the Library of Congress, Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) signed on as a co-sponsor on Monday.

And according to the National Log Cabin Republicans, Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) on Wednesday signed on as a co-sponsor to ENDA. He’s facing a challenge next year to his congressional seat from Sean Eldridge, a gay Democratic activist who’s married to Facebook co-founder and New Republic owner Chris Hughes.

Counting these new co-sponsors and chief sponsor of ENDA gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), the legislation has a total of 188 supporters. That’s still 30 votes shy of the 218 votes necessary to pass ENDA in the House.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said he agrees with Pelosi that VAWA advocates ran an impressive campaign and that method could be applied to ENDA.

“Freedom to Work and other LGBT organizations with strong Republican connections should meet with Republican House leaders to urge them to drop the Hastert Rule as they did with LGBT-inclusive VAWA and allow a vote,” Almeida said. “Our Republican Legislative Director has already started on an impressive number of Republican House meetings.”

But Almeida said a VAWA-like strategy is one of three possible approaches to passing ENDA in the House. Others, as he’s previously already articulated, include a discharge petition, as proposed by McCain-Feingold author Trevor Potter, and attaching ENDA in the Senate to a larger bill for the House to pass.

“We should try all of the above strategies in the next year before the election,” Almeida said. “It’s not a choice. We should push on multiple fronts. We can only win if we’re willing to try.”

Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesperson, wouldn’t rule out any option as a possibility for passing ENDA in the House despite Republican control.

“As with any measure that passes the Senate and already enjoys bipartisan support in the House, all options remain on the table,” Hammill said.

A partial transcript of the exchange between Pelosi and reporters follows:

Reporter: Madam Leader, Leader Reid in the other body mentioned in the next couple of weeks he is going to try to bring up ENDA. I know this passed in the House in 2007. I think there were 10 Republicans who are still in the House who voted for it. Why do you think there would be any chance if it moved to this body – they think they might be within striking distance of 60 next door – why would they have any ability to move it here when they can’t even pass a farm bill? Why would they be interested in trying to move ENDA in this body in this political circumstance?

Leader Pelosi: Well, I believe a lot has changed since 2007 on this subject. We have seen – as we know, in 2010, we repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military. The Supreme Court has overturned the so-called euphemistically named Defense of Marriage Act. Thank God they overturned that and its name. And just generally, the public awareness and acceptance of ending discrimination in any way.

Some people think ENDA is ending discrimination in the workplace. Isn’t that a given in our country? Apparently not. And that’s why we have to pass the bill.

So I would hope that the public attitude, which I attribute to the community’s activism, outside mobilization, and just family awareness and respect for people to end discrimination, increases its prospects for now. And, it will be interesting to see if in the Republican Party they want to see a continuation of discrimination in the workplace for people because of their gender identity.

We had a problem with the Violence Against Women Act. They didn’t want to bring that to the floor. We made it too hot to handle in the public. It had to come to the floor. Even so, a majority of the Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act. But nonetheless, it came to the floor. I hope we could have a similar situation with this.

Reporter: Do you think you could use the model that was used for VAWA to make this ENDA bill “too hot to handle,” as you put it?

Pelosi: Well, I would think it would be “once burned, twice learned,” and that they would, shall we say, save some time by taking it right to our committee and to the floor. It’s really important. Our country – ending discrimination is what we are all about as Americans, and we should not have discrimination in the workplace because of gender identity.

31
Oct
2013

GLCCB to honor Pelosi

Gay News, Washington Blade, Nancy Pelosi

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB) will honor House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi during its inaugural Hometown Hero Awards & Champagne Brunch on Nov. 17 in Baltimore.

Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House and a daughter of Baltimore, will be recognized with the organization’s lifetime achievement award for her longtime dedication to LGBT rights and her work to fight HIV/AIDS in Congress.

“It is a great privilege for me to come home to Baltimore and celebrate the progress we’ve made in the fight for equality,” Pelosi said.

Also to be honored are Carlton R. Smith, president of Baltimore Black Pride and HIV/AIDS activist, and Catherine Hyde, a longtime transgender coordinator for Howard County PFLAG.

The event will be held in the Calvert Ballroom of the Lord Baltimore Hotel. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit glccb.org/hometownhero.

31
Oct
2013

Onward to the House for ENDA

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, GOP, Republican, gay news, Washington Blade

All eyes will be on Speaker John Boehner as advocates push for a House vote on ENDA. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Supporters of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act are hoping to capitalize on the momentum from last week’s historic bipartisan Senate victory as they pursue a vote on the bill in the U.S. House.

Ten Senate Republicans voted for ENDA, which would prohibit most employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Their support gave the bill more bipartisan support than “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, which had just eight GOP votes, and more than any other pro-LGBT bill that has come to a vote in the Senate.

Liz Mair, a Republican political strategist who favors LGBT inclusion in the party, said the support that ENDA received in the Senate from Republicans demonstrates the party isn’t as opposed to LGBT rights as some observers might think.

“The fact that ENDA garnered 10 Republican votes in the Senate — and from a Republican caucus that is significantly less moderate than certain predecessor versions now that it lacks Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe, Judd Gregg and the like — is a reminder that the GOP is much more attuned to gay rights issues and much more in line with mainstream American attitudes on those issues than one would think from the image of the GOP that certain very conservative party leaders and the media tend to present,” Mair said.

The two Republican original co-sponsors — Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) — were joined in support by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

Of those 10, the votes from McCain and Flake are particularly noteworthy because they represent a “red” state that President Obama lost in both 2008 and 2012. In addition, both senators expressed misgivings about ENDA before they ultimately voted for the bill.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, nonetheless said he wasn’t surprised by their support for the bill in the end.

“I know that both senators had expressed some hesitancy before casting their votes, but Flake is someone who voted for ENDA in 2007 when he was a member of the House, and Sen. McCain had even indicated that he would be open to supporting ENDA when he was running for president in 2008 — as part of, I believe, a questionnaire or interview he did with the Blade no less,” Angelo said.

A Senate source familiar with ENDA said McCain was able to support the bill after the adoption of the Portman-Ayotte amendment, which would prohibit federal, state and local governments from retaliating against institutions that invoke the religious exemption in the bill to discriminate against LGBT employees.

For Flake, who earlier told the Washington Blade he’d vote against ENDA because of the transgender protections in the bill, the Senate source said his support was solidified after he received assurances that businesses would receive guidance on the prohibition of gender identity discrimination.

Also significant on the Republican position on ENDA was the fact that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to Senate Republican aides familiar with the bill, didn’t whip the vote on the legislation and instead allowed members of his caucus to vote their conscience.

Angelo was among those who saw no evidence of Republican leadership instructing members to vote against ENDA.

“The fact that you had almost one-in-four members of the GOP caucus in the Senate vote in favor shows that membership was allowed to take a vote of conscience on this issue,” Angelo said.

Will the House vote on ENDA?

Now that the Senate has wrapped up its consideration of ENDA, attention has turned to passing the bill in the House, where Republican support will be necessary, first, to bring the bill to the floor and, second, to find 218 votes for the bill in the Republican majority chamber.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has indicated his opposition to the bill out of concern it would lead to “frivolous lawsuits” and a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was quoted in The Huffington Post as saying the bill “is currently not scheduled in the House.”

Nonetheless, Democrats ranging from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), ENDA’s chief sponsor in the House, insist that the House has enough votes for passage should it come to the floor.

Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told the Blade his boss is among those who believe ENDA has sufficient support in the House for passage.

“Leader Pelosi has made it clear that there is sufficient support in the House to pass ENDA now,” Hammill said. “Instead of scheduling a vote on this measure, House Republicans are planning to vote for the 46th time to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act. There is only one man standing in the way of the expansion of workplace protections for millions of LGBT Americans. His name is John Boehner.”

ENDA has 196 House sponsors. That’s just 22 votes short of the necessary votes to pass the legislation on the House floor.

While the bill could technically come up at any time during the 13 months that remain in the current Congress, Polis said the legislation should come up sooner rather than later because, as Election Day approaches, members of the House will leave to campaign in their districts. It would be the first time that ENDA has come to the House floor since 2007, and the first time ever the chamber would consider a version of the bill that included transgender protections.

ENDA supporters claimed another Republican as their own last week when former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who served as spokesperson for former President George W. Bush, penned an op-ed in Politico urging the House to pass the bill.

“Allowing people to be successful in their workplaces is an essential piece of individual opportunity and liberty,” Fleischer said. “Working for a living is one of America’s freedoms. It’s a virtue to be encouraged — and supporting it is important to the future of the Republican Party.”

But not all LGBT advocates agree that sufficient votes exist to pass ENDA in the House. Some Republican supporters of the legislation stopped short of saying ENDA already has sufficient support to pass on the floor.

Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior adviser to the pro-LGBT Republican group American Unity Fund, said more work is needed when asked if ENDA is ready to move to the House floor.

“We’re encouraged by the momentum, working to identify and demonstrate majority support and committed to engaging legislators in the thoughtful and respectful conversations necessary to get there as quickly as possible,” Cook-McCormac said.

Mair said ENDA will be “a more uphill battle in the House” not only because of conservative worries over the bill’s content, but also out of fear of supporting anything seen as part of Obama’s agenda. Still, she wouldn’t rule out a surprise.

“Even back in 2007, ENDA garnered a noteworthy amount of GOP support in the House, including from some rather conservative members,” Mair said. “Thirty-five Republicans voted for ENDA then, including John Campbell, Jeff Flake, Thaddeus McCotter and Paul Ryan. So it will be interesting to see how it plays out this time around.”

For Cook-McCormac, the next priority is to build the number of Republican co-sponsors for ENDA. There are currently five: Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.).

Dent told the Washington Post that Boehner “should allow a vote on this bill” because the American public believes the workplace should be free of discrimination.

Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement to the Blade that she also hopes Republican leadership will bring ENDA to the floor for a vote, but chose her words carefully about its prospects.

“The passage of ENDA by the Senate is a great first step toward making this bill law,” Ros-Lehitnen said. ”I urge my colleagues in the House to sign on to the companion bill and hope House leadership will bring it up for a vote. I believe if it is brought to a vote, it has the opportunity to pass.”

Renee Gamela, a Hanna spokeswoman, said ENDA is good for business.

“Rep. Hanna would like ENDA to receive a vote in the House when it is clear that there are sufficient votes for passage,” Gamela said. “He intends to speak directly with his colleagues about why, as a small business owner, he believes supporting the legislation is good for economic competitiveness, individual liberty and our party.”

As articulated by Pelosi, one approach seen as a pathway for passage of ENDA in the House would be similar to what happened with reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Amid public pressure, the House in February passed a bill with protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence after the Republican version of the bill without the provisions failed on the floor.

Log Cabin’s Angelo said whether a vote on ENDA will take place in the House “comes down to pressure” both from Republicans in the House who support it and advocates on the outside who want to see it passed.

“I think if you had a similar push that happened with the Violence Against Women Act, where you had a tremendous surge among grassroots, and you also had GOP members of Congress urging leadership to bring this up for a vote, you got there,” Angelo said. “But it’s going to take considerable pressure. I’m not a Pollyanna when it comes to prospects in the House, but I am cautiously optimistic.”

 

12
Nov
2013