Watch as members of the LGBT Caucus in the U.S. Congress react to today’s Supreme Court rulings.
Representatives Polis, Cicilline, Malone and more share their feelings immediately after marriage decisions come down.
Watch as members of the LGBT Caucus in the U.S. Congress react to today’s Supreme Court rulings.
Representatives Polis, Cicilline, Malone and more share their feelings immediately after marriage decisions come down.
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.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm thrilled,‚ÄĚ D.C. resident Justyn Hintze, who is originally from Florida, told the Washington Blade outside the court. ‚ÄúI think that it‚Äôs about time and that sexual freedom and same-sex marriage is a human right.‚ÄĚ
D.C. resident Amanda Klinger and her fianc√©e, Caroline Hunt, held a sign that read ‚Äúour wedding just got 1138 times more equal‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúbold‚ÄĚ in their ruling.
‚ÄúGod is about justice, compassion and love,‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äútimes have really changed in all those years.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThis is wonderful,‚ÄĚ Blanchard said. ‚ÄúPeople are finally treated equally.‚ÄĚ
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.
‚ÄúSince 2006, Virginia has had a constitutional amendment that prohibits the legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples,‚ÄĚ Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish noted. ‚ÄúWhile we continue working to lift the ban on marriage here at home, we can celebrate today‚Äôs decision from the Supreme Court, affirming that all loving and committed couples deserve equal respect and treatment.‚ÄĚ
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who last month signed his state‚Äôs same-sex marriage law that takes effect on Monday, described the DOMA decision and ruling that struck down California‚Äôs Proposition 8 based on standing as ‚Äúa victory for civil rights and another landmark moment in our country‚Äôs never-ending quest to be a more perfect union.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe 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.‚ÄĚ
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Supreme Court reaffirmed “equal justice under law.”
‚ÄúToday, 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.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúToday, the U.S. Supreme Court has lost its legitimacy as an arbiter of the Constitution and the rule of law,‚ÄĚ Liberty Counsel Chair Mat Staver added. ‚ÄúToday is the death of the Court‚Äôs legacy, because the decision in the Federal Defense of Marriage Act case defies logic and is a pure invention of a handful of Justices.‚ÄĚ
Even as same-sex marriage advocates continue to celebrate the Supreme Court‚Äôs 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,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúToday we celebrate, but we are getting right back to work.”
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‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúI 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,‚ÄĚ Log Cabin Executive Director Gregory Angelo said in an Aug. 1 letter to the group‚Äôs members.
‚ÄúThe healthcare of the American people is one of the most personal and private aspects of our lives ‚Äď even more so for LGBT Americans,‚ÄĚ Angelo said in his letter. ‚ÄúRecent 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,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs Mission, which advocates against same-sex marriage.
Angelo told the Blade Log Cabin has made it clear that it doesn‚Äôt 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‚Äô opposition to a compromise deficit reduction measure and other pending bills opposed by House Republican leaders.
‚ÄúIt 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,‚ÄĚ 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 -‚ÄĒ and all Americans ‚ÄĒ free. Please give today and tell the IRS: Hands off my healthcare!”
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 ‚Äď 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.
‚ÄúAs 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 ‚Äď they think they might be within striking distance of 60 next door ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äútoo hot to handle,‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äď ending discrimination is what we are all about as Americans, and we should not have discrimination in the workplace because of gender identity.
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‚Äôs lifetime achievement award for her longtime dedication to LGBT rights and her work to fight HIV/AIDS in Congress.
‚ÄúIt is a great privilege for me to come home to Baltimore and celebrate the progress we‚Äôve made in the fight for equality,‚ÄĚ 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.
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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ 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.
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‚Äôs freedoms. It‚Äôs a virtue to be encouraged ‚ÄĒ 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.
‚ÄúThe 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.‚ÄĚ
Renee Gamela, a Hanna spokeswoman, said ENDA is good for business.
‚ÄúRep.¬†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.‚ÄĚ
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.”
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB) hosts its ‚ÄúInaugural Hometown Hero Awards and Champagne Brunch‚ÄĚ honoring Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-Calif.), at the Lord Baltimore Hotel (20 W Baltimore St., Baltimore) Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, is a Baltimore native. She will be honored for her commitment to equality for the LGBT community in Maryland. Carlton D. Smith, president of Baltimore Black Pride and HIV/AIDS activist and Catherine Hyde, longtime transgender coordinator for the Howard County Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, will also be honored.
Tickets are $125. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit glccb.org.
Gay Republican groups are criticizing Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) over his reported comments that gay congressional candidates should not receive money from the Republican Party to run for office.
The groups were responding to an article published late Thursday in Politico, which¬†cited a half-dozen anonymous sources as saying Forbes has undertaken “a lengthy crusade” to convince the National Republican Congressional Committee to drop support for gay Republican candidates.
Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said Forbes’ position indicates he wants to relegate Republicans to minority status in the U.S. House.
“You either want Republicans to win, or you don’t ‚ÄĒ it’s as simple as that,” Angelo said. “Apparently, Congressman Forbes does not. Thankfully, the real GOP leaders in the House know how to pick winners, and their money is on Richard Tisei and Carl DeMaio.”
Among the gay Republican congressional candidates cited by Politico are Massachusetts Republican Richard Tisei, who narrowly lost in his challenge to unseat Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) last year and is considering a rematch, as well as Carl DeMaio, who’s seeking to represent the San Diego area in the House.
Another gay candidate seeking to carry the Republican banner in a bid for a congressional seat not mentioned in the Politico piece is Dan Innis, a University of New Hampshire administrator in a same-sex marriage who’s seeking to unseat Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.).
In a statement provided to the Blade, DeMaio said he focused on winning his congressional race and not the comments from the Virginia politician.
“Under Mr. Forbes, San Diegans are not focused on sexual orientation,” DeMaio said. “To the contrary, I’m winning this district because San Diegans are looking for fresh leadership in Washington to reform wasteful government spending, revitalize the economy and hold government programs accountable.”
Tisei didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment, and Innis couldn’t be reached.
Ross¬†Hemminger, co-director of GOProud, said Forbes’ behavior is “disappointing.”
“This type of rhetoric is symptomatic¬†of someone who does not understand the importance of being a team player,” Hemminger said. “Our party cannot win elections by appealing to the lowest common denominator amongst the minority of American voters. This type of rhetoric embarrasses Republicans everywhere, and it is not helpful.”
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was succinct when asked about the issue during his news conference on Thursday.
In response to a question about whether Republican money should go to gay congressional candidates, Boehner replied, “I do.”
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), accused Boehner of being disingenuous in his answer and took the opportunity to bash gay Republican candidates as well as the speaker’s failure to bring up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for a vote.
‚ÄúLGBT Americans are more interested in passing ENDA and expanding freedom and equality in our country than Speaker Boehner‚Äôs insincere efforts to marry himself to extreme gay Republican candidates,” Hammill said.
Forbes, who scored “0″ in the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent congressional scorecard, is known for his anti-LGBT record in Congress.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Virginia Republican has supported the anti-gay American Family Association and was set to headline one of its fundraisers before canceling at the last minute.
Forbes is among the 59 sponsors of a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment in the House that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country. As ThinkProgress notes, Forbes spoke out against ENDA on the House floor in 2007, saying the LGBT anti-bias bill will lead “activist judges to redefine the institution of marriage.”
In the Politico piece, Forbes is quoted as saying he believes Republican leaders can “do whatever they want to do” in terms of giving money to congressional candidates, but is¬†concerned about House members being asked to contribute to the campaigns.
‚ÄúThere would be a different situation if they tried to force other members to give money,‚ÄĚ Forbes said.
As Politico notes, the NRCC is partially funded by collecting tens of millions of dollars from House Republicans, who pay dues to the organization.
NRCC Chair Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) was quoted as saying in Politico that the policy of his organization is to contribute money to Republican candidates ‚ÄĒ even if they identify as gay.
‚ÄúOur decisions on the Republican nominees we support will not be based on race, gender or sexual orientation but will be based on the strength of their candidacy and their ability to defeat Democrats,” Walden said.
News is breaking now over Forbes’ objections to gay congressional candidates, according to Politico, amid speculation over who’ll replace Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) as chair of the House Armed Services Committee after his expected retirement next year.
Forbes has been mentioned as a possible successor, but McKeon’s chief of staff has reportedly said his boss expects Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) to be the next chair.
“Throwing solid conservative contenders under the bus in a cynical and hopeless attempt to gain a chairmanship is beyond the pale,” Angelo said. “Congressman Forbes would do more to help his image by supporting efforts to grow the Republican House majority rather than undermine it.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) entertained on Saturday the idea of a discharge petition for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ‚ÄĒ but was skeptical the bill has the votes for passage in the U.S. House.
Pelosi made the remarks in San Jose, Calif., during Netroots Nation, an annual conference for progressive bloggers and activists, when questioned about an ENDA discharge petition by panel moderator and political analyst Zerlina Maxwell.
“We can do discharge, but we don‚Äôt have enough votes to pass it,” Pelosi said. “So that means we have to have mobilization outside from some of our Republican friends, who should think that this is a form discrimination that we should be getting rid of. But this is certainly the next order of business for us.”
Initially, Pelosi in her lengthy response talked about the LGBT accomplishments between 2009 and 2010¬†when Democrats were in control of Congress and the White House, such as passage of hate crimes protections legislation and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
Pelosi said the initial plan was to proceed with ENDA, but the order was changed to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” first before the 111th Congress expired because that was what the “community” wanted.
“The community came to us and they said, ‘We feel more enthusiasm for your doing the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ first ‚ÄĒ well, second, because we had done hate crimes, now ENDA would be next,” Pelosi said. “They said, no, we wanted ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ And that, because we have to depend on outside mobilization and all the rest, and, of course, all four ‚ÄĒ that would be hate crimes, that would be ENDA, that would ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ that would be marriage equality ‚ÄĒ would be the four. We were trying to do them in the order of how we thought we could get them done fastest. We thought ENDA; they thought ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal.”
Pelosi expressed enthusiasm for ENDA, saying it should be “the next order of business for us” and “we’ll do everything we possibly can” to pass the legislation.
However, Pelosi also said “bathrooms” has been an issue for the legislation, although she said that issue could have an easy fix.
“What it comes down to in some of the debate is bathrooms,” Pelosi said. “I’m just telling you honestly what some of the debate is about on that subject because if you have everybody there and ENDA is the law, and you are not discriminating, then who uses what John? Just put a unisex sign on the John and get this thing over with, right? What’s the problem?”
Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, expressed displeasure with Pelosi’s response, but said it’s a good sign that she didn’t rule out the possibility of a discharge petition.
“Unfortunately, Leader Pelosi launched a long and winding filibuster and avoided making any concrete commitment to lead on our community’s proposed ENDA discharge petition in 2013,” Almeida said. “But she did not rule out this bold strategy either, and we are hopeful she will agree eventually.”
A successful discharge petition would bring ENDA to the House floor regardless of whether Republican leaders like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) or House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) want to keep it from a vote. For a discharge petition to succeed, a majority of House members, or 218, have to sign it.
That’s 42 more names than the current 176 lawmakers who currently sponsor in the House. The last time a discharge petition succeeded was 11 years ago in 2002 for campaign finance reform legislation known as McCain‚ÄďFeingold in the Senate.
Nonetheless, Almeida was optimistic that a discharge petition would be a strategy that would yield positive results if pursued.
“Just a few months ago, House Democrats launched a discharge petition for the Paycheck Fairness Act, and that’s already gotten around 200 signatures,” Almeida said. “We believe ENDA could get even more signatures on our proposed discharge petition, and we have a small shot at getting to 218. But in order to have a chance to win, the House Democrats have to first be willing to try.”
Freedom to Work promoted the idea of asking Pelosi about the ENDA discharge petition prior to the start of the panel by sending out the proposed question via Twitter using the hastag #AskPelosi. Among those who retweeted the proposal were PFLAG National, the TaskForce and Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign.
— Freedom to Work (@FreedomtoWork) June 22, 2013
As reported by other media outlets, Pelosi was also booed during the same session when she defended the recently revealed data collection policies under the Obama administration¬†at the National Security Agency . The heckler wasn’t concerned about ENDA, but what a called a “secret law.”
Almeida said he’ll continue to pursue a discharge petition because attention will be on the lower chamber of Congress to pass ENDA if the Senate approves the legislation.
“Once we pass ENDA in the Senate this fall, with 60 or more bipartisan votes, the pressure will grow even stronger for House Democrats to launch the discharge petition in 2013,” Almeida said. “We spoke with several House Democrats about this strategy this weekend in San Jose, and I think there will be interest.”
Almeida declined to identify which House Democrats with whom he had spoke and which expressed interest in a discharge petition, but said these lawmakers wanted him to follow up next week.
With the Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 expected next week, Almeida emphasized that LGBT workplace protections and marriage equality are both priorities worth pursuing.
“We will continue this campaign to make 2013 the year for progress not only on the freedom to marry, but also the freedom to work,” Almeida said. “We deserve both freedoms. We deserve full equality under law.”
CORRECTION: An initial version of the article, citing a transcript from the Northwest Pacific Progressive Institute, misquoted and mischaracterized Pelosi’s remarks on ENDA. The Blade regrets the error.