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Republicans continue to self-destruct

Ann Coulter, CPAC, gay news, Washington Blade

This week, we will be treated to the annual spectacle of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a place where the most outrageous Republicans are invited to spew their venom to the party faithful. In the past the conference has hosted the likes of irrelevant figures like Donald Trump and Ann Coulter. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

There is a certain Schadenfraude when I hear Republicans say things that are sure to quicken the downward spiral of the national Republican Party.

Republicans in places like Arizona who pass legislation designed to allow people to discriminate just keep adding to the view that the Republican Party today is a place that only welcomes those who want to discriminate against the LGBT community, women and other minorities. The few moderates left seem to be losing any control they once had of the platform or direction of the party.

That makes it difficult to convince people in places like Massachusetts to even consider electing a Republican. Take the case of congressional candidate Richard Tisei who is being touted as a moderate gay Republican who can change the party from within. The facts challenge that assumption. When he ran on a ticket for lieutenant governor with Charlie Baker who claimed to be a moderate, he couldn’t even get him to support basic equality for the transgender community. The Blue Mass group said, “If he can’t convince his own running mate in Massachusetts to be less extreme, how in the world will he convince Republicans from conservative states to be less extreme on gay rights or any other issue?”

Another problem with electing someone like Tisei to Congress is that his first vote would be for Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as House Speaker — the same speaker who has blocked ENDA since the Senate passed it last year.

This week, we will be treated to the annual spectacle of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a place where the most outrageous Republicans are invited to spew their venom to the party faithful. In the past the conference has hosted the likes of irrelevant figures like Donald Trump and Ann Coulter. This year promises to bring more of the same; the intellectual giant Sarah Palin will be there.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be two of the big draws. I understand they were excited to invite and get an acceptance from Christie before he got entangled in Bridgegate. It will be interesting to see how far right Christie will go to attract the GOP faithful. They forced Mitt Romney far enough right in the last election to ensure a loss to President Obama. Huckabee, on the other hand, already has just the kind of far-right cred they love.

Then CPAC attendees will surely hear from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). This is the same Ryan who ran as Romney’s running mate and managed to gain a reputation as someone who had a few problems telling the truth. He recently spoke about the budget he is preparing for the Republican House, which will question all the programs meant to help those in need, the safety net programs like Medicare, food stamps, Head Start etc. Democrats wait with baited breath to see if his solution is simply to cut these programs or to legitimately improve them.

CPAC attendees will also get to hear from that Joseph McCarthy-like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.). They will also get another chance to hear from right-wing Johns Hopkins retired surgeon turned Fox News commentator Dr. Ben Carson. This is the same Carson forced to withdraw as the Johns Hopkins commencement speaker after he compared gay marriage to bestiality and pedophilia. He attacked the Affordable Care Act as socialism by quoting Lenin: “Lenin thought so. He declared: ‘Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the Socialized State.’” Carson apparently took that quote from a brochure attacking Harry Truman for his attempt to get everyone medical insurance and some have disputed that Lenin ever said it.

Democrats aren’t perfect and there are Blue Dog Democrats whose voting records clearly don’t match the Democratic Party platform. The difference is those Democrats don’t control the party and they vote for a leadership team that is progressive and favors ensuring the human and civil rights of all people.


XXX fan fiction about Paul Ryan’s and Aaron Schock’s gay love affair

Oh. My. God.


Baldwin sworn in as first openly gay U.S. senator

Tammy Baldwin, United States Senate, Wisconsin, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) speaks at a reception following her swearing-in ceremony. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a historic day at the start of the 113th Congress, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) was sworn into office on Thursday as the junior U.S. senator from Wisconsin, officially becoming the first openly gay senator.

At a reception that followed in the Russell Senate Office Building, Baldwin thanked more than 100 supporters and Democratic donors in attendance and called on them to continue the fight to enact change for the country.

“I am proud to have the honor to have been sworn in an hour or so ago as the first woman senator for the state of Wisconsin and as the first openly gay member to serve in the United States Senate in our nation’s history,” Baldwin said, eliciting applause from the audience.

Baldwin attended the reception after being sworn in on the Senate floor by Vice President Joseph Biden along with other freshman senators and colleagues who were re-elected. The room erupted in cheers and applause as she entered after being sworn in as a U.S. senator.

Also attending the reception was Baldwin’s mother, Pam Bin-Rella. As Baldwin began to speak, Bin-Rella was standing with a cane near the podium before Baldwin. The new senator said she had to address a “little logistical matter” before she continued, then positioned a wheelchair nearby for her mother to take a seat.

“I’m going to thank you the best way that any public official knows how to thank you: I’m going to ask you to do more,” she continued. “As I ran to make a difference, I intend to make a difference. Just like nobody wins a Senate seat alone, nobody moves a state or a country forward alone.”

Baldwin was sworn in on Thursday on the same day as the entire membership of the U.S. House for the 113th Congress. That includes openly gay Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).

United States Senate, Herb Kohl, Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Herb Kohl (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Introducing Baldwin at the reception was outgoing Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), whom Baldwin will replace in the U.S. Senate after his 24 years in Congress. Kohl said Baldwin has “all the qualities I, and I know, so many others look for in somebody to represent us all across the state of Wisconsin.”

“After I got elected, as a senator from Wisconsin, I got a phone call from my predecessor, Sen. [William] Proxmire,” Kohl said. “And he was effusive in his praise of me, and he predicted that I will be a model senator. He said that several times, and he was very careful in his use of words, so I couldn’t forget that he used the word ‘model,’ and I wondered why he used that word specifically. So, I went to the dictionary and looked up that word: ‘model — a model is a small replica of the real thing.’ So, I’m not going to tell Tammy that she’s going to be a ‘model’ senator.”

At the event, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told the Washington Blade that Baldwin’s swearing in as a U.S. senator marked “a real historic day.”

“Having Tammy Baldwin serve in the United States Senate is historic,” Griffin said. “To have one of us inside the chamber is meaningful for a number of reasons because we have a champion now that’s one of us in the Senate. But it also makes it more difficult for those who are against us to look at our colleague in the eye and to talk negatively about LGBT people, so I’m so excited to be able to work with Tammy as she begins today as a United States senator.”

Other LGBT notables at the event were Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force; Brian Bond, director of constituency outreach for the Democratic National Committee; and Peter Rosenstein, a D.C.-based Democratic activist. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillbrand (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also made appearances.

Baldwin’s staff said the senator wasn’t taking questions at the reception. She’s yet to participate in an interview with the Washington Blade since her election, despite numerous requests to her transition team.

Chad Griffin, Paul Ryan, Human Rights Campaign, HRC, Republican Party, Wisconsin, gay news, Washington Blade

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin speaking with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (Washington Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

Paul Ryan mingles with Baldwin supporters at reception

Another notable guest at the reception was fellow Wisconsinite and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, who was the Republican vice presidential nominee last year. He attended the reception early on and left before Baldwin made her appearance.

Ryan’s appearance at a reception largely attended by Baldwin supporters — many of whom are LGBT — is noteworthy because of his anti-gay voting record. Ryan was a keynote speaker during the annual Value Voters Summit last year, which was hosted by the anti-gay Family Research Council.

At the reception, Ryan declined to take questions from the Blade, saying he wasn’t speaking to the media at the occasion.

Griffin was seen talking briefly with Ryan at the reception. Later, Griffin told the Blade he wanted to speak with him because LGBT advocates can’t only engage with their allies.

“Look, it’s just as important that we talk to our friends as it is that we talk to those who are often against us,” Griffin said. “And so, I introduced myself and thanked him for being here at Tammy’s event and told them I hope we can find some things together to work together on.”

Asked for specifics on what they could find in common, Griffin replied, “It was a private conversation. So, I’ll leave it at that. But it was general conversation about my desire to find some common ground on things.”

Ryan, who’s still considered a rising star within the GOP, posed for photos with attendees. Among them was Jo Deutsch, the federal director for the New York-based LGBT group Freedom to Marry. At a point while taking photos, Ryan declared, “We’re all personal friends,” although it’s unclear to whom he was referring.

Kevin Seifert, a Ryan spokesperson, said in response to a request for comment that the congressman was “pleased to attend” the Baldwin reception.

“Congressman Ryan has served with Senator Baldwin for years and he wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate her as the next senator from the great state of Wisconsin,” Seifert added. “As to the conversation with Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, it was a private conversation and I do not have any further information about the nature of their discussion.”

The former vice presidential candidate voted against hate crimes protection and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and voted on two separate occasions for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Still, he was among a handful of Republicans who voted for a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007, although he previously voted in favor of a motion to recommit to scuttle the bill on the House floor.

CORRECTION: An initial version of this article mistakenly identified Jo Deutsch as a Republican. The Blade regrets the error.


Year in review: LGBT issues absent from presidential election

Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, election 2012, Washington Blade, gay news

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

The presidential campaign season came to a close with virtually no reference to LGBT issues — including the hot-button issue of same-sex marriage — in mainstream discourse between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

In each of the three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, not a single reference to LGBT issues was made either by moderators or the participating candidates.

There were some exceptions to this rule. In an Obama radio spot that aired close to Election Day on stations intended for younger listeners, a woman chides others who don’t intend to go to the polls.

“What are you going to tell them,” the woman asks. “You were just too busy? You didn’t think it mattered? Is that what you’re going to tell your friends who can’t get married? The ones who couldn’t serve openly in the military?”

References to the LGBT community also came up numerous times during the Democratic National Convention, such as when Obama said the United States is a place where “we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems — any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.” Obama also touted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in his campaign appearances in swing states.