Buttigieg Is Trump’s Kryptonite

Mayor Pete’s campaign is about finally grabbing ‘freedom, security, and democracy’ back from the GOP, and dashing for higher, non-ideological ground.

Buttigieg Trump

Why is Pete Buttigieg suddenly everywhere? Why has he moved so quickly from obscure flavor of the month to serious contender for the Democratic nomination and the presidency? And why does a 37-year-old gay mayor of a small city in Indiana match up so well against President Trump?

The answers lie not only in his appeal as a fresh-faced, hand-crafted product of the heartland—a whip-smart artisanal candidate for the wine-and-brie part of the party; not only in his barrier-breaking age, sexual orientation, and unorthodox political experience, which have helped him stand out from the pack and allowed many Democrats to congratulate themselves for their open-mindedness; not only in his calm and, for a young guy, surprisingly authoritative comportment that can fairly be described as presidential.

Buttigieg is also going viral because in addition to Spanish, French, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, Farsi, and Norwegian, he speaks a compelling form of English. He is fluent in the subtext of American politics—the ideas and phrases that tap into our deeper sense of who we are and what we owe each other and future generations. At least for now, his generational and aspirational themes are working at a more powerful level than policy proposals or ideological positioning, and they lift him above the cut and thrust of the tiresome news cycle.

TheDailyBeast.com, by Jonathan Alter, April 17, 2018

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WHY I’M AN ORTHODOX RABBI WHO IS GOING TO OFFICIATE LGBTQ WEDDINGS

Shouldn’t our Orthodox communities rush at the opportunity to keep as many Jews, including LGBTQ jews, engaged in their Judaism? Is this the Torah and this its reward?

orthodox LGBTQ

A queer friend of mine from a haredi Orthodox background had posed a query publicly on social media. She had attended a conference on LGBTQ inclusion. There she learned a practice of certain Catholic priests who described going into gay bars in full clerical garb: They would sit in the bar, and when queer Catholics approached them, the priests would affirm God’s love and their belonging place in the church.

My friend asked her community of observant Jews, acknowledging that rabbis don’t have any identifying clerical garb: When might Orthodox rabbis do the same?

As an Orthodox rabbi myself, I was intrigued. I discovered a rainbow kippah online and decided to purchase it.

It managed to garner attention the first day I wore it. A woman took a picture of me and motioned a thumbs-up. A homeless man on the subway who was begging for money approached, pointing to my kippah, and said, “Now I like that,” and bumped my fist. A man in high heels came up to me before getting off his stop and said, “Thanks for the yarmulke.” I even had made my way to the headquarters of Chabad Lubavitch that very same day for a meeting and a Hasid asked me where he could find a kippah like mine. I surmised: The kippah works.

But what is it symbolizing and is it enough?

The kippah is a symbol of my commitment to God, to Torah and the Jewish people. To me, the rainbow kippah is also a symbol that God and Judaism love you no matter your sexual orientation.

I understand that the plain reading of Leviticus considers homosexual sex a “toevah,” often translated as an abomination. I understand that Jewish law views kiddushin, the ritual ceremony of marriage, as a legal structure between a man and a woman. I know and respect this.

But I also believe that the Torah does not want human beings to live alone, and supports a covenantal relationship between parties as they build a faithful Jewish home. I know that Judaism has, for thousands of years, had a rich understanding of the diversity of gender identities. I know that the Torah affirms the God-endowed dignity of all human beings.

In the recent film “Boy Erased,” based off Garrard Conley’s memoir describing his experience in a gay conversion program, a scene between a Baptist pastor father and his adult gay son has stayed with me. Conley’s character says something along the lines of “I’ve tried to change, God knows I’ve tried. I can’t change. Now it is your turn.”

www.thejerusalempost.com, April 7, 2019 by Avram Mlotek

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I Wanted to Change the World for Gay Black People. Starting With Myself. Queer Love In Color

I’m working on a book based on my Times article, “Queer Love in Color,” a celebration of the joy and romance that queer couples and families of color share. Here’s how it came about — and how you can help.

queer love in color

Last year, I published an article that changed my life.

I was a few weeks into my job at The New York Times when I realized I was never taught how to love another gay, black man.

I mean, I’d done it. I’ve had fulfilling relationships and I’ve said “I love you” and meant it. But did I really know what I was doing? Did any of us? It’s hard to do something you’ve never seen. For most of my life, the most visible queer couples in media have been white. I’d always been aware of this, but I didn’t realize what it was doing to my head.

So I made a list of all the things in my life I started to question soon after working here.

  • The truth is hard. So hard that The Times, where I’m a digital storytelling and training editor, built an entire advertising campaignaround it. Is it too hard for me? Do I even know how to do journalism? Do I have a basic grasp of the English language?
  • How do I single-handedly reverse over a century of problematic representation and erasure of minority communities by the media? Will it make me Twitter-famous? 
  • How do I learn to love other gay men? When I figure this out, how do I teach the rest of the gay community? 

I got to thinking.

Six months earlier, I had been in Orlando, at a gay bar with a young man named Josean, whose two best friends were murdered in the Pulse Nightclub shooting 357 days earlier. We were searching for Khia, rapper of “My Neck, My Back” fame, who was performing a benefit show for survivors of the shooting and their families. (We never found her.)

Late that evening, I met another young man, who, upon learning I was a journalist, lamented the media’s coverage of the Pulse shooting and its aftermath, and the focus on bloodshed and tragedy over the community’s continuing story of strength and triumph.

I was emotionally overwhelmed by both that story and that moment and felt a clarity of mission that I’d never felt before.

I remember wishing I had someone to talk to. Or alcohol. Or tacos. (There are great tacos in Orlando.)

Instead, back at my hotel, I cried and watched TV and eventually I was no longer awake.

About a year after crying myself to sleep in that Orlando hotel room, I wrote and photographed an article called “Queer Love in Color” for The New York Times. That was a life-changing experience, too, in the literal sense. I grew more optimistic about love, the queer community and our ability to honestly represent the two in our reporting. 

NYTimes.com, April 6, 2019 by Jamal Jordan

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‘License for Discrimination’: Texas Senate Advances Anti-LGBTQ Bill

Doctors, child care providers, counselors and other state-licensed workers who refuse to provide services based on “a sincerely held religious belief” would be protected under Senate Bill 17.

Texas gay marriage

The Texas Senate on Tuesday gave its initial OK to a bill that civil rights advocates say would give state-licensed workers — including doctors, child care providers and counselors — a free pass to discriminate, especially against people in the LGBTQ community.

Senate Bill 17, filed by state Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would bar state agencies that issue occupational licenses from penalizing workers who refuse to provide services based on “a sincerely held religious belief.” A worker could still be sued or fired, but the legislation would provide a legal defense in court, Perry said. The state licenses more than 150 types of workers, from cosmetologists to engineers. The bill would not apply in situations with a risk of death or serious bodily injury.

The bill, which has the support of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, has prompted a vocal backlash. Dozens of people testified against the proposal in a committee hearing last week, while only a handful spoke in favor. Echoing the response to the 2017 “bathroom bill,” businesses including Apple, Google and Dell signed a letter opposing the bill, as well as another measure that would endanger local nondiscrimination policies. During debate Tuesday, Perry said he didn’t read the letter and views his proposal as a moral issue rather than an economic one.

SB 17 tentatively passed the upper chamber on a vote of 19-12, with Democrat Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Republican Kel Seliger of Amarillo bucking party lines. Because the Senate requires a three-fifths majority, the bill would have died without Lucio’s blessing. Two companion House bills have been referred to committees in the lower chamber, but neither has received a hearing.

During floor debate, Seliger questioned whether a state-licensed worker should be able to deny service to a gay couple or a Muslim person. “When do you tell the difference between firmly held religious belief and bias?” he asked. Perry responded that there is “no real definition” of a sincerely held religious belief: “It’s what you practice and what you believe.”

TExasObserver.org, By Vicki Camerillo, April 4, 2019

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Recent wins for LGBTQ families

March arrived like the proverbial lion with a wave of good news for LGBTQ families.

LGBTQ Families

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed a bill Feb. 19 expanding the state’s paid family leave law in a number of ways, including by expanding the definition of “family” to include chosen families and expanding the definition of “parent” to include foster parents and those who become parents via gestational surrogacy.

“New Jersey is now the first state in the nation to offer paid family leave that is inclusive of all families,” according to the Center for American Progress. 

A bill also passed the New York Assembly Judiciary Committee Feb. 27 that would more effectively protect families created through assisted reproductive technologies. The Child-Parent Security Act would legalize gestational surrogacy in the state and simplify the procedure for securing the legal rights of non-biological parents. It has yet to pass the full Assembly and Senate, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has expressed his support.

And in Virginia, the General Assembly on Feb. 22 passed an update to its surrogacy laws that will now give same-sex couples and single parents the same rights as different-sex couples. The legislation, known as Jacob’s Law, is named after the son of two dads who had to fight for their rights to him after he was born with the help of a surrogate. A Virginia court had refused to recognize their Wisconsin surrogate contract, precipitating a long legal battle.

On the federal level, Judge John F. Walter of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Feb. 21 recognized the birthright citizenship of Ethan Dvash-Banks, the son of U.S.-citizen Andrew Dvash-Banks and his Israeli husband Elad Dvash-Banks. Two-year-old Ethan was previously denied recognition of his citizenship—even though his twin brother was granted it.

That means that at least one other family, that of U.S. citizen Allison Blixt and her spouse Stefania Zaccari, an Italian citizen, must continue to fight for their children’s right to be U.S. citizens. Like the Dvash-Banks’, they married abroad while the Defense of Marriage Act was still in effect, and then had two sons, Lucas and Massi. The U.S. State Department refused to recognize their marriage and said that Massi was Allison’s son because she had given birth to him, but Lucas, who was carried by Stefania, was not. It thus has refused to recognize Lucas’ citizenship. The Dvash-Banks victory is thus a step forward, but not the end of the story.

Washington Blade by Dana Rudolph, March 18, 2019

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How ‘Real America’ Became Queer America

The Trump administration may be busy waging culture wars. But in the heartland, it’s never been a better time to be L.G.B.T.

This may seem like a strange time to feel optimistic about the future of L.G.B.T. rights in America. But as a queer transgender woman who has spent most of her adult life in red states, hopeful is exactly how I feel.

In July 2017 — the same month that President Trump announced on Twitter that he would ban transgender troops — I left on a six-week-long road trip across the red states. I wanted to understand what motivated L.G.B.T. people to stay in the heartland at a time when some progressives were still pondering escaping to Canada.

What I learned on the way from Utah to Georgia only reaffirmed what I have come to believe over the past decade: Attitudes toward L.G.B.T. people are changing rapidly in conservative states, and no one inside the Beltway can stop it. This country’s bright queer future is already here, hiding where too few of us care to travel.

From a bird’s-eye perspective, it may not seem that life has changed for L.G.B.T. Americans in so-called flyover country. State laws prohibiting discrimination against them remain elusive in red states — although Utah notably passed one in 2015. But in their absence, midsize cities have become pockets of L.G.B.T. acceptance.

In the West, cities including Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake CityBozeman, Mont.; and Laramie, Wyo., have passed L.G.B.T.-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the past decade. Below the Mason-Dixon line, the list of cities with such laws includes Atlanta and New Orleans; Birmingham, Ala.; and Jackson, Miss. L.G.B.T. Texans have had to fend off all manner of horrific state-level bills, but if they live in Austin, Dallas, Plano or Fort Worth, they have solid local laws on their side. And Midwestern hubs like St. Louis and Omaha likewise offer L.G.B.T. protections.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national L.G.B.T. advocacy organization, is downright cheerful about this trend at a time when queer optimism feels in short supply. In the its 2018 Municipal Equality Index, the group’s president, Chad Griffin, wrote
that “while cynical politicians in Washington, D.C., attempt to roll back our hard-fought progress, many local leaders are championing equality in big cities and small towns from coast to coast.”

And this progress includes transgender people. According to the group’s data, over 180 cities and counties in states whose electoral votes went to Mr. Trump in 2016 now protect employees not just on the basis of sexual orientation but gender identity as well.

On my road trip through what is ostensibly Trump country, I met many L.G.B.T. people who saw no need to flee their conservative home states for the coastal safe havens of generations past, thanks to local progress.

In Utah, I made arts and crafts with transgender and gender-nonconforming teenagers, most of whom belong to Mormon families. Over coffee in the Rio Grande Valley, a nonbinary friend told me that the region’s L.G.B.T. people remain as hardy as the prickly pear cactuses of South Texas. And in an Indiana town where everyone knows everyone, a transgender woman in her 50s told me how much things have changed in her area since she first came out over the course of the 2000s.

by Samantha Allen, New York Times, March 14, 2019

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‘I Have to Stay Alive’: Gay Brazilian Lawmaker Gives Up Seat Amid Threats

An openly gay federal Brazilian lawmaker who has frequently clashed with the country’s new far-right president said on Thursday that he was giving up his seat because of death threats.

The lawmaker, Jean Wyllys, a fierce advocate for gay rights who was due to be sworn in for a third term in February, said in an interview with the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that “this environment isn’t safe for me” after the assassination of a political ally last March and violence that followed the election of the president, Jair Bolsonaro, in October.

“For the future of this cause,” Mr. Wyllys said, “I have to stay alive. I don’t want to be a martyr.” He added that he was currently on vacation abroad and did not plan to return to Brazil.

Mr. Wyllys called Mr. Bolsonaro, a former colleague of his in the lower house of Congress, “a president who always vilified me, who always openly insulted me, who was always homophobic with me.”

In 2016, Mr. Wyllys responded by spitting at Mr. Bolsonaro during the hearing to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. Mr. Bolsonaro, before reinventing himself as a fighter of political corruption and rampant violence, was best known for delivering verbal attacks on women, black people and gay people from the congressional floor. 

Shortly after Mr. Wyllys’ interview was published, Mr. Bolsonaro, who was in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, tweeted “Great day!” and a thumbs-up emoticon. Supporters weighed in, many with homophobic comments.

Mr. Wyllys has been the target of death threats for years, but he said those threats had become more severe after Marielle Franco, a human rights advocate who was his friend and political ally, was assassinated.

NYTimes.com, January 25, 2019 by Shasta Darlington

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Supreme Court Revives Transgender Ban for Military Service

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the Trump administration’s request to allow it to bar most transgender people from serving in the military while cases challenging the policy make their way to the court.

Trump LGBT

The administration’s policy reversed a 2016 decision by the Obama administration to open the military to transgender service members. It generally prohibits transgender people from military service but makes exceptions for those already serving openly and those willing to serve “in their biological sex.”

The vote to lift two injunctions blocking the policy issued by lower courts was 5 to 4, with the Supreme Court’s five conservative members in the majority.

Lawyers questioning the new policy said there was no need to enforce it while the cases challenging it moved forward.

“Transgender people have been serving openly in all branches of the United States military since June 2016, including on active duty in combat zones,” their brief said. “Transgender individuals have been permitted to enlist in the military since January 2018.”

“The government has presented no evidence that their doing so harms military readiness, effectiveness or lethality,” the brief said.

In granting stays of injunctions issued by Federal District Court judges in California and Washington State, the justices in the majority may have been influenced by the complaint by the administration that lower courts have been able to frustrate its policies by the issuance of injunctions applying to the entire country.

“It is with great reluctance that we seek such emergency relief in this court,” Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco wrote. “Unfortunately, this case is part of a growing trend in which federal district courts, at the behest of particular plaintiffs, have issued nationwide injunctions, typically on a preliminary basis, against major policy initiatives.”

“Such injunctions previously were rare, but in recent years they have become routine,” he wrote. “In less than two years, federal courts have issued 25 of them, blocking a wide range of significant policies involving national security, national defense, immigration and domestic issues.”

New York Times, January 22, 2019 by Adam Liptak

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LGBT refugees more vulnerable in Trump’s America

Since Donald Trump became president, I have never seen so much hate being meted out against immigrants, let alone LGBT refugees and asylum seekers like me. 

lgbt refugees

I am from the Democratic Republic of Congo and fled my homeland to escape homophobia. I made my way to South Africa, but experienced additional mistreatment because of my race and gender identity. This mistreatment included a police officer who broke my wrist. I came to the U.S. on Nov. 20, 2014. I was working on fighting housing and employment discrimination. Some of the people who I met were very friendly and welcoming.

After Trump’s election in 2016, internalized hatred of LGBT immigrants and refugees became a reality. I lost my job simply because I am a gay immigrant. I could see the different treatment of LGBT Americans, I have been forced out of housing, harassed at school, treated like a social outcast everywhere I go. I filed a discrimination case pending with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing on the basis of immigration status that was ultimately dismissed because I believe the very people who were discriminating against me contacted the DFEH and probably told them that I am a black tranny immigrant who has no rights in Trump’s America. I have been a target of police surveillance for months. It has been a living hell in a safe haven. 

Most of my harassers happen to be mostly gay men or transgender women. I think it is because my gender transcends the male and female gender binary. Homonationalism — the abandonment of intersectional activism that leaves the door open to racism, xenophobia, capitalism and the promotion of one’s own interests — is real and I see it everyday. The last time that I went to socialize in a gay-friendly environment I was verbally attacked at a bar in the Castro simply because I was talking to a handsome gay American man. I tried to defend myself and then those gay men threatened to call the police on me and then took me by the throat and escorted me outside. I was walking past the same area the next day and I saw them laughing at me and saying that I am not allowed to socialize in that area again. 

The reason why I am writing this is because we as LGBT people shouldn’t be fighting against each other or hating each other because that is what our homophobic enemies want from us. They want to divide us in order to conquer us. 

In my experience, most LGBT Americans who I have met treated me like an outsider, an outcast, an enemy, an alien who must go back to where I came from. I don’t know where this intense hatred is coming from. We say we support human rights and equality, and those rights are not only American. They are universal and of course LGBT people are universal. Some are tolerated in their countries but some are persecuted. This is why we are seeking asylum because simply living openly in our countries means death and the communities of our countries in Canada, America or Western Europe come with their homophobia attached to them, so there is no place for us among them. 

WashingtonBlade.com, by Junior Nsamia Mayema – January 11, 2019

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The Justice Department OK’d My Firing in the Name of Religious Liberty


Michael J. Stern, who nearly lost his job as a federal prosecutor due to antigay bias, wonders what additional damage Trump’s “religious liberty” moves will bring.

During his tenure as Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a Religious Liberty Task Force. This task force, powered by the federal government’s Department of Justice, is supposed to ensure religious liberty for all. But I know the real intent behind its creation. You see, I have been on the receiving end of DOJ’s efforts to spread religious liberty. It nearly cost me my career and pulled me into a rabbit hole of depression from which I was unsure I’d escape.   

After finishing law school in the mid-1980s, I moved back to my hometown in Michigan and was hired by a state prosecutor’s office just outside of Detroit.  I loved the work. I was prosecuting murder, rape, and child abuse cases, and I felt a sense of accomplishment in making my community safer. I was working 70-hour weeks, and I quickly rose through the ranks to the elite handful of attorneys who handled only felony trials. I had a track record of success with difficult cases, and the elected prosecutor had confidence in my work, so he often assigned me to high-profile cases that got a lot of media attention. Soon I was recruited by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit. 

I felt a beaming sense of pride when the Department of Justice offered me a job as a federal prosecutor. When I joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a month before the decade rolled into 1990, I was 29, the youngest federal prosecutor in an office of more than 100 attorneys. Even in gray Detroit, I saw only blue skies ahead of me. 

Like all other newly hired federal prosecutors, until my security clearance was completed, I was allowed to work but not access classified information. A few months into the job, two FBI agents walked into my office unannounced. After introducing themselves, they informed me that they had been assigned to investigate my application for a security clearance. I could tell from the looks on their faces that something was wrong. 

One of the agents asked me if I led an “alternative lifestyle.” I knew what he meant. In that moment of panic, I weighed my options. I responded with my default setting: I told the truth. “I do not lead an ‘alternative lifestyle,’ but if you’re asking me if I’m gay, the answer to that question is yes.” 

The brief discussion that ensued was not pretty. What I remember most from the discussion were the phrases “moral standards,” “subject to blackmail,” and “possible discharge.” I assured the FBI agents that I was not subject to blackmail.  My close family and friends knew that I was gay, and if I had to, I would be willing to come out more publicly to foreclose any possibility that being gay would subject me to blackmail. But that did not work. Although the agents were polite and professional, they made clear that a gay man did not meet the DOJ’s moral standards. When I asked if my job was in jeopardy, they answered yes. 

By Michael Stern, Advocate.com, January 7, 2019

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