July 16, 2021

July LGBTQ+ Newsletter

Editorial: Another Pride Day added to our history

by Betsy Ettorre

The DA June Pride month was packed with, well with, prideful events. Including a commemoration by President Biden to the Pulse Nightclub 2016 tragedy.
Our July newsletter contains summaries of our June 20 Equality Act program, a report of the webinar with Tammy Baldwin, a thoughtful reflection on what pride means, and the White House’s homage to the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting in Florida.
As President Biden said during that program, “This afternoon, we celebrate. Tomorrow we go back to work”.
There’s a lot of work to do and we are looking for volunteers to help.  

Can you write, edit and/or proofread? Do you have IT skills you can share?  
Please see our request to find LGBTQ volunteer newsletter writers as well as our search for volunteers to share their poetic expressions in our ongoing quest for equity.
We hope you had a great 4th of July! 

Pride is back, and a big deal, with Biden as President

by Fred Kuhr

“Pride is back at the White House.”

President Joe Biden said those words during a Pride event in the White House East Room on June 24. In fact, June was a very pro-LGBTQ+ month for the new administration.

Earlier in the day, Biden signed a law designating the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., a national memorial. At the ceremony, survivors of the 2016 mass shooting at the LGBTQ+ dance club surrounded the president while photos of the 49 people killed were shown on video screens.

“A place of acceptance and joy became a place of unspeakable pain and loss,” Biden said at the signing. “We’ll never fully recover, but we’ll remember.”

The bill will “enshrine in perpetuity … a monument to a loss that occurred there and absolute determination that we’re going to deal with this every single, solitary day and make sure that we’re not in a position to see this happen again,” Biden said. “… May no president ever have to sign another monument like this.”

Biden said that Pulse victims were “family members, parents, friends, veterans, students, young, Black, Asian, Latino, all fellow Americans. And in their memory, and for the countless others forever scarred, is why I sign this today.”

The onePulse Foundation, which was lobbying for the memorial, issued a statement “that our federal government recognizes the depth of the tragedy of Pulse.”

Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison, DNC Secretary Jason Rae and DNC LGBTQ Caucus Chair Earl Fowlkes also released a statement commemorating the Pulse mass shooting. “Today, we renew our commitment to making possible a world where LGBTQ people, including LGBTQ people of color, are valued, loved and safe.”

The signing was also attended by out Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin; out Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island; Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, the first transgender administration official ever confirmed by the Senate; Lt. Col. Bree Fram, one of the highest-ranking transgender members of the U.S. military; First Lady Dr. Jill Biden; and trans youth activists Stella Keating and Ashton Mota of the GenderCool Project.

Later in the East Room, Biden was joined by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Senate-confirmed cabinet secretary in American history.

While the mood was festive, Biden and Buttigieg both warned that the fight for equality is not over. Biden called on the Senate to pass the Equality Act, which would expand current federal civil rights laws to include LGBTQ+ Americans. He also took aim at state legislation targeting transgender Americans — particularly trans youth — calling such laws “some of the ugliest, most un-American laws I’ve seen.”

To that end, the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Education filed a joint brief June 17 in support of a transgender girl who is suing her state of West Virginia for the right to participate in school sports. The brief argues that it is illegal under both Title IX and the U.S. Constitution for states to ban transgender youth from sports.

The next day, the DOJ filed another brief, this time in Arkansas, arguing that state’s new anti-trans law as unconstitutional. The Arkansas law, seen as the harshest anti-trans bill passed this year, specifically bars trans youth from accessing gender-affirming healthcare.

Despite the fights ahead, said Biden at the Pride event, “This afternoon, we celebrate. Tomorrow we go back to work. Progress won’t come easy. It never has. But we’re going to stand strong, stand together.”

As part of that work, Biden formally announced the appointment of Jessica Stern as U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons, a position that advocates for human rights abroad. Previously, Stern was executive director of New York-based OutRight Action International, which addresses anti-LGBTQ+ human rights violations and abuses.

The position was created as part of the State Department in 2015 under President Barack Obama. The previous envoy, Randy Berry, left the position in 2017, and the previous Republican president chose not to fill the position.

Stern’s appointment fulfills a promise from Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at his confirmation hearing to hire someone for the role. Earlier this year, Blinken fulfilled another promise to allow U.S. embassies to fly the Pride flag, overturning the policy of the previous administration.

Back in Washington, cabinet departments were also making Pride flag history. Notably, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland — the first Indigenous cabinet secretary in U.S. history —raised the Progress Pride flag over their respective department headquarters for the first time. This is particularly noteworthy at Interior, since one of her Republican predecessors in the last administration went so far as to remove sexual orientation from the department’s anti-discrimination policy.

“The Department of the Interior is committed to telling the rich, diverse story of America and lifting up underrepresented peoples and communities,” said Haaland. “Despite many hard-fought victories, there is still a long way to go to ensure full liberation, peace, and equality for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Also, to celebrate Pride Month, the White House installed an exhibit highlighting LGBTQ+ history and artifacts. Showcased in the Ground Floor Corridor, it is the first-ever display of historical items — borrowed from the Smithsonian’s National Museum on American History — regarding the LGBTQ+ community. 

The corridor with the exhibit is also illuminated in Pride colors, another White House first.

Reflections on Pride Month 2021

by Adriana Smith

Pride month’s first post-COVID celebration necessitated more memes & emoji flags than parades, and I found myself reflecting on the meaning of pride.

Google says pride is, “a deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements or the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated.”

I never felt compelled to celebrate my satisfaction or “achievement” of being gay; it felt superfluous. I associated being “proud” with egregious patriotism—until 2015 when I asked my wife to marry me on June 23rd, her birthday.

We were living in Guatemala, and I had no idea how we would get married, just that I wanted to share a life with her. Then, just three days later, while at a work lunch, I got a New York Times alert about the Supreme Court decision for federal marriage equality.  I jumped out of my chair, and announced to the table—people who didn’t even know I was gay—my deep pleasure and satisfaction.   A federal recognition of marriage equality also meant a much easier path for fiancé(e) visas and internationally recognized marriage certificates.

The next day was the Pride parade in Guatemala City and I was ready to celebrate. I was not only proud to have my relationship recognized through legal civil status, but also proud to be an American—a sentiment long-buried under shame and privilege. We joined the pride march to the National Palace the next day, donned with pride flags painted on one arm. And on the other—I had red, white, and blue stripes, full of pride.

Google gives a second definition for pride, “consciousness of one's own dignity”. This one seems more fitting. 

Sen. Tammy Baldwin addresses Democrats Abroad

by Irene Chriss

Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin’s junior senator, has a consistently progressive voting record and is the first openly LGBT woman elected to both the House of Representatives (1999) and the Senate (2013). In 2020, Baldwin was named one of 50 heroes “leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people.”

On June 16, Sen. Baldwin spoke with Democrats Abroad’s LGBTQ+ Caucus in celebration of Pride Month.

Baldwin reflected on the 1969 Stonewall Riots and how they ignited a movement that launched June’s Pride Month, along with decades of protests that slowly and steadily altered local, state, national and corporate policies to recognize the LGBTQ+ population’s civil rights. She noted that in 2021, we witnessed an historic House and Senate hearing on the Equity Act. While the House passed the bill, Senate Republicans blocked it by threatening a filibuster, thus circumventing a simple majority of 51 votes.

Baldwin pressed for the need to keep pushing to pass the Equality Act, which would add LGBTQ+ protections to current civil rights law. “There are still 23 jurisdictions around the country that lack protection for full equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community,” she said. Baldwin, along with Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Cory Booker of New Jersey, have identified five to six Republicans who “expressed a yearning to get to yes” using the current Senate rules. Baldwin said they will continue down that path, but an additional 10 votes will be needed to thwart any filibuster that might occur. 

Throughout the webinar, Baldwin emphasized her goal to repeal or to reform the filibuster.  She pointed out the Senate’s very slim Democratic majority and how a filibuster would force the struggle to obtain 60 votes rather than a simple majority to pass “very straight forward resolutions.”

Baldwin branded the filibuster as a tool to block civil rights and voting rights as well as a manoeuvre to preserve highly partisan legislation. For example, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York requested the Senate examine the January 6, 2021, insurrection’s attempt to block Biden’s presidential victory. His request was obstructed with a filibuster threat. A few weeks later, Sen. Schumer proposed the Fairness Act to equalize pay for women, and this too was blocked by a filibuster threat. “Common sense issues were again blocked and sadly, I have no doubts that the People’s Voting Rights legislation will meet the same fate. Using the filibuster to reject common sense issues is absurd.”

Baldwin reminded the audience that President Biden wanted to return the country to a better place than it was before he took office — to “build back better,” as he says. “The American Rescue Plan represents a major piece of legislation which helped the country get through the pandemic. We were able to pass this plan without a single Republican vote in either house and there will be other successes to follow.”

With a tip of the hat to Democrats living abroad, she said, “There are 6.5 million Americans living abroad who are eligible to vote." Without their vote to support the Democratic candidates, the American Jobs Plan and the American Family Plan both risk being blocked by the filibuster’s mandate of 60 votes rather than a simple majority.

Budget reconciliation, which can be used to advance budget related issues, played a key role in passing the America Rescue Act, she said.  “We can make a strong argument that Immigration Reform has a significant budget impact. Keeping families together is a moral argument in order to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

As a wedge issue to block the Equality Act, Senate Republicans have used the issue of transgender youth participating in school sports. “This one issue is getting the most calls and letters from conservative groups because, I believe, it has been poll tested,” she said. Children should have equal access to all the opportunities their schools offer. “Transgender exclusion from any of these opportunities is wrong” and “we know that discriminatory efforts take a mental and physical toll on our youth”.

With a word of warning regarding next year’s congressional elections, Baldwin cautioned, “Historically, the party in opposition to the sitting President fares well in midterm elections. As Democrats, we need to focus on Biden’s successes such as the American Rescue Plan and the transformative difference it has made. It is possible to disrupt the mid-term legacy.”

She further said that each time we speak out against these injustices we educate the American public and move our collective voice towards gaining passage of this legislation. “Those 23 jurisdictions around the country that don’t have non-discrimination protection for LGBTQ+ people, along with the 6.5 million Americans living abroad with a vote, need to receive our message. We need to say, ‘This is what Democrats do when you put us in the majority and in the White House.’”

State, federal legislation in the spotlight during Pride panel

by Betsy Ettore and Fred Kuhr

As part of the daylong Pride celebration held by Democrats Abroad’s LGBTQ+ Caucus on June 20, state-wide and national leaders addressed issues of state legislation targeting the community as well as the need for the federal Equality Act.

Earl Fowlkes, chair of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBTQ+ Caucus, said that while the Equality Act passed the House, it stalled in the Senate due to the threat of a Republican filibuster. “We need 10 to 11 Republicans to make it a law,” said Fowlkes.

He also spoke of how Republicans are using transgender youth as a wedge issue to block the legislation. “Every time Republicans want to attack the LGBTQ+ population, they attack the most vulnerable – transgender people. Republicans have gone after transgender athletes, and think this is an advantage. They are appealing to their base with the idea there is something nefarious about someone changing their gender to play sports. They say it is unfair, untrue, and unscientific. They are still going along with Trump as they are attacking transgender athletes,” he said.

Then there are those Democrats in the Senate — such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona — who oppose changing filibuster rules to allow the Equality Act to pass. Fowlkes said Biden will just have to compromise with them. “There needs to be some horse trading,” he said. “The problem is that bipartisanship is gone. There is no place for moderates and now the fight is on the state level.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, blasted her state’s legislature for passing anti-trans legislation in her state, one of about 30 states to do so.

"They are misusing research to justify their attacks and they are attacking trans rights. What they are trying to evoke are the emotions of a trans girl winning on a men’s team. They are interrogating black female athletes,” said Smith. “Their attacks are also directed toward lesbians. Think of Martina Navratilova; Martina was always suspect. This is all part of the anti-LGBTQ+ narrative. There has been a history of inspecting the gender of people in sports.”

Smith also put these latest attacks in the context of the fear of the “browning of America.”

“All these ideas are about the fear of a multi-racial America,” Smith said. “People are fearful and see things that are different as something to be criminalized. When you look at the whitewashing of history, these people do not want the government to be accountable to slavery. There is an ignorant reductionism of what our history is, and it is all about who is legitimately American.”

Currently, the filibuster remains an obstacle in the Senate to a host of issues important to Democrats from the Equality Act to voting rights. So, what’s the best way forward on that front?

“I believed it protected Democrats when they were in the minority,” said Fowlkes. “But now, I think we need to pass these bills and we may not [have the chance] to do it for another generation.”

For Smith, “It is time that we think about the history of the filibuster and its origins. Is this how a democracy should function? Republicans will use any argument at the moment. Democrats need to get back to principles and how the individual votes really count. How do we get a minority to stop a majority? How can we get to voters who do not turn up? We [need] to get LGBTQ+ people to vote.”

Despite all the naysaying, Fowlkes remains optimistic. “Anything is possible. We need to get out the vote and have LGBTQ+ Democrats who can have input into the congressional process and help to mobilize the party. We need to keep our eyes on the prize, and we need to win this.”

The panel also included Shawn Gaylord, executive director of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, and was moderated by Toronto-based freelance journalist Fred Kuhr, co-editor of the Democrats Abroad LGBTQ+ Caucus Newsletter and a member of DA Canada.

Reporter needed for the DA LGBTQ+ Newsletter Team

Help us report on key events related to the LGBTQ+ caucus both at home and abroad.

What does being a reporter involve?

• Good writing skills
• Meeting via Zoom once a month (usually the 2nd or 3rd Thursday) for an hour (12.00 or 13.00 EST) with the Newsletter team 
• Viewing the LGBTQ+ events you’ll be reporting on and writing an 800–1000-word report
• Submitting contributions by the deadline date.
• Being a member of DA LGBTQ+

If you are interested in being a reporter and member of our Newsletter team please email, [email protected] with the subject “Newsletter Reporter”. We look forward to hearing from you.

Looking for LGBTQ+ Poet Laureates

Do you or one of your friends write poetry? We invite you to submit your original poems in Word for possible inclusion in our future newsletters ([email protected]).

Poetry must be in English, using any poetic style and on any subject related to the LGBTQ+ Community.

All poems must be an original work.

Poems should be no more than two 2 pages with a minimum 11pt font size.

Video entries are eligible but must include a text version of the poem.
Poets must be a member of Democrats Abroad and a member of the LGBTQ+ Caucus. Any member of Democrats Abroad who believes in furthering the rights of LGBTQ+ people can join the LGBTQ+ Caucus.

Submissions are due no later than Friday, August 27, 2021, 23.59 EST. Please send entries to: [email protected] 

New Pride products on the Global Swag Shop 
Please See: democratsabroad.org/swag