February 2021 LGBTQ+ Newsletter

Letter from the Editors 

Black History Month & Equality Act

This month’s Democrats Abroad LGBTQ+ Newsletter is commemorating Black History month, which is an “an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans  and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. This month event grew out of 'Negro History Week,' the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.”

We welcome Sarah Fancy back, who is recovering from Covid-19.

This Newsletter includes Christian’s article reflecting on the Black Lives Matter Movement. Fred looks at the imminent re-introduction of the Equality Act in Congress and President Biden’s relevant appointments and executive orders. Betsy asks if LGBTQ+ members are interested in DA leadership roles in the upcoming DA elections. As usual, Fenna compiles pertinent events.  

Now that we are settling into the Biden administration, we continue to be hopeful as LGBTQ+ Americans. 

We hope you enjoy this issue.

Betsy Ettorre & Sarah Fancy


In The News

The Equality Act remains priority for Biden’s first 100 days

By Fred Kuhr

Now that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been sworn into office, many LGBTQI+ activists are expecting the president to keep the promise he made last year to make the Equality Act — legislation to prohibit anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination — a top legislative priority in his first 100 days in office.

“To help achieve our vision of equality, I will make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days — a priority that Donald Trump opposes,” Biden said last October. “This is essential to ensuring that no future president can ever again roll back civil rights and protections for LGBTQI+ individuals, including when it comes to housing.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the country’s largest LGBTQI+ lobby group, the Equality Act “would provide consistent and explicit anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQI+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.”

While many states have such laws on the books, many do not — and the protections vary from state to state. Currently, federal civil rights laws protect people on the basis of race, color, national origin, and in most cases, sex, disability, and religion. But federal law does not explicitly protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act as well as other laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

The proposed law — sponsored by openly gay Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island — passed the U.S. House of Representatives in the last Congress by a vote of 236 to 173 (all Democrats and only eight Republicans). But it was never taken up by Mitch McConnell’s Republican-majority Senate, and no one expected the former president to sign the bill into law.

Despite Republican opposition in Washington, the bill enjoys majority and bipartisan support across the country. According to HRC, the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that support for a bill like the Equality Act topped 70 percent nationally. The bill has been endorsed by more than 600 organizations, including civil rights, education, health care, and faith-based organizations.

In addition, there is strong business support for the Equality Act. The legislation has been endorsed by the Business Coalition for the Equality Act, a group of more than 320 major companies with operations in all 50 states, headquarters spanning 33 states, and a collective revenue of $5.7 trillion, according to HRC. In total, these companies employ more than 12.3 million people across the country. More than 60 business associations including the Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce have also endorsed the measure.

Now that Democrats control the Senate, albeit narrowly, activists and legislators are more optimistic about its passage.

But some worry that the Senate may still remain a roadblock, either with slowing down the legislation or not passing it at all. According to Out Magazine, “Multiple unnamed sources on a [pre-inauguration] call between LGBTQI+ activists and the Biden transition team reported that a quick passage of the act might not be possible after all.”

They reportedly cited work on the contentious COVID-19 relief package as well as the Trump impeachment trial as some of the reasons for the delay. A report in LGBTQI+ Nation also noted that some on the call worry that the Senate may not even have the votes to pass the legislation.

Therefore, despite Democrats controlling both houses of Congress as well as the White House, activists and others shouldn’t take victory for granted — and that lobbying lawmakers remains vital.

“I think we’ve gotten the commitments that we expected and hoped for and sought from the Biden team and from legislative leadership,” one unnamed LGBTQI+ advocate told the Washington Blade newspaper, noting the importance of holding the Biden Administration accountable while at the same time “understanding that the country, our democracy, and the ability of people to actually live is going to take priority.”

Democrats Abroad has set up a Legislative Issues Group to work for passage of the Equality Act. If you’d like to get involved, learn more about the proposed legislation and help make equality under the law a reality, contact the LGBTQ+ Caucus.

Black Lives Matter Movement – The World’s Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

By Christian Walker

Since its founding in 2013, the Black Lives Matter has grown into an international movement. The founders of the hashtag and call to action, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, created the Black-centered political will and movement in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. What they did not know when it all began was that the hashtag and call to action would be the beginning of the biggest cultural shift and social justice movement in modern history. 

According to the movement’s official page, Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. Black Lives Matter has been a phrase uttered during protest across the country due to police brutality against Black Americans. For years, the phrase was only used by Black Americans and social justice activists. On May 26th, 2020, however, the phrase gained support around the globe due to the murder of George Floyd. 

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was arrested after allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store in a neighborhood in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd was held face down in the street, a scene too many Black Americans can relate to. While Floyd lay face down on the ground, an officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes. Floyd screamed “I can’t breathe” while two other officers further restrained Floyd, and a fourth prevented onlookers from intervening. During the last two minutes, Floyd shouted ‘Mama… Mama I’m through!’ Those are some of the last words that Floyd spoke before his tragic death. 

Since May 26th, 2020, there have been protests around the world calling for the end to systemic and systematic racism. In June 2020, the Pew Research Center found that nearly 70% of American adults supported the Black Lives Matter Movement. In September, the number dropped to 55% of American adults who support the Black Lives Matter Movement. But this year, the Black Lives Matter movement achieved an incredible accomplishment: the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation won Sweden’s Olof Palme Human Rights Prize for 2020 for promoting ‘peaceful civil disobedience against police brutality and racial violence across the globe.’ In addition, Black Lives Matter has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Mr. Petter Eide, a Norwegian Member of Parliament. In his nomination papers, Eide states:

“I find that one of the key challenges we have seen in America, but also in Europe and Asia, is the kind of increasing conflict based on inequality . . . Black Lives Matter has become a very important worldwide movement to fight racial injustice . . . They have had a tremendous achievement in raising global awareness and consciousness about racial injustice.

The nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize is a recognition to those in America and around the world that their efforts toward providing equal justice and ending racism are being heard. To the activist participating in peaceful protests to ensure that the world knows that Black Lives Matter, this nomination is for you. 

To the Americans who challenge their family members during Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, who maintained their support after the attention and spotlight was removed from the protest, who crossed political ideology and marched in protest to protect Black Lives, who understand that Black Lives Matter is not anti-police, but against police brutality, who have been marching for social justice since the Civil Rights movement since the 1950s, who understand the amount of racial discrimination Black Americans face on a daily basis, this nomination is for you. 

To the Canadians who protested the shooting death of Andrew Loku, Jermaine Carby, and Regis Korchinski-Pacquet at the hands of police; who are protesting in hopes to achieve equity for Black Canadians, who stood in solidarity and protested against police brutality in America, this nomination is for you. 

To the Dutch who, every Christmas holiday season, boycott Zwarte Piet and suggest the character is a prime example of racism and traces of slavery present in the traditions of modern-day Dutch culture, to those who understand that Zwarte Piet depicts Black people as second-class citizens and viewed them  as ‘the help’ and, in turn, would be translated into the way one subconsciously treats Black people, to the call in the Netherlands for a ban on police chokeholds in their police forces, to those who protested in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protestors around the world in front of the Royal Palace, this nomination is for you. 

To the French who gathered throughout Paris who sought ‘Justice pour Adama’, to those who demanded justice for MP Danièle Obono, who had an image depicted of her as a slave, to those who won’t accept France’s new model of color-blindness, this nomination is for you. 

To the English who protest in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protesters in the United States, to the English who stopped their cars and applauded as protestors marched for Black lives, to those who protected protestors from ‘counter-protestors’, to those who took down statues of slave owners, who understand that BAME is counterproductive, offensive, and needs to be rejected, who urge each other to learn about the struggles of Black British and why they’re tired of talking about racism, who bought “Why I am no longer talking to White People About Race” and actually read it, this nomination is for you. 

To the Japanese who understand that racism is widespread in Japan, who stood in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters in America, who supported Ariana Miyamoto. To those who supported Naomi Osaka when commentators joked about her needing to bleach her skin, this nomination is for you.

Naomi Osaka, Composite: Getty; AP

To the thousands of Germans that crowded Alexanderplatz square and remained silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds, to the Black and brown Germans who created a digital platform called Black Brown Berlin to dispel the notion that they are not part of German history and to showcase Black-owned businesses. To the friends and family of Oury Jalloh, who, after he was burned to death while tied to a bed in police custody, relentlessly pursued justice for him, this nomination is for you.

To the officers in the line of duty, who joined our rallying cry, who realized that Black Lives Matter protesters deserve their protection, who realized that just because someone is Black does not automatically mean they fit the description of their suspect, but rather that of a human being, who told Black Lives Matter protesters “I’m marching with you,” this nomination is for you. 

To the veterans who may not fully understand what BLM is and why we are protesting, but protect our right to protest; who understand why we protest and speak out on our behalf, this nomination is for you. 

For all those who continue to stand up to injustice, near and far, at home and abroad, from sea to shining sea, this nomination is for you.

New administration means pro-LGBTQI+ policies and personnel

By Fred Kuhr

Elections have consequences, and the election and inauguration of the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris ticket has resulted in a slew of LGBTQI+ appointments and policy changes that are enjoying majority support throughout the country.

One of Biden’s most high-profile appointments has been former primary rival Pete Buttigieg, and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to become Transportation Secretary. The 86-13 vote on February 2nd to confirm Buttigieg in the U.S. Senate makes him the nation’s 19th transportation secretary, the fifth member of Biden’s cabinet to be confirmed, and the first openly gay Senate-approved cabinet secretary in U.S. history.

His January 21st Senate confirmation hearing also made history, with Buttigieg thanking his husband. “I also want to take a moment to introduce my husband, Chasten Buttigieg, who is here with me today,” he said. “I’m proud to have him by my side, and I want to thank him for his many sacrifices and his support in making it possible for me to pursue public service.”

Pete & Chasten Buttigieg, Chris Kleponis - Pool via CNP / EFE

While Buttigieg came into the hearing enjoying bipartisan support — he was even introduced by Sen. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican — 13 GOP members voted against his confirmation. They included Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

Another high-profile Biden appointment is Dr. Rachel Levine as Assistant Secretary of Health. Currently the Pennsylvania Health Secretary, Levine is poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

Other LGBTQI+ personnel picks by the Biden Administration include former ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford as Chief of Protocol at the State Department, a role that also requires Senate confirmation. The job means Gifford would be in charge of overseeing State Department functions, arranging itineraries for visiting foreign dignitaries, and accompanying Biden on all official international trips.

Biden has tapped Jeff Marootian, the openly gay director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, to become Special Assistant to the President for Climate and Science Agency Personnel. In his new position, Marootian will reportedly advise Biden about staff positions dealing with environmental and scientific issues. He previously served in the Obama Administration, including as Chief Sustainability Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Jeff Marootian, DDOT DC / Twitter.com

And Brendan Cohen, who credits then-Vice President Biden with the inspiration to come out as gay during high school, will serve as Platform Manager, running the president’s social media accounts and websites.

Cohen — an Appleton, Wisconsin native who is only 26 — told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Biden’s 2012 appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” during which Biden announced his support for marriage equality, inspired him to come out both as gay and as a Democrat. 

“In high school, as I was coming to terms with the fact that I was a gay man, I realized pretty early on that one political party supported my rights and the other didn’t,” he told the newspaper. “It was the initial spark that got me to start paying attention and got me involved.”

On the policy front, Biden signed two LGBTQ executive orders amidst the slew of orders issued in his first week in office. In fact, on his very first day Biden issued what was called a “sweeping” executive order protecting LGBTQI+ people against discrimination in schools, health care, employment, and other areas.

The order mandates that the government use a broad interpretation of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Rostock v. Clayton County. In the ruling, the Court said that gay and transgender employees are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “because of sex” (the act does not currently explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity). The previous administration had interpreted the decision narrowly and only applied it to employment.

The executive order also requires all federal agencies to review current regulations to ensure that anti-discrimination policies include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Perhaps surprisingly, this executive order is Biden’s most popular, according to polling from Morning Consult and Ipsos. The LGBTQI+ order has the support of 83 percent of all Americans, and even 64 percent of Republicans.

Biden’s other pro-LGBTQI+ executive order repeals the previous administration’s ban on transgender Americans joining the military.

Biden is also taking the fight for LGBTQI+ civil rights global. In his first remarks at State Department headquarters on February 4, Biden said his goal is “to further repair our moral leadership,” including on LGBTQI+ issues. “We’ll ensure diplomacy and foreign assistance are working to promote the rights of those individuals,” said Biden, “including by combating criminalization, and protecting LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers.”

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has committed to allowing U.S. embassies to fly Pride flags again — the previous administration had forbidden it — and to reappointing a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons, a post the previous administration never filled. (U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican known for backing QAnon conspiracy theories, has already introduced a bill to ban the rainbow flag at embassies, calling it the “Hate America flag.”)

An another change under the new administration, visitors to WhiteHouse.gov now have the option of choosing their pronouns from a drop-down menu. Options include “she/her,” “he/him,” “they/them,” “other” (where visitors can write in their own pronouns), or “prefer not to share.” The list of prefixes also now includes “Mx.” along with “Mr.” “Mrs.” and “Ms.”

Run for leadership in your Country Committee and help bring LGBTQ+ issues forward

By Betsy Ettorre

Democrats Abroad Country Committees will be holding elections for new Executive Committees in 2021. DA is committed to having diverse leadership, and the LGBTQ+ Caucus encourages members to run for a leadership role at the chapter, country or global level. 

Democrats Abroad has 45 Country Committees throughout Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Africa and Asia and members live in more than 200 countries around the globe. These Country Committees keep Americans abroad informed of their rights and help them participate in the U.S. political process. The membership of Country Committees include: Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and Member-at-Large.

You can nominate yourself by sending in your name and the position for which you are being nominated. Contact your local chapter or country committee or visit Countries Page for election dates and deadlines. 

Committees are also looking for volunteers to serve on the nominations committees and to volunteer for committee roles. If you are interested in serving on a committee, please contact a representative of your country committee for more information. 

It’s fun to be on a Country Committee, so be bold and nominate yourself.

Want to learn more? Join one of our Speed Networking & Leadership Development sessions, these will introduce you to the larger DA organization and its leaders. 

These are designed to demystify the process of running for office within DA.  

Asia-Pacific Leadership Workshop

EMEA Leadership Workshop

Americas Leadership Workshop


Upcoming events - Black History Month

Black History Month Jeopardy

BHM- John Lewis: Good Trouble Film Screening (1)

BHM- John Lewis: Good Trouble Film Screening (2)

Annual GBC Open Mic Night

Excerpts from MAYA: A Voice

Webinar with Andrea Young 


Other Events

Democrats Abroad Book Club: The Hardest Job in The World

Solidarity Sundays: GOP & The Armed Right

 


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References

Black History Month 2021 - HISTORY 

BAME

Black Brown Berlin

Pew Social Trends, Amid Protests Majorities Across Racial and Ethnic Groups Express Support for the Black Lives Matter Movement

Pew Research, Support for Black Lives Matter has Decreased since June but Remains Strong among Black Americans