January 18, 2021

LGBTQ+ January 2021 Newsletter


Looking forward with optimism

(Co-editor Sarah Fancy has had COVID-19 since before Christmas and is recovering at her home in Germany. The Newsletter team sends her warm wishes for a speedy recovery.)

This month’s Democrats Abroad LGBTQ+ Newsletter theme is “Looking forward with optimism.” We believe that regardless of what happened on January 6 in the Capitol, we are hopeful. The silver lining to the tumult is that, finally, Trump, most congressional Republicans, QAnon and right-wing media are now exposed as frauds. After all, Trump made history as the only president in American history to be impeached twice!

As this hope moves us forward, let us remember Abraham Lincoln’s words: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

This month, the Newsletter includes stories on the honor many LGBTQ+ Americans felt while serving as electors; the implications of LGBTQ+ people in the Biden-Harris administration, most notably Pete Buttigieg as Transportation Secretary; the historical double-whammy wins in the Georgia run-off Senate races; and bridging the gap between LGBTQ+ Trump supporters and the rest of us.

Yes, 2021 has had a rocky start. But with a new administration, and a vaccine light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we look forward to a better and brighter future.

We hope you enjoy this issue,

Betsy Ettorre & guest co-editor Fred Kuhr


Days of Service - January 18 -20

Date: January 18-20, 2021

For details, go to: https://www.democratsabroad.org/day_of_service_january_18th

In honor of Wednesday's Inauguration, today is the Day of Service! (Don't know what this is? Look below.) We're doing our part by highlighting three of the many LGBTQ+ organizations doing important work for the community. We're highlighting Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, and True Colors United. Learn more about these organizations below the image, go to their websites to explore more. From January 18th - 20th, we're asking our members to make a donation large or small to help this important work continue. The links to donate are below.

Democrats Abroad Martin Luther King Day of Service 

Date: January 18-19, 2021

For details, go to: https://www.democratsabroad.org/2021-presidential-inauguration

Inauguration Day

Date: January 20, 2021

Time: 18:00 CET 

For details, go to: https://bideninaugural.org/

Black History Month Marathon 

Date: February 06, 2021 

Time: 9:00-21:00 CET

To sign up, go to: https://www.democratsabroad.org/bc_bhm_marathon


Despite protests, electors reflected the will of their states

by Fred Kuhr

With all that has happened in Washington over the last few weeks — from an armed insurrection to a history-making twice-impeached president — Americans can be forgiven for forgetting the tumult that ensued on December 14 as electors all over the country met in their respective state capitals to cast the Electoral College votes that Congress finally certified in the early morning hours on January 7.

While there is no official count of how many electors were LGBTQ+, a number of community members took part in the proceedings.

In Vermont, for example, one of the state’s three electors was Terje Anderson, the openly gay former chair of the Vermont Democratic Party. He joined his fellow electors — Linda Gravell, a county party chair, and Kesha Ram, a state senator-elect and the first woman of color to be a Vermont elector.

Masked and socially distanced in the Statehouse in Montpelier, the vote was administered by Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos. Without incident, the three electors cast their votes for the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket, reflecting the state’s vote on Election Day in November, which was 65% for the Democrats.

Anderson called being an elector “an incredible honor.”

Terje Anderson, Vermont Democratic Party/sevendaysvt.com

“As someone who has been politically active since long before I could vote, this year was a particularly meaningful one for me to serve in this role,” Anderson wrote on his Facebook page after the vote. “The first presidential campaign I ever volunteered for was Shirley Chisholm’s historic run in 1972, when I was 13. To cast a ballot for Joe Biden, who was first elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 29, and Kamala Harris, who makes history as the first woman and first African American and South Asian American to be vice president, feels like a fitting tribute to that early political involvement.”

While there was no storming of the Statehouse in Vermont that day, Vermont Senate President Tim Ashe tweeted an email he received from the anti-LGBTQ+ group the American Family Association urging him to replace the state’s slate of electors with ones supporting the losing presidential candidate.

Proceedings were not so subdued in other states. In Arizona, a group of fake electors sent notarized documents to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., with the goal of falsely delivering the Grand Canyon State’s 11 electoral votes for the Republican ticket. In Georgia, Republicans also claimed to have cast Electoral College votes, even though Biden won the Peach State by 12,000 votes. And in Michigan, about a dozen Republicans demanded to enter the Statehouse in Lansing claiming to be GOP electors. However, the Democratic electors were already in the building and had started the process of confirming that Michigan voted for the Biden-Harris ticket.

In another swing state that Biden won, Pennsylvania, openly gay state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta was not only one of his state’s electors, but he led the Keystone State’s delegation by making the official motion for the electors to cast their votes for the Biden-Harris ticket. On Twitter he wrote, “HUGE HONOR. I just made the official motion to deliver Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes to Joe Biden.”

In Washington, D.C., out lesbian Barbara Helmick was one of the district’s three electors. This was the first time D.C. had an all-female slate of electors, and Helmick was the first lesbian selected to be an elector in the city.

Barbara Helmick, Michael Key/Washington Blade

“Today is a day for celebration,” Helmick told the Washington Blade newspaper after the vote, “for electing our first woman vice president, for D.C. selecting the first gay woman elector, for the people of D.C. having a voice in the highest office of the land.”

Buttigieg just one of LGBTQ+ Biden appointees

by Fred Kuhr

As Americans watched to see how diverse the upcoming Biden administration would be, LGBTQ+ people celebrated the choice of Pete Buttigieg — the first LGBTQ+ presidential candidate to win a caucus or primary — as secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. If confirmed, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., would be the first openly gay person confirmed to a cabinet role.

Pete Buttigieg, Joe Raedle/Getty Images/CNET.com

Anise Parker, CEO of the Washington-based LGBTQ Victory Institute, called Buttigieg’s nomination “a new milestone in a decades-long effort to ensure LGBTQ people are represented throughout our government.”

In a statement nominating Buttigieg, Biden called him “a patriot and a problem-solver who speaks to the best of who we are as a nation.”

On December 16, when Biden formally announced the nomination, he noted how Buttigieg and husband Chasten Buttigieg have become friends with him and his wife Dr. Jill Biden. “What I admire about Pete is he’s always clear about who he is, what he believes, and how he wants to bring people in, not exclude them. He’s able to walk into any room, and leave people inspired with his ability to describe an America that’s best for all of us, an America that’s hopeful, bold, creative, inclusive, an America that can do literally anything.”

In accepting the nomination, Buttigieg said he is “mindful that the eyes of history on this appointment, knowing that this is the first time an American president has ever sent an openly LGBTQ cabinet member to the Senate for confirmation. I can remember watching the news, 17 years old in Indiana, seeing a story about an appointee of President Clinton named to be an ambassador, attacked and denied a vote in the Senate because he was gay, ultimately able to serve only by recess appointment.”

He was referencing activist and philanthropist James Hormel, who was nominated by Clinton in 1997 to be ambassador to Luxembourg. Then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, refused to allow a vote because Hormel was gay, even though Luxembourg officials said Hormel and his partner would be welcome. Clinton’s recess appointment allowed Hormel to serve there from 1999 to 2001, becoming the first openly gay U.S. ambassador.

“Two decades later, I can’t help but think of a 17-year-old somewhere who might be watching us right now,” said Buttigieg, “somebody who wonders whether and where they belong in the world, or even in their own family. And I’m thinking about the message that today’s announcement is sending to them.”

Buttigieg also made a connection between his personal life and the transportation department he hopes to lead. “Travel in my mind is synonymous with growth, with adventure, even love, so much so that I proposed to my husband Chasten in an airport terminal. So don’t let anybody tell you that O’Hare isn’t romantic.”

On a side note, even though openly gay Republican operative Richard Grenell served as Acting Director of National Intelligence in the outgoing Republican administration, he was never confirmed by the Senate and only served for four months, when he left to join the re-election campaign.

Other LGBTQ+ appointments to the Biden administration include Guatam Raghavan as Deputy Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel. He previously worked as chief of staff for Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle and served as Deputy Head of Political Appointments for the Biden-Harris transition team. As a member of the Obama administration, he was the White House liaison to the LGBTQ+ community as well as to the Asian American & Pacific Islander community.

Attorney Stuart Delery will serve as Deputy Counsel to President Biden. He worked in the Obama administration as Acting Associate Attorney General, making him the highest ranking LGBTQ+ person ever to serve in the U.S. Department of Justice.

In early December, Biden announced that two lesbians of color would serve in the new administration’s communications staff, which for the first time would be all female.

Karine Jean-Pierre, well known as an activist and political commentator, will serve as Deputy White House Press Secretary. She served as chief of staff to then-Sen. Kamala Harris during the campaign. In the Obama administration, she served as regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs. She also worked on Obama’s two presidential campaigns.

Karine Jean-Pierre, Travis W Keyes / Know Your Value / NBC News

Pili Tobar will serve as Deputy Director of Communications. She previously worked as Communications Director for Coalitions on the Biden-Harris campaign. Before joining the campaign, she served as Deputy Director for America’s Voice, where she advocated on behalf of immigrants. She has also served as the Hispanic Media Director for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, National Director of Hispanic Media and Western Regional Press Secretary for the Democratic National Committee, Communications Director for Congressman Ruben Gallego, and Communications Director for the Latino Victory Project.

Emmy Ruiz, an Austin, Texas-based political consultant, was tapped to serve as the White House Director of Political Strategy and Outreach. She is a former campaign aide to Vice President-elect Harris, Secretary Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and Democratic Chairman Tom Perez. She is a co-founder and partner of NEWCO Strategies, a minority-majority political firm. During the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, she helped support the work of groups mobilizing communities of color to vote as well as running and electing progressive women to office.

Trans veteran Shawn Skelly was named by the Biden transition team to serve on its agency review team. Skelly co-founded Out In National Security, a group for LGBTQ+ national security professionals. As part of the Obama administration, Skelly was special assistant to the undersecretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics, making Skelly the first transgender veteran to serve as a presidential appointee.

A double win in Georgia

by Betsy Ettorre

The day before the armed insurrection at the Capitol, some good news came out of Georgia. In the highly-competitive runoff elections, Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff — both Democrats — were elected the new senators representing the Peach State.

Senator-elect Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock / Senator-elect Jon Ossoff

Warnock is now the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia. Warnock is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once served as a co-pastor.

Jon Ossoff is a film executive who ran for Senate with the blessing of John Lewis, the civil rights activist and longtime member of Congress who passed away last July. Ossoff is one of the very few Jews to be sent to Washington from a Southern state.

As a result of these victories, the new Senate will be lead by the Democrats, with Chuck Schumer as majority leader. The upper chamber is actually split 50-50, but Vice President Kamala Harris — in her role as president of the Senate — will be the tie-breaking vote. Democrats will set the Senate agenda for the first time since 2014 and have an opportunity to forward President Biden’s legislative agenda. 

Georgia electing both Biden as president and two Democrats to the Senate was certainly noticed by many in the media. Margaret Renkl, in her New York Times column “Lies, Damn Lies, and Georgia,” wrote, “Georgia delivered the Senate to Democrats and at the same time offered a clear illustration of something Southerners, liberal and conservative alike, have known for years: The American South is in the midst of profound change.”