October 2020 Newsletter

Letter from the Editors

This month we are dedicating our newsletter to voting and taking part in DA’s efforts to get out the vote for ALL of us living abroad. We want to give you some of the newsletter team’s voting stories and why we think it is important to vote, both as Americans AND as Democrats living abroad. The election isn’t just 28 days away, it’s over in 28 days. We can’t let the right-wing silence our voices, deny our rights, and cheat their way to winning. Failure is not an option for all of the people and communities we care about. The election is happening right now as millions of people across the USA cast their ballot early. You cannot sit this one out. Democrats need your voice. Send in your ballot now. Forward this message to your

American friends who live abroad and talk to them about doing the same.

We hope that you enjoy this edition!


UPCOMING EVENTS

In Support of 10.17.20 Women's March

Flood Social Media with Women Running in 2020

The first Women's March was January 21, 2017. It was a protest against the election of President Donald Trump. As many as 5 million people marched in the U.S., and another 7 million marched in one of the 168 sister marches around the world.

This Saturday, October 17, 2020, Women's March Global is organizing another march. Again, the march will protest the Trump presidency, but this march is motivated by the Senate’s plan to begin confirmation hearings for a new Supreme Court Justice to fill RBG's seat. Trump’s appointment of Amy Coney Barrett will shift the balance of the Court even further to the right, jeopardizing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Roe v. Wade, voting rights, marriage equality, and so much more.

So, on this one day, Saturday, October 17th: don’t get distracted by anything Trump says or does. Instead spend the day supporting the women marching in the streets.

On Saturday, October 17th,
  1. Research a candidate in your state. Look at that candidate's Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts, and repost or retweet an image of the candidate. When you post, say something positive about the candidate’s campaign. Or, 
  2. Visit the candidate’s campaign webpage and Share a link via social media to a page on that candidate's page. Spread the word and let your circle know who you support. Or,
  3. Find and share an article with an interview of your candidate or one that explains the state of the race. Focus on the issues or the women running for office. Or,
  4. Use this free Canva.com template and create a graphic to post on Instagram or Facebook. Please add more candidate pictures and create your own.

We’ve formed a team for this virtual event. Click here to join the Women's March team.  

Read more


IN THE NEWS

Biden promises to be most pro-LGBTQ+ president in history

By Fred Kuhr

“You deserve a partner in the White House.”

That was Joe Biden’s message to the LGBTQ+ community when he spoke last month to the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ organization.

At that event, Biden said, “Together we’ll pass the Equality Act, protect LGBTQ youth, expand access to healthcare, support LGBTQ workers, win full rights for transgender Americans, recommit to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2025, [and] advance LGBT rights around the globe, not just at home.”

Biden’s relationship with the LGBTQ+ community is not new. In fact, he is widely credited with nudging President Barack Obama on the issue of marriage equality when then-Vice President Biden endorsed it on NBC’s “Meet The Press” in 2012. That made him the highest-ranking Democrat to back equal marriage rights at the time. And almost 20 years earlier, then-Senator Biden was an original co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which sought to end anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace.

This year, Biden is hoping to stop a second term of an administration he sees as more focused on hate than love.

“Donald Trump and Mike Pence have given hate against LGBTQ+ individuals safe harbor and rolled back critical protections for the LGBTQ+ community,” Biden states at the start of a 22-page document entitled, “The Biden Plan to Advance LGBTQ+ Equality in America and Around the World.”

“By blocking the ability of transgender individuals to openly serve their country, denying LGBTQ+ people access to critical health care, proposing policies allowing federally funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender people and federally funded adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples, and failing to address the epidemic of violence against transgender people — particularly transgender women of color — the Trump-Pence Administration has led a systematic effort to undue the progress” made under the Obama-Biden Administration.

Biden is an advocate of the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal Civil Rights Act, prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit and the jury system. Currently, half of LGBTQ+ Americans live in states without full civil rights protections

Biden has committed to making enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during his first 100 days as president. Biden has also committed to direct his cabinet to ensure immediate and full enforcement of the Equality Act across all federal departments and agencies.

At a time when the Supreme Court seat once held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in peril, Biden states he will “nominate and appoint federal officials and judges who represent the diversity of the American people, including LGBTQ+ people.”

For these reasons and more, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Biden. In its endorsement, the organization cited Biden’s own words.

For example, on the issue of so-called “religious liberty” as a tactic to discriminate LGBTQ+ Americans, Biden said, “Religion should not be used as license to discriminate, and as president I will oppose legislation to deny LGBTQ people equal treatment in public places.”

On the issue of adoption and foster care, Biden said, “Along with the freedom to marry comes the freedom to build a family. No one should be denied the opportunity to become a parent because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” 

On the issue of anti-transgender discrimination, Biden said, “Transgender and non-binary people without identification documents that accurately reflect their gender identity are often exposed to harassment and violence and denied employment, housing, critical public benefits, and even the right to vote. The Obama-Biden State Department led the way by updating its gender change policies for passports. As president, I will build on this action to ensure all transgender individuals have access to identification documents that accurately reflect their gender identity, a key step to reducing anti-transgender discrimination, harassment, and violence. I believe every transgender or non-binary person should have the option of selecting ‘X’ as their gender marker on government identifications, passports, and other documentation.”

So much is at stake in this election that, in an unprecedented move, the 12 newspapers of the National LGBT Media Association, which represents the nation’s oldest and most established LGBTQ+ publications with a combined circulation of more than one million readers, collectively endorsed the Biden-Harris ticket.

Written by Paul Schindler, editor in chief of New York City’s Gay City News, and published in all 12 member-newspapers from Philadelphia Gay News to the Los Angeles Blade, the piece excoriates the Trump Administration for issues not limited to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Trump’s governing has been much like his court appointments — where he is not cruel, he is merely incompetent,” wrote Schindler. “Mexican and other Latin American immigrants have been slurred in overtly racist terms, and their children have been caged. Muslim newcomers to America have also been stigmatized where they have not been blocked outright. The damage is not limited to the newcomers. Latinx and Muslim-American citizens have faced increasing levels of hostility and hate crimes.”

Schindler also lays out how Trump “has used the trans community as a punching bag to prove his toughness to his socially conservative base hungry for a strongman willing to turn back the clock. He has denied trans folks the ability to serve openly in the military, sought to strip them of nondiscrimination protections in healthcare, worked to rob trans youth of dignity in their schools, and battled to take away the right of student athletes to compete in sports.”

LGBTQ+ Americans living abroad can play a pivotal role in this election. With that in mind, Biden wrote an open letter to Americans abroad in which he addresses issues such as Trump’s lacklustre response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump’s desire to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and Trump’s refusal to address climate change. Biden also committed to "ensuring equal treatment with respect to citizenship, naturalization, and immigration proceedings for same-sex couples and their children, including those adopted or born abroad." 

"I know these are just a few of the issues that matter to your community,” Biden wrote. “A Biden-Harris Administration will work in partnership with you on all the issues that impact your lives and well-being as Americans residing abroad, including reviewing the barriers to accessing banking and financial services. My campaign has made it a priority to engage with you, and that will remain true throughout a Biden-Harris Administration. Each of you serves as an ambassador for our nation, representing the best of our American culture and democratic values. You build connections that help promote our interests and support our economic vitality. Your voices matter. Your issues are American issues. So please be sure to register to vote and to return your ballot. You can register right now by visiting VotefromAbroad.org. I’m asking for your vote, and I hope to earn it.”

To see the full “Biden Plan to Advance LGBTQ+ Equality in America and Around the World, go to Joe Biden's LGBTQ+ Policy.


WHY WE VOTE

Why I Vote - Alex Colley Hart

London, UK (Voting state: Indiana)

From my newly adopted home in the United Kingdom, together with the ongoing support from Democrats Abroad and the LGBTQ+ Caucus, I will gladly cast my first ever vote as an American citizen for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 

I gained my American citizenship on June 6, 2019 – the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The ceremony was held at the Indiana World War Memorial in Indianapolis, Indiana. Though I was eligible to apply for citizenship for many years, I had tremendous personal reservations since my arrival from Australia in 2001. 

Following the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Americans were deeply saddened and outraged, yet all too often that anger was unjustly targeted towards immigrants. As a newly arrived immigrant, I distinctly remember the ultra patriotic rhetoric of school newsletters, the increasingly strict and demeaning customs procedures at airports, and the second class rights given to non-Americans under the newly adopted Patriot Act. Though my experience as an immigrant in no way matches the hardships faced by many others, my path had its own struggles. I was often made to feel unwelcome. 

Eight years after my arrival to the United States, I became a permanent resident when President Obama first took office. With Obama’s own personal experience living as an immigrant in Indonesia, denouncement of America’s use of torture, and commitment to end the unjustified war in Iraq, I began to think about applying for citizenship. However, my newfound interest in American citizenship quickly fizzled with the election of Mike Pence as Governor of Indiana in 2013. 

As governor of my home state, Pence suspended the resettlement of refugees from war-torn Syria and cut off federal funding for refugee resettlement. While Pence’s heartless endeavor was ultimately overturned by the courts, his message to those immigrants seeking to make Indiana their home was clear: you are not welcome. Pence’s xenophobia shamefully continues in the Trump administration through the forceful separation of children from their parents at the US-Mexico border. 

Sadly, Pence’s penchant for belittling vulnerable people and disenfranchising minorities continued with his signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 2015. This law, despite its idyllic name, permitted blatant discrimination against LGBTQ people. The most troubling aspect of RFRA was that it legally protected businesses that decided to discriminate against LGBTQ people. At the time I remember walking into shops and restaurants throughout the state, my home, thinking, “If this business knows, or even thinks, I’m gay, will they refuse to serve me?” It was a horrible feeling. RFRA cruelly distorted the notion of religious liberty and also invited unsolicited labelling of LGBTQ people. Eventually, thanks to widespread national and international condemnation, Pence reluctantly added a nondiscriminatory clause to the law, yet the damage was done.

Because of these experiences as a gay immigrant growing up in Indiana, I was truly horrified to see Pence serve as Vice President in the Trump administration. This horror motivated me unlike anything else to apply for my American citizenship so I could vote both Pence and Trump out of office. While my professional life has recently taken me from my home in Indiana to London, I will eagerly cast my first ballot from abroad for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Indiana, the United States, and the world all deserve better than another four years of Pence and Trump. 

 

Why I Vote - Betsy Ettorre

Helsinki, Finland (Voting state: Connecticut)

As a young girl in Fairfield, Connecticut I remember my Mom complaining consistently at every election about the voting machines. While they allowed her to split her vote, it was difficult to do. She was an avid New Deal Democrat who loved FDR but also she had local Republican friends for whom she wanted to vote. The key here is that my Mom voted no matter what the difficulties and she loved it! I admired her perseverance. Even the last year of her life at 97 she made sure she voted (for Obama) and asked me to post her absentee ballot, as I was visiting her at that time. 

I vote not only because I believe it is my duty as a proud American but also because I want to continue my mother’s wonderful legacy. And sometimes voting abroad has been difficult, as I have lived abroad for 48 years. This year I sent in my absentee ballot registration to my home state, Connecticut on January 2nd. I sent in a FWAB on July 21st (This was just in case my “official ballot” is not received on time). On September 22nd , I was sent my official absentee ballot by email from my local Assistant Town Clerk. I posted my official absentee ballot from Lapland, Finland on September 23rd and took a proof of postage receipt from the post office.

That same day I wrote to the Town Clerk’s Office by email and wrote: “Thank you for sending me my Official Absentee Ballot by email. I have posted it today and attach my proof of posting… If you do not receive on time for the election the ballot I sent today, please use my FWAB as my official ballot. Hopefully, you will have received it already… I very much appreciate your help on this matter…” The same day, the Assistant Town Clerk responded in an email, “We have received your FWAB and it will be counted if we do not get your ballot.” As soon as I received her email, I felt relieved and happy. I am confident that my absentee ballot will be counted in my home state from 4,996 miles away. That is my voting story for this year. Let’s hope my vote joins with other votes to oust the current occupant of the White House!


Why I Vote - Fenna Milbauer

The Hague, The Netherlands (Voting state: Massachusetts)

When I was younger, I remember going to the vote with my dad, a proud progressive. After work he would come home to pick me up, together we would drive over to the middle school I would eventually attend in Danbury, Connecticut. After he voted, I would walk away with grand enthusiasm, proudly skipping around the parking lot with the ‘I voted’ sticker. I couldn’t wait until that one day when I could vote myself, I would have never imagined I would be doing it from abroad. In 2008, when Obama was elected, I was 8, still 10 years away from finally being able to vote. In 2016 I was a sophomore in high school, as secretary of the Young Democrats club, I had helped hundreds of seniors register to vote. Years later when I am asked about the Trump presidency, I often catch myself saying “it wasn’t me I couldn’t vote”, a far cry from the pride I felt when I was 8. 

Today I am 20, voting in my first presidential election, thousands of miles from home and via email. That enthusiasm I once held has transformed into a profound sense of responsibility. Responsibility to improve a country which will always be a huge part of my identity, despite my extreme criticism. I vote so that I can feel truly proud of the nation which I grew up in, to compensate for a feeling of guilt and embarrassment when I say I am American. I vote in Massachusetts via email, which is one of the most anti-climactic, but efficient ways to vote. As I hit send on my ballot, I couldn’t help but to feel proud. Despite being 4,238 miles from home and in college, I voted. I urge everyone to vote no matter where you are or how long you’ve been living outside of the States!

 

Why I Vote - Fred Kuhr

Toronto, Ontario (voting state: Vermont)

I came out as a gay man in 1987 while a student at Northwestern University in Chicago. The AIDS epidemic had been devastating my community for five years by then, made worse by the homophobia and silence of the Ronald Reagan administration. It was a scary time to come out since I not only had to deal with people’s ignorance around sexual orientation, but also the fear that gay equalled AIDS, and AIDS equalled death.

The Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations politicized me. During that time, I saw no place for my humanity reflected in national politics. Thankfully, there were a handful of local and state politicians around the country who were taking my rights seriously — and all were Democrats. By 1992, even Bill Clinton, who was not perfect, was the first major-party presidential candidate to directly address me as a gay American.

At the same time, homophobes like Senators Jesse Helms and Trent Lott were the face of the Republican Party.

Much has changed in a generation. Marriage equality is a constitutional right. LGBTQ+ Americans can serve openly in the U.S. Armed Forces. HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence. And as a society, we have a much broader understanding of sexuality and gender.

But all that can be taken away unless we vote. Elections have consequences, much like we see with Donald Trump packing the Supreme Court with archconservative ideologues that put LGBTQ+ lives at risk.

My vote is my voice. I cannot keep quiet. As the saying goes, “Silence = Death.”

 

Why I Vote - Sarah Fancy

Heidelberg, Germany (Voting state: Michigan)

The first time I voted was from Germany, way back in 1992. At that time we had to get our ballots notarized at the consulate, and it was not an inexpensive or convenient thing to do, especially for a student. I was living in Freiburg and the consulate was in Frankfurt. I remember staying up all night with other students watching the results come in. We were jubilant, feeling like Clinton might actually speak for us. I hadn’t come out yet – that took another 22 years, believe it or not – but I was proud of my country for moving in a more progressive direction. In the ensuing years that changed. I found myself having to explain the actions of Bush and those that followed, as if I had voted him in myself.

In 2012, I was living in Galway, Ireland and was thrilled to be able to register more than 200 voters who didn’t realize that their dual citizenship gave them the right to vote in the US election. It is such a privilege to be able to vote, no matter where we are in the world. 

Today, 28 years later, I am even more disgusted with what I see happening in my home country. The rights of so many of my fellow human beings are being trampled upon. Children are being separated from their parents. Once again, our marriages are being called into question. I vote because I want to be proud of my country and what it stands for again. I vote because no matter how long I have been away, I am still American and I still have hope for a better future for every human.


GET OUT THE VOTE

VOTE, VOTE, VOTE – Election day November 3, 2020

Do you have your ballot but still have questions about sending it in? Go to VFA - Return Your Ballot

Still waiting for your ballot? If you’ve already requested your ballot this year, you can vote a Federal Write-In Absentee ballot and make sure your vote counts! 

If you are registered to vote, there’s still time to request your ballot! Go to VoteFromAbroad.org now.

Tight registration deadline? You may be able to vote a Federal Write-In Absentee ballot.

The below is from Democrats Abroad News:

Normally, it’s not that complicated to vote from abroad, but 2020 is no normal year. The COVID-19 crisis has caused severe distress to postal systems around the world, including the United States, resulting in significant delays to delivery of mail. 

It is imperative that voters in states requiring voted ballot be return by postal mail take early action to request their absentee ballots, and then vote and return them as soon as possible. 

If you vote in a state that accepts voted ballots by email or fax, hurray! But do make sure you’ve requested your ballot this year – keep reading for more information. 

We are going to walk you through the whole voting process below. Please pay extra attention to the questions about the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), especially if your state requires postal return of the voted ballot.

IF YOU NEED HELP, PLEASE CONTACT THE HELP DESK. We are here for you!

Contents:


Thank you for reading our LGBTQ+ Newsletter. Throughout the month, continue to visit our Facebook page for the latest news.

Wishing you safety and health!

Sarah Fancy & Betsy Ettorre



Global LGBTQ+ Caucus