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Entries in LGBT (12)

Thursday
Nov292012

Secretary Clinton Marks 20 Years of Gay Diplomats Openly Serving

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary Clinton paid tribute to the State Department’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) organization. The ceremony was held in the State Department's historic Ben Franklin room for the first time.

After receiving a standing ovation Clinton thanked the crowd for what she called their courageous actions in the face of historic discrimination. The secretary lamented that homosexuals could not serve openly in the State Department until 1992.

"The policy forced people to lie or mislead or give up their dreams of serving this country all together," she said, noting that it was under her husband's first administration that federal gay employees received equal rights and partner benefits. Clinton said during her tenure she's made expanding State Department policies to be more LGBT friendly a priority.  

"Our people should not have to choose between serving the country they love and living the life with the people they love," she said.

The secretary has also been a champion for homosexual and transgender rights globally. On International Human Rights Day last December, Clinton gave a speech in Geneva declaring that for the United States, "gay rights are human rights," and led the effort to get the first-ever U.N. resolution on human rights for LGBT community passed.

"When I gave that speech in Geneva and said that we were going to make this a priority of American foreign policy, I didn't see it as something special, something that was added on to everything else we do, but something that was integral to who we are and what we stand for," she said.

Clinton asked the crowd, a mixture of veteran and young gay State Department employees, to stop and reflect on how much progress America has made in advancing gay rights, and how far behind much of the rest of the world still is.

"Remind yourself, as I do every day, what it must be like for a young boy or a young girl in some other part of the world who could literally be killed, and often has been and still will be, who will be shunned, who will be put in danger every day of his or her life," she said.

"I want you to leave this celebration thinking about what more each and every one of you can do ... to make not only the agencies of our government, but our world more just and free for all people."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug082012

President Obama, Mitt Romney Agree: Gay Boy Scouts OK

Saul Loeb/AFP/J.D. Pooley/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and Mitt Romney have found some new common ground on an issue of gay rights.

Obama Wednesday joined Romney in publicly disagreeing with a controversial ban on gay members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), one of the nation’s largest and most well-known youth development groups.

“The president believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century. He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation,” said White House spokesman Shin Inouye in a statement to the Washington Blade, an LGBT newspaper.

It’s the first time Obama, who was named honorary president of the BSA in 2009 -- as all U.S. Presidents have been since 1910 -- has publicly taken a position on the issue.

Romney first voiced support for gay scouts back in 1994 -- a position that his campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said remains his position today.

“I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Romney said in the video from 1994 recently re-surfaced by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.  He added at the time that he supports, “the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue.”

Last month, the group affirmed its ban on openly gay scouts and leaders after a two-year review of the policy, prompting the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to call on Obama to “reconsider” his honorary post.

White House press secretary Jay Carney Wednesday repeated the earlier White House statement that Obama, “opposes discrimination in all forms” including the Boy Scouts policy. But he said the president would not step down from his honorary Boy Scouts position.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun152012

Obama Rallies LGBT Community

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama told gay and lesbian supporters Friday that as long as he is president, they will have a “friend” and “fellow advocate” in the White House.

Speaking at a White House reception marking LGBT Pride Month, the president touted his accomplishments on gay rights issues, including repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” his decision to withdraw legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act, and his support for same-sex marriage.

“Three years ago, I also promised you this: I said that even if it took more time than we would like, we would see progress, we would see success, we would see real and lasting change. And together, that’s what we’re witnessing,” Obama told the boisterous crowd in the East Room.

Obama made clear, however, “we still have a long way to go.”

“But we will get there,” he said. “We’ll get there because of all of you. We’ll get there because of all of the ordinary Americans who every day show extraordinary courage. We’ll get there because of every man and woman and activist and ally who is moving us forward by the force of their moral arguments, but more importantly, by the force of their example.”

“As long as I have the privilege of being your president, I promise you, you won’t just have a friend in the White House, you will have a fellow advocate for an America where no matter what you look like or where you come from or who you love, you can dream big dreams and dream as openly as you want,” the president said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May232012

Obama Pride: Jane Lynch Stars in Appeal to LGBT Voters

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is marking Gay Pride Month with a concerted push to mobilize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters, who his re-election campaign believes are a key constituency in hotly contested swing states.

In a new five-minute, documentary-style campaign video, Obama appeals to his supporters by casting himself as the most progressive U.S. president on gay rights issues in American history.  He also reflects personally on how he was inspired to become an advocate through relationships with LGBT friends and family, U.S. military service members, and the mother of anti-gay hate crime victim Matthew Shepard.

“Meeting people like Judy Shepard, and not only hearing the heartbreaking tragedy of Matthew but also the strength and determination she brought to making sure that never happens to young people anywhere in the country again,” is what he says moved him.

Obama also said the stories of gay and lesbian service members who have fought and died for the country also “made me passionate.”

“I don’t think there was a single moment LGBT issues became important to me. It was an accumulation of a lifetime of friends, family and people I’ve met who have helped me understand how the fight for LGBT rights is consistent” with America, he said.

The film is narrated by actress Jane Lynch, who stars in the hit show Glee and is openly gay.

“That passion drove him to make more significant advances for LGBT Americans than any other president who came before him,” Lynch says.

Earlier Wednesday, the Obama campaign also kicked off a grassroots organizing campaign specifically targeting gay voters. “LGBT Americans for Obama” will focus on enlisting volunteers and turning out votes in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada and Michigan, the campaign said.

Obama campaign strategists believe the president’s achievements in gay rights, coupled with his newfound support for same-sex marriage, is one of the strongest selling points of his first term.

They regularly declaim the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” signing the Hate Crime Prevention Act into law, ceasing a defense of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and executive actions to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in the federal government.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May222012

US Visa for Raul Castro’s Daughter Criticized

STR/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- Continuing their effort to woo Hispanic voters especially in the battleground state of Florida, the Republican National Committee on Tuesday went after the Obama administration for granting a visa to Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban leader Raul Castro for a conference in San Francisco this week.

U.S. Rep Mario Diaz-Balart said he had “deep outrage” for the visa, granted Tuesday. The congressman called Castro’s permission to enter the U.S. “the one that broke the camel’s back.”

Castro is the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana and also a gay rights activist. She is expected to attend the Latin American Studies Association conference, which starts Wednesday in San Francisco.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the one who made the exception and issued the visa to Castro. Diaz-Balart called the State Department’s decision “reprehensible, unacceptable” and “it is greatly irresponsible of the administration to allow these high level Communist Party regime officials to come into the United States on these PR tours, pro-regime public relations tours.”

“It is pro-regime and bashing the United States public relation tours that they are doing. It is irresponsible, unacceptable and for this administration to pass the buck and say that the law forces them to do it is also not true,” Diaz-Balart, a Romney backer, said, calling Raul Castro the head of a “terrorist regime.”

“This is a time when repression has been increased by the regime, just in the last couple of years,” Diaz-Balart said. “So while repression is increasing, this administration is giving visas to the highest levels of the Castro dictatorship, because I don’t know who gets higher than the daughter of the so-called president of the terrorist regime.”

The Miami Herald quotes New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez as describing Mariela Castro as a fierce defender of the communist country’s regime. Her father Raul is brother to Fidel Castro.

Menendez criticized the visa calling Castro “a vociferous advocate of the regime and opponent of democracy, who has defended the regime’s brutal repression of democracy activists.”

The Florida Democratic Party responded by calling on Republicans “to stop playing politics with people’s emotions on Cuba” and pointing out Castro also visited the United States in 2002.

“Republicans need to stop playing with people’s emotions when it comes to Cuba,” Florida Hispanic community leader Freddy Balsera said in a statement. “While they grab headlines criticizing the President and distorting his record on Cuba, they avoid saying that Mariela Castro actually received a visa to visit the US in 2002 under the Bush Administration.  In fact, the top State Department Official in charge of Latin America at the time was a Cuban American.  Where was their criticism then?  Nowhere, because ultimately this is all about politics for them.”

Balsera also said the Cuban American community supports President Obama because “it is making Cubans on the island less dependent on the government; it allows for families to support each other and stay connected; and it facilitates more flow of information to and from the island.”

Republicans have also criticized the president in the past for easing some travel restrictions for Americans to Cuba.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May072012

White House, Obama Campaign on Defense After Biden Backs Gay Marriage

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House and the Obama campaign are playing defense on gay marriage, after comments by Vice President Joe Biden reignited debate over the president’s position on the issue and whether he would seek to legalize same-sex marriages in a second term.

On Sunday, Biden candidly expressed support for gay marriage but stopped short of saying whether the president, who has long said his position on the issue is “evolving,” would back same-sex marriage.

“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

The White House Monday was quick to deny that the vice president’s remarks signaled a shift in the administration’s policy.

“What he said about the protection of rights of citizens is completely consistent with the president’s position on this issue, and his description of the way the country has moved on this issue, I think, is wholly accurate,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday. “I think there is a little bit of an overreaction here.”

While the president has supported civil unions, he continues to say his position on gay marriage is evolving. “Attitudes evolve, including mine, and I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships,” the president first told a group of progressive bloggers in October 2010.

“My feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this,” the president said again in December of 2011. “At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think -- and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.”

Do Biden’s comments indicate the president’s evolution is complete? “I have no update on the president’s personal views,” Carney said.

Despite his hesitation on same-sex marriage, the president is adamant that he has met his commitments to the LGBT community. “I have delivered on what I promised and that doesn’t mean our work is done. There are gonna be times when you’re still frustrated with me. I know there are gonna be times where you’re still frustrated with the pace of change. I understand that,” the president said at an event marking LGBT Pride Month last June.

The administration points to the president’s efforts to end “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and quit any legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, as evidence of his support for gay and lesbian rights.

The president’s campaign has also walked back on Biden’s comments, trying to draw attention instead to Mitt Romney’s position on same-sex unions. “By the way, there couldn’t be a starker contrast on this issue than with Governor Romney, who has funded efforts to roll back marriage laws in California and other places, who believes that we need a constitutional amendment banning the right of gay couples to marry and would take us backward, not forward. So there’s a very clear distinction,” senior strategist David Axelrod told reporters on a conference call Monday.

The issue has also become a hot topic in the key battleground state of North Carolina, which later this week will vote on a measure to ban same-sex marriages.

Former President Bill Clinton, one of the president’s most powerful supporters, is voicing his opposition to the measure that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. “Hello, this is President Bill Clinton. I’m calling to urge you to vote against Amendment One on Tuesday May 8,” Clinton says in a robo-call to voters.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb222012

House Democrats Protest California’s Proposition 8

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A collection of House Democrats are protesting silently against Proposition 8 Wednesday, participating in a photo shoot to draw attention to California’s state law banning same-sex marriage.

Wednesday the NOH8 campaign released images of 10 members of the House of Representatives from its “NOH8 on the Hill” photo shoot; the campaign opposes California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, and supports the LGBT community with its stand against bullying and discrimination.

Four Democratic lawmakers from California -- Reps. Judy Chu, Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Jackie Speier -- joined Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), William Keating (Mass.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Niki Tsongas (Mass.), Jared Polis (Colo.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) in the cause.

“Equality before the law is an American value articulated in our Constitution and it’s at the heart of the NOH8 Campaign,” Polis, one of a handful of openly homosexual members of Congress, said. “With a focus on our nation’s value of freedom and an unflagging insistence on equality for all, we can look forward to a time when equal rights for all is a given.”

Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling that California’s ban on same-sex marriage violates both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution. That ruling, however, is pending further appeal.

The photo shoot, which occurred on Capitol Hill on Feb. 15, was open to any members of Congress willing to take a stand against the controversial law, although no Congressional Republicans participated.

Each member issued a statement explaining why they had the NOH8 logo applied to their face, along with a piece of silver duct tape covering up their mouths.

“Gay and lesbian Americans are part of the fabric that makes this country strong,” Blumenauer said. “The notion that we could ask these men and women to do everything from paying taxes to serving our country in uniform while denying them the right to marry is offensive to everything I believe in as a public servant. I won’t stop working for equal rights in Congress until they have been extended to every American.”

“These pictures speak volumes about the will of the American people to be treated the same, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation,” Chu stated.

Proposition 8 is the ballot initiative passed in 2008 to amend the California constitution and ban same-sex marriage. About 18,000 same-sex couples had already obtained marriage licenses in the state before voters approved the law.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb092012

Obama, No Same-Sex Marriage Supporter, Raises Cash at Lesbian Couple's Home

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama, who has opposed same-sex marriage but is said to be “evolving” on the issue, is attending a fundraiser Thursday at the home of a lesbian couple whose 2008 Chicago nuptials were described in a local paper as the “wedding of the season.”

Obama will collect an estimated $1.4 million for his re-election campaign from an intimate group of around 40 gay and lesbian supporters at the home of Karen Dixon and Dr. Nan Schaffer in Washington, D.C., according to a campaign official.

Dixon and Schaffer, transplants from Chicago, held a wedding ceremony in July 2008 with hundreds of guests attending from all across the country, according to an account in the Windy City Times.   

But their marriage was not afforded the same legal recognition and benefits as heterosexual couples because same-sex marriage is not legal in Illinois. (It’s unclear whether the couple has filed for a legal marriage certificate in D.C., where gay marriage is now performed. The couple could not be reached for comment.)

Obama has remained mum on his view on whether couples such as Dixon and Schaffer should be able to legally wed in states across the country, preferring instead to let each state decide for itself.

“I think it’s important for us to work through these issues because each community is going to be different, each state is going to be different,” he said in June after New York became the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage. Washington state this week became the seventh.

The position -- a new twist for Obama, who appeared to support legalizing the unions in 1996, later opposed them and most recently said his views are “evolving” -- has rankled advocates who say the president is making a calculated political decision with an eye toward 2012.

He has, however, opposed the federal Defense of Marriage Act and opposes a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution.

“The president’s position on these issues writ large are well known,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said this week. “You know his position, where it stands now, on the position of same-sex marriage. I don’t have much to add on that.”

Asked whether Obama supports marriages like that between Dixon and Schaffer and whether their marriage in Chicago should have been afforded the same rights and privileges as those given to heterosexual couples, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt offered the following comment:

“The President has long opposed a Federal Marriage Amendment, supported the repeal of DOMA, and been clear that this was a matter that states should decide.”

Schaffer is a veterinary doctor who specializes in rhinoceros reproduction, according to her biography in the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. She is also a philanthropist, political activist and co-founder of the Windy City Media Group.

Dixon is an attorney and LGBT community advocate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun302011

Senators Release ‘It Gets Better’ Video

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Thirteen democratic Senators released their contribution to the It Gets Better Project, a video campaign aimed at preventing suicide among bullied lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.

“In my view these videos are saving lives,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., in a press conference Thursday.

The video unveiled Wednesday features Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The senators began working on it about two months ago, said Coons.

Sen. Gillibrand states her support of gay marriage in the video.  Last week, New York became the largest state to legalize gay marriage.

“Every loving couple should have the right to be married, to be able to celebrate that love, that commitment with all of their friends and loved ones around,” says Gillibrand.

“Sexual orientation should not be a factor in a person's access to equality,” says Sen. Feinstein at another point in the video.

“And it certainly shouldn’t be the policy of the United States government,” adds Coons.

“It is a really an incredible moment for the campaign,” said Scott Zumwalt, project manager of the It Gets Better Project, “and something we couldn't imagine happening ten months ago.”

Since launching last September, the campaign has received more than 20,000 videos from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults. The project’s YouTube channel also includes videos from President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the Chicago Cubs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun292011

President Obama: 'I've Met My Commitments to the LGBT Community'

Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Just hours after he declined to answer questions about his position on gay marriage, President Obama declared Wednesday night, “I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community.”

“I have delivered on what I promised,” the president said at an LGBT pride event at the White House Wednesday evening, noting “that doesn’t mean our work is done.”

Obama pointed to his record of support for the gay and lesbian community, highlighting, among other things, his repeal of  “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which banned openly gay men and women from serving in the military, and his decision to withdraw legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex unions.

Despite the progress made, for some in the East Room Wednesday night it is still not enough.

The president has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to define his position on gay marriage, which he has previously described as "evolving." Author and pundit Dan Savage, of Savage Love fame, was spotted at the event wearing a button that read "evolve already," a blatant jab at the president.

Obama supports civil unions but believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be left up to the state.

At his press conference earlier Wednesday, the president said he was “not going to make news” on the issue, but said that the decision in New York to legalize gay marriage was “a good thing.”

The president admitted Wednesday night that “there are gonna be times when you’re still frustrated with me. I know there are gonna be times where you’re still frustrated with the pace of change."

Obama's reluctance to embrace gay marriage may be part of a broader effort to avoid alienating voters in battleground states, like Ohio and Nevada, where majorities have traditionally shown less support for the unions than voters overall.

Several states that Obama carried in 2008 but that are expected to be close calls in the upcoming election have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, including Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.

Going forward, the president said he would continue to "fight" for the interests of the LGBT community, not just only an advocate, but as an American.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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