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Focus on 2018 not a few old men

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 10:13 AM PST

old men, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, former Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and former Vice President Joe Biden (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

We need to stop this constant ego stroking of a bunch of old men who think they need to keep their names in the news by stoking possible presidential runs. Among them are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and now John Kerry who apparently refuse to admit their time to run for the presidency has passed. According to The Hill report, "Kerry told Palestinian officials that he was strongly considering a run in 2020."  Politico reports, "Bernie makes moves pointing to 2020 run" and Politico also reports "Joe Biden thinks it's critical that Donald Trump not get a second term — and though it's early, he doesn't yet see anyone else who could stop that from happening. So he’s been telling people privately, that might mean he'll just have to run himself." It is absurd we should be talking about electing a nearly 80-year-old president and all these men have run at least in a primary before and lost.

Instead in 2018 we need a laser-like focus on taking back Congress, state legislatures and statehouses. These men should be looking to the future and spending their time helping to cultivate the next generation of leaders and getting them elected in 2018. They could actually help in this endeavor if they would stop looking in the mirror and asking as the evil queen did "who is the fairest of them all" and coming up with themselves as the answer. They may then accept there will be a new Snow White. Each of them has the experience and wisdom to share with a new generation if they came away from that mirror and mentored the next leaders of our great democracy.

One of the things that usually goes along with running for office is an immense ego. It's needed to think you can be a leader and do it better than anyone else. That ego can get in the way of knowing when it's your time to retire and help train others to take your place. We have seen this over and over again. Men clinging to office and power until they get carried out in a coffin. We are now seeing this happen with a few women. Running for a new six-year term at the age of 84 might need to be rethought. But women do live longer than men and before we call on them to retire we do need to elect a lot more of them to equal the playing field.

I write as a Baby Boomer myself and one who thinks he still has all his mental faculties. But getting hair plugs, face-lifts, joint replacements and having your teeth whitened doesn't make you younger it only makes you look younger.

I give a lot of credit to whoever chose Joseph Patrick Kennedy III to give the Democratic response to the State of the Union speech. He is a 38-year-old charismatic up-and-coming Democrat. He is part of the future of the Democratic Party and the nation. There are men and women across the nation having just won or who are running for election in 2018. They are our leaders of the future and these old men should be helping them instead of clinging to elected office themselves. Winners like Danica Roem and Justin Fairfax in Virginia. Or Zach Wahls in Iowa, Maura Healey in Massachusetts, Christina Garcia in California, and a host of others who are running for reelection or running for office for the first time in 2018.

In 2016, nearly two-thirds of the nation's population fell in the 15 to 64 year age bracket. These are the people who should be leading our nation and among them are also the leaders of the future. We have mandatory retirement ages for workers in many industries and today many corporate boards have mandatory retirement ages with some also having term limits. I am not suggesting term limits in Congress as that is something I have always fought against. Instead it would be wonderful if some of our politicians set an age limit on themselves though that seems to be a pipedream. Our media certainly aren't helping as many political writers, TV hosts and prognosticators are becoming lazier about reporting on anyone whose name they don't intimately know. They only write about or give air time to the same old faces.

We can only hope some of those tired old faces will recognize they are not the future and find someone they can support who is.


Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

Efforts to help LGBT Puerto Ricans after Maria ‘being forgotten’

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 06:00 AM PST

From left: Wilfred Labiosa, co-founder of Waves Ahead, and Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera of the Human Rights Campaign speak about the situation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria during a panel at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference in D.C. on Jan. 27, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Editor’s note: Washington Blade International News Editor Michael K. Lavers will be on assignment in Puerto Rico through Feb. 3. He will be reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and its continued impact on LGBT Puerto Ricans and people with HIV/AIDS.

An activist from Puerto Rico who attended the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference in D.C. on Saturday said efforts to help the island’s LGBT community after Hurricane Maria are “being forgotten.”

“The LGBT work being done in Puerto Rico is being forgotten,” said Wilfred Labiosa, co-founder of Waves Ahead, a group that provides assistance to LGBT Puerto Ricans and other marginalized groups.

Labiosa spoke on a panel that focused on Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Latinx and Catholic Initiatives, co-organized the panel on which she also spoke.

Meléndez, who grew up in the Puerto Rican city of Caguas, highlighted the island’s colonial past and current status as a U.S. commonwealth. She noted poverty, poor infrastructure and corruption among Puerto Rican politicians were widespread before Maria.

“Things are not well,” said Meléndez.

Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico’s southeast coast on Sept. 20 with 155 mph winds.

The Puerto Rican government says Maria killed 64 people, but the death toll is estimated to be more than 1,000. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló last month ordered a review of the official figure.

Large swaths of Puerto Rico remain without electricity more than four months after Maria made landfall. Large piles of debris and homes with blue tarps on their roofs are commonplace throughout San Juan, the island’s capital and largest city, and surrounding areas.

“Maria took the island and split it in half,” said Meléndez.

Hurricane Irma brushed Puerto Rico on Sept. 7.

Meléndez was with her parents at their Caguas home during Irma. She said 60 percent of Puerto Rico lost electricity during that hurricane, even though it did not make landfall on the island.

“[That] shows you how bad our infrastructure was,” said Meléndez.

She returned to the U.S. mainland the day before Maria made landfall.

“It was the scariest takeoff I have ever had,” said Meléndez.

Labiosa and his partner were in their 15th floor condo in San Juan during Maria.

He said every condo in his building flooded because the hurricane’s winds blew water through the storm shutters.

Labiosa, a psychologist and social worker who lived in Boston before moving to Puerto Rico four years ago, was among those who provided assistance to the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. He said driving around San Juan after Maria and seeing the damage “was the saddest day of my life.”

“Here you’re dealing with silence,” he said. “You’re dealing with something that can’t be described.”

Labiosa said he made sure his mother, who passed away a few weeks after Maria, and his aunt were safe before returning to his home. He said he began to hear reports that people took their own lives “the same day of the hurricane because they were looking at so much in front of them.”

“They didn’t know how they could survive,” said Labiosa.

Labiosa co-founded Waves Ahead a few weeks before the hurricanes as a way to help his clients open their own businesses in San Juan and the surrounding area. He said some of the same people with whom he was working began to ask for water and food for their neighbors after Maria.

Labiosa said he could not reach a transgender client in Humacao, a city that is close to where Maria made landfall, for more than a week because of blocked roads.

He noted there was a lack of food, gasoline and medical services for weeks after Maria because the hurricane destroyed Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure. The distribution of relief supplies from San Juan’s port was also delayed.

Labiosa said Waves Ahead in spite of these challenges “decided to nourish people, nourish the body” by providing the LGBT Puerto Ricans and others with food, water, access to counseling and mental health services. He also noted Waves Ahead is working to provide assistance to LGBT elders, including a 95-year-old woman who lives on the island of Vieques.

“They are being forgotten,” said Labiosa.

San Juan mayor remains sharply critical of Trump response

More than 300,000 Puerto Ricans have left the island since Maria.

Labiosa said Waves Ahead is working with three families who are currently living in a motel room in Orlando, Fla., “who are dying to come back” to Puerto Rico.

Meléndez became emotional when she said her parents, who are in their 70s, are about to lose their home. She nevertheless said they do not want to leave Puerto Rico.

“My parents are 75-years-old and they are what are known as coquís,” she said, using Puerto Rican Spanish word for small frogs on the island that she used to refer to someone who is originally from Puerto Rico. “They are never going to leave. My responsibility in the diaspora is to make sure they get what they need.”

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz remains one of the most vocal critics of President Trump and the federal government’s response to Maria. Former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was born in San Juan, and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), who is of Puerto Rican descent, have also been sharply critical.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has criticized the Trump administration's response to the hurricanes. (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but are unable to vote in presidential elections. Puerto Rico, like D.C., has one delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives who is unable to vote on the chamber’s floor.

Meléndez noted Puerto Ricans who are currently living in the U.S. mainland can vote this year’s mid-term elections. She and others have pointed out they can potentially influence the outcome of congressional races in Florida and other states.

“People will go back, but they won’t go back soon enough for them,” she said. “Thank God for us lucky enough to register to vote to take those motherfuckers out.”

Jamaica prevents anti-LGBT U.S. pastor from entering the country

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 01:56 AM PST

Steven Anderson, gay news, Washington Blade

Pastor Steven Anderson was prevented from boarding a flight to Jamaica on Jan. 29, 2018. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

The Jamaican government on Monday prevented an anti-LGBT American pastor from entering the country.

Steven Anderson, who is a pastor at the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., told the Jamaica Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper, that he and his 14-year-old son flew from Arizona to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Anderson and his son were then scheduled to fly to Norman Manley International Airport in the Jamaican capital of Kingston.

Anderson told the newspaper a representative of Delta Air Lines told him the airline “received a notification from Jamaica that I was not going to be allowed to enter” the country.

The Jamaican government confirmed it had refused to allow Anderson to enter the country.

“The decision was made to deny him entry by the chief immigration officer because the pastor’s statements are not conductive to the current climate,” said the Jamaican National Security Ministry in a statement to the Jamaica Gleaner.

Jay John, a Jamaican activist, in a Change.org petition that urged the Jamaican government to ban Anderson from entering the country notes he has said gay men should be stoned to death. The petition — which had more than 38,000 signatures — also points out Anderson has previously celebrated the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Anderson’s church as one of “the most hardcore anti-LGBT hate groups” in the U.S.

Anderson told the Washington Blade earlier this month he did not expect the Jamaican government to ban him from the country. He told the Jamaica Gleaner on Monday he “was kind of surprised” he was not allowed to travel to Jamaica.

The Canadian, British and South African governments have banned Anderson from entering their countries. Botswana in 2016 deported Anderson after he said during a radio interview the government should kill gays and lesbians and described the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre as “disgusting homosexuals who the Bible says were worthy of death.”

Jamaica is among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Anderson told the Jamaica Gleaner he is “planning on just redirecting to a different Caribbean country and I am still going to go forward with my mission efforts this week, but I am just going to go to a different country.” He pointed out to the Blade earlier this month that his church has had “multiple successful missions trips” to Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.

“There are lots of fish in the sea,” Anderson told the Blade.

Top lesbian DNC official exits less than one year on the job

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 06:53 PM PST

Jess O’Connell is leaving the DNC as chief executive officer. (Photo courtesy DNC)

The highest-ranking openly LGBT official at the Democratic National Committee has departed from her role less than one year after she started serving in the position.

Jess O’Connell, who was named as the DNC’s chief executive officer in May, said in a statement Tuesday evening she’s leaving the organization in a news development first reported by NBC News.

“The DNC has recruited a talented team from all across America that works hard day and night to elect Democrats, and I have no doubt that they will lead our party to victory in 2018 and beyond,” O’Connell said. “I am grateful to Chairman Perez for the opportunity to serve my party during such a pivotal time as we fight to protect and promote Democratic values and elect more Democrats nationwide. While I've made the decision to pass the baton, our work remains far from over and under Tom Perez's leadership and direction, our party will continue to build on the progress we’ve made in 2017.”

O’Connell was brought on to the DNC and departs at a time when Democrats were reeling over the loss of Hillary Clinton in Election 2016 and the party picked up important off-year wins in elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Alabama.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said in a statement O’Connell “brought a laser-like focus on winning elections up and down the ballot.”

“Jess laid the groundwork for an infrastructure to win in 2018, 2020 and beyond,” Perez said. “Her dedication to Democratic values and the party is like no other and I’m grateful for everything she has done and will continue to do for our party in the weeks, months, and years to come.”

According to NBC News, O’Connell’s departure comes “just months after the DNC ousted its finance director following a period of weak fundraising, as well as a shakeup last year that reignited tensions with Sanders’ allies.”

A Democratic aide said O’Connell will officially depart later next month. As CEO, O’Connell’s job was to oversee day-to-day operations and political strategy at party headquarters.

Previously, O’Connell was CEO at Emily’s List and served in a prominent role in Clinton’s 2008 campaign.

O’Connell was named in a recent explosive report in The New York Times revealing Clinton worked to shield a prominent staffer, Burns Strider, amid allegations of sexual harassment from a young, female staffer. According to the report, O’Connell had advised Clinton to fire Strider, but was overruled by the then-candidate, who kept him on.

Log Cabin assails Dems for blocking Ric Grenell nomination

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 03:27 PM PST

Richard Grenell is facing opposition in his confirmation process from Democrats.
(Screen capture public domain)

Log Cabin Republicans officials are assailing Democrats for blocking the confirmation of Richard Grenell as U.S. ambassador to Germany.

The Grenell nomination, President Trump’s most high-profile openly gay appointment, is being held up purportedly over comments Grenell made years ago on Twitter about the appearance of women, including Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Callista Gingrich and Rachel Maddow.

The Log Cabin missive, dated Jan. 29, attributes the hold up over Grenell to “Democratic dithering,” asserting actions from the Senate minority are holding up an important nomination and the historic confirmation of an out gay ambassador.

“In earlier times confirmations such as Mr. Grenell’s were perfunctory, made swiftly with deference to our nation’s commander-in-chief in a way that transcended partisanship,” the letter says. “Sadly, time and time again over the course of the past year, Democratic senators have abused procedural courtesy to prevent votes by simple acclamation.”

The letter has 22 signatures from Log Cabin members as well as prominent Republicans and commentators. Among them is the George W. Bush administration’s former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer; Phil Karpen, president of American Commitment; and Heather Higgins, CEO of Independent Women’s Voice.

First nominated by Trump in September, Grenell founded the international consulting firm Capitol Media Partners in 2010 and served in various roles as a public communications adviser and a Fox News commentator. Under the George W. Bush administration, Grenell was the longest serving U.S. spokesperson at the United Nations and served four U.S. ambassadors.

For a period of less than two weeks, Grenell served during the 2012 presidential campaign as a foreign policy spokesperson for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but resigned amid pressure from social conservatives over his sexual orientation. Grenell never had the opportunity to speak publicly in the role.

Grenell, who has described himself as a gay conservative Christian, has a same-sex partner, Matt Lashey. According to The Atlantic, the two have been together for 15 years and Lashey himself is a conservative Christian who graduated from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.

But Grenell is perhaps best known on Twitter for his combative relationship with reporters, including those from the Washington Blade. Taking a cue from Trump, who has declared war on the media, Grenell often accuses reporters of harboring biases that undermine their reporting.

The dispute over Grenell’s confirmation is purportedly over mean tweets the nominee made and unfolds in the context of the #MeToo movement in which women are coming forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.

One 2011 tweet directed at Maddow, a lesbian news anchor on MSNBC, said she "needs to take a breath and put on a necklace" and another compared her look to that of pop singer Justin Bieber. One tweet directed at Gingrich questioned whether she "snaps on" her hair. At around the same time, Grenell tweeted "Hillary is starting to look like Madeleine Albright."

(Those tweets echo comments he reportedly made in 1992 as a young aide for the re-election campaign of George H.W. Bush, according to a Washington Post article in 1995. A fellow staffer recalled Grenell telling a female aide wearing a red shoes flowery dress, 'Didn't your mother ever tell you only whores and very small children wear red shoes?‘")

Although Grenell deleted the tweets and apologized for them, they continued to haunt him through his confirmation hearing, where he again apologized.

"Anybody who knows me knows that I am a very caring person and very sensitive — and I also appreciate good humor," Grenell said. "Unfortunately, there are times where what was intended to be humorous turned out to be not so humorous, and, again, that was never my intention and I regret that."

That wasn’t enough for Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who led Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to oppose advancing the Grenell nomination to the Senate floor. The party-line committee vote took place in October, but months later the nomination has yet to come to the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could force a vote on the nomination, but it’s unclear if the votes are present to confirm Grenell.

Stephanie Penn, a McConnell spokesperson, said “there are still Democrat objections, but we don't yet have a scheduling announcement.”

Although the Senate no longer requires 60 votes to break a filibuster on presidential nominees, any individual senator can still refuse to give unanimous consent. That means it will require 30 hours of debate to move forward.

According to Murphy’s office, Republicans sought consent to move forward with the Grenell nomination on Dec. 12, but the confirmation vote never happened. It wasn’t immediately clear which Democrat, if any, is objecting to bringing the Grenell nomination to the Senate floor.

Chris Harris, a Murphy spokesperson, denied the senator has blocked unanimous consent on Grenell and said Murphy is deferring to Senate leadership on bringing the nomination to the floor.

“Such a request has not yet been made this year by the way,” Harris said. “And just for your information, the same was true when leadership's request eventually went around in December.”

The absence of a U.S. ambassador to Germany may complicate U.S. foreign policy. When Trump visited the World Economic Forum in Davos, David Martosko, political director for the U.S. Daily Mail, commented on Twitter with the position vacant “the U.S. had no German ambassador there to follow up with the appropriate CEOs.”

Besides the signatories of the Log Cabin letter, others have expressed support for the confirmation of Grenell. Among them is the Obama administration’s U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and “Ellen” show executive producer Andy Lassner.

But other LGBT groups have remained silent. The Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute haven’t come out in favor of the Grenell nomination and didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article.

There are few out LGBT appointees in the Trump administration. Two were confirmed unanimously in the Senate: James Abbott, who was confirmed to the Federal Labor Relations Authority; and David Glawe, under secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security.

Claudia Slacik, was nominated, but not yet confirmed, to the board of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Trump also re-nominated lesbian Democrat Chai Feldblum to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which by law requires appointments of different parties.

The office of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), to whom the missive is addressed, didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment.